Aging In Place: Stylish Grab Bars, Safety First

Usually, the first time we get ‘the call’ for installing an Aging In Place home modification is for adding G13JASL102_1Grab Bars in the Bathroom, usually in the Shower/Tub area or near the commode. And there the discussion begins. How much will it all cost?

Seniors with fixed incomes who have not prepared their homes in advance are suddenly faced with hospital bills recovery from a sudden infirmity are sensitive to financial issues, change of any kind, having strangers in their home.  We work hard to gain trust, by gently taking them through the options available.

It all depends on the existing finish of your bath or shower area.  Grab bars for bathrooms need to be sturdy enough to support your weight,  NKBA accessibility guidelines require grab bars be installed to support a minimum of 250 pounds.  G15JASxx08_1

Usually, unless your builder has prepared it in advance, you know where it is located, you need to add solid wood “blocking”  between the wall studs to securely hang a grab bar.  If you install a grab bar into an existing bathroom wall without providing the proper backing behind the sheetrock, fibreglass shower, or tiled wall, the grab bar installation will fail. It may cause you great physical harm if you are relying on the grab bar for support it comes off the wall.

Selecting a grab bar is more fun in 2009 than it has ever been. The choices are many, with styles colors available to suit any budget taste. The most important decision is to find the grab bar that fits your h. Usually, grab bars come in 1-1/4 inch to 1-1/2 inch diameter, so choose the one that is most comfortable for you. Also, there must be at least a 1-1/2″ clearance between the inside of the grab bar the wall, allowing you to fit your arm through remove it, so it doesn’t get stuck if you do happen to accidentally fall down.

Following are a few questions to ask yourself when selecting your own grab bar:CrossLowerBath1Sharp

1. Will the grab bar support the user’s weight? Or, will you need something stronger? Guidelines (250 pound minimum) are only that,  not all may be able to support the weight of a heavier person. Check before you purchase.

2. Will a stainless steel grab bar rust in the shower?  Grab bars that are made of 3 or 4 series metals (stainless) should not rust, grab bars made of 1 or 2 series metals can rust even though they are stainless steel. Check the packaging, or the specifications if you are purchasing via the Internet.

3. Will a powder-coated grab bar rust? It may, especially if it gets scratched. Again, check the manufacturer’s specifications warranty. Newer materials that have an antimicrobial finish come in lots of bright colors that can match your décor.

4. Would you prefer a style where the screws are recessed into the flange? There are some manufacturers who do not recess the screws into the flange.  They appear to be less attractive, the screws can easily catch on the user’s skin, or snag on clothes.

5. Are concealed screws important for aesthetic reasons? This is my choice in all cases. It doesn’t cost much more for this type of grab bar, even at the lowest price range, it is by far the safest best looking solution.

6. Does the flange thickness matter to you?  Some manufacturers offer a 12 gage flange thickness which is thicker than most that are only 14 gage. (Note: The lower the gage the thicker the metal.)

7. Is it important to have all visible clamps or fabrication marks removed from the surface of the grab bar or are minor imperfections acceptable?

8. Is a product guarantee important to you?  Some manufacturers do offer a lifetime guarantee.

9. Where do you place the grab bars?   There are many resources available that provide guidelines, such as the NKBA.  But, it is always best to consult with your physician or therapist to determine the best grab bar for bathrooms positioning for your specific safety needs, sometimes, it is even best to work with the installer to determine the right height for your personal use.

10. Prepare your bathroom in advance! This is the wisest choice of all. While you are healthy, happy have your wits about you, consider undertaking a bath remodel with HB Building Design. We’ll make sure that more than just the Grab Bars are in the right place, we’ll get the bathroom into luxurious shape for living, you’ll be prepared to Age Gracefully in your own home.