Your senior parent or loved one may heavily rely on grab bars in various rooms of their private home, such as in the bedroom, the bathroom shower stall, or the toilet area. They’re moving to a new place, however, so you want to have some grab bars installed that will best support their weight.
The question is, should safety grab bars be angled or straight? Grab bars should be angled to best allow a person using them to get enough grip to pull themselves up. For example, if a senior is sitting on a bench or in their tub, the angle of the grab bar provides additional leverage that a horizontal bar would not.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about whether a grab bar should be angled, as well as how to install a grab bar in your senior parent or loved one’s home, so keep reading!
Why Are Grab Bars Installed At An Angle?
A grab bar is a safety device that serves several purposes. The bar prevents older adults with balance problems from being unsteady on their feet, which lessens their risk of slipping and falling.
The senior can put some of their weight on the grab bar, and the extra support might be able to reduce fatigue so the person can stand for longer.
They can also easily maintain their balance with a these safety rails.
Grab bars are more effective when installed at an angle than straight for the reasons we touched on in the intro, especially when it comes to grab bars in a bathtub or shower.
Read our article on the best bathtub grab bars for seniors.
A straight-angled bar is more for bracing oneself, which is hard to do when you’re in a seated position.
Many seniors may use shower seats when showering or may sit in the tub and bathe. As such, they need to be able to get a good grip on a grab bar so they can stand up of their own volition.
This is what the angled grab bar achieves the most efficiently.
The grab bar user gets that additional support and leverage to stand up and exit the shower or tub.
An angled grab bar might provide your older family members with more independence, which can improve their quality of life.
Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that the senior is at a lessened risk of slips and falls since the angle of their grab bar helps them stand with ease.
What Angle Should A Grab Bar Be?
Perhaps your senior parent or loved one has moved into a home without grab bars and you want to fix that.
Or maybe they had grab bars in their own home, but now your parents are moving in with you, so you want to install new grab rails in your place.
You’ve decided on angled grab bars, but the question is, what angle is appropriate?
You should mount grab bars at a 45-degree angle if the grab bar is at least 24 inches long and install it over wall studs that are 16 inches from one another.
Keep in mind that a bathroom towel bar is not a good option in lieu of safety bars because they aren’t designed for bearing any type of weight capacity (except for the weight of towels).
For this reason, the towel bars that often come on glass shower doors are not a safe option either.
How Do You Install Grab Bars On An Angle?
Okay, you’ve bought a few suitable grab bars for your senior. Now comes the trickiest part, and that’s installing the angled bars.
Here’s how it’s done step by step.
Step 1 – Find The Wall Studs
It’ll be easier to install the grab bar in the right place if you use the wall studs as your guide.
From the center of the wall, the wood studs may be installed every 16 or 24 inches.
How will you know where the wall studs are? You can’t exactly see through the walls, after all.
No, and you don’t have to! Instead, there is a simple solution – use a stud finder. As the name implies, a stud finder will gauge the placement of the studs using either electricity or magnets.
The price of a stud finder starts as low as $20, and the more expensive devices may cost upwards of $60 (check the Amazon price here).
Now, tracking down studs isn’t always simple. You might have to remove outlet or switch plates, as studs are often located behind an outlet or switch.
Buying a long-range scanner will be best, as the stud finder should always be able to track the location of the stud.
In case it can’t, you might have to remove some bathroom wall grout using a drill fitted with a masonry bit, and then search for the stud again.
Step 2 – Take Off The Grab Bar Escutcheon
The grab bar, regardless of brand, includes at least one escutcheon and possibly two.
The escutcheon is a metal piece that’s flat and round on the ends of the grab bar.
You only need to access the escutcheon from the back, tap it, and it should come right off.
Step 3 – Choose The Angled Grab Bar Positioning
You already know how to angle your senior’s grab bar, but at precisely what height should you install it?
According to ADA standards, the average height is between 33-36 inches from the finished floor of the bathroom (read the ADA guidelines for bathroom grab bars here.)
However, the height should correspond with the particular situation and activity the senior will use the grab bar for.
For instance, the grab bar should be at about arm’s reach in the shower and near the toilet.
Another consideration when installing the angled grab bar is that both mounting holes should be over the studs in equal proximity from each other.
Even though you’re installing the grab bar at an angle, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be an even angle. Be sure to use a level to ensure the bar is aligned properly.
Step 4 – Mark Both Mounting Holes
Please don’t rely on your memory alone to gauge where the mounting holes should go.
You might drill holes in the wrong place and cancel out all the hard work you’ve put in up to this point.
Instead, you should use a pencil to mark where the mounting holes should go.
Step 5 – Drill Holes In The Wall
Choose a smaller diameter drill bit that’s compatible with bathroom tile. Then make pilot holes in the wall.
Step 6 – Screw In The Angled Grab Bar
With the holes made in the wall, you’ll need some screws and a screwdriver to install the angled grab bar. The screws should have come with the grab bar.
Don’t tighten the screws so much that you strip them, but they should be screwed in nice and tight so the grab bar is entirely secure.
Make sure that you attach both escutcheons onto either side of the grab bar before you go any further. You can’t slide them on once the grab bar is screwed in tight.
Step 7 – Caulk Both Escutcheons
The last step of the process is to apply silicone caulk to the escutcheons.
This will safeguard the metal components from water damage to help the entire grab bar last longer.
Do Grab Bars Need To Be Installed On Studs?
Going back to the instructions from the last section, it’s ideal if the grab bar is installed on studs.
The reason is that this method of installation is the most secure.
Now, we’ll be the first ones to say that studs in a bathroom wall (or any other wall, for that matter), are not always the easiest to find.
Outside of the tips we offered in the section prior, here are a few more suggestions that ought to help you find the studs.
If the studs are installed adjacent to another room–which is possible depending on the house design–then you’ll have to use your stud finder in the next room over.
Measure how far the studs are apart from one another. That information should be true as well for the senior’s bathroom.
If you can track the location of the studs using the stud finder, then it always helps to double check just so you’re sure.
In instances where the bathroom tile doesn’t go all the way up to the ceiling, then here’s what you should do:
- Find the stud closest to where the tile ends.
- Then you can either use a steel plumb bomb or a level to determine where the studs should go below that.
Should Toilet Grab Bars Be Horizontal Or Vertical?
Grab bars in the bathroom can be installed either horizontally or vertically. Which is the best choice for a grab bar closest to the toilet for your senior parent or loved one?
Correct placement for the grab bar along the side of the toilet is horizontal.
You have to think about it like this: the grab bar is already on an angle.
If a vertical grab bar is installed into the wall (facing up and down), it’s going to be difficult for your senior to get a good grip on it.
That’s especially true when in a seated position such as using the bathroom.
Instead, you should always use horizontal grab bars (install them horizontally on the side wall by the toilet, running left to right).
The upward angle of the grab bar, when mounted horizontally, still leaves the bar easy enough to reach for a senior when they’re sitting down.
An alternative for the toilet might be a toilet frame (read about them here).
Angled grab bars are more about helping a senior get grip so they can stand up, such as when they are using the toilet or taking a bath or shower.
A straight-angle grab bar is more about support, which is important too, but not in the above applications.
Now that you know how to install an angled grab bar, your senior can safely rely on grab bars to maintain their independence and avoid slips and falls.