wheel chair access hallHallways and Doorways – Wheelchair Accessibility

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Specially Adapted Housing

Question: “What does it take to have wide enough hallways and doorways for a wheelchair?”

This is a great question!  Even if you aren’t currently in need of wheelchair access, the harsh reality is, if you live long enough, or an unfortunate incident should occur, having a wheelchair-accessible home is a huge help.  This is especially true if you are building or buying a home for your retirement.  You will want to include some “aging in place” features, like wider halls and doorways, which will be able to accommodate a wheelchair or mobility vehicle in the years ahead.  Hopefully, these features will never be needed, but it is a great idea to plan for them when building.

Both ADA and Specially Adapted Housing require the following:

  • Minimum Property Requirements specify a minimum hallway width of 48″, with a minimum doorway width of 36″ to allow full wheelchair accessibility.
  • Standard doorways in a new home are usually either 2’4″, 2’6″, or 2’8″ wide, and according to standard building codes, the minimum width of a hallway is 36″.

Question:  “How wide should the doorways and hallways be in my home?” 

This depends on what kind of access you’re looking for, and the codes you are trying to meet.

  • Minimum clear width for a wheelchair is 36″ for a hall and 32″ for a door.
  • Minimum clear space for a T-shaped turn of 180 degrees is 36″ in all directions.
  • The minimum passage width for one wheelchair and one ambulatory person is 48″.

Oddly enough: Many mobility scooters are as narrow as 21″.

If you want wider doorways, but aren’t concerned about having an ADA-approved  48″ wide hallway, there are options that don’t require significant structural modifications.  Keep in mind, it is MUCH less expensive to plan before construction starts than to try to retrofit hallways and doorways later.

  • A 3’2″ wide hallway will allow a 36″ door, but there will be no room for trim – this isn’t ideal. 
  • A 3’8″ width works well for a 36″ door, and allows 2 1/4″ trim, or casing, around the doorway. 
  • A 3’10” width is ideal for a 36″ door, as it allows 3 1/4″ casing around the doorway.

However, if someone is planning to build with a specially adapted housing grant, they are required to include 48″ hallways.  Not only that, there must be enough space to “allow for maneuverability through the hall and into all rooms, including bedrooms, bathrooms, and ingress/egress routes.”

 Above is an example of a portion of a floor plan that we can adapt to fit requirements.  The architect’s blueprint for this hallway is currently 3’0″ wide, which won’t accommodate a 36” door with casing.  In addition, the bathroom is too narrow for a wheelchair to enter.  In most cases, wider hallways means adding more square footage to the home, but we are usually able to make these additions at a very minimal cost.  Here, we would need to expand both the hallway and the bathroom. This “quick fix” is a possibility in this case, as the upper wall is an exterior wall.

Each plan is different.  The fewer changes that need to be made to the plan, the more cost effective those changes will be.  

Ask your builder if they can make your new home wheelchair accessible, or if changing doors to a 36″ width is a possibility.