Getting around old houses that weren’t built with accessibility in mind is challenging if you use a wheelchair.

Simple alterations made around the home can be life-changing for those with limited mobility, and when it comes to moving through their own home, widening doorways is often the most straightforward method. 

Here’s everything you need to know.

How Wide Do Doorframes Need To Be For Wheelchairs?

Most standard doorways are 30 inches wide, or 760mm. Bathrooms tend to be smaller.

The crux? Wheelchair users need at least 32 inches, approximately 800mm. And, depending on the approach angle, a doorway might need to be much wider to allow the wheels to pivot around a tight corner. 

This means that in some cases wheelchair users may need up to 35 – 40 inches of doorway width just to be able to access all areas of their own home independently.

What Does Door Widening Involve?

The process of widening doors is simple.

1 – Consultation 

First up, we have an in-depth consultation to work out exactly what’s required. Only once we have a full understanding of how much wider the door needs to be, and where it will sit on the wall, do we proceed with the next step.

2 – Measuring

Having listened to your needs, the outline of the new doorway will be diligently measured and drawn up onto your wall. 

3 – Preparation

Next, any casing or architrave around the doorframe and skirting board is removed, taking care to protect the surrounding plaster and wallpaper or paint. 

Our construction worker will remove a section of brickwork to check where electrical wires are sitting before proceeding, and light switches and mains outlets may need to be moved if they will sit too close to the new doorframe.

4 – Removal

The existing wall is now ready to be carefully cut into to make way for the new widened doorway.

5 – Installation

A new doorframe will be fitted and the surrounding walls put right cosmetically. This includes the replacement of the skirting board, the filling of any holes, and a new coat of paint to both trim and walls. 

How Long Does The Process Take?

The whole process of widening an interior door on a timber stud wall should only take a few hours. A door on a brick wall should take slightly longer, at 1-2 days. An external door can take more time given the necessary removal and subsequent replacing or tidying of brickwork or cladding.

A whole home, depending on how many rooms the building has, can therefore be adapted fairly quickly and immediately useable once complete. 

At the John Ford Group, we’ve been improving the quality of life for those with limited mobility for over 14 years. We prize our thorough knowledge, as well as the strong relationships we hold with both healthcare professionals AND our brilliant in-house construction team. Our installation process is robust, fast and efficient, designed to avoid any inconvenience.

Special projects

How Much Does Door Widening Cost?

The price of the job largely depends on how many doors are to be widened, whether they sit externally or internally and whether the wall is solid or timber (timber being quicker and less expensive).

An exterior door is more expensive to adapt due to the necessary remodelling of the brickwork. The manufacture of external doors, especially bespoke ones, is also more costly.

Common Problems & Challenges

Most door widening jobs are quick and simple, but sometimes that’s not the case. Here are the most common blockers to making this particular adaptation to a home:

Old Houses

Crumbling brickwork, ageing wiring and plug points and switches in strange places can all get in the way of a door widening project. Thankfully our expert team have seen it all. They are adept at navigating even the most stubborn of homes to improve manoeuvrability for wheelchair users. 

Awkward Doorways

Sometimes a doorway is situated in a tricky place where the frame cannot be widened, such as at the end of a narrow hallway. 

Though this means door widening is a no-go, there are other ways of improving access for those that need it. One such way is to use ‘swing clear’ hinges, also known as ‘clear offset’ hinges, which allow the door to swing completely clear of the doorway.

Load Bearing Walls

If the doorway in question sits within a load-bearing wall, the lintel above the doorframe will need to be widened as well as the doorframe. This is not a barrier to the completion of the project, but it does add time and cost to the job. Our structural engineer will give calculations to Building Control prior to starting the project. Building Control fees are often waived in the case of disability work, and can be made VAT exempt with the right paperwork.

Doorways Can Be Significant Barriers To Independent Living 

When many people think about home adaptations for wheelchair users they jump straight to stairlifts and ramps, but alterations to doorways can be life-changing for disabled people living in their home environment.

At the John Ford Group, we believe everyone has the right to move around their home as they need to, and door widening is a quick and easy solution to the problems that mobility aids can present. To find out more about what is possible and get a quote, contact us today and our friendly team will talk you through your options.