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How to Install a Grab Bar

How to Install a Grab Bar

Grab bars are specially manufactured to hold at least 250 lbs. when properly secured. Towel bars and other light-duty bars are not strong enough. Grab bars provide extra security in the bathtub for that first slippery step. In this article, you'll learn where to position grab bars and how to anchor them so they’re rock-solid.


  1. Locate wood stud
    Locate wood stud
    Locate two studs on the wall to screw the grab bar to. Studs are spaced 16 in. apart, measured from center to center. Locate them by knocking on the wall above the tile, checking in the room on the other side of the bath wall, or using a stud sensor. Then find the exact outline of the stud by hammering a finish nail into the drywall or plaster in an inconspicuous spot that can be easily patched later.
  2. Mark location
    Mark location
    Extend the stud marks down to the grab bar location with a level. Place a strip of 1-1/2 in. masking tape on the tile to indicate the studs. A good location for a bar is at an angle between two wall studs on the long back wall of the tub. The bottom of the bar should be about 6 to 10 in. above the top of the tub. For studs 16 in. apart, a 24-in. long bar provides a nice angle.
  3. Drill a 1/8-in. hole with a glass-and-tile bit at the mark closest to the center of each stud to confirm the stud location. If you hit solid wood, drill the remaining holes. If not, poke a piece of bent wire through the hole and probe until you feel the stud. Reposition the grab bar and mark the holes over the new stud position. In most cases, the unused hole will be covered by the mounting plate on the grab bar.
  4. Use a 1/4-in. glass-and-tile or masonry bit to enlarge the holes through the tile, but use a 5/32 in. bit to drill into the wood.
  5. Caulk the back of the flange, then screw the bar to the wall with No. 10 or 12 stainless steel pan head screws. Make sure the screws penetrate the studs at least 1 in. In most cases, 2-in. screws are long enough.
  6. Test the grab bar.
    Test the grab bar.
    Give the bars a good solid yank to test their holding power.



  • Most grab bars have three screw holes in each mounting flange, but you’ll only be able to anchor two of the three screws into a typical 1-1/2 in. wide stud. Use a plastic anchor for the third screw. As long as these screws penetrate at least an inch into sound wood, the grab bar will meet or exceed the 250-lb. load rating required by the government for public buildings.
  • Special gap-filling spacers are available for mounting grab bars on fiberglass tubs. Check with the manufacturer or a plumbing supplier.
  • If you simply can’t mount your grab bar to a stud or solid wood backing, then use toggle bolts - anchors that spread out behind hollow walls. They also work well with steel studs.


Things You'll Need

  • You'll need a drill, a 4 ft. level, a 1/8 in. and a 1/4 in. masonry or glass and tile bit, a 5/32 wood bit, a hammer and a screwdriver. You may also need a stud sensor if you have trouble locating wood studs.