How to Make a Split Level Home Handicap Accessible?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Install a wheelchair ramp for access between exterior levels and interior floor levels.
  • Consider installing a stairlift or residential elevator to move between floors.
  • Widen doorways, add grab bars in bathrooms, and make other modifications.
  • Careful planning is needed to meet accessibility requirements and customize for individual needs.
  • Ramps, stairlifts, bathroom modifications, widened doorways, and elevators are key options.

Split level homes, also known as tri-level or bi-level homes, have multiple floors with half-staircases between levels. This multistory design offers expanded living space but also presents accessibility challenges for those with limited mobility. Modifying a split level house to be handicap accessible requires strategic changes and accommodations. Comprehensive planning and assessment of one’s unique needs are imperative.

This article will provide an in-depth examination of how to make a split level house handicap accessible. It evaluates the critical considerations, costs, and process involved in undertaking home modifications for accessibility. Key options such as ramps, stairlifts, bathroom grab bars, widened doorways, and residential elevators are analyzed in detail. Insights from experts help identify feasible and cost-effective approaches. By the end, readers will have a thorough understanding of creating an accessible split level home tailored to their situation.

Gaining this knowledge enables homeowners and families to make informed decisions when modifying their split level house. A customized accessible home provides independence, convenience, and improved quality of life for individuals with disabilities or limited mobility. With proper planning and resource allocation, a split level house can be successfully transformed to meet one’s accessibility needs.

How Do You Make a Split Level Home Handicap Accessible??

A split level home presents several unique challenges for accessibility due to its multi-story design connected by half staircases. However, there are numerous effective options to make a split level house handicap accessible. The key considerations include:

Install a Wheelchair Ramp

Installing a properly sloped wheelchair ramp is often the first essential step in making a split level house accessible. An ADA compliant ramp allows wheelchair users to safely access the different levels of the home. There are several ramp configuration options:

  • Exterior ramp – Provides access to the main entryway. Can also connect patio/deck areas.
  • Interior ramp – Connects the upper and lower levels inside the home. Requires more space.
  • Portable ramps – Provide temporary access and can be moved or stored when not needed. Useful for doorways.
  • Threshold ramps – Small wedge ramps for interior door thresholds between rooms. Help to navigate level changes.

Ramps should have a maximum 1:12 slope, landings, edge protection, and handrails. The projected cost for a 20-foot residential ramp is $3,000-$5,000 on average.

Install a Stairlift

Stairlifts are an excellent accessibility option for multistory homes. A stairlift is a chair or small platform that travels along the staircase rail, allowing riders to be safely carried up and down stairs. Stairlifts are operated using wireless remotes or armrest controls.

For split level homes, straight staircase or curved staircase stairlift models can be installed. Costs range from $3,000-$15,000 depending on the complexity and customization. Stairlifts significantly improve access between floors for wheelchair users and those with mobility limitations.

Modify Bathrooms

Bathrooms in a split level home will need handicap accessible modifications. Typical upgrades include:

  • Grab bars – Installed near toilets and in showers for support.
  • Roll-in showers – No barrier to allow easy wheelchair access.
  • Raised toilets – Increased seat height makes sitting and standing easier.
  • Sink modifications – Insulate pipes, lower countertop sections.
  • Lever handles – Replace round doorknobs with lever handles.

These improvements make bathrooms safer and more accessible for disabled occupants. Grab bars start around $50 installed, while full bathroom remodels average $7,000-$15,000.

Widen Doorways

For convenient mobility between rooms, interior doorways should be widened to 32-36 inches. Wheelchairs require 32 inches of clear passage space. Handles versus knobs, swing-clear hinges, and flush thresholds also improve doorway access. Exterior doors should be at least 34 inches wide. Widening an existing doorway costs approximately $300-$800.

Install a Home Elevator

For multistory homes like split levels, installing a residential elevator can provide maximum accessibility between floors. Home elevators are available in a range of models – from compact lifts hidden in closets to elegant full-sized cabs. Major home renovations are usually needed for elevator installation, at a high cost of $25,000-$65,000. While expensive, elevators give unmatched access within multilevel homes.

Consider Overall Home Remodeling

If a home requires extensive modifications for accessibility, a full home renovation tailored to the occupant’s needs may be the best solution. Remodeling allows customization of door widths, floorplan, kitchen/bath design, and installation of an elevator or lift. The national average cost of a whole house remodel is around $150,000. Though pricier, remodeling can yield ideal accessibility accommodations.

What Are Important Accessibility Features to Include??

When modifying a split level home for handicap access, the most essential features to incorporate include:

  • Ramps – For access to exterior entryways and between interior floor levels.
  • Stair Lifts/Elevators – To move safely between upper and lower floors.
  • Grab Bars – In bathrooms near toilets and showers for support.
  • Widened Doorways – At least 32 inches wide for wheelchair clearance.
  • Lever-Style Handles – Replace doorknobs with lever handles.
  • Non-Slip Flooring – Select flooring that provides stability and prevents falls.
  • Ample Lighting – Well-lit rooms and staircases prevent accidents.
  • Auditory Cues – Sound alerts for phones, doorbells, and appliances.
  • ** reachable Controls** – Lower light switches, thermostats, and electrical outlets.

Prioritizing these accessibility upgrades helps create a safer, more functional home for occupants with disabilities and limited mobility.

What Are the Costs Associated with Making a Split Level House Handicap Accessible??

Converting a split level home to be handicap accessible involves significant costs for equipment, labor, and renovations. Typical costs include:

  • Ramps – $3,000 to $5,000 for a 20-foot exterior ramp.
  • Stairlifts – Range from $3,000 to $15,000 installed.
  • Elevators – $25,000 to $65,000 for residential elevator installation.
  • Bathroom Modifications – $2,000 to $10,000 for grab bars, roll-in shower, toilet upgrades.
  • Widened Doorways – $300 to $800 per doorway.
  • Overall Remodeling – Typically $100,000 to $250,000.

There are also potential tax credits and deductions available to offset home accessibility costs. Creating an accessibility budget and exploring funding options are key.

What Should You Keep in Mind When Modifying a Split Level House for Handicap Access??

Modifying a split level home for accessibility requires careful planning and consideration. Here are key tips for an effective process:

  • Consult with an occupational therapist or accessibility specialist to evaluate your unique needs.
  • Work with an architect experienced in accessible home design to develop an optimal plan.
  • Obtain necessary permits and approvals for renovations and equipment installation.
  • Prioritize accessibility in the floorplan; be strategic about room connections.
  • Select durable, safe materials like slip-resistant flooring, ample lighting, and grab bars.
  • Keep maintenance and usability in mind for accessibility equipment like lifts.
  • Check requirements for any applicable tax credits, deductions, or assistance programs.
  • Create a realistic budget and contingency fund for expected and unexpected costs.
  • Be open to phasing modifications over time as needs change or funds allow.

Careful planning considering short- and long-term needs is key for a successful accessible split level home project.

What Are Some Affordable Tips and Alternatives to Make a Split Level House Handicap Accessible?

For those on a limited budget, here are some affordable ideas to improve split level home accessibility:

  • Install lever-style handles on doors – $20-$40 per handle.
  • Add grab bars around toilets and showers – $50+ each, DIY install.
  • Attach handrails on both sides of stairways – $20/foot plus labor.
  • Place non-slip tread strips on stairs – $10-$30 per staircase.
  • Rearrange furniture to allow clear passageways for wheelchairs.
  • Get a portable wheelchair ramp for entryways – $250-$500.
  • Buy a bath bench and handheld showerhead – $30-$75 each.
  • Use a threshold ramp for low-height interior doors – $10-$100.
  • Install extra wall-mounted lighting – improves visibility.
  • Swap round doorknobs for lever handles – under $40/door.

Taking small steps within budget helps create a safer split level home while working toward larger accessibility projects.

What Questions Should I Ask Contractors When Planning Split Level Home Accessibility Changes?

When interviewing contractors for a split level home accessibility project, important questions to ask include:

  • Are you experienced completing handicap accessible home modifications?
  • Can you provide examples and references from previous accessible projects?
  • Are you familiar with the latest ADA accessibility standards and requirements?
  • Will you pull all required permits and ensure compliance with local building codes?
  • Do you have experience installing ramps, stairlifts, elevators, grab bars, etc?
  • Can you recommend products and brands you’ve worked with successfully?
  • Will you provide a written quote detailing project costs, timeline, etc?
  • Can you explain warranty information for materials and labor?
  • Are there any maintenance needs or costs for installed accessibility equipment?
  • Is there an option to complete projects in phases according to budget allowances?
  • What insurance coverage do you carry for projects?

Asking targeted questions helps vet contractor expertise and ensures the project meets accessibility, safety and code compliance standards.

What Mistakes Should Be Avoided When Modifying a Split Level House for Handicap Access?

It’s important to avoid common mistakes when taking on an accessibility modification project:

  • Failing to get required building permits for renovations.
  • Not checking contractor licensing, insurance, credentials.
  • Skipping an occupational therapy consultation to determine specific needs.
  • Ignoring or delaying safety upgrades like grab bars, lighting.
  • Opting for cheaper materials that won’t stand up to frequent use.
  • Lack of planning for future accessibility needs beyond basic requirements.
  • Making assumptions without carefully measuring access routes/doorways.
  • Rushing inspections – all work should be reviewed before signing off.
  • Poor budget planning without considering contingency costs.
  • Not checking qualifications of accessibility equipment installers.
  • Inadequate project oversight – carefully review all plans and work.

Avoiding these common pitfalls helps ensure a compliant, functional home that truly meets accessibility needs for the long-term.

What Are Some Tips for Reducing the Costs of Split Level Home Accessibility Projects?

To reduce costs for accessibility projects, consider these tips:

  • Explore tax credits and assistance programs to offset expenses
  • Get multiple quotes to find the best rate on materials and labor
  • Do portions yourself if skilled in areas like carpentry or plumbing
  • Prioritize essentials first, then budget for secondary items later
  • Buy used accessibility equipment in good shape when available
  • Use DIY grab bars that screw into wall studs
  • Purchase materials wholesale – get discounts for bulk orders or off-hours pick up
  • Have work done in off-peak seasons when contractor rates are lower
  • Consult an occupational therapist to identify the most economical solutions
  • Consider financing options like personal loans to spread out costs over time

Leveraging these and other savings strategies allows vital accessibility projects to fit many budgets.


Modifying a split level home for handicap accessibility requires careful planning, budgeting, and customization. By installing features like ramps, stairlifts, bathroom grab bars, and residential elevators, split level homes can be made fully accessible and functional for people with disabilities. Working with skilled professionals and following code requirements helps ensure a compliant, safe living space tailored to the resident’s unique needs. With proper assessments and strategic approaches, split level houses can be successfully transformed to promote accessibility, convenience, and independence.

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