Design Principles for Aging in Place

Many recent surveys show that homeowners are staying in their homes longer. It could be due to the economy with decreasing home values making it difficult to buy a new home or the cost of assisted living facilities or the desire to continue to live in a familiar environment. Many people who plan to stay in their current home consider remodeling over buying a new one.

If you’re staying put for a while, then a well designed home should accommodate your current needs for comfort and safety and also be designed with enough forethought to evolve with your needs as you grow older or as your lifestyle changes. Aging-in-Place design considers creative solutions for wheelchair users, people that rely on mobility aids such as walkers, or crutches and people with visual or physical impairments.


Aging-in-Place Home Design Features


Consider using these Aging-in-Place design ideas for the ongoing future enjoyment of your home:

Floor Level Changes

  • Minimize change in floor levels. Have the least amount of steps possible. If a ramp is needed, then install one with 12” of length for every inch of rise. For example, if there is an 8” difference in height between floors, than the ramp should be eight feet long.
  • Seniors prefer one level homes over two levels. Stairs can be difficult to climb.
  • The step between the bathroom floor and the shower floor can be inconvenient for wheelchair users. Roll-in showers offer an option – the transition between the bathroom floor and the shower floor is relatively flat – the shower floor slopes from that point down to the drain. This option requires a larger shower to mitigate the shower spray from getting on the bathroom floor. Non-slip tile makes sense for everyone.

Pathway Clearances

  • Hallways and other circulation paths through rooms and around furniture should be between 36”-42” wide. Use this same minimum distance between countertops in a kitchen.
  • All doors should be a minimum of 32” wide with lever handles.



  • Lower the countertops from the typical height of 36” to 32”-34”.
  • Provide roll-under cooktops and sinks. (These are counters with drop-in fixtures at 32”-34” high with knee space below them).
  • Outfit base cabinets with drawers instead of doors. The drawers provide easier access to kitchen items with less bending.
  • Mount built-In wall ovens or microwave ovens at lower heights so the controls are no higher than 48” above the floor.


  • Use an elongated type toilet bowl with the seat 18” above the floor.
  • Provide blocking in the walls for future grab bars between 33”-36” off the bathroom floor. Install the blocking behind the toilet (24” wide), on a wall beside the toilet (42” wide) and in a shower or around a tub.
  • Specialty accessible tubs are available with a seat and they have doors for easy lateral transfers from a mobility device – grab bars are already pre-installed.
  • Sinks heights are determined for each individual’s needs – 32”-34” for wheelchair users or for people of short stature, 36” for people with bad backs.
  • Good lighting helps those with poor vision.

Laundry Rooms

  • Mount shelves at convenient heights for easy access to cleaning supplies.
  • Choose front-load washers and dryers with lower folding counters.


You can make these accessible accommodations by retrofitting your current home, including them in remodeling plans or even in a new custom home design. If you are buying a new home from a homebuilder, ask for these considerations that you are entitled to by law. In any case, work with your design professional to implement these and other universal design principles to ensure the barrier-free use and enjoyment of your home for years to come.


Tips on Achieving Sound Protection in New Homes and Remodels

While at a get-together at a friend’s house, a small group of us were talking in the great room, just outside the guest bathroom. A friend needed to use the bathroom. Our conversation was interrupted by a sudden surprise sprinkle sound—and I’m not so sure it was the faucet. And no, the exhaust fan they depended on could not drown out the sound. When the friend came out, I felt embarrassed for them, for they had no clue it was so audible. Later, I tapped on the door and, as suspected, it was a hollow core door. This is a shame, especially since the house was a luxury home.

I live in a house where the sound from the TV in our family room can be heard through the wall in our master bedroom, even at a modest volume. Sounds easily migrate through metal stud walls and hollow core doors. Normal conversations and sounds can be heard through them; they just simply do not provide enough buffering for sound privacy.

“When it comes to privacy, every dime you spend is worth a dollar.”

Amanda Bowers, The Kearney Companies

Walls and Doors serve three primary purposes: security, visual privacy, and sound privacy. The third purpose is just as important as the first two, yet is often overlooked, or simply ignored for the sake of a cheaper door selection or construction materials.

Home design and building professionals should consider specifying acoustical walls and doors for sound sensitive rooms, with doors and construction materials achieving high STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings.


Control sound and offer more value in new home construction or remodels, using the following construction guidelines:

  • On a floor plan, use a highlighter marker to identify rooms or areas that require sound privacy or buffering, and highlight the doors and walls surrounding all bedrooms, bathrooms (especially toilet closets) and air conditioning/heater closets or any other room that requires isolation from noise. Include a solid core door with a threshold; doors should not be undercut for venting. Therma-Tru noise reduction doors is one brand that provides an acceptable STC rating of 36;
  • Use wood studs for all interior walls, not metal studs;
  • For best acoustic management, finish walls using National Gypsum Gold Bond® brand 1/2″ SoundBreak® XP® Gypsum Board with Sporgard™ or CertainTeed’s SilentFX Noise-Reducing Gypsum Board or similar specialty wallboard. These high-density gypsum core boards consist of a layer of viscoelastic damping polymer sandwiched between two pieces of high density mold resistant gypsum board, providing constrained layer damping;
  • Also fill the wall cavities with Certainteed NoiseReducer Sound Attenuation Batt Insulation, Owens Corning Sound Attenuation Batts (SAB’s) or mineral wool batts. These provide excellent in-place acoustic performance for interior partition acoustic systems. Depending on the construction method used, SABs can improve Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings by 4 to 10 dBs.
  • One alternative to the specialty drywall is to use Acoustiblock’s soundproofing membrane attached directly to the wood stud framing, before wallboard is applied. The pliable, 3mm (1/8″) thick Acoustiblok membrane is engineered not to stop or even absorb sound, but through a unique thermodynamic process that reduces sound transmission virtually the same as 24-inches of concrete. A typical 2 x 4 gypsum stud wall is usually 33 to 35 STC. Acoustiblok installed in the 2 x 4 wall is lab certified at an STC of 52, better than 12″ of poured concrete (STC 51).

Acoustic Wall Detail



Canin How-To: A Quick Hand-Colored Elevation

A quick marketing image can be created and used at any stage of the design process. An architectural rendering can assist in giving the client an understanding of the building or concepts of the design that can only be explained in shadow and/or color. By creating the image by hand, the client can visualize the project and add comments without feeling locked in to a photo-realistic computer-generated image.

Creating a hand-drawn elevation is a great way to flex those design muscles that may be a little rusty and to create a unique stamp for your personal and company brands. Below, you’ll find our six easy steps to go from blank paper to colored rendering, which we also collected in an infographic.


Tools used:

  • Pilot razor point pen (linework)
  • Staedtler lumocolor B (heavy ground line)
  • Prismacolor Cool Grey 30% and French Grey 40% (shadows and window poche)
  • Chartpak assorted colors
  • Total time: 30-45 minutes


Step 1: Creating Your Linework

Using a light table or trace paper, sketch a new elevation.  A single line weight is fine for this style of rendering.  If you want a more detailed or realistic quality use multiple line weights.  Depending on the scale and desired level of detail, do not overdo the details and material renderings. A heavy ground line gives the images a strong base since it will not be framed


Step 2:  Establish Landscape and Context

For this image, trees and shrubs will give the home context. Aim for balance and by paying attention to the overall composition.  Again, do not lose yourself in drawing every leaf or branch; go for outlines and texture, the detail can be added later or with color


Step 3:  Window Poche and Step 4:  Building Shadows

Windows when viewed in sunlight are actually relatively dark. However, you can add dimension to your window poche (the filling in of windows) by creating a soft gradient from darkest at the bottom. For shadows, establish your sun location and angle. This will also give you your shadows for when you add color. A simple trick is to place the shadow on the artist’s dominant side: for righties, the shadows are on the right and bottom, for lefties on the left and bottom.


Step 5:  Base Color

Test all colors on a separate sheet of the same paper. This way you know exactly how it will show up and can juxtapose the color variations quickly without having to lay a lot of color down on the image. Start with one flat base layer of color.  As a rule of thumb, have two or three hues per piece, for example three greens for the trees, three pinks/reds for the shrubs, and so on. For a smoother transition of color, you can add a second layer of the same color before changing to a different marker.


Step 6:  Add more color and you’re finished!

Use the same sun location you established when you did the building shadows in grey for your colors. This will keep the image consistent and still give an air of realism. Frame the building with a soft sky color, fading from darkest at the horizon line.

If you want, the shadows and window poche can be added after coloring, since the markers act like watercolors and allow a multiplying effect. Feel free to combine a hand-rendering technique with computer software for a more crisp that still has a lot of personality. This style can be used on any 2D image, plan, or elevation, as well as for 3D perspective views. It’s quick and simple, but still creates a great marketing image and branding style for you or your architectural office.