Common Problems to Avoid with Grab Bars

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. June 18, 2016

Common Problems to Avoid with Grab Bars


Our series of grab bar blogs includes information about their choice, use and installation. This blog briefly reviews four of the problems to avoid with grab bars.

Improper Installation (Refer to our installation blogs)

  1. The bar must be securely attached to withstand a vertical or horizontal force of 250 pounds
  2. Grab bars should not rotate in their fittings
  3. If you purchased a home with grab bars already installed, take time to test how well they are fastened to the wall. Carefully but forcefully pull on the grab bar in each direction. It should be tight and not wiggle at all. If it is loose then re-install or replace it.
  4. If you are installing one or more new grab bars then be sure that they are secured to wall studs or reinforcing boards. Use proper size screws or other fasteners recommended by the manufacturer.

Improper Location (Refer to our blog on where to install a grab bar)

  1. Positioned grab bars where they will be best at helping you move laterally and vertically as you perform your daily living activities. Your input into the location of grab bars and other fall prevention devices is very important. You should insist that you have a say in the location of your grab bars.
  2. Be sure that a long grab bar run (such as along a hallway wall) is contiguous. Gaps in long runs can result in removing hands to get to the next grab bar or incorrectly assuming the hallway ends.
  3. Grab bars should be at the right height for you – ADA recommends to install a horizontal grab bar more than 33 inches and less than 36 inches above the finished floor measured to the top of the gripping surface

Incorrect Size (Refer to our ADA guidelines and size blogs)

  1. The space between the wall and the grab bar must be exactly 1½”
  2. The diameter of the bar must be 1¼” to 1½”

User Error (Refer to our blog on how to use grab bars)

Although grab bars are seemingly simple to use, there are several precautions to remember

  1. Be sure that you are physically capable to use grab bars – if you are unsure whether you can support your weight with a grab bar then seek medical advice and professional (in-home care) assistance
  2. Remember to grip the grab bar firmly and watch where you plan to step – especially in and out of the bathtub

Grab bars are designed to support you as you move within a room or from one room to another. They can help support you as you go about your daily living activities – especially activities in the bathroom. They can also be very helpful in other rooms where you need support to get in and out of beds or up and down from chairs or couches. Think of a grab bar in the same way as you think of a handrail on a stairway - it offers you the support you need to get from one place to another. Locating, securing and using them correctly will improve your chances of preventing a fall at home.


Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.


Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.