A Detailed Review Of ADA Bathroom Grab Bars Requirements By Location

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Grab bars help ensure the bathroom safety of your senior loved one. And in this article, we share with you our detailed review of ADA bathroom grab bars requirements by location.

ADA Bathroom Grab Bars Requirements
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Are you planning on adding grab bars to your bathroom to help maintain balance or increase bathroom safety for yourself or a senior loved one?

Great idea! Grab bars are vital in helping people with mobility issues or impaired balance. But before installing bathroom grab bars, you should ensure your installations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

To help you remain compliant, we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide outlining the requirements by location. It’s also worth noting that, if you are a business or public place, non-compliant bathrooms can result in legal action and fines of up to $75,000.

And, if penalized more than once, the total amount might top $150,000! By adhering to ADA regulations, you can prevent these risks.

What Are Grab Bars And Where Can You Find Them?

Grab bars are safety rails used to maintain balance and remain upright when standing. They also help hold some of a person’s weight to help them feel less worn out while standing.

Some people who benefit from the best grab bars include seniors, the disabled, and those recuperating from an illness or injury that affects balance or mobility. 

Grab bars can be installed in the bathroom, next to the sink or toilet, inside the shower, and in other areas of the home, such as the kitchen and hallway.

Because grab bars are most frequently found in bathrooms in private residences, this information primarily concentrates on bathroom grab bars. 

And why not? Bathroom surfaces are moist, the floors are slippery, the space is cramped, and everything is hard. That automatically makes bathrooms dangerous. Consequently, bathroom slips and falls are prevalent and a leading cause of injury among the elderly.

A Detailed Review Of ADA Bathroom Grab Bars Requirements By Location

Grab bars specifications vary based on where the bathroom grab bars are located. Here is a list divided by location and application.

1. Shower Entry Grab Bar

Where Is It Located?

It is located vertically 4-6′′ inward from the jamb of the entrance of the shower door. Granted, stepping over a little lip or ledge at the entry to the bathroom floor and the shower floor can be somewhat risky. Therefore, people use this grab bar to enter a wet shower safely. 

It can also be used to safely pull oneself from a sitting position while in the shower (such as sitting in a shower chair or on a shower bench).

An entry grab bar is far more sturdy and safer than towel bars, doors, and bathroom fixtures, which have low weight capacities and little grip.

How Long Should It Be? 

Most are 18′′ or 24′′. Going below 18′′ is not advised because it restricts vertical coverage. A typical smooth grip bar surface will suffice, but peened safety grip can provide you with additional traction and help minimize vertical hand slippage. 

If your senior needs more support at a lower position, say from the shower seat, so that they can lift themselves to a standing or seated posture, you might consider extending the length even further up to 48″.

How High?

The height of an entrance grab bar primarily depends on the user. How tall are they, and how far can their hands comfortably extend when entering or exiting the shower? If there’s a shower seat, remember to ensure their hand reaches the bottom of the vertical grasp bar.

ADA bathroom grab bars requirements side wall
Side wall grab bar facilitates movement inside the shower’s lateral plane.

2. Side Wall Grab Bar

Where Is It Located?

This one is found horizontally on walls next to toilets and showers. It, therefore, facilitates movement inside the shower’s lateral plane for elderly people with mobility difficulties.

When standing in and moving around the shower, especially when your eyes are closed, it’s crucial to maintain balance. 

How Long Should It Be? 

Sidewall grab bars should be straight and placed horizontally on the closest wall near the faucet in the bathroom or next to the toilet on each wall.

The most common length is generally between 18″- 36″, with the best being 24″ or 36″ long. This measurement, however, depends on the size of the shower or toilet.

If the client uses a shower chair and needs more assistance at a lower position to help pull themselves up to a standing or seated posture, go for a longer length of up to 48′′. You should also set it diagonally at 45 degrees, oriented toward the faucet wall.

How High?

It should be positioned 33″ to 36″ from the floor to the top of the railing. It should be easy to reach, so make sure it accommodates the needs of your user as per their height. You should also place it closer to the front wall with plumbing spouts and handles if the bar is short in length. 

RELATED: Best Grab Bars for Toilets

3. Front Wall Grab Bar 

Where Is It Located?

Maintaining balance while standing in the shower and moving around it is vital. It is located at the front wall of the shower (the one with spouts and facets) to help the user maintain balance while adjusting the water flow and shower head. Its utility value is the same as the side wall grab bar.

How Long Should It Be? 

It should be horizontal, measuring 24′′ to 36′′ long. Note, however, that this measurement depends on the width of the shower.

Consider putting a two-wall horizontal grab bar if you intend to install a side wall and front wall grab bar. This grab bar is designed for corner placement and merges both straight wall grab bars into one bar. 

Alternatively, if you’re installing an entry grab bar and a front wall grab bar, consider placing a 90-degree grab bar. In this case, the vertical and horizontal straight grab bars are integrated into one grab bar in an L-shaped arrangement to facilitate use in multiple directions.

How High?

It should be placed horizontally at a distance of 33 to 36 inches from the floor to the top of the bar. 

ADA bathroom grab bars requirements rear wall
A rear wall grab bar should be mounted at the rear of the toilet.

4. Rear Wall Grab Bar

Where Is It Located?

It is placed at the back of the shower to make moving around easier. Additionally, it should be mounted at the rear of the toilet to support assisting duties. 

How Long Should It Be? 

The length of the back grasp bar should be at least 36 inches, with 12 inches going from the center of the toilet to the closest wall and 24 inches going into the area just next to the toilet.

In showers, you should place it in the middle. If the shower configuration is particularly long and the user does not stand, enter, or exit close to the back wall, you can completely omit this grab bar.

How High?

It should be placed horizontally at a distance of 33 to 36 inches from the floor to the top of the bar. 

Other General Considerations

Apart from these specific measurements, here are other factors you need to know:

  • Rounded edges: All grab bars need to have rounded edges. 
  • Clearance: Grab bars should stick out from the wall by at least 1 1/2 inches.
  • Strength: All grab bars must hold 250 pounds of force without turning.

Summary

Installing grab bars in your bathroom is a quick and easy way to improve your stability and balance while providing the peace of mind you need to use the shower and toilet safely.

If you slip and harm yourself in the bathroom, you can be forced to give up your independence. However, being proactive can help you ensure that neither of those occurs. 

This guide allows you to pass ADA compliance and install a grab bar that works. Grab bars save lives!

Sources:

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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