Grab Bar Safety Tips

Bathroom safety is paramount for elderly parents, as most accidents and falls happen in the bathroom. Here are six tips for grab bar placement and safety for you or your elderly parent's home.

Grab Bar Height

There is no standard height requirement for residential installation of grab bars, and everyone's needs are different. But as a rule of thumb, in ADA-compliant bathrooms, grab bars are installed 33-inches to 36-inches off the finished floor.

Grab Bar Length

Grab bars should cover as much of the shower wall as possible. If you have a large shower, have a bar for each wall to ensure safety.

Attach to Studs

Your grab bars will be rock-solid if you anchor them to studs. Find the studs near your proposed grab bar location using a stud sensor.

Test Strength

You're not done until you yank-test. Give the bars a good solid yank to test their holding power. With a helper standing by in case the bar comes loose, pull with all your strength. Now's the time to make sure the bar will hold up when it's really needed.

Proper Brab Bar Placement

Even a solidly anchored grab bar is useless if it's in the wrong place. What location is best depends on the situation. If you're installing the bars for a person with a disability or injury, have this person help you decide which location will be most helpful. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist also can help with this decision. Here are some locations where grab bars are most helpful:

  • Outside of the Shower or Tub
    Having a small grab bar placed vertically outside of the shower or tub entry is great for assistance stepping to and from a wet surface.
  • Tub Deck
    Soaking tubs are all the rage in bathroom design. However, trouble can come quickly if someone is unable to exit the tub. Install a grab bar on the wall behind the tub and/or a small grab bar on the tub deck. Be sure the grab bar is in a place where a foot cannot trip on it while entering or exiting a tub. 
  • Towel Bars with Strength
    Let's face it, when you are about to fall, you'll grab on to anything close by, including a towel bar. Why not make towel bars safer by replacing them with grab bars?
  • Toilet Paper Holder
    For those who have a hard time getting up from a seated position, there are some grab bars that can also be used as a toilet paper holder, while still maintaining its strength of supporting 250 pounds of force.

Sladick is certified by the National Association of Homebuilders and an expert in Universal Design. She is a member of the advisory council for the National Kitchen and Bath Association and has also sat on the American Society of Interior Designer's National Council on Aging in Place and Universal Design.

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