Grab bars are specially manufactured to hold at least 250 lbs. when properly secured. Towel bars and other light-duty bars are not strong enough. Grab bars provide extra security in the bathtub for that first slippery step. In this article, you'll learn where to position grab bars and how to anchor them so they’re rock-solid.
- Drill a 1/8-in. hole with a glass-and-tile bit at the mark closest to the center of each stud to confirm the stud location. If you hit solid wood, drill the remaining holes. If not, poke a piece of bent wire through the hole and probe until you feel the stud. Reposition the grab bar and mark the holes over the new stud position. In most cases, the unused hole will be covered by the mounting plate on the grab bar.
- Use a 1/4-in. glass-and-tile or masonry bit to enlarge the holes through the tile, but use a 5/32 in. bit to drill into the wood.
- Caulk the back of the flange, then screw the bar to the wall with No. 10 or 12 stainless steel pan head screws. Make sure the screws penetrate the studs at least 1 in. In most cases, 2-in. screws are long enough.
- Most grab bars have three screw holes in each mounting flange, but you’ll only be able to anchor two of the three screws into a typical 1-1/2 in. wide stud. Use a plastic anchor for the third 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 required by the government for public buildings.
- Special gap-filling spacers are available for mounting grab bars on fiberglass tubs. Check with the manufacturer or a plumbing supplier.
- If you simply can’t mount your grab bar to a stud or solid wood backing, then use toggle bolts - anchors that spread out behind hollow walls. They also work well with steel studs.
Things You'll Need
- You'll need a drill, a 4 ft. level, a 1/8 in. and a 1/4 in. masonry or glass and tile bit, a 5/32 wood bit, a hammer and a screwdriver. You may also need a stud sensor if you have trouble locating wood studs.