Do You Know the Secrets of Problem Solving Issues When Using Swing-Away Off-Set Door Hinges to Widen a Doorway for Wheelchair Accessibility?

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

Swing-away off-set door hinges are a great way to increase the clearance space of a door for a wheelchair without the expense of reconstruction to widen the doorway.  Widening a doorway even just a few inches can cost anywhere from $700.00-$1,500.00 depending on if the door is in a load-bearing wall, it's an interior or exterior door, or if electrical will need to be rerouted.

A great solution to widening a door without incurring extensive construction costs are swing-away off-set hinges.  But with anything you do for accessibility either do it right or don't do it.  So here are some tips and solutions for when you run into difficulty.  As John says, 'nothing is ever simple all you can hope for is straight forward.'

What are swing-away off-set hinges?
Swing-away off-set hinges are door hinges are designed to swing doors completely clear of the doorway to allow 1-1/2"-1-3/4" of extra clearance in the doorway which is vital for a wheelchair or walker.  Swing-away off-set hinges swing the door out of the doorway and then flush or even with the door jamb (the upright piece forming the side of the door opening.)

How Swing-Away Off-Set Hinges Work:

Swing-Away Off-Set Door Hinges Features:

  • Inexpensive solution for widening doorways .
  • Widens doorway by 1-1/2"-1-3/4" inches so wheelchairs and walkers easily fit through doorways.
  • Easy to install with a phillips head screwdriver or a cordless drill with a phillips head bit (my favorite).
Beware Swing-Away Off-Set Door Hinges Don't Work in All Places.
In order to use swing-away off-set hinges you will need space behind the door for the door to swing.  The space required for the swing-away off-set hinges is an offset of 1-1/2" for the door and space for the doorknob, a minimum of 2-1/2"-3"or a total of 4" behind the door.  If you don't have enough space to allow the door to swing a full 90-degrees then don't install the swing-away off-set hinges.  They won't work properly, the door and the wheelchair will be damaged and the user will be frustrated.

So What Can You Do if You Don't Have Enough Space Behind the Doorway for the Door to Swing Clear?
  • Remove the door completely and install a tension rod with a curtain in the doorway.  If that will work for the homeowner's lifestyle.
  • Swing the door another way, so if the door swings into the bathroom change the swing of the door so it swings out of the bathroom.  This is sometimes inconvenient for the homeowners so always discuss in detail with homeowner during the planning stage.
  • Cut a hole in the wall behind the door for a space for the doorknob to swing into when the door is opened.  This works best with standard door knobs and is a little more difficult with levered knobs.
  • Remove the door knob and install a small cabinet pull to use to open the door.
  • Barn-style sliding door.
Barn-style sliding door
One More Tip for Enlarging a Door for a Wheelchair:
The widest part of a wheelchair are the wheels, typically in narrow doorways the damaged area of the doors is the bottom 1/3 of the door.  The largest wheels on wheelchairs are 26" in diameter, so if you remove the doorstops on the bottom 1/3 of the door jamb you can get an extra inch of width and the upper 2/3 of the doorstop can continue to do their job of stopping the door.  

Doors Damaged by Wheelchairs:


Nice Things You Can Do for Your Builder if You're Recommending Swing-Away Off-Set Hinges.
  • Make sure there is enough space behind the door to install swing-away off-set hinges (4".)
  • Measure the existing hinge, length and width.
  • Number of hinges per door.
  • Specify the finish of the existing hinge. 
  • Take a picture of the backside of the entire door.
  • Take a close-up picture of the door hinge.
Measuring space behind door for swing-away off-set hinge

Measure hinge.

Example of recommendation of swing-away off-set hinge for builder:

Space behind door:  5"
Size of hinge:  3" x  1-1/2"
Number of hinges per door:  3
Finish of hinge:  Brushed nickel

Photos for your builder.

Photo of backside of door and measurement of space behind door:

Photo of hinge:

So anyone else have any tricks or tips for widening a door?  Or any other details you builders would like for the rest of us to give you when we do the evaluation?

Special thanks to my mentor, my partner in spirit, and my dear friend John Asmus from Barrier Free Design for his generosity and patience in sharing his vast knowledge and insuring I understand all the details.


Amy Homan DePoy said...

Thank you for the detailed information! You are exactly right, pictures are a extremely helpful!

Karen Koch said...

The more pictures the better. Pictures have saved me excessive time and energy more than once.:-)

Anonymous said...

We are widening our bathroom door for a wheelchair. We discussed all your solutions and also a pocket door. But we would have needed to take the whole wall down to install the pocket door frame. We have decided on french doors! Wish us luck!