Five Fall Prevention Components to Insist Upon in a New Home Build or Remodel

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. April 18, 2017

Five Fall Prevention Components to Insist Upon in a New Home Build or Remodel


As I am preparing to build my mother a new home in Michigan, the designer and I are incorporating safety and fall prevention elements in the plans. I have discussed these items in a few of my recent blogs. I am once again reminding you (and me) that many of these universal design components will cost very little to include and will add a lot in terms of your family’s, your guest’s and your own safety and mobility.

Five Essential Fall Prevention Home Components

  1. Wide Doors. Make your doors at least 36” wide to accommodate wheel chairs. Consider installing double doors at the entrance – not only for safety but to allow for moving wider objects into or out of your home.
  2. Smooth Floors. I recently wrote a blog about flooring alternatives. To repeat, the best floor surfaces are smooth and non-slip (minimum coefficient rating of 0.6 wet or dry. Stay away from high pile carpet and hard, unforgiving surfaces such as tile. Most important, be sure that the floor is all the same height or at least no more than ¼” height difference in or between rooms.
  3. Grab Bars. Add blocking to walls where you want grab bars now or think you might want them in the future. I have also written blogs about reinforcements which are typically boards (blocking) between the studs at the height where you would attach a grab bar. Grab bars are most important in bathrooms but you may also want them in any other room in the house, including hallways.
  4. Eliminate Steps. All your daily living activities should be doable on the main floor. This means, the main floor should include a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining and laundry.
  5. Shower. If you take a bath, then include a tub on the main floor. However, if possible, add a large curb-less or low threshold shower. Make sure the shower has grab bars and a foldable, well-anchored seat. Check out our most recent blog called “Safer Bathing Options for Seniors.”

Other Safety Ideas to Consider

Here is a quick check list of other safety and universal design ideas:

  • Wheel chair turning spaces in bathroom, bedroom, laundry room and kitchen
  • Countertops and sinks accessible from a wheel chair via the side or front
  • Ample lighting, including motion detectors (inside and outside) and night lights
  • Accessible light switches, electric outlets and thermostats
  • Optimum height toilets
  • Attached garage
  • Low threshold at entrances
  • Full house generator for back-up power
  • Easy to use faucets and door handles
  • Easy-to-reach storage shelves or roll-out shelving – maximum 48” above the floor
  • Lazy Susans
  • Cabinet hardware with large pulls such as D rings
  • Adequate counterspace near the stove top, refrigerator and sink
  • Microwave oven at countertop height
  • Anti-scald tub and shower valves
  • Home security and monitoring systems

You may have specific conditions that require other types of building design components to improve your safety and comfort. Communicate with your builder or designer to be sure that everyone is on the same page prior to signing an agreement to start the home build or remodel.

Be sure that your contractor and subcontractors have a safe track record. Insist that the job site is cleaned at the end of each day, including picking up and storing all tools and building materials and scraps. A good way to do this is to ask the builder’s previous clients about the contractor’s job safety and cleanliness.

There are some good books about universal design that will be helpful as you begin to visualize your new home build or remodel. Let us know which components that you have found to be most important to your safety, mobility and comfort.

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


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.

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