Grab Bars

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Grab Bars

Grab bars are lifesaving.  Primarily used in the bathroom, grab bars provide balance, support, and easier movement.  Getting on and off the toilet, entering and exiting the shower, and safer bathing are the greatest benefits of grab bars.  Above all, correctly installed grab bars is the most important criteria.  Incorrect installation makes grab bars more dangerous than not having them at all.

What you need to know about grab bar installation

Grab bars are only as good as the backing supporting them.  Grab bars cannot be safely and effectively installed directly into:

  • Fiberglass and acrylic shower and bathtub enclosures.
  • Hard surface shower and bathtub surrounds such as tile, granite, quartz, Onyx, Corian, or Swanstone.
  • Surrounds using cement board such as HardiBacker®, WonderBoard®, and Durock®.
  • Drywall

There are two effective methods to install grab bars:

  • Solid 2×12 lumber inside the wall cavity, behind the underlayment and finishing.
  • Structurally engineered grab bar fastener.

Installing Grab Bars

Proper blocking and anchoring are key to ensuring your grab bars perform correctly. Without a grab bar, a 200-pound person falling four feet in half a second hits the ground with a force of impact equal to 1,600 pounds.  That’s almost a ton of impact!

Lumber Blocking for Grab Bars

Grab Bar BlockingBy a wide margin this is the best.  It is the safest, strongest, and most reliable method for installing grab bars.  When building and remodeling, building code requires inside wall cavity blocking using lumber.  This is also true when renovating showers, bathtubs, tub/shower combinations, and saunas.  Always use Number 1 or Select grades of lumber for wall cavity blocking.  Select and Number 1 grades of lumber have little to no knots.  Milled from the strongest sections of the tree, Select and Number 1 grades of lumber provide a strong and reliable backing.

To save money, many remodelers will not install wall cavity blocking.  If you did not obtain Building Permits for your bathroom or shower remodeling project, there is likely no wall cavity blocking for grab bars.  With permits, the Building Inspector will insist on wall cavity blocking.

Although many remodelers will use 2×6 and 2×8 sizes of lumber, that’s only marginally effective.  In fact, 2×6 lumber is wrong.  These sizes are too small to accommodate screw spacing for the 3 grab bar anchoring screws.  Always use 2×12 lumber.

Wall cavity lumber blocking for grab bars must fit snuggly between the wall studs.  During new construction common nails are required when installing lumber.  However, installing during a remodel or renovation requires special corrosive resistant screws.  Why?  The lumber in older homes is seasoned (decades old).  If nails are used, the seasoned lumber will be blown apart – cracking and splitting.  This renders the blocking almost useless.  Installing screws into seasoned lumber requires special installation procedures.  Not using these procedures will cause the screw to split and crack the lumber.  Again, rendering the grab bar blocking ineffective.

Fastener System Anchoring for Grab Bars

The Winglts® Refined Engineered Residential Grab Bar Anchor exceeds all building codes and Americans With Disabilities (ADA) guidelines.  The RESGBW35 anchor is the only structurally engineered grab bar fastener that you can trust. It never Loosens.  According to the manufacturer, it is the world’s strongest fastener.

Each grab bar anchor system set has a maximum weight capacity of 450 pounds (900 pounds per grab bar).  If you think that’s not important, consider the equivalent pounds per square foot the human body exerts when experiencing a sudden fall.  The gravity force (g-force) exerted when you grab onto a stationary object when unexpectedly falling is tremendous.

The Winglts system, at roughly $15 for a pair, is really cheap life and safety insurance!  They are made in the USA.

The 3.5-inch stainless steel screws will not rust, and the fire-retardant structural plastic expanders will not deteriorate.  The installed system is waterproof – even over grout lines.  It is designed for installation into hollow wall systems up to 1-1/4 inch thick.

This system installs nicely into 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch drywall with tub surrounds having tile, marble, and stone finishes.  Winglts can also be installed through fiberglass, acrylic, faux marble (solid Onyx® type products).  It also works great in plastic shower and tub surrounds that have solid wall coverings behind the finish.

The Winglts fastener is used extensively in commercial and residential grab bar installations.  It has proven itself over literally millions of situations.

No anchor, including the Winglts, can be safely installed into any fiberglass or acrylic bathtub or shower surround that has no sold wall covering behind it.  If you can push on your bathtub or shower surround and it easily flexes, do not use any anchoring system.  It will fail and you will very likely be seriously injured or killed.

What grab bars should I use?

I have seen and installed a lot of grab bars.  I believe Kohler grab bars are the best.  What makes these so great?

  • Premium metal construction for durability and reliability (will not rust or corrode).
  • Very functional and easy to use for both large and small hands while offering a touch of elegance.
  • Provides safe and sturdy support with comfortable gripping.
  • High-quality metal construction ensures long-term functionality.
  • Legendary Kohler lifetime warranty.

Length matters.  Grab bars are available in these sizes:

  • 12 inches
  • 18 inches
  • 24 inches
  • 36 inches
  • 42 inches

You can install grab bars horizontally, vertically, and at an angle.

Here is where installation experience is important.  There are three interrelated factors when determining the correct length and orientation.  These are location, height of the person, and disabilities.  IT IS NOT determined by price or budget.  Do not select a 12-inch grab bar to save a few dollars when a 36-inch is the correct size.  In similar fashion, there are locations that require more than one grab bar.  Installing one to save on the installation of two is putting your life and safety at unnecessary risk.  Experience selecting and installing grab bars is important.  Make sure your contractor knows how to determine the correct size and orientation for your specific situation.

Grab Bar Colors

Grab Bars
Polished Stainless Steel

Grab Bars
Brushed Nickel

grab Bars
Oil Rubbed Bronze

Grab Bars
White

Grab Bars
Bronze

Grab bars are available in various colors and finishes.  Cheaper grab bars come painted in white and bronze.  Higher quality grab bars come in chrome, nickel, stainless steel, and oil rubbed bronze.  Stainless steel and nickel in a brushed or polished finish is the best.  Why?  Paint and bronze get dirty and chip.  It is also not as slip resistant as stainless steel and nickel (this is important when grasping a wet grab bar).  Brushed stainless steel and nickel beautifully matches any environment and holds their subdued luster.  Always install grab bars that have screw concealment.  Without it, the grab bar looks institutional, unprofessional, and very tawdry (in a cheap way).  The exposed screws will also harbor grim, scum, mold, and mildew.

Are grab bars worth it?  Can grab bars keep me safer?

Slip and fall accidents are some of the most common causes of injury in the United States. Most people don’t think about the dangers of slip and fall accidents and the harm they cause; or how it will affect them and their family.  Many people do not realize how costly a slip and fall accident is.  Grab bars are helpful in preventing injuries.

Consider these facts to illustrate the seriousness of slip and fall accidents.

  • More than one million people go to the emergency room each year for a slip and fall accident.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls among adults aged 65 and older are common, costly, and preventable. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. The average cost of a slip and fall accident is $30,000-$40,000 says the CDC.

  • Each year, approximately 50,000 people break a bone during a slip and fall accident. Severe injuries will occur for another 200,000-300,000 people.

  • Slip and fall accidents increase as we age.  The older we get the more serious the injury.  Slip and falls are the most significant cause of injuries for people over 55.

  • The most common way to suffer a brain injury is falling.

  • Falls are responsible for a whopping 95% of hip fractures. A hip fracture often requires invasive surgery. The pain, suffering, and limited mobility from a hip fracture can change your life in an instant.

How Can I Receive More Information on Grab Bars?

If you would like more information on installing grab bars, or enjoying the best bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling experience in Orange County, call DAD at (949) 380-0177 or at dan@dadsconstruction.com for a free in home consultation (DAD’s serves all of South Orange County California including Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach, and Aliso Viejo).

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Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD’s Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation Contractor, https://www.dadsconstruction.com.  © DAD’s Home Services & Construction, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.