Grab bars are commonly used in bathtubs and showers to offer stability and piece of mind to the user. A properly installed grab bar can become an essential safety accessory to any household bath.

Used properly, a grab bar can prevent hazardous falls in the shower or bath.

It is important that homeowners understand the various features and installation techniques available to them before deciding on the appropriate grab bar for their safety needs.


Differences in Grab Bars

There are two significantly different categories of grab bars: wall-mounted grab bars and tub mounted grab bars. Joan and Sanford I. Weill of Cornell University explain that wall-mounted grab bars with a high-profile, installed properly into the bathroom wall are more stable than tub mounted bars with low-profiles. This is because tub-mounted bars with a low-profile attach directly on the bathtub and can easily detach from the bathtub and create a safety hazard (Weil & Weil, n.d). Grab bars can also come in various lengths and sizes, colors, and finishes. The average diameter of the typical grab bar is 1 to 1 ½ inches with a length varying from 18 to 48 inches (Weil & Weil, n.d). Aging specialist Abbie Sladick recommends that users choose grab bars that cover as much of the shower wall as possible and a larger shower should have a grab bar for each wall to maximize safety (Sladick, 2014). Grab bar finishes can also significantly vary from product to product.

Some grab bars offer a smooth brushed steel finish where as others are textured to offer slip resistance and added protection to the user. The colors of grab bars can also vary from standard white to bright colors that are more viewable to the user (Weil & Weil, n.d). There are a variety of factors one must consider when choosing the appropriate grab bar.

Grab Bar Placement

Grab bar placement can be customized to the user’s height and particular preferences. Accordingly to the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) horizontal grab bars are to be installed 33-inches to 36-inches off the finished floor (Sladick, 2014). Horizontal grab bars are typically installed with equal wall space from left to right of the bar so that they are centered and easily accessible in proximity to the shower. However, homeowner’s may decide to place grab bars in a position that is best accessible to them when entering and exiting the tub based on their particular height or physical capabilities. Vertical grab bars can accommodate both tall and short people. Professionals recommend a veridical grab bar that measures 18″ – 36″ be installed no more than 9″ from the edge of the outside tub wall, with the bottom of the grab bar positioned 32″ to 36″ above the bathroom floor (Weil & Weil, n.d).

Grab Bar Installation

Installing grab bars can be simple if you follow the right steps. Some grab bars offer easy suction cup installation where as others are wall-mounted. Wall-mounted grab bars may become permanent fixtures in the bathroom where as suction cup designed grab bars leave bathroom walls in tact. Although suction cup style grab bars offer convenient installation, they are likely less safe than wall-mounted grab bars because they can easily remove from the and create a falling hazard. Sladick advises that grab bars are rock-solid if you anchor them to studs but improper placement can still render them useless (Sladick, 2014). A stud finder can help locate a stud for installation or, if no stud is located, wall-anchors can be used instead. New fasteners and new precision drill bits make installation simpler and create a stronger hold to ensure grab bars remain in place. Installation and placement are essential to the safety and integrity of the grab bar. Grab bars provide confidence to homeowners that they can bath or shower safely.


ADA Bathroom – ADA Grab Bar Requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2014.

Sladick, A. (2014). Grab Bar Safety Tips. Retrieved August 6, 2014

Weill, J., & Weil, S. I. (n.d.). Grab Bars. Retrieved August 6, 2014,

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