Whether you are looking for grab bars for yourself, a loved one or you are a handyman wanting to add installing grab bars to your arsenal of tricks, there are a some definite things that need to be considered before you begin. There is of course style to consider, but make sure you are following standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Here I’ve listed things you need to consider carefully before you install grab bars in the shower or bath tub, behind the toilet or anywhere along the wall of your bathroom. The grab bars I installed in the photos are stainless steel and were not terribly expensive. You can clean and polish these with some sort of naphtha, like lighter fluid or paint thinner and they come out looking just fine. They have a knurled finish for safe grip and are guaranteed not to rust. You might want to do yourself a favor and shop for grab bars online before running around. It can take considerable time to find what you need going from store to store.
There are many, many styles to choose from, and I won’t pretend to know which style is best, or which style is worse. My only comment about style is that anyone thinking about safety grab bars needs to consider what they are actually for: safety! Chrome may look nice all polished up, but if there is no knurled surface or diamond pattern in the surface, it may be very slippery for someone whose hands are wet. Perhaps grip is not an issue for the user, but it is just one thing to think about. Pick a style that is functional first, then add beauty to the room.
Grab bars typically come in bar widths of one inch to about one and three-quarters inch. 1-1/4″to 1-1/2″ bars are recommended. As far as lengths go, be sure and plan this part carefully. If a government agency is funding the installation, fairly strict requirements for length and placement are necessary to follow. Every bathroom is slightly different in size and floor plan, but there are fairly specific requirements that must be met.
The best support for a grab bar is a long screw into a stud. However, that’s not always possible. You can buy anchoring devices specifically designed for grab bars that appear to be superior in quality to common hardware. I have never used one of them, but I have purchased one just to look at it and consider using them, but after some research, I concluded that there is one common piece of hardware that’s more than sufficient; especially when you add a dab of Liquid Nails to the back of each support area of the bar. That simple piece of hardware is a toggle bolt. One small 1/8″ toggle bolt has the ability to hold 50 lbs. of weight on 1/2″ sheet rock. A 3/16″ toggle bolt can hold a massive 100 lbs! Most grab bars have 3 or more holes on each side, giving you the strength of at least 6 toggle bolts. a 1/8″ toggle bolt requires a 3/8″ drilled hole and a 3/16″ toggle bolt requires a 1/2″ drilled hole. Toggle bolts and Liquid Nails can both be found at any home improvement store. A simple paddle bit will drill into drywall, but you’ll need a drill bit specifically designed for glass and ceramic for drilling into ceramic tile. A 3/8″ bit for tile will run you about $12 at Home Depot.
Installing grab bars does not require a lot of know-how in and of itself, but choosing the right style, length, width and finding the proper placement does require a little research each time you perform a grab bar installation. Many stores only carry a small assortment of grab bars and you may have to spend some time looking around.
Hopefully in this article I’ve done enough research for you to give you the information you need to get a good start on a job done right. For styles, it won’t take much more of an internet search to find plenty of ideas.