Choosing a Contractor for an Accessible Renovation

Part Two of a guest post by Washington D.C.-based journalist Judi Hasson

In my last post I talked about the experience my husband and I had renovating our bathroom to accommodate a shower that provides handicap access. You can build an accessible shower, too. It just takes time, planning and a good contractor, because this is one type of renovation that you probably don't want to tackle on your own.

Find a qualified contractor to help you build or renovate a safe, accessible bathroom.

Find a qualified contractor to help you build or renovate a safe, accessible bathroom.

Tips to Help You Find the Right Professional

  • Choose your contractor based on a good referral from somebody you trust. I advise against getting a contractor from online listings, but it's up to you and what you feel comfortable doing.
  • Look for affiliations and certifications such as the National Association of Home Builders' Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, which indicates that someone at the company has been trained in universal design techniques.
  • Interview several contractors. Find someone who listens to your concerns and that you feel you can work with. Talk to other people who've hired the contractor.
  • The cost of the renovation depends on many factors, such as your geographical area and the existing condition of your bathroom. Get quotes from all the contractors you interview—ours varied widely in range.
  • Check the builder's license with your state or city to ensure it is up-to-date.
  • Ask the contractor for proof, not just a copy, of his insurance certificate.
  • Ask for references regarding and examples of the specific type of handicap access job you want to do.
  • Have the contractors secure the building permit. That makes them responsible for the work in case something goes wrong or is not up to code or inspected.
  • Don't allow your contractor to cut corners. Make sure you build a fail-safe bathroom that is both safe and accessible.
  • Don't leave product selection solely to your contractor. There are more and more handicap access items on the market all the time. You might find your contractor has overlooked a helpful detail such as a better drain cap, flat drains, wall sinks, or slanted medicine cabinets and mirrors to allow for visibility from a wheelchair.