How to Widen Doorway for a Wheelchair

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Wheelchairs are assistive devices that are used on different occasions. You may have seen people use it for transport, for people with disabilities and movement restrictions, or for people in their golden ages. Most of the time, the use for wheelchairs comes at the most unexpected times. Having a person use a wheelchair for a longer period will require changes to their current settings. It will need enough space to move around on and larger doorways to accommodate it. Most homes are not built to be wheelchair accessible; therefore, many people have trouble finding ways to widen their doorways for a wheelchair. 

Practical Steps to Widen Doorways for A Wheelchair

If you think widening your doors for wheelchairs is impossible, you must read on. There are several methods that you can take to get this done.

Know your measurements.

The first thing to do is determine the measurement of your current doorway. This is essential to know how much modification you need and how you can do it. According to the ADA guidelines, doors should be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair. However, it can be helpful to put more allowance up to 36 inches.

Use Z hinges.

These are made for narrow doorways to have extra clearance. These let doors swing clear of the opening. If you are looking to add about 2 inches to your doorway, you can go for swing clear hinges or offset door hinges. These effectively let your door swing clear of its frame, giving it a more expansive space for a wheelchair. This is a great alternative if you do not wish to install a bigger door or if you do not want to cut a larger frame. It also works great if you are looking for a more cost-effective option. 

Get rid of the door.

For those who want the job done as swiftly as possible, removing the door might be a quick fix. If you are looking to clear an inch to accommodate a wheelchair, this method may work. Some people even add a curtain to cover it. However, this may not be ideal if you are working on a very narrow doorway. 

Pay attention to its swing.

Doors swing in different directions. Observe which way yours go and change their swing as necessary. Sometimes, a wrong direction may make it harder for a wheelchair to go through. In some instances, people replace swinging doors with sliding ones or pocket doors. This gives it a wider width, sometimes enough to accommodate wheelchairs. But this will depend on your door’s existing measurements.

Work on the frame.

As you have noticed, most of the wheelchair doorway modifications mentioned above may work, but it does not all the time. If your door is narrower than standard ones, you may need to cut and widen the frame. Here are the steps on how to do it. 

Step 1: Create an outline for a wider doorway on your wall. Remove the wall’s casing, chair rail, and baseboard in the area. You can utilize a pry bar or chisel to remove it. Put a shim to cover the area between the drywall and tool to avoid any damage before working on it. Then place your tool beneath the trim or outer edges of the jamb. Push down on the tool’s handle away from the wall until you remove it. 

Step 2: Create an imaginary template using a wood block and trace around its corners. After doing so, gear yourself with proper eyewear to prevent getting debris into your eyes. Remove a small piece of drywall and check the insides for the presence of pipes, electrical wiring, and other things to avoid while cutting. 

Step 3: Turn off the primary power source for the area. Use a rotary cutting tool to cut along the lines you traced. With a reciprocating saw, cut through the nails that hold the doorjamb and the frame. Get the studs off the doorway. With a Japanese saw, cut the baseboard from the ground and pry it in the same manner you did the trim and door casing. 

Step 4: Prepare boards at the size of 2×4 inches for a new doorway. While making sure the top stud is short and able to fit the lengthier vertical studs, secure them with wood screws or nails. After that, you can proceed to install a new header. You can secure this better by using short or cripple studs between the frame’s top and the header. Finally, secure the drywall with screws.

Step 5: Setup the doorjamb on the doorway’s upper portion. Put the side pieces in place and put shims beneath them while securing the jambs with nails. Remove the excess areas of the shims using a saw if there are any. Put the new casing on the doorway and secure it with nails. With a miter saw, cut its upper corner’s end at a 45-degree angle. 

Step 6: Put the joint compound on the joints and press on pre-cut paper joint tape into it with a putty knife. Finish off with a second coat and sand it after drying. Replace the trim or baseboard, and don’t forget to paint and prime the walls and trim with the color of your choice. 

Note: It is essential to consider other components that may be affected during the process. You may have to alter and adjust electrical sockets, wiring, and light switches in the area. Make sure to evaluate these changes before attempting to work on widening your doorway.


Widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs is essential because it affects the entire household’s quality of living. Though it seems a daunting task, there are several ways to make it possible. You can always go for the simple and less inexpensive methods we pointed out earlier, but if those seem impossible because of your doorway’s measurements, you can always ask for help. Doing a DIY project can work, but if you feel that the task is too much to bear, you can always have professionals do the job for you. 


About The Author: David is a full-time content marketing specialist who loves to write about DIY home improvement tips. He focuses on sharing ideas and techniques learned from his experience in a concise manner so that it can be used by everyone to make home owners live better.
Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash

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