Q&A / 

Tub and Shower Grab Bars Tips

Ruth Ann, who lives in Lincoln, MA, wrote to me about grab bars.

Here's what she had to say:

"We are installing safety bars in our tiled bath, tile over rock lath plaster (1927). The installer plans to use wall anchors, not toggles or into studs. He insists this will hold,, been doing it for years. Is it really OK? I did try your search engine but got no results."

I responded immediately to Ruth Ann because this is a major safety hazard.

Although she stated that she's got plaster and lath in her home, I don't feel for a moment that's what's in the tub and shower area. Years ago the ceramic tile was set on top of solid cement mortar that was put over wire lath. It's incredibly durable and strong. It's also very heavy.

There's NO WAY I'd ever rely on simple friction anchors that just contact the sides of the drilled hole for grab bars. These anchors are not a bad choice for an up/down force on a wall, but for PULL OUT force, no way Joseā€².

The best option, if one can make it work, is to install the grab bars into the wall studs.

The second-best option is to install the grab bars into solid-wood blocking that may have been installed in anticipation of installing grab bars.

The last option is some sort of magic, strong toggle bolt that expands once it passes through the back of the drilled hole.

I like the Moen SecureMount anchor system. CLICK HERE to see all of the different styles and finishes.

Watch this video to see how beefy the giant toggle-type anchor is.

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9 Responses to Tub and Shower Grab Bars Tips

  1. Most grab bars ar mounted incorrectly. If they are not mounted HORIZONTALLY along most of the length of a tub or shower, they will not be easily reachable by the user who might stand or sit anywhere in the tub or shower. In a tub-shower, mount the bar at a height reachable by both the sitting and the standing user. When the bar is mounted as I suggest, the user will find it even if he has soap in his eyes.

  2. Tim, Tim, Tim!!! Oh how I loved watching this video! We finished our walk in shower and have the grab bars and I am still waiting for my husband to install. We had a mud wall and hot mop floor install and now I will be a happy camper with the Moen SecureMount anchor system. Thank you, thank you and thank you again. I hope you put this up in your video file for everyone to see. Holly Daley

  3. Since I am a retired Plumbing Building System Designer, I have specified many tub & shower grab bars and specified grab bars with a "peened finish". This finish allowed a person that may have soap on their hands to have a solid grip. Smooth or grooved hand rails just does not get it.

  4. Since you brought it up!!!! We've been using the suction cup apparatus for 4 years with careful consideration of it's limitations. Too bad it wasn't designed to fit std. 4" tiles squarely.
    Now we're trying to 'slip-proof' the tub, without rubber sticky's, mats, etc., but rather some chemical produced abrasive without doing the whole tub.

  5. I have a plastic (?) molded tub & walls type in my bathroom. It has no grab bars at all. The bottom of the tub is textured, so even placing a rubber tub mat doesn't help either as it's suction cups will not secure the rubber mat which ends up floating. I have slipped at least 4 times trying to get out of the tub, and have to also be cautious about using shower gel, which adds to more slippery conditions. Can grab bars be attached to my molded one unit type bath/shower tub and installing them to the wall studs, hoping that the plastic will not crack.

  6. Tim - my shower really is plaster over rock lath with tile on top. We had a legless" tub on legs" when we bought the house. The tile was installed later onto the plaster (new tub). It developed a leak because the installer used wall board rather than waterproof backer board at the bottom to fill in the long opening needed to install the modern tub. So no wire and cement mortar here. What about using zip toggles?

  7. We have installed many grab bars. I've tried all the manufacturers' methods, including this one by Moen. NEVER use the suction cup grab bars! This may be worse than no grab bars at all.
    ...
    I really like the HTB toggle bolts by Hilti. Two or three of these at each end is great.

  8. Good afternoon

    I had to add an additional "L" shaped bar but the studs were not in the correct place and blocking was not a reasonable option. I used the MOEN bars and Moen toggle bolt. I placed the top toggle as close as possible to the stud and added an extra fastener into the stud. Perhaps it only made me feel good BUT. The large surface area seems to function better than 3 toggle bolts with 3 1/2" holes within 2 inches.
    Dave, in a previous post mentioned Not using suction cups. He has a valid point ,if the tub surround is glued to the base, after some usage the glue or the drywall can give up at the most inopportune moment. Thank you again for your Moen reccomendation worked out great..

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