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I recently removed the old towel rack in the bathroom (which was badly installed because it left huge holes inside and the rack was hanging and I had to literally tug it out, which took me ages!) and an old toilet roll paper holder. I filled up the holes with Selley's putty, sanded it and have painted both toilet and bathroom. Now I want to attach three fixtures: a rack, roll holder and a wooden rack above the toilet to hang a basket as a space saver. I am terrified it will not be drilled in properly and want some advice before I call a handyman. This way I can't be cheated out of $100 with a damaged wall and I know what is happening. Any advice would be good.

One wall is drywall with an external wall on the other side and the roll holder and rack need to be attached on drywall.

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3 Answers 3

Sounds like you pulled out some butterfly anchors instead of unscrewing them, or even large molly type.

What I do in situations like this is to install a decorative BOARD behind the towel rack or toilet paper holder, on the surface of the drywall, which screws directly into studs. This can simply be a piece of 1X4 with routed or finished edges, or baseboard or crown molding in 3 inch or larger width, painted white or the wall color. If desired, continue around the room at a single height, making this look like a standard feature similar to the top of chair rail decoration.

Install this with screws long enough to reach into the studs behind the drywall, I typically use 3 inch long self drilling screws. If you don't want the screw heads to show, spackle over them or use caulk before painting. The baseboard or molding typically can be found in 3 inch or larger widths, cut to length as needed, providing enough room to install the racks or fixtures on it. The racks can then can screw into this. This eliminates any unsightly holes or bad patching that might be present, as the board goes right over them. Studs are typically 16 inches on center, use a stud finder to locate them. For the toilet paper holder, if the board is attached by screws into one stud firmly, and the other end is installed with butterfly anchors, it should never come off the wall.

The exception would be a block wall behind the drywall, which probably would have furring strips holding it up. You'd then be able to use a drill and concrete anchors with longer screws to hold up either the board, or the racks themselves.

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On the wall with drywall in front of the external wall, if that external wall is concrete you may have to use a wall anchor such as a tapcon or something similar to secure the rack to the wall. For more details, check out this question of me wanting to do the same thing.

For the drywall only wall, you can get by with basic drywall anchors, if you're not (or can't because of location) drill directly into a stud behind the drywall. This is because screwing directly to just drywall alone isn't really secure, and a not so soft 'tug' or multiple tugs may loosen your screws over time, sagging your racks, looking awful (you may have seen that before).

Anchors prevent this, in different ways. Some expand when the real screw is screwed end, others have wider threads. As long as you use an anchor with a decent weight rating (25lbs should be fine, no one is doing chinups off of your towel rack), it'll be around for a while.

I'll also say follow the directions provided with the anchors. Some require a pre-drilled hole, some don't. The ones that do usually provide

  1. A drill bit

  2. Instructions for the specific size hole to be drilled, then they can be pushed or gently hammered into the hole.

After that, screw the screws for your rack directly into the anchor. You may have to use the screws that came with the anchor or the size screw that the anchor instructions specified, or you may get away with the screws that came with your rack. If those screws are the 'pretty' ones or will be seen when the rack is installed, you may want to get anchors that are sized for screws close to the ones you'll be using.

This sounds complicated, but it's really not. The main thing is attention to detail and prepwork, as mentioned above. My guess is that from all the trouble you went through to get the old ones off, they might have done the same thing.

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Heh, yes no chin ups, but you'd be surprised how much load some people will put on these things in an effort raise themselves off the toilet. If there's anyone elderly and/or overweight in your family or who may visit on occasion, do not rely on any kind of drywall anchor for any fixture within reach of the toilet. All screws need to go into solid wood or plywood. Plywood can be flush mounted behind drywall (requires drywall removal/replacement) or surface mounted. Not attractive but effective and easy. –  bcworkz Jan 3 '14 at 2:07
Good point about in reach of the toilet, certainly true! –  BigHomie Jan 3 '14 at 2:42

I'd suggest either using an anchor as suggested above, or possibly buying a rack that you can screw right into any studs, which clearly you'd have to find.

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A suggestion: if you're attaching the towel rack to the studs, upgrade to a grab bar. Those are designed to attach to studs, and are generally designed to stand up to stuff that would break a towel rack in half. –  user3757614 Jul 23 at 22:26

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