Install Safety Bars In Shower Surrounds

Use an approved mounting system to install ADA-compliant grab bars in your shower.

Because of slick wet surfaces and sharp, unforgiving corners, bathrooms are notoriously dangerous rooms — especially for the handicapped and elderly. However, slip and fall accidents can be minimized or prevented altogether by installing strategically placed safety grab rails in the tub and shower areas. For maximum safety, install ADA- (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant grab bars. Mount rails horizontally, 33 to 36 inches above the floor on at least two walls in the shower area and position a third rail 2 feet above the rim of the tub. Fortunately, with the correct tools, this project is fairly straightforward. Does this Spark an idea?


1. Decide on which two walls to mount the shower safety bars. If the shower fittings are mounted on the rear wall of the shower enclosure, mount the grab bars opposite each other on the two side walls. If the shower fittings are on one of the side walls, mount the first bar on the rear wall and the second bar on the adjacent side wall opposite the fittings.

2. Mark the center point of the first hand grab bar mounting flange on the tiled surface with a steel measuring tape and felt pen. Mark the first point at the desired height, 6 to 10 inches from the inside corner nearest the shower fittings to ensure that the mounting holes fit between hidden wall studs.

3. Measure the distance between the center points of the mounting flanges on an ADA-compliant grab bar. Place a long carpenter’s level horizontally across the wall on the marked position. Center the bubble and mark the second mounting point opposite the first mark on the wall with the pen.

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4. Mark the mounting points for the second grab bar.

5. Clamp a semi-conical-shaped, tungsten carbide, 1-1/4 inch drill bit into a cordless drill/driver.

6. Place the point of the tungsten carbide bit onto the first mounting point. Hold the drill at right angles to the wall, press the trigger and bore the first mounting hole right through the tile and sheetrock. Repeat by drilling the remaining three mounting holes through the tile and sheetrock in the same manner.

7. Wipe the wall clean with a dry rag. Peel the adhesive backing off of the inside face of the first stainless steel grab bar fastener mounting flange. Insert the fastener into the hole and position the opposing threaded mounting holes on the flange vertically at the 6 and 12 o’clock positions. Press the grab bar fastener firmly against the tiles to stick the waterproof adhesive backing onto the wall.

8. Back the central screw on the fastener out by hand until the distance between the head of the screw and the flange matches the combined thickness of the tile and sheetrock.

9. Mount a Phillips head screwdriver bit into the drill/driver and place it inside the slots on the screw. Push the drill firmly in to force the expansion-type insert through the wall until the spring-loaded mounting legs snap apart, straddling the hole on the other side.

10. Pull the central screw back a little to hold it against the threads on the other side of the fastener. Thread the screw in until the head sits snugly inside its countersunk hole. Tighten the screw firmly all the way with the drill/driver to spread the spring-loaded mounting legs against the sheetrock and to clamp the fitting firmly against the wall.

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11. Repeat by inserting and clamping the remaining three stainless steel grab bar fasteners in place.

12. Hold the first ADA-compliant grab bar mounting flanges against the flanges on the grab bar fastener so that the mounting holes on both flanges line up. Insert the grab bar mounting screws into the holes and tighten them firmly onto the grab bar mounting flange with the cordless drill/driver and Phillips head screwdriver bit.

13. Repeat Step 12 to mount the second grab bar.

14. Grasp both sides of each grab bar in turn and exert all of your weight downward on the bar. This will test the security of the fasteners and complete the installation.