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Grab Bars

What to look for in a grab bar

Choosing a grab bar to install in your bathroom for a disabled family member seems like a fairly straightforward task. After all, bars are all the same, right? Wrong.

As with any assistive device, such as medical walkers or stair chair lifts, so it is important to choose one that your user feels comfortable with and that will work in the layout of your bathroom. Be sure to take the primary user with you, or bring samples home for them to try. They may feel more comfortable with one over another, and comfort is of utmost importance when you're selecting a grab bar.

Shower Grab Bars

The shower is an extra-dangerous place for falls because it is so slippery. In addition to foot grips, it is important to install a shower grab bar for anyone in your house with a greater risk of falling. They can use the grab bar, attached directly to the shower wall, for support (be sure to attach the bar to studs, though, so it can support the weight!). Many companies now make shower grab bars in all colors so they'll blend in easily with any bathroom's décor.

Tub Grab Bars

The specifications for grab bars in tubs are fairly strict to best prevent accidents and injury (see guidelines below). Remember to look for a grab bar with a textured handle rather than a smooth one, as this will give users the best grip.

Shaped Grab Bars

Not all grab bars are straight, although that is all many people are looking for. Some grab bars bend at different angles to better accommodate the user's needs.

Also, grab bars can reach from the floor halfway up the side of the shower or across the end of the tub for users who prefer baths. Some stores even offer the opportunity to customize grab bars to your bathroom.

All of these options should be available at hardware and building stores. If you are redesigning your bathroom, a contractor might be able to point you in the right direction, as well, and may even have a catalog of bathroom safety products.

If you are installing the grab bar yourself, keep the following information in mind. To keep users safe, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 outlines four main requirements for handicap grab bars:

  1. Grab bars must be able to support 250 pounds of weight.
  2. Side grab bars must be 42 inches long and mounted 12 inches from the rear wall.
  3. Rear grab bars must be at least 36 inches long and mounted a maximum of 6 inches from the side wall.
  4. The grab surface should be smooth and should not rotate in its fittings.
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