Grab bars in residential bathrooms have become more mainstream and accepted in recent years and are not just for disabled or elderly people as once was. This addition to your home could be a help to anybody in your family regardless of age or physical condition.
Along with the disabled and elderly, families with young children and even a pregnant mom will benefit from the extra added security in being able to safely enter and exit a bathtub or shower area. We all know slipping and falling on a wet bathroom surface is no fun and can be dangerous.
The first point here is to be sure we have the correct bar. Being that this is a wet environment, most bars are stainless steel, but there are other moisture resistant choices such as powder coat paint, brass and even different shapes that don’t quite look like the traditional curve ended institutional stainless, although stainless is the most functional and cleans up the best.
ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant bars are the only ones to use and are available most anywhere and are fairly simple to install when following the instructions provided with no shortcuts to ensure a proper installation. When installed properly, they are rated to withstand a 500 lbs. pull.
Most bars come in various lengths from 12 to 48 inches for the straight ones, to ones that have right angles and even ones that can be custom made if you have an unusual or specific install situation. Diameters are 1 1/2 (commercial) and 1 1/4 inch with 1 1/2 inch clearance between bar and surface. The 1 1/4 inch diameter is ample for any residential use.
Some safety bars are fold away in function, particularly ones meant for use around toilets, which then gives the option for either use, depending upon who needs the bar or not, and there are smaller more temporary installations that clamp on the side of a bathtub to assist with getting in and out.
The most important rule to follow in a permanent installation is that any safety grab bar must be attached to a wood wall stud or a pre-placed interior wall block 2 x 6 or 8. Common wall anchors or molly bolts are not acceptable and could just be a problem and or worse yet, an injury later.
After saying all that, I know there is a wall anchor out there that meets mounting standards and is called Toggler, I have personally never used any of these but they are supposed to be acceptable for mounting grab bars when no stud in the wall is available in the position needed. This is an option to consider when necessary, but the best way at all possible is use the studs as first choice.
Many bars are installed at an angle to match up with the studs, in addition to horizontal and vertical, and still will allow versatility for the user.
If you are in a remodel situation and have removed the old tub, or shower, and have the walls open, then that would be the time to put in pre-placed 2x blocking between studs for exact placement of bars later, just a little planning ahead for placement will make for proper, safe installation when finishing the project. Just be sure to write down measurements in order to locate the blocks later for easier installation.
So many repair and specialty items are now available to us than used to be, with a little direction and the right tools, there is a lot we can do ourselves.