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accessible design

Accessible Design Patio Doors Needed for Wheelchair Access

Do you know of any options in accessible design patio doors? My daughter is in a wheelchair and I need to replace the sliding glass door from the house to the patio/deck. I've looked around and all the patio doors I've found have a 1-inch area at the bottom with rail slots. I need an accessible patio door that is relatively smooth at the bottom so that my daughter can use it without all the trauma of rolling over the sill area.

Our Answer

Accessible patio doors and overall Accessible Design are very important not only for those who are handicapped but for everyone who appreciates ease of access. Whether it is a low door threshold, a cabinet with sliding shelves or even a light switch with a paddle verses a toggle switch, simple changes in design make access easier, safer and more comfortable for all.

AARP has done a great job of identifying many of these areas via a special section of their website devoted to Livable Communities. As to your specific situation, yes, there are low-threshold, accessible patio door designs for just this purpose. Instead of the traditional sliding patio door, they are available in the more accessible hinged patio door format.

For example, door manufacturer Therma-Tru makes something called a public access sill option for a hinged patio door. Instead of the standard 1-9/16-inch-high sill, the public access sill has a height of only half an inch. Moreover, the sill is sloped, making it easier to roll over with a wheelchair or baby carriage. You can check out a profile of the sill in Therma-Tru's product guide; see page 11 for more details on this feature for accessible patio doors.

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hanging picture

How to Hang Heavy Pictures on Drywall

What's a safe way to hang heavier art pieces on drywall? I've done a bit of unintentional damage before, and don't want to repeat the performance.

Our Answer

There is a wide array of hardware available to help hang a heavy picture on drywall. One gadget I really like is The Monkey Hook, an easy-to-install wall hanger that supports art weighing up to 50 pounds and can be doubled up for even heavier pieces. It was created with both residential and commercial drywall in mind, and designed to work in wall locations where there is no wall stud to latch into.

The Monkey Hook looks is a hook shaped piece of strong wire. One end is sharpened and can be easily driven into the drywall with a few twists. It then is locked in place and this heavy-duty helper is ready to display your favorite framed art and photos.

The other nice feature is that when you change your mind and decide to move your art around (and you KNOW that will happen!), The Monkey Hook leaves only a very small hole in the wall that's easily covered with just a dab of spackling compound.

 

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Soundproofing: Masonry Wall vs Wood/MLV Fence

We recently moved into a house next to a road that produces more noise than we expected and  I'm considering putting something up to help with the noise. One option considered is a masonry wall.  It's attractive, low-maintenance, and likely the most effective against noise but it's also (roughly) triple the cost of the fence option. The fence would be a tongue and groove double sided privacy fence with a layer of mass loaded vinyl (MLV) hung between the facing panels to help with sound attenuation.  I'd never heard of MLV before I started looking into this, and the only material I can find on is from the guys who sell it, who obviously claim it's the bee's knees. My question is whether the MLV sandwich fence is going to do a "good enough job" with the road noise to make it a viable option against masonry.  Or is the fence without the MLV going to be effective enough?

Our Answer

As the saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Whether an MLV fence will be quiet enough for you is dependent on your tolerance. However, MLV is a very high-tech product that's had a great success record of quieting machines, road noise, and even the occasional garage band! (Here's more information on MLV and its uses.)

To make it effective, however, it has to float. It cannot be stapled directly to the inside of the fence with no way for the material to move back and forth. This is because when those sound waves hit it, they need the flexibility to diffuse. It's kind of like when you throw a rock into the lake. The lake initially absorbs the force of the rock, but then the waves diffuse the force that follows. If you were to make this MLV so tight that it couldn't flex, it wouldn't have as strong of an ability to diffuse that sound. The best approach would be to hang it loosely between the sections of the fence. As to whether or not this will be "good enough," the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may find that it's fine. Or, if you have a low tolerance for noise, you may find that it's not. Given the fact that it's one-third of the cost of a concrete barrier, it is certainly worth an effort.

Another thing you could do is to add landscaping on the roadside of the wood fence. This would also help break up the sounds before it gets to the fence, making the MLV assembly even more effective. As this article says, adding a water fountain could be a good idea as well. Good luck with your project and send us a photo when you're done!

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