Affordable Home Modifications for Wheelchairs and Walkers
Budget-friendly fixes for a safer and more comfortable home
If someone you live with regularly uses a wheelchair or walker, you’ll likely need to make some modifications to allow them to enter and get around your house safely and efficiently. Such assessable modifications include such things as a ramp at the entrance, grab bars in the bathroom, swapping out doorknobs for more accessible levers, and pulls that can make a world of difference for someone who lives with a physical disability.
These types of home modifications can also be expensive. According to home improvement directory ImproveNet, the costs for a single modification can average around $5,233, though they can run much higher.
Done right, however, you can make your home more handicap accessible without completely rearranging or renovating your property.
Creating Handicap Accessible Homes on a Budget
By choosing the right projects and opting for creative, low-cost fixes, you can increase accessibility without too much of a financial strain.
Many experts recommend replacing existing interior doors with pocket doors, which slide in and out rather than requiring the user to turn or pull a handle. Though these can make moving about the house easier from a wheelchair or walker, they typically cost anywhere from $560 to $1,000 each to retrofit professionally.
Instead, consider removing doors and doorframes entirely, and hang a curtain that can be easily pulled back and forth on demand. This could also help you widen the doorway so that a wheelchair or wide walker could easily fit through.
TIP: Alternatively, you can add a barn door, which hangs from a single track and can be less expensive to install than a pocket door.
Widening an exterior door to accommodate a wheelchair or walker may cost around $500 just in materials alone. If this is outside your budget, try switching out the hinges for swing-away ones, or reversing the door’s swing to allow for a wider berth. Removing the door frame and other surrounding woodwork may also help make it more accessible.
Building a ramp can be a good way to ease entry into the home for a wheelchair- or walker-bound resident. However, it’s also one of the most expensive home modification projects you can take on, clocking in at $1,846 on average.
Another option is to re-grade the yard around your front or back entry, or by using a portable ramp. Portable ramps can cost less than $100.
Large vanity sinks can be hard to access for disabled or elderly users, but removing these entire units can be costly—especially if you’re replacing them with new fixtures. For a more affordable option, consider simply removing all base cabinets in the restroom. This will allow a wheelchair user to easily pull up to the sink or countertop without any additions or extra fixtures.
A full wheelchair-accessible kitchen remodel can run as high as $25,000, but it might not be necessary. As with the bathrooms, removing any base cabinets can help a disabled person reach the sink and countertops.
TIP: You can also install a pull-out cutting board, knobs on all cabinets, and add an extension arm to the faucet.
A breezeway or carport offers a covered area for unloading and loading when an existing garage is too narrow. However, a new breezeway typically costs between $2,600 and $6,000. Instead of installing an entirely new structure, consider removing part of the garage wall to expand your maneuvering space within the existing garage.
If you’re looking to expand your driveway, it’s important to consider the material used. While pavers and concrete look nice, they can cost more than simple asphalt. Pavers range from $5 to $20 per square foot and concrete can cost between $5 and $6 per square foot. Asphalt, on the other hand, is just $3 to $4 per square foot, which could allow you to replace and expand your driveway for less money.
Paying for Your Home Modifications
Handicap accessible homes don’t have to break the bank. In addition to reducing the costs of the projects you take on, you may be able to use a home modification grant to help foot the bill. Depending on your eligibility, there are many to consider. Here are a few:
For veterans, you should look at grants from the Department of Veteran's Affairs. They offer a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant (SAH), a Special Housing Adaptation (SHA), and a Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) Grant. There are a limited number of each of these grants available each year.
Other programs include:
If you own your home, you could also consider funding the improvements with a home equity loan, home equity line of credit, or a cash-out refinance. Just make sure you factor in the increased monthly payment that these loans will add to your budget.
National Institutes of Health: Accessible Home Environments for People with Functional Limitations: A Systematic Review
Global Disability Rights Now: Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible
Home Advisor: How Much Does it Cost to Install a Pocket Door?
AARP: Remodeling a Home to Be a Lifelong Home
Global Disability Rights: Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible
Home Advisor: How Much Does It Cost To Build A Wheelchair Ramp?
Fixr: "Build a Carport Cost," Accessed Oct. 29, 2019
HomeGuide. "How Much Does It Cost To Pave A Concrete Driveway?" Accessed Oct. 25, 2019.