Location Guidelines for Wall Reinforcing per the Fair Housing Act

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. July 06, 2016

Location Guidelines for Wall Reinforcing per the Fair Housing Act

Although single family residential homes are not covered by the Fair Housing Act, Requirement 6 of the Act provides an excellent overview of where and how to reinforce walls to make them sufficiently strong to allow for later installation of grab bars for residential use.

The full text and drawings of Chapter 6 of the Fair Housing Design Act Manual “Reinforced Walls for Grab Bars” can be downloaded at https://www.huduser.gov/Publications/pdf/fairhousing/fairch6.pdf Some of the guidelines related to the location of reinforcing for grab bars per the Fair Housing Act include:

Reinforcing for Grab Bars at Toilets (See Figures Below)

  • The Guidelines specify that reinforcing of at least 6 inches wide by 24 inches long, capable of supporting grab bars, be provided behind and beside toilets. Although 24 inches is the minimum, the Guidelines suggest that the reinforcement be longer, with a preferred length of 42 inches for side wall reinforcing.
  • To be within the ranges presented in most accessibility standards, grab bars are mounted so their centerline is 33 inches to 36 inches above the floor. Here again, the guidelines suggest that the 6-inch reinforcing material be at least 2” wider to accommodate potentially lower grab bar placements.

Reinforcing for Grab Bars at Bathtubs (See Figures Below)

  • The reinforced areas specified at the head and foot of tubs should be enlarged to provide full support for mounting plates and horizontal bars at the lowest position of 33" above the room floor
  • The guidelines really want the reinforcing area to cover a width of 30” to 38” above the floor and a length as long as possible – at least 48 inches on the back wall. They also recommend adding reinforced areas for vertical grab bars with the bottom starting at a height around 28”.

Reinforcing for Grab Bars and Seats at Showers (See Figures Below)

  • Reinforcing for grab bars in showers must be at the same height as for bathtubs and toilets (minimum 32-inch lower edge and 38-inch top edge) and extend the full width of both side walls and the back wall. Because of the commonly accepted need to install horizontal grab bars between 33 and 36 inches above the floor, it is recommended that this reinforcing be enlarged so the bottom edge is 30 inches above the floor as explained previously at toilets and tubs.
  • The reinforcing for a wall hung bench seat is located on the wall opposite the controls and must run the full width of the stall, starting at the floor, to a minimum height of 24 inches.

The Fair Housing Act Guidelines also recommend “that building owners and managers permanently mount directions for installation of grab bars in every dwelling unit where applicable. The type of construction should be described, where reinforcing is located, and suggestions made for the most effective method for installing grab bars. These notices could be laminated to the inside of a linen closet door or to the inside of a utility or water heater/furnace door.”

To ensure that you are complying with all of Chapter 6 of the Fair Housing Design Act’s “Reinforced Walls for Grab Bars”, please download the chapter at https://www.huduser.gov/Publications/pdf/fairhousing/fairch6.pdf

You can find frequently asked questions about grab bar reinforcing at http://www.fairhousingfirst.org/faq/grabbars.html

See our blog called “Reinforcing Techniques for Walls” for additional information from the Fair Housing Act and other sources.

Source for Figures below: Chapter 6 of the Fair Housing Design Act’s “Reinforced Walls for Grab Bars”, https://www.huduser.gov/Publications/pdf/fairhousing/fairch6.pdf

Reinforcing For Grab Bars at Toilets

Reinforcing for Grab Bars at Bathtubs


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.