ADA Inspections Nationwide, LLC
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ADAIN Blog

by Richard Acree of ADA Inspections Nationwide, LLC

Grab Bars Installed at Toilets for Aging-in-Place Home Modifications

Aging-in-place installations cover many different elements in the home. This article is about grab bars installed at toilets. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) can help with aging-in-place installations.

The name sometimes hits people the wrong way. Grab bars. Maybe a little too graphic? But their purpose is very important. A bar to grab on to when you are doing something critical in the home. Like using the toilet or taking a shower. And it is all about preventing a fall and subsequent injury. That’s very important!

Grab bars are really like hand rails on a step system. They are installed for a person to hold (grab) and to prevent falls. Nobody complains about hand rails. And the rules for installation of hand rails are very specific. So the rules, or guidelines, for installing grab bars should also be very specific.

Aging-in-place home modifications applies the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the FHA Design Manual to residential homes. So this article will use the guidelines in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and the FHA Design Manual to discuss how to install grab bars.

Grab bars can be installed anywhere but are most commonly associated with a toilet, bathtub, or shower. So let’s discuss toilets first.

Grab bars are normally installed on the rear wall behind the toilet and on the wall adjacent to the toilet. This is for a toilet that is intended to be approached by someone in a wheel chair. The diagram below is of a grab bar installed behind the toilet.

Grab Bar Installed on Real Wall Behind Toilet

Grab Bar Installed on Real Wall Behind Toilet

The rear wall grab bar should be 36 inches (915 mm) long minimum and extend from the centerline of the water closet (toilet) 12 inches (305 mm) minimum on one side (toward the corner) and 24 inches (610 mm) minimum on the other side (away from the corner). This assumes that the toilet is properly positioned between 16-18 inches from the side wall to the centerline of the toilet for a toilet approached in a wheel chair. See the diagram below for positioning of the toilet. The left side of the diagram is for toilets approached in a wheel chair, the right side is for ambulatory (standing) approach.

Toilet Placement

Toilet Placement

The photo below is a diagram of a grab bar installed on the wall adjacent to the toilet. The side wall grab bar should be 42 inches (1065 mm) long minimum, located 12 inches (305 mm) maximum from the rear wall and extending 54 inches (1370 mm) minimum from the rear wall.

Side Wall Grab Bar for Toilet

Side Wall Grab Bar for Toilet

Grab bars at the toilet shall be installed in a horizontal position, 33 inches (840 mm) minimum and 36 inches (915 mm) maximum above the finish floor measured to the top of the gripping surface. This does not prevent installing a vertical grab bar next to the toilet to assist people of significant different heights.

Remember, any time grab bars are installed at a toilet, reinforcement must be installed in the walls to ensure a firm grab bar installation.

Other installation guidelines that apply to grab bars at toilets are: Allowable stresses shall not be exceeded for materials used when a vertical or horizontal force of 250 pounds is applied at any point on the grab bar, fastener, mounting device, or supporting structure; grab bars shall not rotate within their fittings; grab bars and any wall or other surfaces adjacent to grab bars shall be free of sharp or abrasive elements and shall have rounded edges; the space between the wall and the grab bar shall be 1½ inches (38 mm); the space between the grab bar and projecting objects below and at the ends shall be 1½ inches (38 mm) minimum; the space between the grab bar and projecting objects above shall be 12 inches (305 mm) minimum (EXCEPTION: the space between the grab bars and shower controls, shower fittings, and other grab bars above shall be permitted to be 1½ inches (38 mm) minimum); grab bars with circular cross sections shall have an outside diameter of 1¼ inches (32 mm) minimum and 2 inches (51 mm) maximum; grab bars with non-circular cross sections shall have a cross-section dimension of 2 inches (51 mm) maximum and a perimeter dimension of 4 inches (100 mm) minimum and 4.8 inches (120 mm) maximum. The diagram below is a representation of grab bar cross section requirements.

Grab Bar Cross Section Limites

Grab Bar Cross Section Limites

Grab bars installed at water closets (toilets) for children's use have other installation guidelines in the 2010 ADA Standards.

For more information about the residential accessibility aging-in-place services Richard provides please see Residential Accessibility.

Thank you.