Ask the Remodeler: Creating a senior-safe bath

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
. AP

Q. I need guidance on how to approach a tub-to-shower conversion of the bathroom on the main floor of my house. I need to make this bathroom safer for us seniors. All of the essential utilities are easily accessible from the basement. I haven’t done the layout yet. Do you have suggestions?

C.V., Norwood

A. The first thing you should do is call either a general contractor or one of a number of bath-fitting companies that specialize in tub conversions. These specialty companies are one-stop shopping, as they have licensed plumbers to pull permits and do the work in conjunction with the carpentry end of things. Always make sure whomever you hire is going to pull the necessary permits and is licensed with the state. There are code issues with drain size when converting tubs to showers, and this needs to be done right.

My advice would be to use a qualified general contractor with knowledge of design that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is because there are many factors that go into making a bathroom safe enough for the occupants to age in place. We typically will increase lighting, change toilets to comfort height, and install blocking in walls for future or current safety grab bars in various locations, not just in the shower. We will make suggestions on safe non-skid tiles and easy-to-use faucets and door handles. There is a lot to think about, and since you don’t want to remodel the bath again if you can avoid it, it’s best to get it ready now for future needs.

Q. Our gas forced-hot air heating system is about 35 years old but in good condition. We have it serviced twice a year, frequently replace the filter, and recently had all the ducts cleaned, yet it produces a very fine layer of dust that covers everything. Other than installing a new system, how can we solve this problem?

S.S., Burlington

A. A couple of things could be going on here. Whenever we install forced-hot air systems, we include a high-performance filter system in the return. All filters are not created equal, a MERV filter that is fit properly could make a difference. Another potential source could be the ducts themselves. More often than not we find that ducts are not air sealed very well or at all. This can lead to huge inefficiencies through air loss but can also allow dust to make its way into the duct system. The main trunks are most likely in your basement, which is typically pretty dusty in most homes, and if those are not sealed correctly, that could be a source. Your problem with dust everywhere sounds pretty extreme and could have other sources, but I’d recommend asking your HVAC contractor to do an air pressure test on the ducts to see whether you have a problem there.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes.