Bathroom surfaces can easily become wet and slippery, which greatly increases the likelihood of a nasty slip or fall. One simple device that can go a long way in helping you prevent such catastrophes is a grab bar. Grab bars can go by a number of different names. Some people refer to these devices as shower bars, safety bars, shower safety bars, or handrails. Regardless of what you prefer to call them, these simple and inexpensive products are highly effective at reducing the risk of injury in the bathroom.
In this Essential Guide to Buying and Installing Grab Bars, we’ll address everything you need to know in order to make sure you get quality grab bars at a low price and that you get them installed correctly.
Length of Grab Bars
Grab bars can come in lengths of 12”, 18”, 24”, 32”, and 42”. The length of bar that is required in your home is typically left to preference. However, there are some general guidelines, or best practices, on how long grab bars should be in certain areas:
Toilet Areas: there should be a long horizontal grab bar, typically 42” if the space will accommodate, adjacent to the commode. This bar should extend at least 12” beyond the front of the bowl and should be placed 33-35” above the ground. Another horizontal grab bar should be installed along the back wall.
Shower Areas: a vertical grab bar should be installed at the entrance of the shower. A horizontal bar should also be installed along the long wall of the shower, perpendicular to the wall with the shower controls on it, and should extend to within 12” of the wall opposite the controls. If you require a shower chair or shower bench, an additional horizontal bar should be installed below the controls in order to help you pull yourself up from a seated position.
Bathtubs: a vertical bar should be installed on the back wall of the tub area; where you enter the tub. A horizontal bar should be installed along the long wall of the tub at approximately 30” above the tub floor; to aid in lifting yourself out of the tub.
When it comes to safety products, going with well-known brands is a good idea. Due to the increasing number of people over the age of 55, there are numerous companies that have rushed into the shower safety and aging-in-place market with cheap, low-quality, grab bars. Saving money is great, especially if you’re on a fixed income, but sacrificing your safety for a sub-par product is a recipe for disaster.
As an expert grab bar installer in Dallas/Fort Worth, we prefer to use Moen grab bars. These grab bars are made with quality materials, are aesthetically pleasing, and meet ADA guidelines for strength and durability. Although we prefer to use Moen grab bars, some other manufacturers also make quality grab bars at affordable prices: Delta, Kohler, and Bobrick.
Grab Bar Diameter
Grab bars typically come in diameters of either 1 ¼” or 1 ½”. Which size you choose is primarily based on preference (note: ADA guidelines specify that the smallest diameter allowed for grab bars is 1 ¼”).
Typically we find that females prefer the smaller 1 ¼” grab bars while males prefer the larger 1 ½” bars. This is most likely due to hand size.
Grab Bar Texture
Grab bars typically come in two textures, peened and smooth. Peened grab bars have a rough surface on the gripping area while smooth grab bars have a slick surface along the entire length of the bar. As someone who has installed a large number of grab bars in Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Frisco, and surrounding areas, I can tell you that peened grab bars are best for shower areas and smooth bars are best when used around the toilet or in other areas of the restroom.
ADA guidelines, as well as most manufacturers, suggest mounting grab bars directly to studs. If you’re unable to locate a stud, or if you can only mount one end of the grab bar directly to a stud, there are a couple of specialty wall anchors you can use. These specialty anchors are designed to hold up to 600 pounds, which far exceeds the ADA recommendation of 250 pounds.
Locating a stud is easy with a quality stud finder. Otherwise, measuring from a nearby corner and marking every 16” is another way (generally, building codes require studs to be spaced every 16” on center). However, it’s possible studs have non-standard spacing, especially in older homes or in homes with unique layouts, so this method may not always work.
Mounting to acrylic or fiberglass surfaces is simple using standard drill bits to drill a pilot hole then securing the bar with an approved screw (which generally come with the grab bar). However, drilling into tile can be more difficult and is best left to a professional.
The surest way to ensure your grab bars are installed correctly is to call a professional such as Golden Years Renovations LLC in Dallas, TX. We’ve installed hundreds of grab bars and know exactly where and how to install them.
Reducing the risk of injury, maintaining your quality of life, and preserving your independence is something most people over the age of 55 place great emphasis on. Installing quality grab bars in the correct manner can reduce the risk of injury, give you confidence in the bathroom area, and help you stay in your home for as long as possible. If you’re in Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth, Prosper, Frisco, Richardson, Rockwall, Lewisville, Allen, McKinney, or surrounding areas, and need grab bars installed, contact Golden Years Renovations LLC. We’ll provide quality grab bars and install them correctly at a low cost.