Before beginning the installation process of your bathroom grab bars, it is important to know what type of tub or shower you have.
In most cases, additional wood or structural material must be added to the shower walls - such as installing plywood between the shower unit and wall studs, or solid wood blocking between the wall studs. If you install a grab bar into an existing bathroom wall without providing the proper support, the grab bar installation will not secure properly. This could cause great harm if it pulls off the wall.
The easiest way to install proper support is to open the wall, either from the toilet room side of the wall, or if possible, through the back side of the wall from the adjacent room.
If you have a molded fiberglass shower, installation of grab bars will be more challenging. Most prefabricated units use a thin fiberglass plastic wall material that is not strong enough to support grab bar installation. If this is your situation, it's best to rely on a professional installer who has experience drilling holes through a fiberglass wall and knows the right equipment to use.
A variety of grab bars are available on the market. They come in different diameters and clearances to the wall, and various lengths, shapes and finishes. You need to find a grab bar that has a 1-1/4-inch to 1½-inch diameter (whichever fits your hand size best) and when mounted on the wall, provides a clearance no greater than 1½ inches. If the clearance to the wall is greater than 1½ inches, there is a safety concern. If you were to lose your balance, your arm could slide between the wall and grab bar. You could get "wedged" between the wall and grab bar or even break your arm.
Grab bars don't have to look institutional. Attractive finishes and decorative flanges and screw cover plates are available. Grab bars are available in various colors to match your decor, as well as brass, antique brass, chrome, bronze, oil-rubbed, etc. Some of the higher end plumbing showrooms carry the more decorative finishes and cover plates.