Grab Bars vs Tub Rail: Which Equipment Should You Use For A Bath Transfer?

When someone is having difficulty with getting in or out of a bathtub, equipment such as grab bars or a tub rail can be used to help someone with the transfer.

This article will compare and contrast grab bars and a tub rail to help illustrate when one device should be used over the other.

What Is A Grab Bar And How Is It Used?

A grab bar is a rod made of metal that is drilled into a stud that sits behind the wall. There are alternatives that hold onto a smooth surface with suction, however they generally receive less favourable reviews.

The grab bars can be grasped by the handle and pulled on for support to stand, used to adjust or shift one’s body position and to help steady one’s balance. This equipment is commonly found in many bathrooms designed with senior safety and accessibility in mind.


What Is A Tub Rail And How Is It Used?

A tub rail is usually clamped onto the side of the tub and offers a railing for which someone can hold for support. By bearing some of one’s weight on the device, one can have an easier time with stepping in and out of a bathtub.


Should You Use Grab Bars or a Tub Rail?

When deciding between grab bars and a tub rail, it is important to consider a few factors:

Available studs

Grab bars need to be drilled into studs located in the wall. Depending on stud availability, grab bars may not be located in the most optimal position to help someone to use to get in or out of the tub, or while in the bathtub. 

Bathtub wall must not be curved

The side wall of the bathtub must not be curved. Only a flat wall would provide the necessary area for a tub rail’s clamp to hold securely onto. 

Renting your home

When renting a home, any permanent addition or renovation must be communicated with the landlord to seek approval. In some cases where approval cannot be granted, less permanent options need to be considered.

Tub rails and suction grab bars are some of the favoured bathroom safety devices as they are removable and can be placed away into storage when not in use. Suction based grab bars can only be placed on a smooth surface, so finding a surface can be difficult.


Ultimately, each individual and home is different. It is important to consider the location where the device will be used, the abilities of its user and the amount of space that will be required to use the equipment safely.

This chart will summarize the different features and similarities between a grab bar and a tub rail:

Tub RailGrab Bars
No studs required. Needs the side of a bathtub to be relatively flat (not curved).Needs to be installed in studs on an adjacent wall.
Temporary device that can be removed as needed. Great for safety equipment for renters.Grab bars that are drilled into the wall are usually considered more permanent, and would need the permission of a landlord to install. Suction grab bars may be an option for some scenarios.