Updated: Feb 2
Over the years, we’ve seen some very precariously installed grab bars. From not being mounted into studs or using the proper anchoring systems, to placement in some locations that truly boggles the mind! I’m sure they were installed with the best of intentions, but sometimes good intentions can cause a lot of harm. When you put your trust into something to support your weight and to prevent falls – it just needs to work!
We often repeat that you should hire a professional to do your installations – but how do you know if the “pros” really know what to do here? Here are a few things to consider:
Ontario Building Code and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) have specific recommendations on the size, angle and placement of grab bars in various locations. Although these are in place for new builds/commercial spaces, the recommendations can be followed as a guideline in your home.
Make sure your contractor understands best practice!
That said, we know that what is meant to work for most, may not work for YOU. If you have very specific transferring needs (ex. you use a wheelchair or assistive device) – we recommend that you work with an occupational therapist (OT) to measure transferring heights and positioning that works for your health and safety.
General guidelines for a shower/tub enclosure:
- A vertical straight bar (24") at the entrance to your shower/tub, AND
- L-Shaped (30" x 30") or Diagonal bar (36") on the back wall.
For a toilet, a horizontal straight bar (18-24") behind the toilet and an L-Shaped bar (30" x 30") on the adjacent wall is recommended.
PT Rails (see video) installed on one OR both sides of the toilet can be far more helpful for body mechanics and reduces the strain of twisting or reaching for bars that are behind you. They can also be flipped up and out of the way as needed - or if a caregiver needs to provide assistance. These are certainly more costly, but a fantastic option and a client favourite.
No matter where they go, all standard Grab Bars should:
· Be non-abrasive, slip-resistant and have a high tonal contrast
· Have a diameter of 35 mm and 40 mm
· Withstand a force of 1.3 kN applied in all directions
What about Designer Grab Bars?
Manufacturers are realizing that some people don’t want their home to look like a hospital! Designer grab bars, cleverly disguised as ADA-compliant supports, not only look beautiful – but when installed properly, can be rated to withstand 500lbs of force.
STUDS, TOGGLE BOLTS AND/OR BLOCKING
A grab bar only works if it’s installed properly. We can’t say this one enough! All grab bars come with very specific mounting instructions. These are usually mounted into studs as the gold standard, using toggle bolts, and/or using proper blocking between the studs before installation. If this is not followed, they will no longer meet their rating capabilities - and you will likely lose any warranty. Most importantly - you don't want to compromise on safety.
Tile walls? With the proper tools (and skills), grab bars can easily be mounted into/through tile without damage. Quality grab bars will also be watertight and prevent rust.
Acrylic walls? We recommend that you do not install bars in acrylic tub surrounds - these are not flush to the wall and are designed to flex.
Small changes - big impact!
Grab bars are key pieces in helping to prevent falls and maintain independence. With so many options for style, colour and functional design, there will definitely be something that works for you. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out or check out some of our grab bar packages.