How Long Should a Grab Bar Be Next to a Toilet? (What the ADA Says)

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

Toilet grab bars should be installed on the wall that is closest to the toilet and should be at least 36 inches long for private homes. The ADA requires at least 42 inches long for commercial and public buildings.

How Long Grab Bar Next to a Toilet
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Grab bars are an essential piece of bathroom safety and can provide an excellent bit of support and stability for the elderly.

While the idea of a grab bar is simple enough, proper execution to set up safe and reliable grab bars can be a bit more complex. So, how long should a grab bar be next to the toilet?

There are standards for size, location, and other factors around what a proper grab bar should look like. There are standards for residential and commercial/public bathrooms, which often have different rules.

Still, if you want to add a grab bar to either one, then it’s essential to ensure that the properly-sized grab bars are also correctly installed.

Check out our guide to the best toilet grab bars if you are looking to add them to your bathroom.

ADA Guidelines

So how long should a grab bar be next to a toilet?

According to the American Disabilities Act, for a grab bar in a bathroom to be the appropriate length, it should be at least 42 inches long, and there should be one on each side of the toilet.

Now, this focuses on public buildings and disability-friendly bathrooms found in buildings out in public. There are plenty of old apartments or houses where finding the space for a 42-inch long grab bar is not viable. What should a person do in this situation?

It is important to look for the best possible setup in whatever bathroom you are looking at where toilet grab bars should be placed. Ideally, this means finding a section both to the right and the left of the toilet where putting in some type of a grab bar is a viable option.

If these two areas can be relatively even, and both grab bars can be about the same length, that’s ideal. Having longer grab bars is also an excellent idea to give people the most area to grab. But, don’t put your grab bars more that 12 inches from the edge of the toilet.

Based on arm or shoulder stiffness, sometimes a person might want to grab high, while some days they might not want to stretch so much to support themselves.

how long grab bar next to a toilet longer
Long and circular grab bars are a good choice.

Longer Grab Bars Are Better

Even if the 42-inches recommended by ADA guidelines for public buildings and bathrooms are not viable at home, looking for longer grab bars is still a good idea.

If 36-inches is the length that can work in a cramped old bathroom, then that’s the one to choose.

Make sure the grab bar is circular. Remember, these aren’t towel racks. If you want the full support these are supposed to offer, that includes having a safe grip. That means long grab bars that are circular and on both sides of the toilet.

Within those parameters, you might be limited by things beyond your control or the unique challenges that some houses can create (like rural houses built in the late 1800s before indoor plumbing) but work with what you have.

Even in very cramped bathrooms, there should be space for 24-inch grab bars, though you may have to get creative with how to angle them to line up with studs and still be a reliable bit of safety for your home bathroom.

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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