How High Should Grab Bars Be Installed In A Shower?

Regardless of age, safety should be the top priority in showers for individuals with disabilities. Grab bars allow for independence and peace of mind by preventing falls and/or injuries. Understandably, it is crucial to install them at the appropriate height. We've looked into this topic and found some answers so you or your loved one can be safe in the shower. 

Per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), grab bars should be installed at a specific height to allow for maximum safety and mobility of disabled individuals. For adults, horizontal grab bars should be placed 33 to 36 inches above the bathroom floor. And the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) necessitates that vertical grab bars be placed 39 to 41 inches above the bathroom floor.

Of course, there are other factors to consider besides height. Location on the walls, ADA requirements, and bar sizes are important aspects of grab bars. Keep reading to find out more.

A light yellow tiled shower area with a handle bar and stainless steel fixtures, How High Should Grab Bars Be Installed In A Shower?

What Is The Best Location For Grab Bars In A Shower?

To maintain balance and mobility, grab bars should be placed in the appropriate locations. Typically, grab bars are most useful when positioned on the back wall and control wall. During a slip or fall, the back wall and control wall are the best places for someone to reach for. The back wall is the wall opposite the shower faucet. And the control wall contains the shower faucet.

A small rustic inspired bathroom with a wooden paneled vanity cabinet and a small toilet on the side

According to the ADA, three grab bars are required in the shower. On the back wall, two grab bars should be installed. In addition, one grab bar should be placed on the control wall. 

If the shower has a shower seat, then the grab bars should be inserted on the control wall and the wall opposite or adjacent to the seat. The wall near the shower seat should have two horizontal grab bars. Alternatively, it can have one long, two-wall grab bar, as pictured above. Click here to see it on Amazon.

Certainly, the shower seat wall should be free of obstruction; there should be no grab bars or other objects above the seat. This allows the individual to rest comfortably on the shower seat.

Here is a portable shower stool that is great for temporary use, such as with injured persons. Also, it comes with a 12-inch suction grab bar. We'll talk more about no-drill grab bars later. Click here to see it on Amazon.

What Are ADA Requirements For Grab Bars?

A handicap sign on the wall

In 1990, the ADA was signed into law. Since then, the civil law has been modified multiple times, but its goals have remained the same--to promote safety and prevent discrimination for people with disabilities. All businesses and organizations must comply with ADA requirements for grab bars

On the other hand, the ANSI sets model codes in the U.S. for standardized accessibility guidelines. Unlike the ADA, these standards are voluntary and not the law. 

To be ADA and/or ANSI compliant, a business or organization must follow several guidelines or rules. We will talk about a few important ones -

  • Number of grab bars
    • Three grab bars must be present in the shower or shower/tub combinations. Or, only two grab bars may be used if one of them is a two-wall grab bar. 
  • Height
    • Horizontal grab bars should be positioned 33 to 36 inches above the floor.
    • Vertical grab bars should be positioned 39 to 41 inches above the floor. 
  • Diameter
    • The diameter of grab bars needs to be 1.25 to 1.5 inches. 
  • Length
    • At a minimum, grab bars must be 12 inches in length. 
  •  Space
    • Between the wall and the grab bar, there should be an empty space of 1.5 inches. 
  • Weight
    • Grab bars should be able to hold up to 250 pounds. 

Of course, these rules and recommendations are subject to change, just as they have changed in the past 30 years. So, it's best to follow current guidelines! 

What Sizes Do Grab Bars Come In?

Generally, grab bars are available in various sizes. Regarding length, grab bars range from 12 to 24 inches. For thickness, grab bars are usually at least 1.5 inches in diameter. 

Of course, following ADA and/or ANSI guidelines will ensure the safest sizes. Usually, products will specify whether they are ADA and/or ANSI compliant. However, it's important for you to pay attention to the product descriptions. Nonetheless, the most appropriate sizes depend on the layout and accessibility of the shower. 

A brown tile walled bathroom with stainless steel fixtures

For example, a small shower may only be able to fit three grab bars that are 12 inches long each. Or, it may only have the capacity for two grab bars, as shown above. Notice how one of the grab bars is opposite of the shower chair. This set-up allows the disabled individual to easily grab the bar in the process of sitting or standing. 

Interior of a narrow dark beige colored bathroom with a shower curtain walled shower area

Here is a shower that is wheelchair accessible; it has enough room to allow someone in a wheelchair to take his or her shower. In this shower, a two-wall grab bar that is longer than 12 inches is present. Principally, the longer the wall is, the longer the grab bar should be. If the grab bar is too short, then someone might grasp empty air and wind up on the ground!

By the way, shower chairs/benches are excellent tools for showers. Floating shower chairs/benches are great, but built-in shower chairs/benches have their benefits, too. Check out our article, "Built-In Vs. Floating Shower Bench: Pros And Cons," to learn more. 

Here is a mounted floating shower chair. It is stainless steel and holds up to 500 pounds. Best of all, it is ADA compliant. Click here to see it on Amazon.

Are No-Drill Grab Bars Safe?

Yes, no-drill grab bars can be safe if they are mounted appropriately. Also, they can be convenient, especially for travel. However, they may not be ADA and/or ANSI-approved. Again, pay attention to the product description! And carefully follow the installation instructions to be as safe as possible. 

If no-drill grab bars are installed on a flat surface (e.g., tile), then they can be safe alternatives to drill-installed grab bars. Unfortunately, they cannot be mounted on uneven shower walls, such as stone walls. 

Additionally, no-drill grab bars are excellent travel accessories for disabled individuals. Not all hotels or establishments offer accessible showers, especially in foreign countries. Thus, it is great to be able to carry portable grab bars with you. 

Here are two grab bars perfect for travel. Yet, be wary that they are not necessarily ADA compliant. But they do have indicators on the sides that tell you if the suction is strong enough to bear weight. Click here to see them on Amazon.

Speaking of suction grab bars, you might wonder if they will stick to fiberglass. Yes, they can! Check out our article, "Do Suction Grab Bars Work On Fiberglass?" to find out more. 

Final Thoughts 

Today, people with disabilities are encouraged to function as independently as possible. And that is what we all want! Shower grab bars are great tools to make this happen. Overall, there are several key factors to consider for shower grab bars.

Guidelines are available for the height, location, and sizes of the grab bars. As long as safety is your top priority, you should be fine in selecting the appropriate shower grab walls. Just pay attention to the ADA and ANSI rules and recommendations before installation or making your purchase.

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