How Long Should Bathroom Grab Bars Be? [A Complete Guide]

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Bathrooms can be a dangerous place for the elderly and disabled. When you combine mobility issues with the wet environment, conditions become hazardous. This is where installing grab bars is beneficial. But how long should they be? We’ve investigated this matter and have some informative answers for you!

Grab bars come in a variety of lengths depending on where in the bathroom they will be placed. Adult sidewall handles should be 42 inches. Rear wall bars must be a minimum of 36 inches. Tub and shower handles are generally required to be 24 inches. 

So, where do you install handles in a bathroom? Are they horizontal or vertical? How much does it cost to install grab bars? Keep reading to learn great tips on dealing with safety bars in your home!

Interior of an awesome contemporary designed bathroom with toilet for PWDs, How Long Should Bathroom Grab Bars Be? [A Complete Guide]

Where Should Grab Bars Be Placed In A Bathroom?

Broadly speaking, you want to install bars anywhere a person might struggle to balance or stand. This would include the toilet area, sink, and shower. Some cases might also require one between the light switch and the next closest fixture. Let’s dive into more specific details by location!

Interior of an awesome contemporary designed bathroom with toilet for PWDs

Toilets

If there is a wall within easy reach of the toilet, install the grab bar there. According to ADA recommendations, a good size to look for is 42 inches. However, plan on customizing the area according to the comfort of the person using it. Full ADA compliance targets commercial spaces rather than residential, so you have the freedom to adjust according to specific needs.

Click here to see 42-inch Stainless Steel Grab Bar on Amazon.

A white colored toilet with dark maroon colored tiles and white painted walls

What if there is no nearby wall by the toilet? In this case, a portable safety frame is ideal. There is no installation needed, and they serve a similar purpose to grab bars. This is a great option for those that may be recovering from a temporary injury or illness. You can simply put it away once it’s no longer in use.

Click here to see Stand Alone Toilet Rail on Amazon.

Sinks

Interior of an ultra modern bathroom with gray tiled walls, a huge mirror, and modern fixtures

Not everyone will feel the necessity for safety bars bordering the bathroom sink. Often, a person can maintain their balance by leaning on the vanity itself. On the other hand, some people may benefit from adding rails.

For this situation, you have a variety of options. What you choose completely depends on the layout of your bathroom and the wishes of the affected individual. You can install U-shaped bars on one or both sides of the sink. Alternatively, attach a wall bar if it is within a reasonable distance. Sizing will vary based on design, but 12 to 30 inches is an excellent initial target.

Click here to see 30-inch Bathroom Grab Bar on Amazon.

Showers And Tubs

In a standard shower stall, you’ll want to have at least three grab bars in different locations. Although customizable, here are some basic suggestions:

  • Horizontal 12-inch handle in close proximity to the faucet and temperature controls.
  • A 12-inch vertical bar right inside the doorway of the shower.
  • Long safety handle on the sidewall, usually horizontal and 24 to 36 inches.

Click here to see 2pk 16-inch Shower Grab Bar Handle on Amazon.

Click here to see 36-inch Stainless Steel Grab Bar on Amazon.

If you are dealing with a tub, the same recommendations apply. However, in this case, it is quite beneficial to add a clamp-on safety rail for the side of the tub. It will make getting in and out of the bath much easier and less risky. Most models support up to 300 pounds of resistance and don’t require permanent installation.

Click here to see Adjustable Bathtub Safety Rail on Amazon.

Should A Grab Bar Be Horizontal Or Vertical?

A woman holding a handle bar

Safety handles can be positioned horizontally or vertically based on their intended use. In homes, the bathroom should be personalized for the comfort of the elderly or disabled individual. This means that you can arrange the bars however they work best.

Here are a couple of recommendations, though. If the bar is being utilized for pulling up, such as rising from a tub or toilet, vertical placement is ideal. For areas where balance is key, try using the horizontal position. Test your setups with the person to see what helps them most.

What Is The Standard Height For A Grab Bar?

A stainless steel toilet rack and a handle bar

Before putting in permanent grab bars, experiment placement positions with the intended user. Height range fluctuates according to variables like the size and strength of the person. However, the average safety bar is approximately 33 to 36 inches above the ground.

Can A Towel Bar Be Used As A Grab Bar?

A brass stainless steel towel rack installed in a red painted wall

Never mistake a towel bar for a grab bar. They appear similar but are not the same thing. Doing so could result in personal injury and property damage.

A legitimate safety handle can withstand 350 pounds of resistance. However, a towel bar cannot even support the weight of a small child without breaking. Don’t do this!

How Much Does It Cost To Install Grab Bars?

Elegant interior of a purple themed bathroom with glass walled shower area and a white toilet

We highly recommend hiring professionals to install your safety bars. This is due to the risk of damage to tile and other bathroom materials if not done correctly.

Grab bar installation costs can vary significantly. Some factors that influence pricing include:

  • Your physical location
  • DIY or pro installation
  • Number and type of bars needed
  • Type of material they’re being affixed to
  • Retail product availability

According to Fixr, homeowners may expect to spend between $85 and $343 for a simple grab bar project. The average cost appears to run around $248. Now, keep in mind that jobs could run quite a bit higher for larger projects. To begin an estimate process from contractors based on your personal zip code, check out their website. They also have a nifty cost calculator!

How To Attach Grab Bars

A worker installing a stainless steel handle bar

If you choose to DIY the project, research thoroughly before beginning. In the meantime, we have some basic steps to get you started. Let’s take a look!

  • With the help of the affected person (if possible), pick the best locations and write down measurements for bars.
  • Next, purchase high-quality handles. For maximum efficacy, look for products certified by the ADA.
  • Double-check the weight rating of your selected bars. Most are rated for up to 350 pounds. Higher weights may need special order models.
  • Follow the installation instructions included in the hardware pack of your safety bars. Bracket mounts must be attached to studs in the wall.

To learn the specifics of installing grab handles in tile showers, check out the following tutorial by Family Handyman.

Wrapping Things Up

CDC statistics show that one out of every five elderly adult falls result in broken bones or head injuries. With careful planning and attention to detail, grab bar installations can help prevent this.

We’ve established that it’s best to affix safety handles according to the comfort of the one using them. Choose the best designs with lengths of 12 to 42 inches and install at a height of roughly 33 to 36 inches from the floor. Choose a vertical orientation for pulling and horizontal placement for stability and balance.

Employ a knowledgeable contractor to do the work. Most importantly, never use a towel bar as a grab bar! And before you go, be sure to check out these other guides that might be of interest:

How To Remove Bathtub Grab Bars

How To Tell If A Bathtub And Shower Are Fiberglass Or Acrylic

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