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Design Considerations in Hallways and Doors

Worksite Redesign Technical Advisory Project


  • Openings wide enough for intended resident use
  • 60" width for wheelchairs to pass in opposite directions
  • Rails at 33" maximum to assist staff or residents. All rail ends must return to wall
  • Level and flat transitions from hallways to all other living areas
  • Adequate lighting (see Minimum Maintained Average Illumina​nce, page 125)
  • Rounded or softened outside corners
  • No doors opening into hallways; but if they must, doors should have windows or viewers into hallways
  • Short, straight hallways
  • Protection of wall surfaces with fiberglass-reinforced plastic or other durable material when required
  • Kick plates, corner guards, wall protectors and durable paints as required
  • Space free of projections into traffic areas


Closed hallways and hidden areas should be avoided or provided with additional illumination to prevent a blind or closed setting in the home. Attention must be given to protrusions such as handles, bulletin boards, pictures or any other extension into the traffic flow area that can cause injury. Use protective wainscoting in halls and heavy traffic areas. Halls no less than 42" wide will be permissible, but 60" is preferred. Where more than one seated resident resides, 60" hallways are necessary. The average wheelchair is 22" wide and requires at least 3" clearance on either side for easy passage without the need for complete stoppage to allow others to pass.


All door sills, tracks, and thresholds should have as low a profile as possible to prevent tripping surfaces. Pay close attention to any protrusions or transition changes that compromise walking surfaces and therefore safety.

Interior doors should be at least 3' 0", hollow core with lever action hardware. Lighter weight doors are easier for employees to handle, as well as less likely to cause injury if they close suddenly. Kick plates should be installed where necessary.

Where possible, pocket doors should be installed, they can help avoid some injury in areas such as bathrooms where residents are being moved repetitively. Pocket doors provide for the widest openings in homes. Doorways thus equipped allow for easy entrance and exit without exposure to swinging doors and pinch/trap points. Standard doors reduce entry space (even when open) by several inches.

If side-by-side assistance is needed for the resident, a 3' 0" door is inadequate. Consider a 4' 0" doorway in these situations. Initially providing wider doorways increases user options over time, and avoids the costs associated with retrofitting later.

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  • Cutting corner at a 45° angle improves visual access for staff and improves turning for wheelchairs
  • Carpeted wainscot is difficult to sanitize
  • Half-round metal splices at vinyl-to-carpet transitions can be improved by use of flat splices
  • Hallway is adequate 60" width

North A Street
  • Door transitions are flat and level
  • Wide hallway allows adequate space for side-by-side assistance with person ambulation and allows two wheelchairs to pass
  • Railing provides personal assistance for either the resident or caregivers
  • Wooden wainscot is a desirable alternative to carpet 

North A Street
  • Handrail helps with balance
  • Bathroom location at the center of activity promotes team backup and assistance
  • Double-acting bathroom door allows hand-free access in both directions
  • Opaque glass window allows a door user to know if someone is in the way

  • 48" door opening allows side-by-side ambulation. Pocket doors allow the home to capture more space for storage and movement
  • Adequate room for side-by-side ambulation
  • Nylon strip on door makes closing door simple and easy 

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  •  Straight, clear pathway through the living area
  • Good lighting, both natural and artificial, is provided in this room (see the Illuminating Engineering Society Addendum for lighting in nursing homes, page 125
  • Rugs may pose a tripping hazard

Dean Avenue

  • Hallway is narrow and poorly lit, limiting staff assistance when required
  • Fire extinguisher in this upstairs hallway is a good feature, recessed placement would reduce the risk of injury 

Hillside Drive

Dean Avenue
  • Hallway offers a clear view throughout this wing of the house
  • Projections into the hallway have been kept to a minimum
  • Non-skid interlocking metal floor finish helps to reduce slip--and-fall incidents
  • FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) protects walls
  • Outside corners are rounded

  • Wide hallways can accommodate beds, gurneys and side-by-side ambulation
  • Hallway is well lit and ventilated
  • Carpeting is difficult to clean and disinfect 

Halls should have space where equipment and supplies can be temporarily placed out of the path of travel

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  • 60" allows two seated residents to pass in a hall, or for a seated person to travel with an assistant

  • Wide hall accommodates two-way wheelchair traffic, but file storage protrudes into traffic space
  • Tempered hardboard wainscot protects wall from footrests and axles on wheelchairs
  • Angled doors into bedrooms make access simple
  • Light upper surface and dark lower surface softens brightness and minimizes disabling glare 



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