The Right Height for Your Household Items

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. April 11, 2016

The Right Height for Your Household Items

Of the many factors to consider in building a new home or remodeling an existing home is the height of your household items. Factors to consider in these decisions are your height, mobility, manual dexterity and comfort.

If you have an opportunity to change the height of the objects below, consider some of these ideas and suggestions. Select a height that allows you to safely lower and raise yourself from a standing to a sitting position. And then be sure that the item is comfortable as you use it.

Your safety and comfort are two of the most important considerations as you determine the height of many items in your home.

  • Bed – As we age, we are more apt to get in and out of our bed several times a night, often in the dark. To minimize the risk of falling, we should be able to get in and out of bed without having to step down from too high of a bed or push our bodies up from too low of a bed. We suggest that the height of your bed should allow you to sit on the edge with your feet touching the floor and your knees in a straight line with your hips. The height of most beds is 22 to 25 inches but you should adjust this height to work best for your size and comfort. An 18-inch bed height will often work best.
  • Chairs, sofas and other furniture – Just like beds, we should look for chairs and sofas where the seat is at a height to allow our feet to rest flat on the floor, our hips parallel to the floor and our backs to rest flat on the back of the chair. The 18-inch height may work for you but if not then improve your safety and comfort with a chair of the right height for you.
  • Toilets – We discussed the height of toilets in another blog but they are very similar to chairs – often an 18-inch height works best.

NOTE: If you have difficulty getting up from or lowering yourself onto a chair, bed or toilet, consider installing grab bars, standing poles or other products to assist you. We offer a broad variety of fall prevention devices that will assist with your safety and comfort.

  • Bathtubs – When it comes to safety, bathtubs are one of the more problematic items in our homes. The typical bathtub
    • requires raising one leg 14 inches off the floor while balancing on the other leg
    • is made of hard material
    • becomes wet and slippery as we use it

Some options to consider when thinking about ways to reduce the risk of bathtubs are:

  • if you plan to continue to use your existing bathtub
    • install grab bars and other fall prevention devices such as safety poles
    • make the bathtub floor slip resistant
    • add transfer seats and benches
    • hire an in-home care company to assist you with bathing and other daily living activities
  • consider bathtub alternatives such as
    • stop using the bathtub and install a shower (including of course all of the recommended fall prevention devices such as slip resistant flooring, grab bars and shower seats)
    • hire a professional to lower the sides of your tub wall
    • replace your bathtub with a walk-in model
  • Stair steps – We discuss the safety of stairs in our blog “Taking the Right Steps to Improve Stairway Safety” but it is worth repeating here our caution about step height and depth. Most building codes require that the riser height be a maximum (no more than) of 7¾” and that the tread (where you place your feet) be a minimum (no less than) of 10” deep.

An equally important building code dimension is that the riser should vary by no more then 3/8” between risers. From a safety standpoint, risers should all be the same height! If you have one or more risers that vary in height, then you have a tripping hazard that should be rectified. Check your state and local building codes at http://www.cmdgroup.com/buildingcodes/.

  • Door thresholds – A change in the height of the floor from one room to another can be a tripping hazard. Ensure that a beveled threshold height is less than ½ inch or that a mini-ramp is used to eliminate higher threshold heights.
  • Microwave ovens – I consider microwaves that are located above the oven or at the same height as an upper cabinet to be safety hazards. It is dangerous to move hot food out of a microwave oven that is located at or above your shoulders. My advice is to move microwaves to counter height so that your hands and arms stay at the same height as you move a bowl or plate from the oven onto a nearby surface of the same height.
  • Peep holes – Most peepholes are set into the door at eye height for a 5’ 10” person. If you are shorter or taller, then consider moving the peephole or adding another one at your eye level.

Objects at the right height make your home safer and more comfortable for you and everyone who lives there or visits.




Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.

Author

Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.