A home should be convenient, comfortable and safe for everyone in the household-young and old. "Renovating for living" reflects the fact that as we move through different phases of life, our housing needs change. When planning your home renovation, consider what you will need for both the short and the long term:

  • A family with young children typically needs more space and convenience - extra bathrooms, larger family living areas and a more open kitchen with an eat-in area.
  • As children mature, they (and their parents) want more privacy. Housing priorities shift towards larger bedrooms, increased closet space and separated living areas.
  • Grown children returning home, aging parents moving in, home-based businesses - increasingly people need to plan for continuous changes in household composition and use of space.
  • As homeowners get older, "accessibility" becomes a greater concern - the ability to move easily throughout the home and carry on day-to-day living activities.

Providing for the long term in your renovation plans can give you greater value and satisfaction. Experienced renovators offer some practical tips on "renovating for life", making your home more flexible and adaptable to your changing needs, while increasing its comfort, convenience and safety at the same time.

  • Extra-wide doors, easy-to-use locks and good lighting make it easy and safe to get in and out of the house. A large front porch or overhang will offer shelter outside, while a spacious area inside the entrance provides a convenient spot for setting down parcels and removing outdoor footwear.
  • Whenever possible, incorporate the kitchen, living room and a bathroom into the main living area on one level. Widen narrow halls and doorways to make movement easier. An open floor plan can provide a comfortable family environment for work, play and relaxation.
  • If space allows, create a separate, multi-purpose room on the main level. Over the years, it may serve as a den, an office or a spare bedroom.
  • The main floor bathroom should ideally include a shower at least, and a bathtub if possible.
  • Keep floors at one continuous level. Eliminate obstructions such as steps up or down to the family room, or if necessary, use gently sloped ramps. This protects both children and adults from accidents.
  • Non-load bearing moveable or removable walls offer the flexibility to change the layout of your home with less work and at a lower cost.
  • Consider the need and opportunities for future expansion of living space into the basement and/or attic, and rough in services (water, electricity, cable) as other renovation work is done.
  • Install laundry facilities on the main or upper floor. If you intend to use an outdoor clothes line, place the laundry room for convenient access to the outside.
  • Choose easy-to-open windows with cranks, and install lever-action handles rather than knobs on all doors and closets.
  • Position electrical switches, outlets and mechanical system controls where they are easily accessible from a standing or sitting position. Use push-pad light controls, three-way switches to control lights from more than one location, and illuminated controls near entrance doors and in bathrooms.
  • In the bathroom, think safety for the whole family. Reinforce the walls for grab bars in the shower and tub area. Install non-slip flooring and anti-scald faucets.
  • Install a central vacuum system, so you don't have to carry your machine around.
  • In the kitchen, roll-out or pull-down drawers, shelves and pantries make it a snap to keep order and have easy access to everything. Pull-out boards, hinged work surfaces and counters of various heights, with open leg room, let everyone in the family participate in food preparation, including children.
  • Outside, gently sloped driveways and walkways can to reduce the need for stairs. Garage or parking areas should provide enough space to get around with a baby carriage, armloads of groceries or a wheelchair. Install planters at various and accessible heights.

The features and approaches described above are an integral part of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's FlexHousing™, a forward-thinking approach to building and renovating.