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Grab Bars Reduce Falls for Elderly and Others When Installed in Bathrooms

by Barbara 1. July 2012 07:56

Question about standard and ADA grab bars types and installation.

Q: "My mother is sometimes unsteady on her feet. We have installed a Locked toilet seat riser. Now we are looking for grab bars to install in her bathtub shower combination and along side the toilet. What are some of our options? Thanks. Mary."

Answer: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for grab bars near toilets are:

For commercial projects, ANSI 117.1 requires three grab bars:

  1. a 36" horizontal grab bar behind the toilet, starting 12" from the corner. The bar should be mounted at 33-36" above the floor.
  2. a 42" horizontal grab bar on the side wall, starting 12" from the corner
  3. an 18" vertical grab bar 39 to 40" from the corner, starting 39 to 41" above the floor.

Until recently, most jurisdictions required only two horizontal grab bars. Some regulations now require all three bars. For home use, you have more flexibility in how and where grab bars are placed.

Home grab bar installations can be vertical, horizontal or diagonal.

1. Vertical grab bars  (straight up or down).  Have a handyman or carpenter install grab bars into studs or use anchoring devices.  A shorter vertical bar mounted at the tub or shower entrance helps the person to enter or exit without losing their balance and falling..  Two more grab bars in the shower or tub let the person rise from the tub or bath chair or give more stability when the person is washing herself or himself. Usually the grab bars are 12, 16 or 18 inches long. We also sell Lumex Chrome Grab Bars - 32 Inch, Knurled that have better gripping surface and have a 250 lb. weight capacity. Save if you need several by buying the Chrome Grab Bars, 32 In Knurled, 3/CS by Medline.  For those with glass sliding tub doors, the grab bars offer a secure way to regain balance.  In order to install this grab bar for my mother, the handyman had to remove the 1950's glass sliding doors as the door track interfered with the mounting.

2. Horizontal handicap grab bars. This installation gives the option of using the grab bar as a towel bar, too.  Typcially wall studs are 16 inches apart on center. If you examine other exposed areas of your home, you can determine more accurately where the centers are in the studs. Otherwise use a hollow wall anchor system available at hardware stores.  That is why 16 inch, 32 inch and 48 inch grab bars are most common.

3. Diagonal  installed. At the side of my Mom's toilet, there is a diagonally installed 32 inch grab bar. Installation may be more difficult. The positives are that grabbing a diagononal bar puts less stress on one's wrist. If installed in a shower, the diagonal bar is preferred by those who face only the shower head.  The horizontal bar has can be used facing forward or backward but the height if obviously the same no matter where one grabs.

Grab bars are  measured from the center of one flange (the round area that conceals the screws) to the center of the other flange. The flange covers typically measure about 1.5 inches on either side of the grab bar. So add three inches to the total length of the grab bar you need.

Safe Home sells quality grab bars from Lumex (Graham Field Health Products) and Medline Industries. Most are sold in packages of 3, all the same size. Lumex has individual packages as well. Your material/color choices include Chrome plated, White enamel over steel and Nickel Plated Steel. ADA compliant grab bars include the Carex brand from Medline in 12, 16, 18, and 24 inch sizes. Additional lengths are available. Just send us an email if your grab bars must be compliant with ADA.

Safe Home also advises that you treat ceramic flooring and porcelain bathtubs to reduce the risks of slip and fall accidents. Both are slippery when wet. GripOn is easily applied by anyone who can use a mop and a bucket. Us of Grip On anti-slip treatment also means no need for suction cup bath tub mats!

Thank you for your question. Please look at the options on SafeHomeProducts.com and email any questions to Sales@SafeHomeProducts.com or phone us at 877-358-0900.