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How to install a Grab Bar

May 15, 2013

 

How to install a Grab Bar

 Grab bars are especially manufactured to hold at least 250 lbs. Towel bars and other light-duty bars are not strong enough to be used as a grab bar and withstand weight being applied. Therefore, Grab bars provide extra security in the bathroom for that first, perhaps, slippery step. Based on some customers asking us on how they are installed I have spoken with one of our partners and asked him to list some instructions that maybe useful. Ensuring that when positioned correctly the grab bars are anchored to the wall properly.

    Locate 2 studs on the wall to screw the grab bar onto. The studs are spaced at 16 inches apart and measured from centre to centre. You can locate them by knocking on the wall above the tile, by checking in the room the other side of the bathroom wall, or by using a stud sensor. To find the exact outline of the stud by hammer a thin finishing nail into the drywall or plaster in a place that can be easily tidied up afterwards.


    Extend the stud marks down to the grab bar location using a level. And place a strip of 1-1/2 inch masking tape onto the tile to indicate the studs. A good location for a grab bar is at an angle between two wall studs on the long back wall of the bath. The bottom of the grab bar should be about 6-10 inches above the top of the bath. For studs 16 inches apart, a 24 inch long bar provides a suitable angle.


    Drill a 1/8 inch hole with a glass-and-tile bit at the mark closest to the centre of each stud to confirm the stud location. If by any chance you hit solid wood, then drill the remaining holes. If not, then what I do is poke a piece of bendy wire through the hole and probe the hole until you can feel and find the stud. Reposition the grab bar and mark the holes over the new stud position. Usually and in most cases, the unused hole will be covered by the mounting plate on the grab bar.


    Use a ¼ inch glass and tile or masonry bit to enlarge the holes through the tile, but use a 5/32 inch drill bit to drill into the wood.


    Seal the back of the flange, and then screw the bar onto the wall using either No. 10 or 12 stainless steel pan-head screws. Ensure that the screws penetrate the studs at least 1 inch. In most cases, 2 inch screws are long enough to do the job.


    Finally, just like any other job you take pride in, test the grab bars by giving the bars a good firm pull in order to test their holding power and can withstand what they are for.

Tips for when doing the job:

    Most grab bars have 3 screw holes in each mounting flange, but you will more likely only be able to anchor 2 of the 3 screws into a typical 1-1/2 inch wide stud. Use a plastic anchor for the 3rd screw. As long as these screws penetrate at least an inch into sound wood, the grab bar will meet or exceed the 250-lb. load rating.
    Special gap-filling spacers are available for mounting grab bars on fiberglass baths.
    Look for grab bars that have a non-slip surface.
    If the grab bar doesn't have a gasket, put a little bit of silicone sealant behind on and around the flanges. As you don't want any water to get behind the walls!

Things to avoid:

If you don't think you can install the bar properly, then don't do it and ask the company you bought it from whether they or someone they can suggest can install it.    

Always use the screws that are included with the grab bar, or some that are equal and are made of stainless steel to prevent rusting – use nothing sub standard. Do not use smaller screws because these will not "bite" and take the studs properly. And the screw heads may not be large enough to hold the bar properly.

Never use toggle bolts or any other kind of anchor for at least 2 of the screws on each end. As you must hit a stud on both ends of the grab bar, in order to ensure the grab bar can sustain the weight of a person. Distributing 200+ lbs. over a square inch or more of this type of material will not make for a sufficient and sturdy install. The one exception would be if you are going into metal studs.

Things You Will Need to install the Grab bar

You will need an electric drill, a 4 ft. level, a 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch masonry or glass and tile bits, a 5/32 wood bit. And finally a Hammer and Screwdriver.


 

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