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Tips from the AIP Builder - Starting A Shower Grab Bar Renovation

Accessibility Assessment:

The first step to any accessibility renovation is to assess the mobility of the primary user. A person's mobility can vary in severity from paraplegic with very little mobility, to a mild case of arthritis that can sometimes inhibit the usage of everyday tools like a showerhead or nozzle. This AIP Builders Tip Of The Day will go over what type of grab bar renovation may be needed in the shower to suit your accessibility needs.

Minor Mobility Issues:

Grab Bars for Age In Place Homeowners

With minor mobility issues such as back problems, temporary injuries that limit mobility, or slight balance problems, grab bars can be a helpful way to move about without fear of further injury. It is recommended to install a vertical grab bar (18 to 36 inches long) near the edge of the outside tub wall. With minor mobility issues, vertical is often preferred to horizontal because the angle is easier to grip, especially with arthritic hands. 

Moderate Mobility Issues: 

With moderate mobility issues such as relying on a walker or cane, having lack of flexibility at the waist, or moderate balance issues, grab bars are strongly encouraged to prevent any major accidents within the shower. For this category of mobility, we suggest both a vertical grab bar near the edge of the outside tub wall, as well as an angled (45 degrees) grab bar on the primary shower wall with a length of at least 24 inches. The angled bar is preferred due to it's ease of use in a variety of situations like getting up from a shower stool/seat or bending over for a different washing angle. 

Severe Mobility Issues:

Grab Bar ConfigurationWith severe mobility issues such as being wheel chair bound, the inability to use one or more extremities, or severe balance issues, grab bars are essential to preventing accidents as well as aiding any additional caregivers that may be present. With severe mobility issues we usually suggest a multitude of alterations to your showering area, including a universal barrier free tub or shower, and potentially mechanized equipment to help move a person in and out of the shower area - it is always best to get a professional opinion if this situation arises.

In terms of grab bars, we continue to recommend at least one vertical bar near the edge of the tub wall as well as multiple horizontal bars to aid in the process of sitting up and down in the showering area. In this scenario it can be assumed that mobility is lacking enough that the main action will be a sitting down/pulling up motion vs. bending over, which is why horizontal bars are generally more helpful than angled bars. At a minimum we suggest a lower horrizontal bar as well as an upper bar to ensure that awkward angles are not present when movement is being attempted within the shower area. Depending on the mobility issues at hand, multiple grab bars may be needed in specific places to help both the user and any caregivers that may be present. Again, we strongly suggest you get a professional opinion on your specific space when choosing to make your bathroom more accessible for a severe mobility issue user. 

After Thoughts:

If you have to question whether you need a grab bar in your shower, then the answer is usually always yes - better safe than sorry. Different situations can require varying grab bar renovations, but in general the above recommendations are a good starting point when first thinking about how to make your shower more accessible. There are countless styles, finishes and prices for grab bars so style is completely up to the user's discretion. 


Written by Mike LaBombard of AIP Builders in Northfield, MA


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