The installation of grab bars and more importantly, where to put them is a very common home improvement project for making the home safer as older adults age in place.
So, where do you put grab bars in a bathroom? – For maximum safety, one or two grab bars should be installed by the toilet, up to three in the shower and / or bathtub, and anywhere else in the bathroom where someone would need help to balance themselves or to stand up.
My mother’s bathroom had a long hallway at the entrance. She had to take about 12 steps from the bathroom doorway before she got to her sink.
So we installed a long grab bar along that wall to help her maintain her balance so she could make it safely into and out of her bathroom.
Read on for more details about the best areas to install grab bars in a bathroom setting and of course, information on the grab bar installation process.
Selecting The Right Grab Bar
I would recommend that an Occupational Therapist or Senior Home Safety Specialist come in to assess the person in need of the grab bars and the area. Having said that, I think it’s important to know what to look for when selecting a grab bar.
Here are some simple steps to follow when selecting the right grab bar:
- Evaluate the User’s Needs: Determine the physical capabilities and limitations of the person who will be using the grab bar. Look at their strength, balance, and grip.
- Decide on the Material: Select the grab bar material based on durability and comfort. Stainless steel is durable and sleek, while plastic or nylon may offer more grip.
- Determine the Size: Choose the length and diameter of the grab bar based on the user’s needs and the available space. The bar should be long enough to grasp with both hands, and the diameter should be comfortable to grip.
- Select the Type: Choose between wall-mounted, floor-to-ceiling, bathtub, or portable grab bars depending on where you plan to install it and the user’s needs.
- Identify the Best Location: Decide on the location for installation. Common places include next to the toilet, in the shower or bathtub, and along hallways or stairs.
- Pick a Style: Choose a style and finish that suits the bathroom’s decor.
- Plan Installation: Consider hiring a professional to install the grab bar to ensure it’s mounted securely and properly.
- Check Regulations and Standards: Ensure the selected grab bar meets ADA guidelines and any other local regulations for safety.
- Horizontal, Vertical or Slanted: Grab bars can be angled any which way accommodates the space and the person.
Remember, the primary goal is to enhance safety and comfort for the user, so keep their needs at the forefront of your decision-making process.
Placement Of Grab Bars Around The Toilet
One of the locations in a bathroom where grab bars are strategically placed is around the toilet.
Of course, not every elderly adult requires grab bars in this area but it’s not unusual.
Toilet Assist Bar
A toilet assist bar is a grab bar that can be installed near the toilet to provide support for people who have difficulty sitting down or standing up.
This type of bar can be especially helpful for people who have arthritis or other conditions that make it difficult to move around.
There are basically two types of toilet assist bars:
A Grab Bar Attached To The Wall Beside The Toilet
Safety Rails / Safety Frame Attached To The Toilet Bowl
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a toilet assist bar.
First, you’ll want to make sure that the bar is made from a durable material that can support your weight.
Second, you’ll want to choose a bar that is the right size for your needs.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that the bar is installed correctly so that it can provide the support you need.
When choosing a toilet assist bar, it’s important to select one that is made from a durable material such as steel or aluminum.
You’ll also want to make sure that the bar is the right size for your needs.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that the bar is installed correctly so that it can provide the support you need.
Why Might Someone Need Or Want A Toilet Assist Bar?
There are many reasons why someone might need or want a toilet assist bar.
For example, people with mobility issues or those who are recovering from surgery may find it difficult to sit down or stand up without support.
A toilet assist bar can provide the stability and support needed to safely use the toilet.
Toilet assist bars are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors to match any bathroom décor.
They can be installed permanently or temporarily, depending on the needs of the user.
Permanent toilet assist bars are typically made of metal or plastic and are mounted to the wall next to the toilet.
They can be height-adjusted to accommodate different users and are usually wide enough to provide support for both sitting and standing.
Temporary toilet assist bars, on the other hand, are also made of metal or plastic and are typically fastened to the toilet bowl itself.
They are easy to install and remove and ideal for users who need occasional support but do not want a permanently installed bar.
Toilet assist bars can make using the toilet safer and more comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.
These days there are multiple options for adding the stability of grab bars either directly to the toilet or to the area around a toilet.
You can view all of these products on our Toilet Safety Rails recommended products page.
My recommendations on where to place grab bars around a toilet are:
- If the toilet has a wall to one (or both) sides then installing a short grab bar onto the wall(s) should be sufficient. You can also install the more modern U-shaped bars. They come in flip-up versions and also standard solid ones.
- If the toilet has no wall close enough to it to install a grab bar then a toilet frame that attaches to the toilet is optimal. You can also place a bedside commode over the toilet as well.
- A bit more unconventional is the use of a Security Pole. This is a tension-mounted pole that is perfect for apartments and other rental properties.
What Is The Standard Height For A Grab Bar By The Toilet?
Normally, grab bars that are fastened to the wall by a toilet are placed at a height of 33 to 36 inches (that’s 840 to 915 mm).
My recommendation is (if it’s possible) to test it by simulating it with the elderly person who will be using it.
You will also want to test to see at what angle to position it. Vertical, horizontal, or at an angle. Read about why grab bars are installed at an angle.
The position of the grab bar(s) will depend on what feels the most comfortable for the user.
I have seen patients with severe arthritis who needed to have the grab bar positioned at an angle vs. horizontal. Others preferred it vertical.
So, you will have to customize it to your needs and comfort.
You can check the official recommendations for grab bar installations around toilets by the ADA (American Disabilities Act) here.
These are used in public spaces but it does give you an idea of what may be optimal. Again – test it out with your senior loved one.
I’ll be writing about how to install grab bars further down in this article.
Another option is to use freestanding toilet safety rails or an attached toilet frame around the commode.
These are foldable frames (kind of a walker) that you place between the toilet tank and the back of the toilet seat. The legs fit on either side of the commode.
How Far Should A Grab Bar Be From The Toilet?
The general guidelines to follow when installing grab bars come from the Americans Disability Act (ADA). The measurements depend on whether it’s a side grab bar (on the side of the toilet) or a rear grab bar (behind the toilet).
The sidebar has to be placed 12 inches or less away from the wall behind the toilet.
The rear bar has to be placed centered on the toilet and extended 12 inches to the left and 12 inches to the right. So this means you need a 24-inch rear grab bar.
Truth is, the placement of the grab bar must accommodate the user. So issues such as physical abilities, arthritis, paralysis, vision, and perception will all play a part in where the best place it would be to put that grab bar.
I would highly recommend hiring an Occupational Therapist or Senior Home Safety Specialist to assess your bathroom and give you specific recommendations.
Where Should Grab Bars Be Placed In A Walk-In Shower?
For a visual representation of where to put grab bars, check out the shower grab bar placement diagram from Bradleycorp.com by clicking here.
There should be a minimum of 3 grab bars in a standard shower stall.
They should be positioned in the following spots:
- On the wall at the entrance to the shower stall. This is normally a small grab bar positioned vertically.
- On the side wall. This is usually a longer bar positioned horizontally.
- By the faucet handles (or near them). Again, another small bar is positioned vertically. A 12-inch bar like this one should suffice.
I repeat these are standard positions. I would recommend testing it out with the person who will be using them.
What Is The Proper Height For A Shower Grab Bar?
Typically, grab bars in the shower should be installed 33 to 36 inches from the floor of the bathroom (this is according to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Standards).
But I would strongly recommend taking into consideration the height and physical capabilities of the person you are installing these grab bars for.
If possible, go through a few simulations with them. Have them walk into and out of the shower / bathtub.
Have them pretend to bathe themselves, wash their hair, etc. Notice where a grab bar would be of assistance to them.
It may be that for your older adult, only 2 grab bars would be necessary or perhaps four would be needed.
How Many Grab Bars Should A Shower Have?
As an Occupational Therapist, I always recommended 2 grab bars in the shower, that was the minimum.
But the truth is, it depends on the person using the shower. You can place as many as 4 grab bars, depending on the size of the shower and the needs of the person.
Where Should Grab Bars Be Placed In A Bathtub?
The recommendations for where to install grab bars on the wall around the bathtub or a tub shower combo are the basically same as they are for showers which I mentioned just above.
The one addition that I would recommend is a clamp on the bar.
This great little device literally clamps onto the side of the bathtub – you can read more about them here.
This works well if you are unable to install one on the wall to help you get in and out of the tub.
Different Types Of Grab Bars
There are so many different types of grab bars these days. Some are stylish enough that they can easily be integrated into your bathroom decor.
Here’s a list of what you can expect to find when you are searching for the right one for your bathroom.
The Wave – these grab bars are not your Grandmother’s grab bars!
They are not straight, instead, they have a wave design (it goes up and down) and this can make it easier for someone to grab and hold on to.
The Flip – I mentioned one of these models above as an option to place by a toilet. It’s a U-shaped version of a grab bar that flips up.
This allows you to move it out of the way when it’s not in use.
It’s great for tight spaces and very small bathrooms.
Tension Rods – I also mentioned this model above as an option by the toilet but truthfully it can be placed anywhere in the home. It’s a tension-mounted rod from floor to ceiling with a large handle on it.
It’s a perfect option if you are renting a house or apartment because it’s not drilled into a stud. It can accommodate up to 300 lbs.
Corner Bars – These are very long grab bars that wrap around a corner so that it’s one continuous bar along two walls.
These are great for those very large walk-in showers and could also work well for bathtubs too.
Integrated Bars – These are really kinda cool. They are literally integrated with another item.
Things like handheld shower heads, toilet paper holders, soap dishes, towel racks, shower faucets, etc.
It’s basically two products in one.
Suction Bars – These are not drilled into a stud, instead they adhere to any flat and non-porous surfaces. At this point in time I would not recommend using these types of safety bars. It’s just not worth the risk of the user falling.
Products with strong suction do work well but not for long. They will become loose within a few weeks or months.
Also, if it’s installed on a wall that isn’t suitable (like a wall with small tiles) – it won’t work as well either.
How To Install Grab Bars
Grab Bars (aka Safety Bars) are one of the easiest ways that you can make your bathroom (and other rooms) safer for your elderly loved ones.
The first thing I want to say is that toilet and shower grab bars MUST be installed in studs. The reason is that it makes them very safe to use for years to come.
Here are some general rules for their installation:
- Take the time with the person who will be using the grab bars to measure where and in what position they should be installed.
- Choose grab bars that are ADA-compliant to ensure maximum safety. Here are some that we recommend.
- The majority of grab bars are capable of supporting 300 lbs. of weight. If the person who will be using them weighs more than that – there are some safety bars available that can support up to 500 lbs. of weight like this one from Moen.
- All grab bar mounting brackets must be attached to wall studs with bolts.
- If installing a bar in a Fiberglass shower surround you must use a specific type of grab bar mounting brackets specifically made for fiberglass installations.
How To Attach Grab Bars To Tiled Walls?
First and foremost – we do recommend that you hire a professional handyman to do the job for you.
This may seem like a very easy project, something you could DIY but if you do crack the tile or if you use the wrong wall anchors or install the grab bar incorrectly in any way – the end result could cost you more and cause injury (if the grab bar were to come loose).
But, I also do understand that it’s important to know how a job is done so that when you do hire a professional – you have some working knowledge of what they should be doing.
The steps to install grab bars to a tiled wall (like in a shower) are essentially the same as installing them into drywall or a fiberglass shower surround.
You can see the steps in the video below and I’ll write down the list of steps that are mentioned in the video.
What You Will Need
- Grab Bar(s)
- Drill (cordless ones work well)
- Wall anchors with a minimum of 77-pound load weight (recommended)
- Masonry bit (to drill through the tile)
- Measuring tape
- Long nail
- Screwdriver (optional)
- Level (optional)
Steps To Install Grab Bars On A Tiled Wall
- Measure where the best location(s) would be for the grab bar(s0 that you are installing. Again, this depends on the person who will be using them.
- This video goes into detail on how to best center and mark the placement of the grab bar.
- Once your holes are marked as to where you want to drill – place your nail on a mark and tap it with your hammer to create a small dent. Be careful not to break the tile.
- Using your masonry drill bit and cordless drill – begin drilling into that same spot but very slowly and hopefully you will not crack the tile.
- Tape your anchor into the hole with your hammer.
- Put your screw through the grab bar into the anchor. You can use a screwdriver or your drill to screw this in. Do not tighten the screw.
- Repeat this process with the other marks on the tile wall.
Who Installs Shower Grab Bars?
I just had a grab bar installed in my shower and my plumber did the job for me. But in the past, I have had a handyman do the job too.
If you’re not sure who to hire, it’s best to ask around and get some recommendations. A bathroom renovation specialist might also be a good place to look – they are experienced with all aspects of bathroom safety.
You may even find someone who specializes in installing grab bars for those with limited mobility or other special needs. Whichever route you take, make sure the person you hire is experienced and understands the safety requirements of installing a shower grab bar.
Whatever you do, if you aren’t experienced, don’t attempt to install your own grab bars! It’s important that they are properly installed to ensure your safety.
And always check local building codes before beginning any installation project in your home.
How Much Does It Cost To Install Grab Bars In A Bathroom?
Grab bar installation costs depend on the number of grab bars you are needing to get installed and the type of material they are being installed on.
Of course, the cost also varies depending on where you live.
According to Porch.com – the range of costs could be anywhere from $88.00 to $254.00 dollars per bar.
Now, understand that the more bars you install, the lower the labor cost.
Installing grab bars in a bathroom requires a little bit of skill because they are typically installed on a wall with tiles or fiberglass.
But, having said that – typically your handyman can do the job so the cost can fluctuate depending on what their hourly rate is.
You can use this handy little calculator from Homewyse to help you calculate what the cost might be in your zip code.
A Recommended Book
If you are making major home renovations in your bathroom to include safety bars I can recommend the NKBA Kitchen and Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards.
This book by the National Kitchen and Bath Association has everything you should need to make a plan out a senior-friendly bathroom environment.