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Epic Fail at Zero Steps

Epic Fail at Zero Steps

We borrow from baseball in calling this a Blown Save, a missed opportunity to conserve personal effort climbing steps. This house didn't REQUIRE exterior steps but it's got them forever now.

What a missed opportunity. Do you see it? Notice what might've been?

Instead there will be exterior steps to every entrance when, with only a dash of forethought, proactive design and site planning (just moving some dirt!), there could've been no steps and a flush threshold entrance at least at one entrance on the main level, and through the garage too. Instead of hassle-free ease, residents and visitors will climb to a doorway on an essentially flat lot in a new neighborhood of mostly level parcels.
 
Sadly, this same problem was repeated at every single home, and a wheelchair user lives in one of them.
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How to build a no step entrance

Ud_lot_prep_sloping

We're on a crusade against unnecessary exterior steps, and most houses have them.
 
How do you eliminate exterior steps to at least one main level entrance? Shortest answer assuming new construction, site work in combination with moving the house up or down. For retrofits, you're limited mostly to moving dirt or finding an alternate entrance (like through a garage, carport, etc).
 
The lay of the land determines your options and, in either case, you simply need to plan. If you're dealing with more than a three foot rise, then it's going to be tough but not necessarily impossible.
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Why Steps to Most Doorways?

Why Steps to Most Doorways?

Why do most houses have steps to the front door? Fact is many shouldn't, certainly not the ones on flat lots. Look at this new house. Notice the lot? I'll add the entire lot to the street is flat, and the house is built on a slab. 

So why that ONE step onto the porch and another to get through the front door? 

Maybe it's necessary when a  house is built atop a crawl space or basement? Nope. For water or bug proofing? Negative. Expense? Ixnay. (Should it cost MORE to build LESS? Actually might be if your builder is headstrong and refuses to do any other way.)
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Universally Preferred Parking

Your garage isn't just a place to park stuff, it's often the safest and easiest entrance into your home.

A Lifetime Home should ideally have a garage, not only to provide ample room for getting into and out of your vehicle but to provide accessible storage, cover from the weather and also an element of safety, particularly if you're dealing with children, an armload of groceries or otherwise preoccupied. Additionally, if you're exploring options on the main level for creating a zero step and flush threshold entrance, access through the garage is often least expensive and far less complicated because you're eliminating potential problems with exterior topography and sloping.

So whether the garage is attached (ideal) or detached, here's what you need: Ample room for maneuvering strollers, lawn mowers, bicycles, golf clubs, etc. around the vehicle(s) At least a 3-foot clear path around and between vehicles Easy path from the garage, sheltered (if detached) with no steps and a walkway no less than 36-inches wide Shelves, cabinets, hooks and all storage within easy reach Proper ventilation, ideally including a fan on a timer and/or motion activated. Worth considering, a garage door tall enough to accommodate higher vehicles (e.g. van with chairlift), which typically require an extra 18 to 24 inches compared to standard doors. You might also want motion detecting lights and intercom. Finally, whether entering the house from inside or outside the garage, you'll want a non-slip surface that doesn't allow puddling or freezing of water or condensation. As I wrote in the last post, there are many different ground applications including pervious concrete and porous asphalt.

What's best depends on your circumstances. This concludes my tutorial series describing a universally designed, Lifetime Home. If you landed here first and want to start at the beginning of the series (curbside), click What is Universal Design?, each post leads to another describing every area of a detached, single family house. If you seek more technically detailed, room-by-room guidance, review and bookmark LifetimeHomeSurvey.com, which is updated quarterly. Use the Lifetime Home Survey as either an assessment checklist or wish list. Please email me with questions and share socially.

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How to plan and create a flush threshold entry

The mat is the problem in this shot, otherwise there is no rise in threshold. A zero clearance entryway is so basic that it's somewhat difficult to explain. Your main consideration is the thickness of your floor covering and whether that will require compensation, a lowering of the sub-flooring, which might take some engineering and planning, otherwise no big deal. But let's consider hardwood flooring for instance, that won't cause a massive design headache, really thick ceramic or stone tile might be another matter but that's more complicated regardless.

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NO step aerobics

Imagine no steps to climb to the door. Here's how that can look.

You won't get winded getting to your door if you've got ZERO steps to climb. Here are some options if you're attempting to achieve at least one step-free accessible route to either the front, side or rear entry. Access via a garage is another alternative not covered here.

Notice too that gentle sloping and use of retaining walls is aesthetically appealing, you can incorporate landscaping of all types, even raised flower or vegetable gardens and be universally designed in two regards, inclusive access plus easy gardening (e.g. tend your raised garden while seated).

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How to build a zero step entry

Dirt is your friend. Move Mother Earth, move the house up or down, or a combination to engineer a zero step entrance, the TO part of getting THROUGH the doorway.

Don't throw away useful dirt or rocks! Managing soil on a job site costs money so put every ounce to use. Think of those machines, like dozers and dump trucks, as taxi cabs with a meter. Whether digging, pushing or hauling, a running engine is operator time and ringing cash register. Dirt gets wasted on many projects, particularly when excavating basements, either spread around the lot or carted away. Think of that dirt (and rocks!) as your no-step ramp!

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2 Steps for ZERO Steps

I get ticked when I see new houses with lots of steps being built on relatively flat lots. That's simply design-build laziness, and ominous when you consider 18,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 DAILY!

So if you're planning construction or home improvement, here's how to make your home life easier with ZERO steps getting into the house.

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