How To Choose The Best Grab Bars For Your Home

One out of four older adults falls every year—and one out of every five falls results in an injury, such as a head injury or broken bones in the wrist, arm, ankle or hip, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1]. Many falls occur in the bathroom.

Grab bars can create a safer bathing and overall bathroom experience for seniors. To help prevent falls in the bathroom, the CDC recommends adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet.

What Are Grab Bars?

Grab bars are graspable bars to help someone maintain balance and lessen fatigue while standing. They are used to provide safety in the bathroom for seniors, people with disabilities and those recovering from an injury or illness that impairs balance or mobility.

Grab bars can be installed in the tub or shower area, near the toilet or sink and in other areas of a home, such as the kitchen, hallway and other rooms. In this guide, we focus primarily on bathroom grab bars.

Why Use Grab Bars?

Many falls for older adults happen in the bathroom where slippery surfaces like the tub, shower floor and slick tile walls create a hazardous environment that can lead to accidents. Grab bars placed in strategic locations, such as on shower or bath walls, can prevent slipping and falling. When installed beside the toilet, they can assist with sitting and standing, and when placed next to the sink or vanity, a grab bar can provide additional stability.

Types of Grab Bars

Bathroom grab bars come in a variety of styles, finishes and sizes. The most common types of bathroom grab bars include:

  • Wall-mounted. These grab bars are installed securely to the wall with mounting screws and anchors.
  • Bathtub-mounted. Adjustable clamps fit the grab bar base tightly over the rim of the bathtub, providing stability when getting in and out of the tub.
  • Suction. These grab bars attach to the wall with suction cups and are best used as a temporary measure, such as when traveling or while recovering from certain surgeries or injuries. Suction grab bars are generally used to assist with balance and not intended to support your full body weight. Check the suction on the bars regularly, as it may become less secure over time. These bars should only be installed on a non-porous surface, such as tile—never on drywall.
  • Folding. These grab bars fold-down or flip-up when not in use to save space in tight areas, such as beside the toilet or sink.
  • Free-standing. Free-standing grab bars are often floor-to-ceiling tension bars located beside the tub or shower to assist with exiting and entering. Another type is a toilet enclosure with stand-alone rails and a safety base to help with sitting down and standing up.

What to Consider When Choosing Grab Bars

When selecting grab bars for your bathroom, the best style and size for you depends on your unique abilities and needs, says Michael Menn, an architect, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) and owner of Michael Menn Ltd., a design and build firm near Chicago. How much bathroom space you have available is also important. For example, if you use a wheelchair, you may prefer folding grab bars if there isn’t room to maneuver the chair. And if a caregiver or occupational therapist assists with bathing, choose grab bars that allow enough space in the tub or shower area and bathroom for two people.

Choose grab bars with a weight capacity that safely supports your weight. Menn suggests consulting a professional, such as an occupational therapist or Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), who understands your abilities, as well as the shape and size of the bathroom.


There is no standard placement for grab bars in residential bathrooms, says Menn. Instead, it depends on your height and how difficult it is for you to sit on and stand up from the toilet, navigate in and out of the shower or bathtub and stand at the sink. Location also depends on the reasons you need grab bars. For example, you may need grab bars mainly for balance in the shower, to assist with getting in and out of the tub or for help getting up from the toilet.

Grab Bar Style

  • Straight grab bars can be installed horizontally, vertically or diagonally on the wall and also come in free-standing models.
  • Wave grab bars have a slight curvature and offer a more stylish decor alternative to straight grab bars.
  • Textured grab bars are made with textured materials for a slip-resistant grip.
  • 2-in-1 grab bars serve another purpose, such as doubling as a toilet paper holder, shower shelf for toiletries or a towel rack.


Most grab bars are made of stainless steel to prevent rust and corrosion, aluminum or another metal, says Menn. Grab bars also come in plastic or high-density resins, such as polyethylene, and may also feature a textured grip.


Grab bar length varies, ranging from 12 inches to longer lengths, including 16 inches, 24 inches, 32 inches and even longer.


Bathroom grab bars are typically lightweight, ranging from just over 1 pound to as much as 9 pounds for a free-standing grab bar with a base, such as for the toilet area.


Proper installation is crucial for mounted grab bar safety, with screws attached to a stud behind the wall. However, a convenient stud location is not always possible.

“When we do renovations, we put solid lumber, such as a 2-by-12-inch plank, behind the drywall, since most grab bars aren’t based on standard stud locations,” says Menn, who recommends hiring a professional handyman or contractor with good references and experience to install bathroom grab bars. “If the grab bar isn’t mounted right on the wall, it’s probably going to come loose, causing an injury or a fall.”


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