Shower Grab Bar - Corrosion Report (2009 to 2013)
Brand: 'Liberty Hardware' (a.k.a. 'Safety First', a.k.a. 'Delta')
Type: 16 inch angled grab bar
(including images, links, PDF's, and info on
Introduction (corroded grab bar) :
In the fall of 2009, my wife and I had the bathroom next to our master bedroom remodeled. A bathtub-and-shower was replaced by a tiled shower (tiles on walls, smooth-pebble shower floor, and glass walls on 2 sides).
We bought a 'grab bar' at a local Lowe's home improvement store. The receipt (dated 2009 Nov 5) shows line item:
223520 16" Designer Angled Grab $44.98
Spec sheets for this grab bar (like the specifications in this Liberty Hardware PDF file) say that the grab bar was to be made of aluminum --- the grab bar, the posts, and the flanges.
The grab bar 'itself' held up well, for over 3 years, without corrosion. However, the mounting posts and flanges are a different story.
Between 3 and 4 years after installation, the 2 posts and 2 flanges began showing their true nature: Metal plating started flaking off of the posts and flanges ('big time') and revealed a white powdery substance below the metal plating --- on the surfaces of the metal constituting the majority of the posts and flanges.
The following 3 photos show, first, the grab bar from a distance, and then 2 close-up photos of the posts and flanges, showing the flaking and white-powdery corrosion.
Below is an image (taken 2013 Nov 11) of a portion of a Lowe's 'Grab Bars and Grips' web page that shows this grab bar listed (with item number 223520, as on my receipt).
This grab bar is listed as a 'Liberty Hardware' grab bar, and it is shown as out of stock (on 2013nov11).
Other Sources of Information on this Grab Bar
In looking for 'user reviews' of this grab bar, I found other web sites that advertise this grab bar --- some listing it as 'out of stock' (not available) but other sites indicating that it could be ordered:
Whenever an image of this 16-inch angled grab bar is shown, the image is usually the following image (scaled up or down).
A 'spec-sheet' page from the Liberty Hardware PDF file (local link above) explains why this grab bar is often described on various internet pages (such as amazon.com and various plumbing supply web sites) as a 'Liberty Hardware' grab bar and on other pages as a 'Safety First' grab bar. The small print at the bottom of the Liberty Hardware 'tech data' PDF file states that 'Safety First' is 'A Liberty Hardware Brand'.
It appears that Liberty Hardware may no longer be supporting this particular grab bar --- at least under the 'Safety First' name. In a 2013nov11 search of the libertyhardware.com web site, the site did not show the 16" angled bar among the 4 pages of 'Safety First' grab bars that appeared when clicking on the 'Safety First' category link at libertyhardware.com. No angled grab bars were shown in the 4 'Safety First' pages.
On the other hand, this 'Liberty Hardware' site shows grab bars under 4 brands: 'Delta', 'Franklin Brass', 'Peerless', and 'Safety First Bathware'. Apparently, 'Delta' grab bars are provided by Liberty Hardware.
I was able to find a Delta grab bar that looks just like the Safety First 16-inch angled grab bar --- under the part name DFA5316SN. The technical data sheet was listed as unavailable ('N/A'). And the installation instructions PDF file was a joke (no pictures of the flange mounting holes nor any other details; just very poor verbal instructions, mostly vague statements about locating a stud).
I was led to the conclusion that this 16-inch angled grab bar is being sold under various brand names --- 'Liberty Hardware', 'Safety First', 'Delta', ... And, no matter what site is advertising this grab bar, the specs and installation instructions (when available) are a joke --- they do not give any details on the mounting flanges and posts.
Amazon.com is usually a great site for reviews, but even at amazon.com I could not find a review of this grab bar by anyone who reviewed it more than a year after installation.
I found a review of a Moen grab bar in which the reviewer complained of metal peeling like we experienced. But I was unable to find the review when I looked a couple of days later. (Review removed?)
Several man-days of Web Searches --- for alternatives
I spent many days searching the web for more information on this grab bar -- in particular, information such as:
These web searches were extremely frustrating, because I could find no such details for the 16" angled grab bar --- no helpful reviews --- and no details on the posts and flanges (neither their material make-up, nor diagrams of those parts of the grab bar).
The only view of the holes of a mounting plate (with center hole mounting, like the Liberty Hardware grab bar) that I have been able to find is for 'concealed mount' American Specialties grab bars, as indicated in the following photo or as seen at amazon.com.
Furthermore, it is difficult to find good, 'non-generic' images of the holes in mounting plates for ANY grab bar. Why won't Liberty Hardware, Delta, Moen, Kohler, and others show the details of the hole patterns of their mounting plates --- and include instruction details tailored to those hole patterns???
I can see why re-sellers may not include links to good images and instructions (due to lack of due diligence), but even the images and instructions on the manufacturer web sites are very poor.
Having said that, here are some of the best installation and specs files that I have been able to find. (Note that they do not discuss how to make the joints as water-tight as possible.)
Someday I may add some of the many examples of amazingly poor 'spec sheets' (sometimes called 'tech data') and 'installation instructions' that I have encountered for grab bars.
Here is one example of poor installation instructions. Here is the PDF file at the Liberty Hardware web site that was offered as installation instructions for their 16-inch angled grab bar. Surely they jest. Adjectives such as 'generic' and 'skimpy' and 'useless' come to mind.
Many grab bars are supplied with 3 screws for each of the mounting flanges, and they recommend putting the screws in studs. But then the images in the installation instructions (if you can find instructions or images) show only 2 screws in each stud, as in these installation instructions for a straight grab bar (PDF).
And in many manufacturer images, they show 2 screws in one stud (for one flange) and only 1 screw in the other stud (for the other flange) --- because that's the best you can do with a 16" grab bar and studs 16" apart, given the fixed arrangement of holes in most of the flanges. And yet the manufacturers' installation intructions recommend putting all 3 of the screws for each flange in the studs. The manufacturers do not tell you how to achieve this state of grace.
By the way, I really like the fact that the Liberty Hardware 16" angled grab bar used hex-head lag bolts, rather than relatively skinny phillips-head screws, to mount the grab bar to the wall. And they used good-sized allen-head bolts rather than tiny ones like I have seen in some Moen bars, to secure other components of the bar. If the posts and flanges had not corroded on this grab bar, I would give it a high rating.
But you would never know that they use hex-head lag bolts or heavy-duty allen screws --- because the Liberty Hardware spec sheets and install instructions do not ever describe or show images of those components.
After much web searching, I found a Liberty Hardware U.K. patent applicaton for attaching a grab bar (PDF, 16pgs) (2009). The diagram at the bottom of page 1 gives a nice view of how the lag bolt is used to mount the Liberty Hardware 16" angled grab bar. They would do their customers quite a service if they would put this diagram in an install guide (and in a spec sheet) on their web site. I guess I will never know why they have not done that. (Patent pending?)
A Liberty Hardware U.S. patent applicaton for a non-circular cross-section grab bar (PDF, 6pgs) (2011) has an image on page one that gives a good view of how a bolt is used to attach the grab bar to the post. This image should also be in an install guide (and in a spec sheet) on their web site.
After finding no good information (reviews, metal-plating materials info, recall info, redesign-and-improvement info, etc.) on the Liberty Hardware 16" angled grab bar, I started looking for information on grab bars that might serve as a substitute --- preferably a grab bar with the same dimensions --- to meet up with the 2 mounting holes drilled into our shower wall tiles --- 17 and 3/32 inches apart, at an angle between two studs that are 16 inches apart.
It was soon apparent that 16-inch angled grab bars (with a little more than 17 inches between post centers) are rare --- and usually have different mounting flanges from the 'Safety First' grab bar (when one could find any info or images on the geometry of the mounting flanges).
My best bet was to find an 18-inch straight grab bar that had a 'flexible' pattern of holes in the mounting flanges --- BUT, again and again, I found that for any candidate grab bar, the 'technical specs' were useless (they did not show any detail of the mounting flanges and posts).
It is amazing how much useless information there is on the internet with respect to shower grab bars.
That said, here are some 18-inch straight grab bars:
Note the rarity of meaningful reviews --- for essentially ALL of the grab bars listed on this page. Note: No reviews from people several years after installation.
Seeking info from Lowe's (site of purchase)
In early November 2013, I went to Lowe's and talked to a staff member in the plumbing department. He did not have any solutions for me. This Lowe's did not have this grab bar in stock; so a replacement was not an option. However, he called someone and gave me a phone number for Liberty Hardware: 336-771-6833. This number differs from the local number (366-769-4077) shown on the libertyhardware.com web site.
I found an 800 number on the libertyhardware.com web site: 1-800-542-3789. (They are located in Winston-Salem, NC. Liberty Hardware is now "part of the fine family of MASCO companies".)
Results from calling these phone numbers is to be reported here.
Poor Documentation for this and ALL grab bars
The specification and installation data sheets (available on the internet) for this 'Liberty Hardware'/'Safety First'/'Delta' grab bar are quite poor:
No details on the appearance of the mounting plates --- nor details on installation tailored to the holes in the mounting plates.
But it is like this for ALL grab bars. After multiple man-days (over 48 man-hours of web searches), I have yet to find a spec sheet for a grab bar that shows the correct details (with complete geometric measurements, not just an image) of its mounting flange.
In most cases, there is no image at all of the mounting flange and its hole pattern. Or, worse, there is a 'generic' image that does not properly depict the flange.
In an ideal world, there would be detailed specs and instructions available for grab bars --- preferably with image 'templates', that can be used by the potential purchaser, to place on their wall for installation planning.
Also the specs should be clear about whether the bar was 'made in China' or 'made in the USA'. And it should be clearly stated whether stainless steel grab bars are made with corrosion-resistant 304 or 316 stainless steel (greater than 10% chromium) or some lower grade that can be expected to crumble in a year or two. (Reference on stainless steel grades: Wikipedia)
For anyone looking for useful details on a shower grab bar, 'I pity the fool'.
Bottom of Liberty Hardware Shower Grab Bar - Corrosion Report page.
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Page created 2013 Nov 11. Changed 2013 Nov 15.