Bathroom Grab Bars

If you go through your home with a discerning eye, you will probably spot a few safety hazards. One of the overlooked places where accidents can occur is the bathroom. According to a 1982 safety study, falls can account for up to 40 percent of household accidents. Bathroom grab bars, which function as handrails, can be a valuable addition to your bathroom.

Nowadays you do not have to spoil the appearance of your bathroom décor with sterile, institutional looking stainless steel bars; you can buy grab bars with enamel finishes in a wide variety of colors to match your current bathroom colors.

Locating Grab Bars

Falls in the shower or bathtub can be prevented by installing bars on the walls above the tub or the shower surround. One bar should be located vertically at the end wall common to the tub faucet, with a handhold at between forty to fifty inches from the floor; this will assist when climbing into or out of a tub.

If your bathtub has a shower, it is recommended to add two horizontal bars at 34 and 48 inches above the floor of the tub or shower stall.

On a bathtub only, these two additional bars should be installed vertically at equal distances from the tub’s end walls and each other such that they afford handholds at a height between thirty-four and forty inches from the tub floor.

On a shower stall, one vertical bar should be installed on the outside wall of the enclosure at a height matching the vertical bar on the inside.

Additional safety considerations when placing bathroom grab bars, or renovating a bathroom for accessibility include the following:

- Bathtub faucets are to be accessible from outside the tub
- Shower enclosures are to include a bench or footrest
- Shower doors should swing into the bathroom, rather than into the shower
- Slip-resistant flooring should be installed in the bathroom
- Avoid steps leading into a tub or shower

Installing Safety Bars

It is important to fasten bathroom grab bars into wall studs, rather than with expanding anchor bolt type fasteners, which will not hold enough weight. Use an electronic stud-finder for locating studs on painted wallboard.

If the wall is finished with ceramic tile or stone, you may need to drill some trial holes to see where the studs are; locate trial holes in an out of way place, for example close to the ceiling or along grouted joints, so that they can be filled in without being too unsightly.

When mounting on ceramic tile walls, drilling through tiles is often required. Here are the steps to follow for this:

1. Cover the tile up using masking tape and mark the spot where the hole needs to be drilled.
2. Fit a ceramic tile bit into your electric power drill’s chuck and tighten.
3. Drill through the tile
4. Replace the ceramic bit on the drill with a regular twist bit and tighten the chuck.
5. Drill into the stud enough to start the screw hole.

Bars should be fastened to the walls using stainless steel screws to avoid rusting. Tighten screws securely, but if installing over ceramic tile be careful not to overtighten and crack the tile.

When it is not feasible to install steel grab bars in the walls, you can use the type of grab bar which sits on the edge of the tub as a temporary measure. Finally, non-slip strips or a rubber mat should be added to the shower or bathtub floor to provide additional safety.