We recently did a complete bathroom remodel, including a curbless shower, for an older client who was beginning to have some mobility problems. Although he was getting along well enough without a walker or a wheelchair, it seemed that he might be needing one or the other before too long.

To improve access to the bathroom when that time came, we wanted to widen the doorway. Unfortunately, the existing opening took up all the available space, with barely room on the hinge side of the door for a narrow strip of trim. There was no way to stretch the budget enough to relocate the wall.

Instead, we used a two-step approach to widen the opening by about 2” at very low cost. First, we replaced the existing butt hinges with a set of offset hinges, also known as swing-away or wide-throw hinges. It doesn’t get any easier than this—you just unscrew the original hinges and screw in the new ones, using the same holes and mortises. When you’re done, the door can swing completely out of the opening. Lowe’s has offset hinges in a several finishes, or you can order them from one of the specialty suppliers listed below.

If there’s a reasonable amount of open space on the hinge side of the door, offset hinges alone may provide all the clearance you need. But because we had very little to work with here—barely more than the 3” minimum needed to accomodate the offset hinge pins—we also framed a small recess in the wall after we’d removed the old drywall. When our tile guy installed installed the wainscoting, he finished this area guy like a shower niche, providing space for the doorknob and allowing the door itself to lie flat against the wall when fully opened.

Finally, it’s possible to gain another inch of clearance, if needed, by removing the stop molding on each side of the door to wheelchair height. We left the molding in place for now, but it would be quick and easy to make that change sometime down the road.

Robert Criner is the owner of Criner Remodeling in Newport News, VA.