Before and After: A Safe and Pretty Bathroom for Aging in Place

A little kindness — and a lot of demo work — goes a long way in building a beautifully functional Birmingham bathroom

After watching their elderly father spend the last of his days struggling to get in and out of her parents’ poorly designed master bathroom, Lynn Noel and her sisters knew that they needed to do something to better anticipate and accommodate for their 83-year-old mother Polly’s future needs at home.

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“We know — and she knows — that age is going to catch up with her,” Lynn says. “And she doesn’t want to go and live in an assisted living or nursing home; she just wants to be in her home. So we wanted to design a bathroom that will give her access and a safe environment.”

The family set out to have both bathrooms in Polly’s 1958 ranch-style home remodeled to better accommodate for wheelchair access and aging in place — starting with the particularly problematic master bath. The purpose of the project was to combine the master closet and adjacent bathroom, and to widen the entryway to make it both wheelchair-accessible and big enough for Polly to have assistance in and out of the bath as necessary. “And we wanted to make it pretty on top of that,” says Lynn.

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The Right Contractor Makes All the Difference

The family first called a contractor that Polly had hired to do some work on the house a few years before, but Lynn felt they were padding their budget and cheating her mother. “I told her: ‘Mother, you can’t do business with them; they’re not treating you right,’” Lynn said. “And it hurt her feelings that somebody would cheat her — especially someone she knows and has used before.”

So, Lynn and Polly decided to try HomeAdvisor. And, after getting quotes from three local contractors, they hired Gossett and Associates to help bring their vision to life. “Because I was kind of spearheading this for my mom, there were some concerns I had,” Lynn says. “Of course, quality was very important; but also, these were people who were going to be in my mother’s home with her there by herself.” 

“...quality was very important; but also, these were people who were going to be in my mother’s home with her there by herself.”

What impressed Lynn most about Johnny Gossett was that his entire crew has been with him for nearly 30 years, which she felt was a clear indication that he treats his people right. Further, Johnny offered the strongest design recommendations and was the only contractor to offer custom cabinetry options.

“He wasn’t the cheapest and he wasn’t the most expensive either,” Lynn says, “but it was those other things that were the most important. There was an immediate sense of trust. Johnny told me in his bid: I promise I’ll treat your mother like she’s my mother. And he has kept that promise to me.”

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A Five-Week Project Builds a Lasting Friendship

It took Johnny and his crew five weeks to enlarge and completely reconfigure Polly’s master bath. The project entailed extensive rewiring and re-plumbing, as well as the removal of 5,000 pounds of concrete wall debris — a surprise that Johnny says turned a one-day tear-out into a five-day demolition. The end result is a bathroom large enough to allow Polly unfettered future wheelchair access to all bathroom amenities — including knee space under the vanity; handicap bars; and a new, wheelchair-wide pocket door. “The work is stunning,” Lynn says, “It is exactly what my mother wanted.”

Not only did Johnny and his team deliver a project that more than exceeded their expectations, says Lynn, but they also performed some extra work around the house. And they involved Polly in the remodeling process and made her feel comfortable every step of the way — an important practice when planning and executing projects for aging in place.

“The work is stunning,” Lynn says, “It is exactly what my mother wanted.”

“Johnny would say: ‘Miss Polly, Come on, I’m going to take you on a date. We’re going to go out to get your bathroom fixtures and then I’m going to take you out to lunch,’” Lynn says. “I have so much confidence in him. All the guys working over there are stand-up individuals. And most importantly, they’re kind to my mother — even when she wants to hover,” she jokes.

“Well, Polly is a sweet person,” Johnny says, “she appreciates everything you do and her daughters are the same way. I stop by there to talk to her now even if we’re not working because she likes us coming by. My customers love my crew; the difference between a good contractor and a bad contractor is the people.”

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