Are you on a quest to find the optimal shower rod? If you are renovating your bathroom to make it more user-friendly for aging needs or trying to optimize the bathtub or shower space for someone using a walker or wheelchair, you might find it is necessary to replace the current shower rod with a different type.
Shower rods (the bar for holding the shower curtain) exist in a variety of shapes, styles, and lengths to fit all types of needs. In order to determine which one is right for you, it is helpful to first understand what types of shower rods exist. Below we have provided a list of the different types of shower rods, followed at the end by tips for helping you select one that is best suited for your needs.
Shower Rod Types
- Standard Straight Shower Rod: A straight shower rod permanently fixed in place between two opposing walls.
- Curved Shower Rod: A curved shower rod is also permanently fixed in place between two opposing walls, but it is different from a straight rod because it bows slightly outwards. The curvature moves the center part of the curtain a little further out, giving a bather more elbow space inside of a narrow bathtub. Curved rods can be ordered as a single rod or as a double rod (two curved rods side-by-side). The latter type allows for hanging both a liner on the inside and a shower curtain on the outside.
- Telescoping Pivoting Shower Rod: This is a long straight shower curtain rod that gets attached via a hinge to one wall. It can be shortened and lengthened as needed (hence the telescoping part). The hinge permits the curtain to swing in and out allowing easy entry by the user or by a caregiver.
- L-Shaped Shower Rod: As the name implies, this rod is shaped like an “L.” It can be attached to the walls and/or to the ceiling and is most commonly used for corner shower stalls or for installing a shower curtain over a slide-in or walk-in style bathtub.
- U-Shaped and D-Shaped Shower Rods: Once again, the names say it all. These rods are shaped liked the letter “U” and “D”. They can be attached to the walls and/or to the ceiling and are most commonly used for creating a simple shower stall in a place where one didn’t exist previously or for installing a shower in a tiny bathroom.
- Neo-Angle Shower Rod: This is yet another variation of the U-shaped shower rod. The only difference is that the two ends of the “U” are spread out further, creating a trapezoid shape when it is fixed to the wall. This type is usually installed in the corner of the room (like the L-shaped rods) or installed in the front of an existing small shower stall and used to increase the space inside.
- Circular, Oval, Square, and Rectangular Shaped Rods exist as well, and are most often used for hanging a curtain around a freestanding bathtub (i.e. a clawfoot tub) or over a specialized tub, such as a walk-in tub or slide-in bathtub.
- Track-Style Rods: Some shower rods have been specially designed with a track attached to the bottom that runs along the underside of the rod. The track has built-in hooks for holding the shower curtain, which slide back and forth along the track on wheels. Track-style rods can be found in all types and styles ranging from straight rods, to L-Shaped, U-shaped, and so on. The ones that are equipped with metal tracks and metal hooks will tend to last longer and glide better than models that have plastic tracks and plastic hooks. Some tracks are even designed to be fixed directly to the ceiling (versus attached to a shower rod). If you do opt to install a track that attaches to the ceiling, it will be necessary to purchase a longer shower curtain.
- Bendable Shower Rods: Bendable rods make it possible to create a custom shaped rod to fit a unique-sized shower space.
- Spring Loaded Shower Rod: This is a single, straight rod (aka tension rod) that is not fixed permanently to the shower walls. The rod is adjusted by turning the end of the rod till it exerts enough pressure on the walls to remain fixed in place. Confirm the rod’s minimum and maximum achievable lengths are suitable for the dimensions of the space you will install it.
Shower Rod: Considerations
Some things to take into consideration when picking a shower rod for accessibility-related needs include:
1. The Less Joints & Angles the Better!
The less joints, seams, and abrupt angles a rod has, the less chance the shower curtain rings or hooks will get stuck when the curtain is being pulled open and closed. Shower curtain hooks and rings will typically glide easiest along straight rods. The curved, oval, and round rods are next best. There is a greater chance for the hooks and rings to get caught at the more abrupt angles found on square, rectangular and neo-angle rods.
2. Strength of the Rod
The stronger the rod, the less likely it will be to break if someone reaches up to use it for support when stepping in and out of the tub or shower. Shower rods can come in a variety of different materials including plastic, bamboo, brass, aluminum, steel, and stainless steel. In terms of strength, steel, stainless steel, and bamboo (treated to prevent moisture absorption) are the strongest materials, making them less likely to break. Stainless steel comes in different gauges. The lower the number, the stronger the rod (i.e. 18 gauge steel is stronger than 20 gauge steel).
Rod stability can alternatively be enhanced by adding one or more ceiling supports that extend from the rod to the ceiling. Ceiling supports can be purchased separately and added to an existing rod or a shower rod can be purchased with a ceiling support included as part of the design.
3. Uh-oh! The Ceiling Support Blocks the Shower Curtain From Closing!
Many shower rods have one or more small vertical bars that extend upwards to the ceiling, providing added support to prevent the middle of the shower rod from sagging down. The point where the ceiling support attaches to the rod can create a “roadblock” preventing the shower curtain rings from passing over the top of the rod.
There are three possible solutions to remedy this problem. You can buy a standard-style shower rod with a ceiling support and two shower curtains and then hang them via shower curtain rings on on either side of the ceiling support. A second option is to purchase a track-style rod that has built-in wheeled hooks hanging down from the underside of the rod, allowing the curtain to pass uninterrupted underneath the ceiling support. Or, a third option is to install a track with wheeled shower curtain hooks that gets fixed directly to the ceiling. If you opt for the latter solution, you will need an extra-long shower curtain.
4. Shower Curtain Rings Versus Track-Style Rod: Which is Best?
A shower curtain attached to a well-designed track-style rod will usually be easier to open and close than one attached to a rod via shower curtain rings. Neither solution is perfect though, because both shower curtain rings and the wheeled hooks found on a track-style shower rod can get caught on occasion, making it impossible for someone who is short or someone seated in a wheelchair to slide the shower curtain open and closed.
The hooks on the track-style rods typically work best in conjunction with a straight track-style rod than a model with angles (i.e. L-shaped). The track-style rods with metal tracks and metal hooks will typically glide better than ones with plastic tracks and hooks. Most people feel the shower curtain rings with metal roller balls work better than shower curtain rings that do not have roller balls.
5. Shower Rod for A Wheelchair User or Person of Shorter Stature
As noted above, a shower curtain attached to either shower curtain rings or a track-style rod both have potential to get caught on occasion, which can make it impossible for someone who is sitting in a wheelchair or someone of shorter stature to slide the curtain open and closed. An option for avoiding this problem is to install a telescoping pivoting shower rod. This type of shower rod does not require the shower curtain to be slid back and forth along a track, but instead allows the curtain to be swung open and closed, like a hinge-style door.
One drawback, however, for this type of shower rod is that if there is a strong, steady stream of water (I.e. from a handheld shower head) the curtain may get pushed open. One remedy is to attach shower clips to the wall. Then, once you have arrived inside the shower and swing the curtain closed, you can tuck the end of the curtain into the shower clip to help prevent the curtain from blowing open.
6. Shower Rod for Ceiling Lift Users
Do you need to install a ceiling lift to assist with transfers into and out of the bathtub or shower? If so, then one of the telescoping pivoting-style curtain rods is a good consideration. Why? A standard permanently installed shower rod will create a road block, preventing the ceiling lift from passing across the track and into the shower. In contrast, the pivoting-style shower curtain rods (ones that are attached to the wall via a single hinge) can be swung back out of the way when you enter the shower and swung back into place once you have arrived inside the shower stall or bathtub. One drawback of a pivoting rod is that it may get pushed open with a strong steady sideways stream of water from a handheld showerhead. A shower clip (or clips) can be applied to the wall to help secure the curtain in place after you arrive inside the shower or tub.
8. Create a Shower Where One Didn’t Exist Before
A shower stall can be created in a place where one didn’t formally reside by hanging curtains from a U-shaped or D-shaped shower rod or by placing an L-shaped shower or neo-angle shower rod in the corner of the room, instead of installing formally constructed walls. Curtain-style shower stalls are often used outside near a jacuzzi tub, in the garage, in the basement, or inside a small bathroom with limited space. In the latter case, when the shower stall’s floor is flush with the bathroom floor (curbless-style shower), the curtain can be pushed back against the wall when the shower is not in use to increase the room’s overall usable clear floor space, making it much easier for someone who uses a walker or wheelchair to move around more freely inside the bathroom throughout the day.
If you do opt to install a curtain-style shower stall in a small bathroom where one did not formally exist, a wet-room style bathroom floor, shower drain, and slip-resistant flooring will need to be installed in the bathroom. If you do not want the rod to be jutting out into the room when the shower is not in use, a track-style rod that is designed to be mounted directly to the ceiling is a consideration. A combination of water containment methods can be further used to help contain the water in the shower area.
8. Color & Finish
Shower rods are available in different materials including plastic, stainless steel, pine, mahogany and bamboo. They are also offered in multiple finishes such as chrome, nickel, brass, copper, gold and oil rubbed bronze. If you’d like an unusual shower rod color, you can even purchase a shower rod powder-coated in the custom color of your choice.
The Homeability Advice™
For persons who rent, or those who need a quick, cost-effective solution while recovering from a short term injury or illness, a spring loaded tension rod is a good option. In cases where time and funds allow, Homeability recommends installing a shower rod that is firmly attached to the wall, because persons who are unsteady on their feet have a tendency to reach out and hold onto anything accessible to stabilize themselves as they move through a room. If they were to pull on a curtain that’s hanging on a tension rod, it will fall down, and it is likely, so will they.
If you are in the process of enhancing your shower to make it safer and easier to access, it is quite likely you will also be finding yourself in need of a new shower curtain to go with your new shower rod. This in turn means you have one more decision to make. Visit Homeability’s Accessible Shower Curtain guide for helpful tips on choosing the right shower curtain for your needs.
Are you just beginning to set off on the quest to make your shower more easily accessible? If so, we recommend visiting the links below to get a quick overview of the basics on ways you can make your shower easier to access and use, as well as tips and tricks for how to best optimize your shower for your personal needs.
- Beginner’s Guide to Accessible Showers
- Curbless Showers – A Great Age-Proof Bathing Solution!
- Tips for Selecting a Prefabricated Accessible Shower
- Handheld Showerhead: The Basics
- “Clear Floor Space” Guidelines for Accessible Bathrooms