Home Accessibility: How To Install A Shower And Tub Safety Bar

A guide to installing a shower or tub safety rail.

One of the most common causes of injuries is a fall in the home. Many of these falls occur in the bathtub or shower and can happen not only to those of mature years, but anyone. These common falls, however, are preventable or, at the very least, injuries can be restricted to minor bumps and bruises with the installation and assistance of grab rails. The cost of tub and shower grab rails is minimal and installation isn't too difficult, though the right tools and a little planning are necessary.

Grab rails need to maintain position and be easily accessible during a fall. Therefore, installation and mounting are the key elements. Grab rails come in various styles and colors to coordinate with any bath and come in two main types; tub safety bars and wall-mounted grab bars.

A tub safety bar is a set of bars that screw onto the side of the tub. They are moveable, and should not leave holes or marks if removed and no longer needed. These safety bars are not designed to support a great deal of weight - they are merely an assist to getting in and out of the tub or for balance correction. To install these safety bars a socket wrench and a screwdriver are all that is needed. Assemble the bars per the manufacturer instructions and position on the side of the tub in a convenient location. Tighten the clamps on the inside and outside of the tub. Some models work better on smooth surfaces of a tub, while others are designed for a rough surface. Look carefully before purchasing.

Wall-mounted grab rails are attached to the wall studs for proper support. The rails are held to the wall with a setscrew that is hidden by a decorative cover plate or surrounded by matching wall tile. These rails are designed to support the weight of an individual and can be mounted vertically, horizontally or diagonally depending upon the individual need. Proper installation is mandatory for wall-mounted grab rails.

After purchasing a wall-mounted grab rail of the color and size needed, determine where the wall studs are in the shower wall. A stud finder is especially helpful for the process.

Measure from the base of the tub and mark the wall at the height you'd like the bar installed. In addition, mark the wall where the stud is found and position the mounting bracket and bar on those marks. Keep in mind that the best assistance will be given if the rail is mounted horizontally or at an angle.

If drilling through tile, scribe the tile at the mark to start a point for the drill. An ice pick twisted on the tile at the mark will leave a slight impression on the surface; be cautious of the amount of pressure applied as the tile may crack.

Drill holes through the tile with a glass or tile drill bit, starting slowing and increasing both speed and pressure. Fiberglass showers do not need to be scribed before drilling but still take the slow precautions. Consider using a bit that is slight wider than the mounting screws. This won't cause any holding problems, as the wall stud will be holding the bar, it simply allows a margin of human error during installation. Drill through the tile and wall then change to a wood bit that is slightly narrower than the mounting screws. Drill pilot holes into the studs.

Place silicone caulk over the drilled holes before mounting the rails to keep them water tight. Screw the grab rail to the wall with stainless steel screws to prevent rusting. Tighten the screws firmly but slowly to prevent cracking any tiles.

Apply the cover plate to the mounting brackets.

Allow the silicone caulk to dry and the bars should be ready for use.

To ensure the utmost of safety, test the bar's strength on a monthly basis and tighten or replace screws as needed. In addition, a rubber grip rail, if not included, can be added to most rails for a firmer and steadier grip.

© High Speed Ventures 2011