Bathroom Safety Grab Bars

Bathroom Safety Grab Bars

The bathroom safety grab bar is essential for a bathroom remodel. But don’t overlook the usefulness of grab bars in the rest of the house.

Grab bars are no longer the ugly-looking utility items you find in institutions. They now come in colors and designs to satisfy any decor. And then, with Universal Design as well as aging in place in mind, why is it that only seniors should benefit from these important safety items?

After all, a person who is young and fit can slip on the soap in the shower and be very glad to have a grab bar handy to prevent a bad fall.

Bathroom Grab Bars

Nonetheless, when it comes to the bathroom, it is mainly seniors we have in mind here. Slippery conditions in bathrooms threaten seniors with falls and result in broken bones and even life-threatening head injuries.

The addition of grab bars is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to provide a large measure of safety and a feeling of confidence and independence in the bathroom, all enhancing the quality of life. Make sure your contractor puts plenty of blocking in the wall framing behind the tub or shower so that the grab bars can be securely mounted.

Types of Grab Bar 

  • Double-ended wall bars: these are attached to the wall at both ends and are very stable. They can be mounted horizontally, vertically, or diagonally according to preference.
  • Hinge-attached wall bars: these are hinged with the hinge end attached to the wall such that, when not in use, they rest against the wall out of the way.
  • Floor-mounted grab bars: these are typically installed by the toilet and can actually wrap around it to look like armrests. Other floor-mounted grab bars can go floor to ceiling.
  • Dual-purpose grab bars: these can hold toilet paper, soap, or towels.

Grab Bar Code

Grab bars are an important feature of accessible bathrooms and are addressed by the International Code Council on Building Safety (ICC).

Of course, in a private setting not governed by ADA rules, all of this is highly recommended but not mandatory, unless your own local building codes dictate otherwise.

What is mandatory, for safety’s sake, is to make sure your contractor puts adequate blocking in the framing of the wall behind the grab bar. Otherwise, the grab bar will pull away from the wall under load with potentially disastrous consequences.

However, it is useful information, you can’t go wrong following it, and here is a summary of the ICC requirements and recommendations:

Toilets: vertical bar in front and horizontal bars adjacent and behind.

Roll-in Shower (a shower big enough for a wheelchair plus caregiver and having a floor flush with the bathroom floor): Horizontal grab bars on at least two walls)

Transfer Shower (a shower that can support a standing user who can transfer from a walker or wheelchair to a seat in the shower);  Horizontal grab bars on at least two walls plus a vertical bar on the shower head wall

Grab Bar Height: The standard shower grab bar height is for the tops of horizontal bars to be 33 to 36 inches from the floor. The bottom of the vertical bar should be 3 to 6 inches above the horizontal bar on that wall. It is good practice for the installer to aim for the middle of the given range

Grab Bar Length: Some ICC changes in 2009 caused some confusion here. It is best to use a 54 inch bar rather than a 48 inch bar. And some situations require a shorter bar because code prohibits a grab bar from extending over the shower seat.

Grab Bar Specs

  • Proper installation: grab bars must be securely anchored to the wall or floor. They need to be able to handle 350 pounds. Get them installed professionally.
  • Textured surface: the surface of the grab bars should have a textured finish for a non-slip grip.
  • Diameter: 1¼ inches to 1½ inches diameter makes for a secure grip.

Grab Bars for the Rest of the House

Do not neglect to position grab bars strategically in the rest of the house. Obvious places are staircases and other changes of level. In these areas, one would install handrails, which serve pretty much the same function.

And we really like the floor-to-ceiling vertical grab bar for places like the kitchen.

Grab bars on Amazon

Grab Bar Description Dimension

Moen R8960FD 30-Inch Flip-Up Screw-In Bathroom Grab Bar with Textured Grip, Stainles
30-Inch Bar Length:1.25-Inch Diameter

AmazonBasics Bathroom Handicap Safety Grab Bar, 16 Inch Length, 1.5 Inch Diameter
Various lengths available. 1.5 diameter

Stander Security Pole and Curve Grab Bar, Elderly Tension Mounted Floor to Ceiling Transfer Pole, Bathroom Safety Assist and Stability Rail, Iceberg White
Adjustable Height

Medline Toilet Safety Rails, Safety Frame for Toilet with Easy Installation, Height Adjustable Legs, Bathroom Safety

Related post: How to Approach a Bathroom Remodel and Not Go Crazy

Related post: Design for Aging-in-Place

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