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Mom broke her hip, and I am trying to make her home more elder-friendly while she is in rehab. While I have found lots of hardware that is available, I have not yet been able to find specs, such as how high a support rail on a regular wall should be, and particularly in the bathtub. Mom is about 5'2".

  • How do you plan to attach the grab bars? What is the nature of the walls of the shower enclosure, e.g. , is it ceramic tile on drywall, ceramic tile on cement board , fiberglass on drywall . . . ? The ideal is to have 2x8 blocking between studs which stainless steel screws thread into, but we didn't have that in our house. The first bar I put in our tub/shower (vertical bar) I located a stud and drilled into that. Turned out no stud there, but our walls are so thick that plastic anchors worked even though they are not recommended (1/2" drywall, 1/2" concrete board, thinset, ceramic tile). – Jim Stewart Jun 29 at 18:52
  • 70+ year old house, bathtub and most of the plumbing. The sidewall construction is 2x4 studs, then regular 1/2" drywall, over which I previously installed a thin "plastic" wall liner kit. There has been no problem with wall/drywall integrity. Bathtub is 60" long. I am snake-bit when it comes to using a stud-finder. I intend to experiment in the bedroom next to the shower to locate studs. Based on previous experience, the builder put in some studs at regular intervals, then split the last gap. Other times, the entire span was spaced regularly, but at "odd" intervals. – Joseph Filip Jun 30 at 8:16
  • It appears that support bars are all fixed in length. I plan to make sure the end closest to the shower fixtures is attached securely to a stud. I read that tilted bars do not provide as sure a grip, so I tentatively reject the idea of an overlong bar that I angle to attach to studs at both ends. The vertical bar at the entrance- no problem. I expect mounting hardware to come with the bars, so maybe I should use longer screws when I find a usable stud. The old drywall is extremely brittle. I have used plastic anchors plus at least 1 stud for light duty uses, such as a short bookshelf. – Joseph Filip Jun 30 at 8:34
  • If there is a stud close to where you would want to position an end, then is will work to shift the bar from its ideal position, but if one is not near enough, then there are new fasteners (Wingit is one brand and considered the gold standard according to a rehab professional I talked to) which go through the drywall through a 3/4" hole in the tile (or whatever) and clamps on the inside of the drywall. There are multiple different Wingit types and you must get the correct one for your installation. – Jim Stewart Jun 30 at 12:36
  • Here is one type that I think is ideal for grab bars, though I have not used one yet. amazon.com/WingIts-RC-RESGBW35-2-Refined-Engineered-Fasteners/… – Jim Stewart Jun 30 at 12:41
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ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) spec is 33"-36" off the floor for horizontal grab bars. And given 5'-2", I'd lean to the lower end of that scale.

Suggest you get one inside and outside the bath at whatever end is used most.

ADA.GOV has a lot of good information. (And overkill, like 42" bars at toilets, but I digress.)

  • Is that value actually written into the Act itself? Or is it from regulations "made under the Act"? (purely out of curiosity). – Martin Bonner Jun 28 at 10:42
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    @MartinBonner it would probably be found in regulations made under the Act. This type of recommendation would not find its way into an Act as the steps to change the Act are much more intense than to change a Regulation (which can be done via committee as opposed to a new Bill). – J Crosby Jun 28 at 14:23
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    ADA specs appear to be for commercial enterprises only, not residences. – Joseph Filip Jun 28 at 14:46
  • But most local codes follow ADA +1 good answer – user1946891 Jun 28 at 15:41
  • Agree that ADA doesn't usually apply to residential. Having said that, if your draftsperson inadvertently draws a ramp and calls it ADA compliant on the plans, then you'd better meet the spec. – Aloysius Defenestrate Jun 29 at 4:25
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Getting in and out of a bathtub is a dangerous operation for the mobility impaired. I have studied the ADA recommendations and outfitted our hall bathroom tub enclosure with two grab bars which is what I think is the minimum.

Last year even with these two grab bars I managed to fall backwards out of the tub. I didn't have a rubber mat in the tub and I turned sideways (facing the long wall), and took my hand off the long horizontal grab bar on the back wall. My soaped up feet slipped out from under me and I fell out of the tub onto my back. My fall was broken by the shower curtain and no injury.

I now have a rubber mat of a special type designed for "refinished" tubs which can be very slick. It keeps one from slipping, but does not adhere tightly with suction cups to the tub. That type is a pain to remove. My brother sent me this nifty type; I didn't know something like it existed. I'll bet the exact brand or similiar can be bought at a local store or online.

[EDIT This mat is about 29" x 16", is opaque, off-white and appears to be rubber rather than "vinyl". It has no plasticizer odor or any odor. It has dimples but not full suction cups like older ones.

It is very easy to pull up and I drape it over the horizontal grab bar after showering. I don't have the brand name, but I remember on the packaging there was the claim that it would work on "refinished" tubs (which ours is not). I think this must be a reference to epoxy refinished metal tubs. Our tub is an Americast steel tub which I purchased from a big box store about 25 years ago.]

In our hall tub/shower I installed a 36" bar horizontally on the long wall and an 18" bar vertically on the outside edge of the control wall. I haven't done it yet but I think it would be best to also install an 18" bar horizontally on the control wall. (In a tub/shower the controls are low and require the user to bend over to adjust them. A professional physical therapist I know told me that a horizontal bar just above the controls is important to the more infirm elderly.)

(I installed a curved shower rod which, despite being only about 6 inches out of straight, gives an amazing improvement in shoulder room in a tub/shower.)

If the tub is being used only for showering, the long bar is to be placed 33 to 36 inches above the floor of the tub. For sit down tub baths an additional bar parallel is to be installed much lower for getting up from sitting in the tub.

One possible arrangement for grab bars in a tub shower

In a tub/shower I think one usually enters at the end by the control wall, whereas in a shower the entry is on the back wall (opposite the control wall). In this shower I was asked to put a horizontal bar on the entry wall and forgo the vertical bar. The towel rack is actually a grab bar and serves as support when exiting the shower.
Horizontal grab bar on back wall of a walk in shower

Top and bottom sides of the non slip mat we have:Top

Underside

  • The house being retrofitted is 70+ years old, and the water supplied by the well leaves mineral deposits. Adding a suction cup type mat that is hard to remove has just become another issue. @Jim Stewart, are you able to add any additional identifying information about your "type" of mat without mentioning brand names or retail sources? – Joseph Filip Jun 29 at 6:24
  • My brother sent me the one I use in our tub/shower. It is about 29" x 16" is opaque, off-white and appears to be rubber (no plasticizer odor or any odor). It has dimples but not full suction cups like older ones. It is very easy to pull up and I drape it over the horizontal grab bar after showering. I don't have the brand name, but I remember on the packaging there was the claim that it would work on "refinished" tubs, but it works . I think this must be a reference to epoxy refinished metal tubs. Our tub is an Americast steel tub which I purchased from a big box store about 25 years ago. – Jim Stewart Jun 29 at 10:09

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