real estate

Home upgrades with appeal for retirees

Improve safety and comfort

Swap out your old stove and faucet to reduce the risk of burns. An accidental scalding is less likely with a single-lever faucet than with one that has separate handles for hot and cold, Sullivan says. Therese Crahan, executive director of NAHB Remodelers, a division of the National Association of Home Builders, recommends buying a stove that has the controls in the front, so you won't have to reach over the heating elements.

Fall-proof your floors. Look for products such as nonslip vinyl and nonglossy tile in small patterns (the extra grout lines provide more slip resistance), Rowen says. It's also a good idea to eliminate variances in floor height from room to room, she says.

Add features that lessen the need for reaching up and bending over. Christopher suggests shopping for items such as kitchen cabinets with pull-down shelves, refrigerators with middle drawers and washers and dryers with raised platforms.

Upgrade the bathroom

Prep your bathroom for grab bars, even if you're not ready to install them yet. "You can either put plywood on the wall before you put the drywall up or put blocking between the studs," Rowen says. Without that preparation, you are limited to installing the grab bars at the location of existing studs, or tearing out drywall to fit them in.

Put in an easy-to-use shower. Rowen likes the ones from Best Bath Systems, which offers a model with grab bars, a folding seat and hand-held sprayer for about $3,100. Curbless showers are another option. They are wheelchair-accessible and eliminate the need to step over a threshold. "The bathroom floor just rolls seamlessly into the shower," Sullivan says.

Sullivan adds that for experienced contractors, installing a curbless shower costs no more than doing a conventional one. "The one thing we have to do is waterproof the floor underneath," he says. "You're talking maybe 15 (additional) minutes of labor and $50 worth of materials. And you're not building and tiling the curb, so it's pretty much a wash."

Get a comfort-height toilet, which will raise you up about 17 inches off the floor and set you back $200 to $300, Rowen says. Those seat booster rings aren't nearly as efficient, according to Rowen, because they slip easily and are difficult to clean.

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