Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist

Essential Guide for Home Adaptation

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS)
Contact: NAHB Learning Helpline
(800) 368-5242 ext. 8154

Understanding Aging-In-Place: An Overview

Older adults are staying in their homes for as long as they can, and with that in mind, adults of all age groups are planning new construction to factor in future necessary accommodations for physical limitations that may affect them one day.

These aging-in-place renovations can range from providing better hallway lighting to adding a full bathroom to the first floor.

The checklist below contains features you may want to consider for your next new construction or renovation project. It also provides a quick reference for various aging-in-place issues. Beacuse this list is not comprehensive, it’s best to also consult with a Certified Aging-in-Place specialist.

Aging-In-Place: Exterior Remodeling

Low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick) and low-maintenance shrubs and plants

Tedious tasks of today will become more difficult ones down the road. Without family members to assist, it may be wiser to purchase lower-effort greenery and exterior surfaces.

Deck, patio, or balcony surfaces

Make sure these surfaces are no more than a half inch below interior floor level if they’re made of wood.

Aging-In-Place: Overall Floor Plan Remodeling

Main living on a single story

This includes having a full bath on the main level. Older residents will have a simpler time without having to climb additional stairs for basic necessities.

Reducing Steps

Builds should limit the amount of stairs being built, especially to even out floors on the same level. Adults of any age group can stumble on an awkward step, but it becomes especially difficult for older adults.

Clear Turn Spaces

Having at least a 5-foot by 5-foot space to maneuver in the living area, kitchen, bedroom and bathrooms is advised.


Hallways should be well lit and be a minimum of 36 inches wide. Wider is even preferable.


Entryways should be accessible with at least one entryway (with a cover) that requires no steps. Additional improvements include a sensor light that helps with visibility on a front door lock, an accessible doorbell, a low peep hole viewer, a door with at least 32 inches of clear width, a non-slip flooring in the foyer, and a surface to place packages when walking in the door.


Thresholds should be as flush as possible with an exterior maximum of a half-inch beveled and interior maximum of a quarter inch.

Interior Doors

Doors should have at least 32 inches of clear width, which would require a 36-inch door. There should also be levered door hardware.


There should be plenty of windows that allow for natural light, lowered windows (or taller windows with lower sill height) and low maintenance exterior and interior finishes.

Garage or Carport

Carports should be covered and be made wider than average to accommodate lifts on vans. Door heights may need to be nine feet to accommodate raised roof vans.

There should be a 5-foot minimum access aisle between accessible van and cars parked in a garage. If code requires the floor to be several inches below the entrance to the house for fume protection, the floor can be sloped from front to back to eliminate the need for ramps or steps. A ramp to the doorway can be added, however, and all steps should have handrails.


Counters should have wall support and provisions for adjustable and/or varied height counters and removable base cabinets. Upper wall cabinetry should be three inches lower than conventional height.

Counter space should be utilized to keep dish landings adjacent to or opposite all appliances. Lower cabinets should have roll out trays or lazy susans for easier access.

Pull-down shelving is also helpful as well as glass-front cabinet doors for easy viewing. Open shelving is best for frequently used items.


Appliances should have easy-to-read controls and be placed at reachable heights. Washing machines and dryers should be raised 12-15 inches above the floor. Front loading laundry machines are best.

Kitchen appliances should be well though out with the microwave oven resting counter height or in the wall. Consider a side-swing wall oven and a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer.

The dishwasher should be raised with push-button controls.

Electric cook tops should have level burners for safety in transferring between the burners. Front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from the user are preferable. Most importantly, there should be a light to indicate when the surface is hot.


The bathroom should have wall support and provisions for adjustable and/or varied height counters and removable base cabinets.

Consider having at least one wheelchair-maneuverable bath on the main level with a 60-inch turning radius or an acceptable T-turn space and 36-inch by 36-inch or 30-inch by 48-inch clearance space.

Add bracing in the walls around the tub, shower, shower seat, ad toilet for installation of grab bars that will be able to support between 250 and 300 pounds.

If there’s a stand-up shower, make sure it is curbless and a minimum of 36 inches wide. Bathtubs should be lower for easier access. Showers should include a fold down seat and an adjustable handheld shower head with a 6-foot hose. Shower stalls should be built with built-in antibacterial protection.

Toilets should be two-and-a-half inches higher than the standard toilet (17-19 inches) or be height-adjustable. The toilet paper holder should allow for rolls to be changed with one hand.

The sink should be wall-hung with knee space and a panel to protect the user from the pipes. A slip-resistant floor in the bathroom and shower is a must.

Stairways, Lifts, Elevators, Ramps

Stairways should have adequate handrails on both sides of the stairway that are one-and-a-quarter inches in diameter. Stairs should have increased visibility through contrast strips on the top and bottom of the stairs.

Multi-story homes may provide either pre-framed shaft (like stacked closets) for future elevators or stairway width must be a minimum of four feet to allow enough space to install a lift.

Ramps shouldn’t have a slope higher than a one-inch rise for each 12 inches in length. They should also provide adequate handrails. The entrance should have a minimum 5-foot landing with 2-inch curbs for safety.


The entrance to each hall or room should have light switches. The light receptacle should have at least two bulbs in vital places like the exits or bathrooms. That’ll help older adults in the event one light dies, there’ll be a spare to partially light the room.

Light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls should be placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from the floor and easy to see. Electrical outlets should be 15 inches on center from the floor and may need to be closer than 12 feet apart.

An audible and visual strobe light system could be helpful to indicate when the doorbell, telephone or smoke or CO2 detectors have been activated. High-tech security/intercom systems that can be monitored with the heating. air conditioning and lighting from any TV in the house would be a plus.

A 911 switch that is directly wired to police, fire and EMS may be essential.


If carpet is used for flooring, use low density and keep it less than a half-inch high with firm pads. Wood floors should be smooth, non-glare, and have slip-resistant surfaces. Color or texture contrasts will help indicate a change in surface levels.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning

HVAC should be designed so that filters are easily accessible. Windows should be designed for easy access and opened for cross ventilation and fresh air.

Energy-Efficient Features

Use in-line framing with two by six studs spaced 25 inches on the center. An air-barrier installing and sealing of duct work with mastic is ideal. Reduced-size air conditioning units and gas furnaces are preferred. Install energy-efficient windows with Low-E glass.

Reduced Maintenance/Convenience Features

Make sure surfaces are easy to clean. Consider built-in recycling systems and built-in pet feeding systems as well as an intercom system.



  • 30-inch by 48-inch clear space at appliances or 60-inch diameter clear space for turns
  • Multi-level work areas to accommodate cooks of different heights
  • Open under-counter seated work areas
  • Placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas
  • Loop handles for easy grip and pull
  • Pull-out spray faucet; levered handles
  • In multi-story homes, laundry chute or laundry facilities in master bedroom

Other Ideas:

  • Separate apartment for rental income or future caregiver
  • Flex room that can be sed as a nursery or playroom when the children are young and as a home office later; if combined with a full bath, room could also be used for an aging parent/aging in place

Source: Home Innovation Research Labs ToolBase online resources.