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What Do You Need? A Zero Step Entry!

Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

A zero step entry is a doorway to get in and out of your house with ZERO steps.

You know what’s a shame though? Less than 3.5% of homes in the U.S. have one zero step entry according to Joint Center for Housing Studies (2011).

Now, of course, I hope that figure has gone up since 2011. But I highly doubt it!

When I drive around and see new construction for houses and apartments, you better believe I’m rubbernecking to see if they’re putting in one entryway with zero steps!

But here’s the unfortunate truth: I see steps to go inside the front door, back door, and garage door.

Why do builders do this?

Because they do what they know. Builders don’t obsess about accessibility the way occupational therapists like me do!

I understand people think that a couple, two, three stairs won’t hurt anybody from going in and out of their house. But it actually does in the long run.

Let’s try an experiment:

I want you to carry something that requires two hands, like a laundry basket, across level flooring for ten feet.

I’ll wait here. . .

Okay! You’re finished! Great! How much effort did you put into that? How hard are you breathing? Can you still hold a conversation? Are your muscles tired?

Now, I want you to carry that same object up and down at least two stairs. If you have more stairs, try carrying your object up and down all of your stairs.

After all of your stair climbing, how much effort did your body put in to carrying an object up and down the stairs compared to no stairs at all?

As we age, this “simple” task of carrying objects up and down stairs becomes more difficult. Even though I’m in my 30’s, I notice I exert more energy to carry things up and down stairs compared to carrying things across the floor.

I hate to burst your bubble, but there will be a day when it’s harder for you to carry things up and down the stairs. It may be due to a back injury, arthritis, heart condition, etc., etc. You just never know!

So if you DON’T have a zero step entry, what can you do NOW to make sure you’re set for the future?

Start planning your zero step entry for your home!

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It can be any entry you desire! The front door, the side door, the back door, the garage door, etc. You pick what works best for you and your house.

You can convert an existing window into a zero step entry door! If you’re creating a door out of a non-existing door, make sure to have the doorway width measure 36 inches for plenty of room to maneuver in and out of the house.

An issue that may come up is the fact that the main level of your house is not the same as the ground outside.

I have that EXACT same issue! So let’s dive into the problem solving process for my humble abode.

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

The problem for my house is the front and back entryway both have stairs to go inside. I would choose to make my back door zero entry because it’s closest to our driveway. There are several options I can think of off the top of my dome:

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

1) Install a ramp at the back door and create a minimum 6’x6’ landing for space to open the door and walk inside and outside. The ramp incline would need to gradually rise one foot per inch from the ground level to the height of the door threshold.

In my case, I would need 14 feet of ramp to accommodate the 14 inches from the ground to the top of my threshold. I would also make the ramp width at least 60 inches to allow plenty of room for a wheelchair user.

2) Install a rampscape at the back door. Rampscapes are ramps made by grading dirt to make that gradual incline to the door threshold. They look very pretty when landscaped with whatever materials you choose. I would lay a 6’x6’ concrete patio by the door, a 60 inch wide concrete sidewalk on the rampscape, and add lots of plants around it!

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

3) Install a vertical lift. A vertical lift is a platform that takes you from ground level and elevates you to the main threshold, like an outdoor elevator! I would still create a 6’x6’ landing to allow enough room to open and close the back door. This option would definitely require an overhead above the vertical lift to protect it from rain and snow.

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

All of the options above would cost thousands of dollars. The most inexpensive option would be installing a ramp. Personally, I would install an overhang or portico to cover the landing above the back doorway to avoid all forms of precipitation, especially after witnessing Missouri imitating Siberia this year!

Although I don’t have the funds at the moment, I can discuss this with my family, look for ways to fund a zero step entry, and ask for bids to help me select the best option and plan. Creating a zero step entry is a three year goal for me.

If you’re looking into building a new home, then you will spend the least amount of money to create a zero step entry!

Let’s say you wanted your zero step entry to be your garage door. Tell your builder! They can grade the site to ensure you drive into your garage and effortlessly step in and out of your home.

Sometimes, people are concerned that the only style of house they can build to include a zero step entry is a patio home.

NOT TRUE.

If your builder is not willing to make at least one zero step entry and keep whatever style of house you choose, then they do not have the creativity or desire to move outside of their comfort zone.

You can build ANY style of house and have at least one zero step entry.

Whichever doorway you choose, remember: it’s best to have the doorway covered above and to make sure water will drain away from the door. Water is bad inside of the house.

Contact me to help you create a zero step entry! You better do it before you need it!

Do you have a zero step entry? Show us pics. If not, what are your plans? Share in the comments below!