Grab Bar Size

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. June 29, 2016

Grab Bar Size

Long or short? What size of grab bar should I buy?

First, read our blog “Where to Use Grab Bars” and then consider some of the guidelines and regulations that have been established by federal agencies and other organizations such as the American Disabilities Act, American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As we have discussed in previous blogs, certain dimensions of a grab bar have been established by the American Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically:

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

Typically, your goal with horizontal grab bars should be to “fill the wall.” In other words, if you have a back wall above the back wall of a bathtub, do not install a 12-inch grab bar. Instead, fill most of the length of the wall. A grab bar is for safety and it is not very safe to have to search to find an undersized grab bar.

Here are some of the guidelines provided by the ADA in Chapter 6 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Note that there are exceptions to these guidelines, but the goal should be to “fill the wall” where possible.

Toilet. If your toilet is in a water closet or adjacent to walls, then

  • The side wall grab bar shall be 42 inches long minimum, located 12-inches maximum from the rear wall and extending 54-inches minimum from the rear wall.

  • The rear wall grab bar shall be 36 inches long minimum and extend from the centerline of the water closet 12-inches minimum on one side and 24-inches minimum on the other side.

Bathtubs with Permanent Seats.

  • Back Wall. Two grab bars shall be installed on the back wall, one located in accordance with 609.4 (33-36 inches above the finished floor measured to the top of the gripping surface) and the other located 8-inches minimum and 10-inches maximum above the rim of the bathtub. Each grab bar shall be installed 15-inches maximum from the head end wall and 12-inches maximum from the control end wall.

  • Control End Wall. A grab bar 24 inches long minimum shall be installed on the control end wall at the front edge of the bathtub.

Bathtubs with Removable In Tub Seats.

  • Back Wall. Two grab bars shall be installed on the back wall, one located in accordance with 609.4 and other located 8 inches minimum and 10-inches maximum above the rim of the bathtub. Each grab bar shall be 24 inches long minimum and shall be installed 24-inches maximum from the head end wall and 12-inches maximum from the control end wall.

 

  • Control End Wall. A grab bar 24 inches long minimum shall be installed on the control end wall at the front edge of the bathtub.
  • Head End Wall. A grab bar 12 inches) long minimum shall be installed on the head end wall at the front edge of the bathtub.

Standard Roll-In Type Shower Compartments. Where a seat is provided in standard roll-in type shower compartments

  • Where a seat is provided: Grab bars shall be provided on the back wall and the side wall opposite the seat. Grab bars shall not be provided above the seat.
  • Where a seat is not provided: grab bars shall be provided on three walls.
  • Grab bars shall be installed 6-inches maximum from adjacent walls

 

 

These are only a few examples of the correct length of a grab bar in a few locations in the bathroom. Recall from our blog “Where to Locate Grab Bars,” that you should ensure that the grab bars are positioned where they will be best at helping you move laterally and vertically as you perform your daily living activities. Grab bars that are too short or two or more grab bars that have a gap between them at the same height can cause you and others in the house to miss finding them as you search for support.

And remember to secure the grab bars to a stud, a solid wall reinforcement board or the proper manufacturer-recommended installation support device. Even the right size of grab bar will be ineffective and perhaps dangerous if it is not installed tightly to the wall.




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

Author

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.