Grab bars are used in bathrooms to help people maintain their balance. Their shape and position are determined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which also provides guidelines for bathrooms themselves.
The dimensions of a grab bar depend on the type of bathroom you plan to remodel or build, but grab bars cannot be replaced by towel bars since these are not strong enough. Grab bars are quite strong, however, with the diameter of an ADA-compliant grab bar being 1 ¼ inches or 1 ½ inches.
Grab Bars in Commercial Bathrooms
Grab bars are to be 33 to 36 inches from the floor to the top of the grab bar surface. But if the bathroom is for children, the grab bar must be 18 to 27 inches above the floor.
Grab bars inside walls should be no more than 12 inches from the rear wall and at least 42 inches long. The length is also determined by ADA requirements and is measured from the center of one flange (the flat disc at either end used as an anchor, sometimes with screws) to the center of the other flange, plus the diameter of one flange.
Grab bars at the rear wall are to be at least 36 inches long, extending at least 12 inches from the center of the toilet on one side and 24 inches on the other side.
Grab Bars in Commercial Shower Stalls
In transfer showers, grab bars are placed across the control wall and back wall, at least 18 inches from the control wall.
On standard roll-in showers, they are put on the back wall and the wall across from the seat, but not above the seat. If a seat is not provided, grab bars are put on all three walls.
Note this exception: ADA-compliant lavatories can have a 30-inch clearance on one side as long as it isn't next to the controls or on the side of the clearance adjacent to the shower seat.
In alternate roll-in showers, grab bars should be put on the back wall and on the farthest wall from the entrance, but not above the seat. Grab bars are not required in a single-occupant shower in a private office. In residential units, they are not required in showers in bathing facilities as long as the walls are reinforced and located to permit the installation of grab bars.
Grab Bars in Commercial Tubs
When installing grab bars in bathtubs with permanent seats, two grab bars must be installed on the back wall. Each one should be installed no more than 15 inches from the head-end wall and 12 inches from the control-end wall. A grab bar on the control wall must be at least 24 inches long and must be put on the control-end wall at the front edge of the bathtub.
If the bathtub doesn’t have permanent seats, two grab bars are also to be put on the back wall no more than 24 inches from the head-end wall and 12 inches from the control end. A grab bar should be put on the control-end wall at the front edge of the bathtub.