How to Install Grab Bars in No Time

Man with walker and nurse
September 4th, 2016

Falls are a major health risk for seniors. For this reason, fall prevention is a top priority for many. Something as simple as installing grab bars in your shower and toilet area can help prevent falls, according to the National Institutes of Health. Learning how to install grab bars isn’t difficult, and it can often be done in about an hour.

Deciding What You Need

Grab bars come in a variety of lengths and can be installed in a number of ways. Horizontal grab bars, often mounted in the shower or beside a toilet, are the most common. Usually constructed from 24-inch bars, these should be installed between 33–36 inches from the floor (though they can be lower for shorter seniors). In some cases, horizontal grab bars may be placed at a 45-degree angle, allowing them to be used by people of varying heights. This also makes it possible to screw both ends into a stud, which makes the overall installation process easier.

Note: Before you start this project, consider reaching out to a friend, family member, or another local expert who can help you confidently identify the tools you’ll need and help you get the job done right.

Preparing for the Install

Before you can begin installing the grab bars, you will need to find the studs in your wall. Grab bars cannot be anchored to drywall, because they cannot support enough weight. Using a stud finder, locate and mark the studs in the area where you need grab bars. You can also use blocking if the studs aren’t where you need them. Add blocking by nailing a 3/4-inch piece of plywood that is at least six inches wide to the studs. There are also grab bars with special anchoring devices for use in walls where attaching to a stud is impractical or impossible.

The Americans with Disabilities Act recommends that all grab bars support at least 250 pounds. While this may not seem necessary for your home, it’s still a good rule to follow. To ensure that your bar is equipped to handle the proper amount of weight, install the screws that secure its mounting flanges at least an inch into the wood.

How to Install Grab Bars

Hold the mounting flange against the wall and mark where the holes should be drilled. If you’re drilling into tile, it’s a good idea to use an 1/8-inch bit to drill a small hole first. Then you’ll need to use a 1/4-inch drill bit designed for glass or tile. If you’re drilling into drywall, a normal drill bit should do the trick.

If you can’t fit all three holes onto the stud, you’ll need to use a plastic anchor to keep the third screw secure. Once the flanges are attached using the included screws, you can attach the bar itself according to the instructions that are included.

Knowing how to install grab bars can prevent a serious fall, keeping you safe from injury and preserving your independence. Fall-proofing your home is a worthwhile investment that can easily be done on a budget; adding grab bars and other adaptive devices in your bathroom is a great place to start.