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Don’t Make This Mistake When Retrofitting a Building


When remodeling or renovating an older facility, it’s an easy mistake to think that you only need to comply to the regulations that were in place when the building was first built, but there’s much more to retrofitting. The architecture project has to meet the current standards, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The U.S. government enforced the ADA in 2010. It generally requires that all buildings be accessible to those in wheelchairs and other disabilities. If you fail to incorporate the latest building standards when you retrofit a building, being found non-compliant can cost you. Before your company takes on the task of retrofitting a building, you need to make planning for compliance an absolute priority.

Door Clearances

When retrofitting a building, the doors must provide a clear width of 32 inches and allow wheelchair users maneuvering clearances. The most common maneuvering method for wheelchairs is 18 inches clear area on the pull side of the door and 12 inches clear area at the push side of the door. The ADA standards address all types of doors, including hinged, sliding, revolving, etc.


A lot of new standards have been introduced for restrooms in the last few years. When retrofitting the bathroom, all toilets have to meet ADA requirements. An exception are toilets only intended for a private office and not available to the public.

These requirements include:
– Builders positioning the toilet in a clear space, 56 – 59 inches from front to back and 60 inches from the sink edge to the side wall.
– Sink having 30-inches clear from side-to-side and 48 inches front to back that’s clear.
– Same 30-inch length between the sink and the toilet

There are also grab bar requirements along with other mandates included in the standards.


In order to be ADA compliant, the counter height cannot exceed 43 inches. The counter width must have 30-inch clearance for wheelchairs to roll under the sink. The challenging part with retrofitting is finding compatible appliances that work with the space, like an under counter fridge, for example. Architects should design the microwave, sinks, and counters to be placed in a position that’s accessible for differently-abled persons.

These are just a couple of building standards that barely scratch the surface of how many requirements there are. From built-in reception counters, to signage with visible braille, you must carefully review all applicable standard requirements. There are also other disabilities, such as blindness or deafness, that may require special requirements. You can save time and money by figuring out whether you need new construction or to simply renovate. This Renovation vs New Construction Guide will cover what you should consider when making that decision. Either way you go, just be sure to consult a professional architect before moving forward with your project.