Think ahead on bathrooms, advises J Tomlinson

August 30, 2017

With the number of people aged 60 or over in the UK expected to pass the 20 million mark by 2030, Antony Newton from refurbishment specialist J Tomlinson highlights ways to prepare when it comes to bathrooms

Projections show that society will age significantly over the upcoming decades. The number of people aged over 65 is expected to rise by more than 40 per cent in the next 18 years to over 16 million, and by 2040, nearly one in four people in the UK will be 65 or older, according to statistics collected by Age UK. This clearly has key implications for housing providers.

The bathroom is one area of the home where particular attention ought to be paid to the choice of equipment, accessories and fabric. If it is, the life-time of the bathroom can be easily increased, making it more suitable for residents as they grow older. Choose wisely, and the bathroom will be appropriate for all tenants, whatever their age. Make the wrong choices and it could prove costly and wasteful, with unnecessary replacements and upheaval further along the line.

Clearly, low-cost maintenance and repairs are generally high on the wish list for housing providers, so it really does make good commercial sense to think carefully about bathroom replacements and refurbishments.

Low cost, high impact

There are a range of low-cost options which could have high impact on the life-time of a bathroom. Some of these are quick and simple to undertake, and should help to reduce maintenance costs, cut bills, provide a better and more pleasant environment for the tenants, as well as help residents to continue to stay in their homes longer.

Opting for mould-resistant paints, for instance, is a simple addition but can make a big difference, as it can help to reduce mould growth in bathrooms leading to a healthier atmosphere for residents. It will also help prevent costly maintenance and repairs bills and preserve the fabric of the room.

Sanitary ware options

Choose sanitary ware carefully to ensure that it comes from a brand that will be compatible for simple adaptations and modifications in the future, should they be needed. Many elderly residents find it easier to use raised toilet seats, for example. However, not all available equipment fits every toilet, so think ahead and opt for a brand that works well with adaptations that may be necessary at some point.

Go for walk-in or level-entry showers to ensure easier accessibility and a reduction in risks of slips or trips. Add slip resistant coatings in baths and showers. This can also extend to fitting suitable flooring that reduces the risk of falls.

Easy to use tap handles, rather than taps that twist, are often more suitable for elderly hands, so consider this when deciding on the fittings for sinks and other sanitary ware.

Equipment choices  

For safety’s sake, it’s a good idea to install anti-scalding devices for showers. This is particularly relevant for the old and the young, who are more at risk from burns or slipping when trying to avoid a sudden change of water temperature. However, it’s sensible to have such devices installed to protect all shower users – whatever their age – to help prevent scalds and injuries.

Fitting humidistat fans will help to ensure adequate ventilation, which will reduce the risk of mould growth. Some elderly residents may be reluctant to turn on fans amid worries over energy bills, but humidistat fans operate automatically and are a worthwhile investment which again can help to protect the fabric of the bathroom, as well as providing a more pleasant and healthier environment for residents.

Another good idea is to install water resistant screening boards instead of tiles. Boards require limited maintenance, help prevent mould growth, and are less likely to require replacing between tenants compared to grouted tiles. Aside from helping to ensure a nicer bathroom environment, it could mean lower costs for the refurbishment of void properties.

Lifetime Homes

The Lifetime Homes principle seeks to provide an accessible bathroom that has ease of access to its facilities from the outset and potential for simple adaptation to provide for different needs in the future. As a firm that has completed 1,650 bathroom refurbishments in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire over the past three years, J Tomlinson has wide experience of fitting bathrooms that can be adapted for elderly tenants with specific needs.

With an ageing population, we are expecting this to increase and in anticipation, we advise that housing providers do what they can to think ahead. Bathrooms typically can have a life cycle of anywhere between 20 and 40 years, depending on the housing provider. With careful thought to the future and to the needs of either future occupants, or the ageing of the current occupants, unnecessary costs and upheaval can be avoided if certain decisions are made from the outset.

Through our liaison with tenants, we know that strong communication and swift completion of work is so important to residents – whatever their age, but especially when they are elderly. It’s something that housing providers and landlords should take into account when they are planning such works.

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