One of the challenges of mounting a shower grab bar is finding wall studs to mount it to. This can be particularly challenging if you have, for example, ceramic tile that covers the entire wall. Sometimes you will find that the shower enclosure material will not go all the way to the ceiling, which makes it easy to find the location of the studs. In this case you can use a stud finder and run it across the top of the drywall that is not covered by the shower surround surface. Mark a line and follow it vertically down until you get to the area where you want to mount the grab bar. Note that you may need to mount the grab bar diagonally so that each end is secured to a wall stud.
If your shower surround covers the entire wall, you can hunt and peck for a wall stud. If you have an interior wall on the other side of the shower, you can remove the baseboard and measure the distance from the edge of the wall to a wall stud and then transfer the distance to the shower side of the wall. You can also do this by looking at wall outlets since one side of them is generally secured to a wall stud.
As a last resort, you can drill small holes in the grout lines horizontally until you contact a stud. These small holes can be filled in later with matching grout.
Once you have the locations of the wall studs you can install the shower grab bar. Here is some information on a shower grab bar installation.
A customer's father was coming home after a lengthy stay in the hospital and he needed some shower grab bars installed to help him maintain his footing as he showered. He wanted some advice on where to install them.
My brother is a licensed Physical Therapist and works exclusively with home bound patients. He runs into this all the time and so I questioned him on his opinions. He said that each situation should be individually evaluated. However, here are the main points:
1. Vertical Bar At Entrance To Shower Or Tub
A 12" bar seems to be a good length, and it is typically located near shoulder-height.
2. Diagonal Bar Along The Back Wall.
This would be a longer bar, typically 36-48 inches, and installed at around arm pit height at its highest point and sloping downward from there.
3. The Length Is Up To The Individual As Is The Finish Of The Bar And The Thickness.
These details would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For example, if the patient has smaller hands, then a smaller diameter grab bar would be in order.
4. Don't Forget The Toilet
A vertical bar at the toilet on the wall approx 6 inches in front of knee when sitting and located slightly above the shoulder when sitting, so the patient can pull upwards and go from a sitting to standing position.
If you would like information on how to install grab bars, read my article on Shower Grab Bar Installation.
Shower grab bars aren't just for the elderly. They are a good idea for any shower. They are made in virtually any color and material and can complement or contrast the shower's design. Once you settle on the appearance of the grab bars, you need to consider their placement.
Generally, for a shower stall, the grab bar should be mounted between 36 inches and 40 inches from the floor. For a tub/shower combination, the bar should be mounted between 24 inches and 48 inches from the floor.
You should have a bar placed vertically at the entrance to the shower. This can be a small or medium length bar placed at shoulder-level. It should be placed near the opening on the inside of the shower. This will give the user something to hold onto upon entering or leaving the shower. You should also have a longer shower bar ( 3-4 feet) placed on the long wall of the shower. This grab bar can be mounted horizontally. If you use a bath chair, that grab bar should be slightly angled to allow you to pull yourself up from a sitting position to a standing position. You might also consider installing a small vertical grab bar at the toilet if a homeowner needs help going from a seated position to a standing position.
Grab bars must be installed into wall studs. For details on this, read this how-to on shower grab bar installation.