Grab Bars in the Home: Everything You Need to Know

So you’ve decided that you want to make Mom or Dad’s home safer by adding some grab bars, but you are wondering- Where should I place them? What kind should I get? Where do I begin? Read below for our list of 5 common places in the home for grab bar installation, and 5 tips for grab bar installation.

5 Places in the Home to Consider Grab Bar Installation

  1. In the shower or tub

Being that a very common place for falls to occur is in the slippery shower or tub, this is a great place to start. Folks generally want a vertical grab bar on the side shower wall to hold onto while stepping into the tub or shower, and a horizontal grab bar on the back wall for stability while standing in the shower. If your loved one uses a shower chair, a diagonal grab bar in place of the horizontal grab bar on the back shower wall can be used to assist with pulling up from a seated to standing position. If the shower is very large or you have big concerns about Mom or Dad’s balance, long horizontal bars can be placed on all walls of the shower.

  1. By the toilet

As our loved ones age, getting up from a seated position can get more and more difficult. If placing grab bars on the walls next to the toilet will assist Mom with getting up from a seated position, consider placing a horizontal grab bar or diagonal angled down bar here. If Dad still stands to urinate, consider a horizontal grab bar on the back wall behind the toilet for stability while standing.

  1. In place of towel racks

Many folks have a tendency to use towel racks to hold on to for stability when moving about in the bathroom. Towel racks are NOT grab bars. If your loved one loses their balance the towel rack will rip right out of the wall. Trust me, we see it happen all the time. Consider replacing with grab bars that can double in use as towel racks.

  1. In narrow walk ways

This is especially important if your loved one typically uses an assistive device such as walker or rollator, but in a certain area of the home they ditch their device because it simply will not fit or it is too cumbersome to bring along. This often occurs in small bathrooms, walk-in closets, and areas where the washer and dryer are kept. Mom or Dad uses a device for a reason, and if they do not have it with them then they definitely should have a grab bar to hold onto instead.

  1. Where there is a step up

In many homes there may be single step up to get into the house or to go to other rooms in the home. If you have concerns about Mom or Dad’s balance, consider placing a vertical grab bar in the frame of the door for stability when making that step up. If there is more than 1-2 steps, consider installing a full hand rail.

Okay, so now you know what general area in the home that you want to place your grab bars, but let’s get more specific- where on the wall? How high? Horizontal or vertical? What kind? Please, continue reading!

Tips for Grab Bar Installation

When to use horizontal grab bars

Horizontal grab bars are typically used for stability during standing or walking, and to “push up” from a seated to standing position. Horizontal grab bars should generally be 32’’ - 36’’ high, or above waist height but below chest height. As far as length goes, the longer the better in our opinion! In most cases, however, a bar that is at least 16’’ will do the trick.

Common places for horizontal grab bars include the following:

  • In place of towel racks
  • In narrow areas such as small bathrooms or walk-in closets where loved ones are unable to use their walker or other assistive device
  • On the back wall of the shower or tub for stability during bathing
  • On all walls of the shower or tub if there are big concerns regarding balance, or the shower is very large
    next to the toilet to assist with pushing up from sitting to standing
  • On the wall behind the toilet to assist males when standing to urinate
When to use vertical grab bars

Vertical grab bars are generally used to step over a threshold or obstacle, and to “pull up” from a seated to standing position. The top of the bar should be no more than 42’’ high from the ground. The length is usually shorter than your horizontal grab bars; typically a bar that is 24’’ or less will be sufficient.

Common places for vertical grab bars include the following:

  • On the side wall of the shower or tub to assist with stepping over the edge
  • Next to the toilet to assist with pulling up from sitting to standing
  • Where there is a step up, often times at the front door or into the garage
When to use diagonal grab bars

Diagonal grab bars are generally used to assist with going from a seated to standing position - sometimes used in place of horizontal grab bars as they place the wrist and hand in a more natural position. Diagonal grab bars can also be gripped at varying heights, making it easier for BOTH Mom and Dad to find a comfortable spot to grip onto. Diagonal bars are set at approximately a 45 degree angle, sloping downwards toward the seat or toilet. The top of the bar should be no more than 42’’ high from the ground. As for length - the longer the better here!

Common places for vertical grab bars include the following:

  • If your loved one uses a shower seat or bench, on the back wall of the shower to assist with going from a seated to standing position
  • Next to the toilet to assist with going from a seated to standing position
DO NOT use suction cup grab bars

Please, please, please DO NOT. I know it is a tempting “easy” solution for the shower or tub, but in our opinion they do more harm than good. First of all, suction cup grab bars will not stick over surfaces that are even slightly textured, and they will not stick over grout or space between tiles; they only stick to completely smooth surfaces. Even if you have a surface that is compatible, the grab bar needs to be checked and reapplied before each use to ensure that it is on. Many times they will just fall right off the wall, and they are not reliable.

Think of those suction cup plastic hooks that you might put in the shower and how easily they pop right off… it is the same with suction cup grab bars!

We highly recommend getting the tools out and hitting your local home improvement store to purchase the real deal.

Consult a professional

If you aren’t very handy or don’t know someone who is, consider hiring a handyman to get the job done. Every home is unique and you may have some questions about what grab bars and setup would work best for your loved one’s space. In this case, you can ask your Mom or Dad’s doctor to order a visit from an occupational therapist for a home safety evaluation.

Congratulations on taking the first step in making Mom or Dad’s home safer! Fall prevention is key for keeping folks out of the hospital. We hope you found this post helpful!


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