Grab rails which are also sometimes called ‘grab handles’ or ‘grab bars’ provide additional support to help with movement and moving around in the bathroom. It is very important to consider the task you want to use the grab rail for. Is it to get from sitting to standing, perhaps from a bath or shower seat? Or is it for support while using a washbasin or stepping into the bath? Or is it for support when using the toilet?
Grab rails can be used to push up or to pull up with when transferring on/off the toilet. They may also be used from a standing position or when transferring from a wheelchair.
They are generally fixed to a rigid wall alongside the toilet. ‘Drop down’ versions of grab rails could be used where space is at a premium.
The strength of the wall is very important. Can the wall be strengthened or is an alternative solution required?
Positioning for use by the toilet
There is a vast range of grab rails which can be installed around a toilet. They may be simple portable frames or more complex and versatile wall mounted and drop down grab rails.
Drop down rails are mounted to the wall at the back of the toilet and fold down to a horizontal position. Some have a support leg which rests down on the floor when the rail is horizontal. Some models provide a single horizontal rail which provides support at one height; others consist of a looped rail which provides two alternative gripping positions.
Some rails have a built in toilet roll holder.
Drop down rails are particularly appropriate for users who may be transferring to and from a wheelchair. The length of these rails varies, shorter lengths may be appropriate if you require assistance from a carer.
Wall to floor toilet rails may be particularly suitable when the toilet does not have an adjacent wall.
As a general rule before having your chosen grab rail fitted sit on the toilet and check you can reach the rail comfortably where you intend to install it. This check goes for any rail being installed in your bathroom. You will need the help of a relative or friend to get your best positioning. The advice of an occupational therapist may also be needed.
Positioning for use by the bath
Wall-mounted rails which fit behind the taps of the bath and rest on the bath
rim can be folded up against the wall when not in use. They can be helpful to give confidence to people getting in and out of the bath. Sometimes these rails are used as an alternative to grab rails if there is a problem with fixing grab rails on the wall behind the bath or there is no wall behind the long side of the bath.
Care must be taken to ensure that the fixing mechanism remains secure. Ensure that the wall is strong enough to take the weight of this type of rail.
Straight grab rails are available in a variety of lengths and
thickness - a chunkier rail could be easier to grip if you have limited dexterity. Some rails have a special grip-assisted surface. As well as white and metallic finishes, you can choose brightly coloured rails for better visual contrast.
Angled grab rails are useful anywhere you want to change position for instance when you change from standing to sitting. Make sure that the rails are installed at the right level to suit yourself.
In some situations, where there isn't a convenient wall to fix a support, it may be more convenient to have a pole which is fitted to the floor, or floor-to-ceiling. A floor-to-ceiling pole is adjustable in height, and may need no structural work to install it.
Grab rails design and style
Grab rails are available in various finishes and colours to co-ordinate with your bathroom design. Some are chromed to match with your taps and and other metal fittings. Others may be plastic coated in white or simple subtle shades. They can also be manufactured from stainless steel to match with other accessories in your bathroom or shower room
Plastic grab rails and plastic-coated grab rails are particularly suitable for use in the bathroom and shower area. The plastic-coated grab rails have a core of metal for added strength.
Rails are available in different lengths, diameters and wall clearance measurements. Some have a higher weight capacity than others but they all depend on the strength of the wall to which they are fixed.
Grab rails in a bathroom should ideally have a ribbed or textured surface to give extra grip when wet. They should either be plastic or be earthed to protect against risk of electric shock.
Rails may be of a simple design with exposed screw or bolt heads or they may be more luxurious and up-market in appearance with hidden fixings. Each have their own particular features and benefits and can meet your budget.
For the visually impaired, rails should be installed with high contrast colours to make them stand out from the surrounding wall finishes and furniture.
Grab rails should always be fixed using the manufacturer’s instructions and should be fixed to suitably prepared walls with adequate fixings in accordance with the instructions. Rails are only as strong as the wall to which they are fixed and the fixings that are used. Many modern houses have internal partition walls that are not suitable for the installation of rails. Ensure that you are using the correct method and type of fixing for the material of the wall. If in doubt always consult a qualified tradesperson.