Grab Bars

I often get questions regarding grab bars.  I would like to take this opportunity to discuss some details about grab bars, how they should be installed, and some alternatives that you may not be aware of.

I am often asked where grab bars should be installed.  There are guidelines in the American’s with Disabilities Act, but when it comes to grab bars in your home, the best place to install them is where you need them.  There is no formula for where a grab bar should be installed.  My suggestion is to go to the area where the grab bar is needed and see where you naturally reach for something to grab onto.

Picture of hand gripping grab bar installed into the wall


If you are installing standard grab bars, these bars must be installed into the studs of the wall.  This will limit the locations available for mounting.  Consider mounting a grab bar vertically – not all grab bars need to be horizontal.

The main caution is that installed grab bars should have EXACTLY 1 ½” between the wall and the inside of the grab bar.  Even grab bars that are marked “ADA Compliant” or that have a handicapped symbol on the packaging do not always follow this guideline.  If there is too much space between the wall and the inside of the grab bar, injury could occur.  There should only be enough space to grab the bar, not to slip your entire arm between the wall and the grab bar.

PIcture of person's arm getting stuck behing a grab bar.

If you are doing any sort of remodeling, you can place plywood blocking between the studs of the wall.  This will give you flexibility with installing grab bars at that time, or in the future.
Picture showing plywood backing in place.

For those that do not want to install traditional grab bars, or if you live in an apartment and cannot permanently install items, there are suction cup grab bars.
Picture of width adjustbale suction cup grab bar.Picture of angle adjustable suction cup grab bars.

To be honest, I am not a fan of these grab bars for a couple of reasons.  First, they are only safe on flat/non porous surfaces.  The suction cup cannot go across a grout line.  The suction cups can loose suction and therefore their holding power.  Also, the security of the bar is dependent on the soundness of the tile job.  If the grout is weak, these grab bars will actually pull the tile off the wall, and not provide support.  So, these types of grab bars should be used with extreme caution and only for steadying oneself, not for weight bearing transfers.

Here is an alternatives to traditional grab bars that are not permanently installed to the home:
SuperPole
Super Pole in the bathroom.Picture of SuperPole with Trapeze attachmentPicture of SuperPole being used to get up from bed.

This device is held in with tension between the floor and the ceiling.  The SuperPole has a number of attachments and modifications that can be done to make it fit almost any situation.  And, since it is not structurally attached, it can be removed and relocated at any time.  Also, you are not tied to stud locations for mounting.

This newsletter just scratches the surface with what is available for grab bars.  Every person and home is unique.  We would be happy to discuss you case, just Contact us.

SHARE YOUR IDEAS
I would love to hear your ideas on this topic, please comment belowgo to my blog – https://improveability.wordpress.com/ to leave your comments and/or suggestions about grab bars.

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About improveability

I am a rehab engineer trying to make the world a better place through assistive technology.
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2 Responses to Grab Bars

  1. Jason says:

    Superpoles/saskapoles are great but often not suitable for a washroom due to false ceilings not allowing for the kind of pressure that is needed for safety. Washrooms often have this false ceiling to accommodate for venting. You also need to be careful installing them in washrooms due to moisture from a hot showering causing them to loosen.

  2. Jason, Thank you for your comment. Yes, there are some situations, such as drop ceilings, manufactured homes, and possibly raised homes (vs slab homes), where the SuperPole (or similar products) may not be appropriate. If installed properly, moisture will not cause the bar to loosen. If the pole is installed correctly and with sufficient support, it is very sturdy.

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