Renovating A Mortuary? What Special Accommodations May You Need To Make?

Posted on: 26 April 2016

If you've been trained as a mortuary director, purchasing and renovating a vacant funeral home in a town with few mortuary options may seem like a great way to start a thriving business without much of an initial financial outlay. However, the unique variety of activities performed at a mortuary -- from receiving guests to embalming the deceased -- can mean that traditional commercial or residential remodeling plans may fall short. In some cases, you could even be subject to civil penalties if you don't take steps to bring your mortuary into compliance with federal environmental and disability laws. Read on to learn more about some of the special considerations you'll want to take into account when renovating a mortuary that has remained vacant for a number of years.

Plumbing considerations

Like hospitals, spas, and swimming pools, mortuaries are included in the categories of businesses and plumbing fixtures that require the installation of backflow protection devices to prevent contamination of public water supplies (or even the tap water in your own building). Mortuaries are included on this list because of the potentially toxic chemicals used during traditional embalming procedures, like formaldehyde and methanol. By installing a backflow protection device on each water main servicing your mortuary, you'll ensure consistent access to clean drinking water and avoid any potentially expensive and publicly-damaging environmental violations. 

One such backflow protection device is an atmospheric or non-pressure vacuum barrier, to be installed downstream from your water main's shut-off valve. As soon as water stops flowing through the pipe, a valve opens, preventing water upstream from flowing back into the main water supply. This simple device should provide all the protection you need from harmful backflow.

Even if you don't plan to do embalming procedures on site and aren't sure you're required to have a backflow protection device, it can be crucial for your mortuary's plumbing to be adequate enough to service a large number of grieving guests at once. Having to deal with a clogged or overflowing toilet while you're running a wake can be embarrassing and stressful. Before adding additional toilets or restrooms to your mortuary, you'll want to enlist the help of a plumbing contractor, such as Cool Air Mechanical, Inc., to determine exactly how much sewage your pipes can handle, replacing your existing plumbing with larger-diameter pipes if necessary. 

Access considerations

While buildings and businesses open to the public are required to take reasonable attempts to make access accommodations for the physically and mentally disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), there are some additional special considerations you'll want to take into account as a mortuary director. 

If your mortuary employs more than 15 people, you'll need to make your business ADA-compliant not only when it comes to access for the public, but with your own employees. You won't be permitted to discriminate in hiring or firing decisions on the basis of disability, nor will you be permitted to allow certain parts of your workplace to remain inaccessible to employees (or applicants) with disabilities. This can mean installing access ramps or chair lifts, widening doorways, lowering counters and tables, and taking other steps that will permit individuals who use wheelchairs or walkers to enjoy your facilities.

Fortunately, you'll be able to enjoy up to a $15,000 tax credit for each year you spend money removing physical or architectural barriers to those with disabilities. Eligible small businesses should also be able to deduct half of all funds (between $250 and $10,250) spent on adding ease-of-access features. This means that if you spend $15,000 in construction costs to widen the doorways in your business and $10,250 to install wheelchair ramps at all entrances, you'll be able to recoup more than $20,000 of these costs after you file your tax return. 

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