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Adapting a Home

Sometimes an existing home will need to be changed to make it more suitable and comfortable to live in as we get older.

For many people the home that they have lived in for much of their lives can become more difficult to navigate as they get older. In order to remain in their home it may be necessary to make alterations to make it safer and more comfortable. The changes required to the home will depend on each individual and the particular home.

A key resource for people thinking of adapting their home is the Healthy Age Friendly Homes Programme. This programme provides access to a Healthy Age Friendly Homes Coordinator to carry out a needs assessment to establish what supports are required to continue living independently in your home. Based on this assessment a support plan will be developed. The coordinator can also provide information on rightsizing, grants, and social and health care supports.

An occupational therapist can advise on what changes or modifications may be required. An occupational therapist can be contacted through the community care section of your Local Health Office.

An architect  might be required to help with the adaptation, determine the most suitable design, and advise on costs and planning permission. A list of registered architects can be found on the RIAI’s architect directory.

There are a number of grants available to adapt a home. More information can be found on the Grants & Funding page.

When adapting the home some common alterations to consider are:

  •    Widening doorways and passageways
  •     Moving light switches, door handles, doorbells, and entry phones to convenient heights
  •     Installing grab rails for support
  •     Adapting bathroom facilities (for example, removing a bath and installing a level access shower)
  •     Moving bathroom or bedroom facilities to ground-floor level
  •     Installing ramps to avoid using steps
  •     Ensuring that external approaches, such as pathways or drives have a firm, level surface
  •     Installing a stairlift or through-floor lift
  •     Getting specialised furniture, like an adjustable bed or high-support chairs
  •     Installing alert devices for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing

Planning Policy and Exempted Developments

Most development in Ireland requires planning permission. However, planning legislation allows for some development to take place without the need to engage in the planning process, meaning that such development can take place more quickly and involve less cost. This is known as exempted development.

Exempted development is development for which planning permission is not required. Categories of exempted development are set out in planning law. There are usually certain thresholds relating to, for example, size or height. Where these thresholds are exceeded, the exemptions no longer apply. The purpose of exemption is to avoid controls on developments of a minor nature, such as small extensions to houses.

Types of exempted development relevant to Age Friendly Homes

Domestic extensions – exempt if to the rear of the house and complies with the following:

  • Area:
    • the original floor area of the house is not increased by more than 40 square metres;
    • for terraced or semi-detached houses, the floor area of any extension above ground level does not exceed 12 square metres;
    • any extension above ground floor level is at least 2m from any boundary;
    • any extension does not exceed the height of the house;
    • any extension does not reduce the area of private open space, reserved for the occupants of the house, to less than 25 square metres.
  • Height:
    • if the rear wall of the house does not include a gable, the height of the walls of the extension must not exceed the height of the rear wall of the house;
    • in the case of a flat roofed extension, the height of the highest part of the roof may not exceed the height of the eaves or parapet. In any other case, no part of the new roof may exceed the highest part of the roof of the house;
  • Windows:
    • any windows proposed at ground floor level as part of an extension should not be less than 1 metre from the boundary they face;
    • any windows proposed at above ground level should be not less than 11 metres from the boundary they face;
    • the roof of any such extension should not be used as a balcony or roof garden.
  • Garage conversions
    • The conversion for use as part of a house (e.g. as a living room or bedroom) of a garage, store, shed etc. attached to the rear or side of a house is normally exempted development, subject to the 40 square metre limit and conditions as set out above.
  • Internal alteration, external repairs and maintenance
    • You can carry out any internal alteration you wish as long as you do not alter the domestic use of the house. External works of repair, maintenance and improvement such as painting or replastering do not need planning permission so long as they do not materially affect the external appearance, thus rendering the appearance inconsistent with neighbouring buildings.

Resources

Healthy Age Friendly Homes Programme

 |  Fact sheets, Planning and regulation, Policy, Tips and tricks

The Healthy Age Friendly Homes Programme is an initiative, funded by Sláintecare, that aims to enable older people to continue living in their homes or in a home more suited to their needs, …