A comprehensive guide that will assist you in purchasing the right grab bar or right grab rail based on your personal needs and the area in which you propose to install the grab rail.
What are grab rails and grab bars?
Grab rails or grab bars are independent living aids or disability aids that are most commonly used within the bathroom near the toilet, where the user might require assistance to get on and off the toilet seat and around the bathing area, where the user might need support to get in and out of the bathtub and in showering areas where a user might need extra support because they don’t feel steady on their legs due to weak leg muscles or joint problems.
Grab rails come in different types, sizes (lengths), diameter, textures, colours, finish and installation method. So it is important that a user knows what they should be looking for prior to actually purchasing one.
evekare has put together an easy to understand and follow buying guide for grab rails covering all the critical points that you need to consider prior to narrowing down a grab rail or grab bar that suits your needs and space within which it needs to be installed.
The main points to consider while purchasing a grab rail or a grab bar
Types of Grab Rail
The most common type of grab rails or grab bars that you will find in the market are horizontal and vertical grab rails and angled grab rails at (45 degrees and 90-degree angle). Another disability aid that can often serve the same purpose as a grab rail near the toilet area is a support arm. Support arms are installed beside the toilet and can be folded away when not in use.
Each of these grab rails can be used within the toileting, showering or bathing area based on the user’s requirements and the existing design of the bathroom.
Length of the Grab Rail
Grab rails can come in a range of standard lengths including 300 mm, 450 mm, 600 mm and 900 mm.
It is important that you measure the wall where a grab rail needs to be installed and take into consideration how the user will be utilising the grab rail in order to determine the appropriate length of the grab rail that you will need.
The diameter of the Grab Rail
Grab bars and grab rails come in a range of standard diameters ranging from 28 mm to 40 mm with 32 mm being the most common diameter which is used in public toilets.
In order to determine the diameter that suits the user, it is best the user tries the grab rails by holding on to it. The grab rail should not be too narrow or too wide and should allow the user to comfortably fit their hand. Remember that a secure and comfortable grip is the most important consideration while purchasing a grab rail.
The texture of the Grab Rail
You can find grab rails with either a smooth surface or a textured (slip-resistant) surface.
Comfort is what the user needs to consider as having a highly textured surface can mean that the user can hurt their hands while holding the grab rails and on the hand having a very smooth surface can lead to slips or not the best grip.
It is important that a user tests the grab rail in order to determine the best option for their needs.
You can find grab rails made out of different materials including stainless steel, aluminium, brass, plastic and galvanised tubing. The material is one of the main determinants of how much weight a grab rail can take. Generally speaking, you will find grab rails that can take up to 250 kg.
There are two options when it comes to installing grab rails, screw-fix and suction cups. The latter is not a long-term option as they cannot take the full bodyweight of a person and are used as a portable option for elderly and senior to carry around.
Screw-fix grab rails are the more widely accepted option as they are much stronger given that they are secured in the wall using screws at both ends.
For screw-fix grab rails, you will need to consider the type of wall the grab rails i.e. will they be installed on a wooden studded wall or on a masonry wall. Appropriate screws and drill bits need to be used.
An important consideration when an existing bathroom is being modified to meet the needs of a senior or a disabled person, as the user will no doubt want the grab rails to match the existing style of their bathroom. There is a multitude of colour finishes available such as polished stainless steel, matte black, gunmetal, gold, rose gold and yellow gold.
The finish also determines the grip of a grab rail or grab bar, while a smooth finish may look stylish and compliment the style of your bathroom or toileting area, they might be slippery to hold when used in wet areas such as the showering or bathing area. On the other hand, textured grab rails might provide a better grip, some users with sensitive skin might find these type of grab rails too rough for their linking.
The best way to determine which finish is the best for a user is to try the grab rail before you actually purchase one.
We also highly recommend that you consult an Independent living consultant or an occupational therapist to determine your needs. They will undertake a comprehensive assessment and provide the best options to suit your individual requirements.