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Any bathroom can benefit from the added safety of grab bars. They are very effective in helping prevent slips and falls in the bath. Read on to learn tips on how to install grab bars in your bath.
Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.
Try climbing in and out of your tub or shower—minus the water—to get an idea where grab bars should be placed, and mount them where they work best for everyone using that bathroom. Always mount grab bars into a stud that sits behind the wall. Or, if the stud can't be located, use an anchoring device. Be sure there is adequate room within the hollow area behind the wall so an anchoring device will work. Grab bars can be placed vertically, horizontally or diagonally depending on your needs.
At the entry to the shower or tub.
In the shower or tub.
Near the toilet.
Mark mounting locations on the wall with strips of 1-1/2-in painter’s tape at the height you need and roughly as long as the grab bar you want.
Using a stud finder, locate the positions of wall studs and mark them on the painter’s tape strips
Using the grab bar mounting flange as your guide, mark the pilot hole locations oriented over your stud marks. For mounting on drywall, you’ll need to drill pilot holes using a bit that’s slightly smaller than the shaft of the mounting screw (the core that the threads wrap around). Check the directions for a manufacturer’s recommendation. Drill pilot holes through the drywall and check to make certain you drilled into a stud on the other side.
If you're drilling through ceramic tiles, you need glass / tile drill bits. For driving screws into a stud, use a 1/4-in bit to drill only through the tile and part of the drywall but not into the stud. For installing the Snaptoggle anchors used here, drill a 1/2-in hole through both the tile and drywall.
Drive the mounting screws that came with your grab bar, or use 2-1/2-in panhead screws. Pay attention to the resistance you feel as you drive the screws. If you feel the resistance slack off before you’re finished, that could be a sign the screw tip broke through the side of the stud, reducing its strength.
Slide the grab bar covers over the mounting flanges and apply moderate pressure to the bar to test the strength.
The grab bar directions call for three screws per flange, which works fine for mounting on studs. But drilling that many 1/2-in holes in plain drywall can weaken the wall enough for the mounting area to break off. Instead, use two heavy-duty toggle-bolt anchors placed in the upper half of the flange with the metal channels positioned vertically. You can use three anchors per flange in tile over drywall and in plaster walls—particularly plaster over lath—because both are stronger than plain drywall.
Mark the flange hole openings on painter’s tape and find the center of each hole as you would for driving screws into a stud. Tape also helps keep the bit from wandering and tile from cracking as you start the hole. For the Snaptoggle anchors used here, we drilled 1/2-in holes and carefully removed any loose pieces of drywall paper.
Hold the metal channel against the anchor’s plastic straps, slide it through the hole, and make certain the metal channel is vertical. Hold the ends of the plastic straps and pull them toward you until the channel seats against the back side of the wall. Slide the plastic cap along the mounting with your other hand until the cap is flush against the wall.
Using the screws supplied with the anchor, fasten the mounting flanges to the wall on both ends. Apply equal pressure to the screws holding each flange to prevent the bar from rocking and damaging the drywall. Tighten the screws until they’re finger-tight against the mounting flange, then add a half-turn.
Slide the covers over the flanges and give the bar a strong pull to test the strength of the bar.