Don't fall for it

Planning ahead when building or renovating

Page last updated: 06 May 2011

If you are building or renovating, no matter what your age, it makes good sense to think about safety and ease of access in and around the home, if not for yourself, then for others who may be less able. It is easier (and more cost effective) to include these features in your building or renovation plans, than to make structural changes later.

What you can do:


  • Floor surfaces should be level and slip resistant.
  • Outdoor pathways should be level and have slip resistant firm surfaces with good drainage.
  • Allow extra width in corridors, doorways, bathrooms, toilets and car parks for easier movement.
  • Avoid steps and stairs or have handrails next to them.


  • Doors into the bathroom and toilet should be hung to open outwards for better access.
  • Have soap holders recessed (set in) so that you will not hit them if you slip.
  • Design the shower so that it is spacious and you don’t have to step over anything or down to get into it.


  • Ensure you have good lighting for security and moving around.
  • Install two-way light switches at each end of corridors, stairs, in living areas with more than one entry and bedrooms (with the additional switch located alongside the bed).

Other considerations

  • Keep walking distances as short as possible. For example, from where the car is parked to the entrance and from the toilet to the bedrooms. Avoid long corridors.
  • Telephone connections, electric plugs, fixtures and controls should be able to be reached from a seated position (1 metre off the floor) and 500mm from internal corners.
  • Good house and garden design, and selection of materials, can eliminate much external maintenance.
  • Build in features that will make your home easily modified if the need should arise. An example is having the wall cavity reinforced behind the shower, bath and toilet so that grab rails can easily be attached.

Where you can find help or advice:

  • Independent Living Centre
  • The Master Builders Association have a booklet titled “Building For Life” which can be obtained from an Independent Living Centre
See page 29 for a list of support services for older people.