another grab bar question

lori_inthenw_gwOctober 24, 2013

I guess my question is "what makes it a grab bar?"

It seems to me there are two different aspects, and I would like to figure out if they can be separated.

There's the diameter of the cylinder that you grab, which is always "fatter" in grab bars than in towel bars. Then there's the anchoring aspect, to make sure they don't pull out of the wall when used to bear a persons weight.

I understand that for "universal" access, the bars are large in diameter. But what if you just wanted something to stabilize you when stepping over a tub rim, for example? Or even something that could be grabbed if you had a dizzy spell. Couldn't you have something that looked more like what we'd think of as a towel bar, but that would be securely anchored into a stud in the wall?

We will have a curbless shower and a soaking tub, but this is for a house we plan to retire to, so it is always possible that mobility could become an issue. (If one of us is in a wheelchair, we'd probably need to move to a less rural location anyway, so we are not looking for an ADA bathroom.) Would appreciate your thoughts.

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Babka NorCal 9b

It becomes a grab bar when it won't pull off or out of the wall. You can put an extra 2x6 between the studs to allow you to position it more easily. Otherwise you need to screw it into the studs. My grab bar is only 1" thick and 11-3/4" long. Perhaps it is the ADA that requires those thick ones.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 3:42PM
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Thank you, babka! Lovely room. I admit, I looked at the image and thought "what grab bar?" Which is exactly my goal!

Was this sold as a grab bar, then? Do you just check the images and specs to find the smaller diameter version? A lot of the "designer" versions I find are large diameter, but with nicer looking attachment points and other styling.

We are set up to have blocking where we need it. But that doesn't mean you'd just use towel bars in those locations, or does it? I really like the unobtrusiveness of yours.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 4:16PM
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I think you are looking for an assist bar. They come smaller than grab bars and also specify a weight limit. They are intended more for stability vs the fuller support a grab bar must take. I know HD sells a line by Delta.

I think the important thing to look for in an item is weight limit. If you have just a regular towel bar that doesn't specify a weight limit then it is not constructed to take any decent amount of weight. Even if secured to studs, if the joints aren't made to take weight, or the material is too soft (it will bend), or it isn't built to attach to the wall correctly it won't be safe to use as you describe.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Thanks, williamsem! I had never heard of "assist bars." And you know how hard it is to find something if you don't have the right search term? Maybe someday Google will be able to read my mind, but not yet. That is extremely helpful. Your response makes total sense to me. I hope I can find something appropriate, and I will definitely look to see if a weight limit is specified. I just knew that aspect had to be somewhat separable from the diameter of the rod, so thanks to both of you.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 5:08PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

I never heard of assist bars either. Thank you. Something new every day for my old brain. The Smedbo grab bar we have is solid brass and it can hold an elephant! Not cheap. Most towel bars are hollow, and fine for towels, but don't hang on them.

There are a whole lot of "thinner/shorter" grab bars at the website, with many styles.

With the bracing in the walls you can assure yourself that wood screws will work to hang your regular towel bars or mirrors. Otherwise you have to use those toggle bolts to hold the bars against the sheetrock if it is hollow behind where you want to mount them.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 7:39PM
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I ordered some by Moen - grab, not assist bars. They aren't exactly the nursing home look, but are thicker than I was expecting. What's nice is that they have gripper pads on the inside which is nice.
In our guest tub/shower we put one on the diagonal on the long wall toward the front, and one vertical on the back. The cultured marble folks put a honking big tall soap dish thing smack in the middle of that long wall without asking if that's what I wanted -- and so I'm grateful I only got 16" bars. Actually, 12 or 16" works fine, especially if you only want them to assist.

In the master bath, we put one vertical by the shower head on the short wall because that is where I enter, and one horizontal on the back wall. DH likes to re use his drying off towel the next morning when he wets his hair, and formerly left it all over the place. Now he has a place to hang it. It's a very small master. He also exits from that side, so we just did what works for us.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 8:17PM
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