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Bathtub Grab Bar Placement Guide (Residential)

Which bathtub grab bars do I need and where should I place them? (Quantity, Shape, Length, Wall Location, and Placement Height).


This is a guide for residential bathtub grab bar placement (such as in a private home / residence), where grab bar placement is completely up to the discretion of the user.

For commercial bathtub grab bar placement (such as in a public facility) that must abide by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) placement guidelines, please read our ADA Bathtub Grab Bar Placement Guide.


 

For basic slip prevention in a bathtub, at a minimum, we recommend two (2) bathtub grab bars in the following tub wall locations:

  1. Entry Grab Bar
  2. Side Wall Grab Bar (Bottom Level)

For advanced slip prevention in a bathtub, we recommend four (4) bathtub grab bars in the following tub wall locations:

  1. Entry Grab Bar
  2. Side Wall Grab Bar (Bottom Level)
  3. Side Wall Grab Bar (Top Level)
  4. Front Wall Grab Bar

To learn more about where we recommend placing each bathtub grab bar, continue reading below:


#1 Entry Grab Bar:

Why is it important?

  • An entry grab bar is the most important bathtub grab bar because most falls occur at the point when the person is making the step over the bathtub wall, usually while wet.
  • This grab bar is critical to steady the transition between the bathroom floor and the bathtub floor, where there is a tub wall / lip (usually around 14″ – 16″ tall) to step over.
  • An entry grab bar will help overcome the fear one has when putting their entire body weight on one leg while stepping over the height of the tub wall.
  • The tub entry grab bar can also be used for pulling oneself safely out of a seated position while in the bathtub (whether that be from the bathtub floor, a bath chair, or a bathtub bench).
  • When entering the bath, an entry grab bar will prevent any need or habit of grabbing and hanging onto bathroom fixtures, sliding glass doors, shower curtains, or towel bars, which all have limited weight capacities and are dangerous body weight support methods.

Which bar shape, length, and quantity do I need?

  • We recommend one (1) straight grab bar.
  • The most common length would be 24″, 30″, or 36″. We do not recommend going below 18″ as it would limit vertical coverage (the grab bar would be too high and out of reach when reaching from a seated position).
  • The longer the entry grab bar, the lower it will go to the bathtub floor when installed.
  • We recommend a standard smooth grab bar surface. You can also choose a peened safety grip, as some find that this improves grip when the hand is wet.

Where should I place and install the entry grab bar?

  • Place the entry grab bar vertically about 4-6″ inward on the wall closest to the tub entry point, which is commonly the wall that has the bath control valves.
  • We do not recommend placing the grab bar too far from the tub wall outer edge – try to keep it as close to the bathtub entrance as possible.
  • Vertical height placement of the entry grab bar is up to the discretion of the user, and often comes down to height of the user and where the hand reaches comfortably when entering or exiting the bathtub. When seated in the bathtub, the hand should always be in reach of the bottom of the vertical entry grab bar.

Any other recommendations?

  • If a bathtub has a built in bath seat, we would also recommend installing an entry grab bar on both sides of the bathtub, as entry patterns can change depending on placement of the bathtub seat.

 

#2 Side Wall Grab Bar (Bottom Level):

Why is it important?

  • A bottom level side wall grab bar is important for hand grip when adjusting oneself while seated on the bathtub floor or in a bathtub seat, and when pulling oneself upward from a seated position to a standing position (such as when standing up in order to exit the bath).

Which bar shape, length, and quantity do I need?

  • We recommend one (1) straight grab bar.
  • The most common length would be 36″, 42″ or 48″. We recommend a side wall grab bar that spans nearly the entire length of the bathtub to provide full wall support when in the bathtub.

Where should I place and install the side wall grab bar?

  • Place the grab bar horizontally about 25″ high above the tub floor to the centerline of the horizontal grab bar (this is usually about 6-8″ above the tub wall).
  • If you are installing a grab bar that is shorter than the length of the bathtub, we recommending centering the grab bar along the side wall to give more usable bar toward the center of the bath, where the hands naturally rest when seated.
  • This grab bar should be in arms reach while holding on to the entry bar with the other hand. An entry grab bar and the bottom level side wall grab bar are commonly used at the same time to lower ones body into the bathtub.
  • Have the individual sit down in the bath and reach up towards the side wall. This would be the ideal height to place the bottom level bath grab bar. Remember, this grab bar is used for pulling oneself out of a seated position and needs to be lower to the ground. Ideal placement varies by individual and it is totally up to your own discretion.

Any other recommendations?

  • You may consider placing the grab bar diagonally at 45 degrees angled toward the faucet wall if the client is in a bath chair and requires more assistance at the lower position to help pull oneself up to a standing or seated position. Pulling ones body weight on a bar angled forward can often ease strain on hands suffering from arthritis.
  • Are you wondering why this grab bar is referred to as the “bottom level”? This is because the grab bar sits up to 8-11″ lower than the “top level” grab bar, placed in an identical horizontal position just above it. This “top level” horizontal grab bar will be discussed in section #3 below.

For basic slip prevention in a bathtub, you can stop reading. If you would like to achieve advanced slip protection in a bathtub, continue reading for the next two grab bar bath wall locations.


 

#3 Side Wall Grab Bar (Top Level):

Why is it important?

  • A top level side wall grab bar is important for hand grip when seated in a bath seat or when standing in the tub (such as when standing up in order to exit the bath) .
  • This grab bar is a top level grab bar, meaning that it is meant to provide hand support at an elevated / higher vertical position while in the bathtub, as compared to the lower level grab bar, which is used to provide hand support at lower elevations in the bathtub, such as when sitting on the bath floor without a bath seat.

Which bar shape, length, and quantity do I need?

  • We recommend the same grab bar length as whichever you decide to use for the bottom level side wall grab bar, in section #2 above.
  • The same recommendations apply to this top level grab bar, as both the bottom level and top level grab bars should be identical.

Where should I place and install the side wall grab bar?

  • Place the grab bar horizontally about 33-36″ high from the tub floor to the centerline of the horizontal grab bar. Note that this grab bar placement should be about 8-11″ higher than the bottom level grab bar in section #2 above.
  • The same recommendations for the bottom level grab bar in section #2 above apply to this top level grab bar.
  • Have the individual stand up when in the bath (such as when the individual is preparing to exit the bath). The ideal height to place the top level horizontal grab bar would be slightly higher than where the hands naturally fall by the individuals side. Remember, this grab bar is used for balance while standing in the bathtub, as compared to the lower level grab bar that is utilized for pulling/pushing oneself out of a seated position. Ideal placement varies by individual and it is totally up to your own discretion.

Any other recommendations?

  • If desired, a top level grab bar can be shorter than the bottom level grab bar, however, the top level grab bar should be placed in a horizontal position that is closest to where one stands and enters/exits the shower, as this is mainly used for hand support for those actions.

 

#4 Front Wall Grab Bar (Side of Handles/Spout):

Why is it important?

  • A front wall grab bar is important for maintaining balance when in the motion of lifting oneself up or standing in the bathtub.
  • This grab bar has similar grip utility as compared to the top level side wall grab bar in section #3 above.

Which bar shape, length, and quantity do I need?

  • We recommend one (1) straight grab bar for this application.
  • The most common length would be 24″ or 36″ (This measurement depends on the width of the bath).
  • View our “other recommendations” section below for an additional grab bar shape that is commonly substituted and to learn more about the set ups that may not require this grab bar installation.

Where should I place and install it?

  • Place the grab bar horizontally (east to west) about 33″ to 36″ from the floor to the top of the grab bar.
  • This grab bar placement height should be level with the “top level” side wall grab bar in section #3 above.
  • If you are installing a grab bar that is less than 32″, shift the grab bar to the center of the wall to give more usable grab bar to the user when standing.

Any other recommendations?

  • If you are installing both a top level side wall grab bar (from point #3 above) and a front wall grab bar, you may instead consider the installation of a two wall horizontal grab bar. This would combine both straight wall grab bars into one bar that is intended for a corner installation. This provides multi directional pulling.

When considering bathtub grab bar placement, if possible, we recommend a few simulations with the person who will be using the grab bars. Have the person step into and out of the bathtub (over the bath wall lip), have the person sit down into the bathtub (or onto the bath seat). This full bathing simulation will help you notice exactly where grab bars should be placed to provide the most assistance to the individual. Bathtub grab bar placement ultimately comes down to the user’s preference for hand grip location, the length of the bath, and the number of surrounding support walls.

For additional grab bar shapes, we recommend exploring our complete line of bathtub grab bars.

If you have a shower & bathtub combination setup, we recommend you also explore our shower grab bars.

GRAB BAR APPLICATIONS

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Bathtub Grab Bars
Toilet Grab Bars

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