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I hired a "professional" painting crew to paint the stairs area, where the crew installed new brackets for the handrail. Unfortunately I did not supervise the work myself. I recently noticed that I have two problems:

  1. The screws for one bracket are not going into a stud! I think the bracket was attached to the plaster.
  2. The top two holes are stripped where the screw will spin freely. I believe that those two screws do not touch the lath board that is behind the plaster.

How should I fix the stripped hole in the plasterboard? Every time I am removing the screws all three holes get slightly larger as a bit of the plaster comes out too.

Should I start using plastic anchors? I'd like to re-use the three #10 1 1/2" screws that came with the brackets if possible.

By the way my house was built in the 1950s.

enter image description here

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I'd just do a standard plaster repair to cover the holes, then move the handrail anchor to where it can screw into a stud. Stairway handrails are a safety feature, and you don't want one to pull out of the wall when someone stumbles on a stair and grabs the railing to catch themselves. A handrail needs to support a 200 lb load in all directions. – Johnny Jan 10 at 0:51
@Johnny I understand your concern. Since the handrail is held up by 4 brackets and I know for sure that at least one of the brackets is attached to a stud, I think I will try to use plastic anchors. – wsw Jan 10 at 1:26
@wsw, it is safe to say the bracket was there before and it needs to go back there, presuming there is a stud there? It would wise to find the stud, plaster is strong, but I would not suggest it to be used to support a handrail bracket that has such a small "footprint" If you can probe the holes with a stiff wire to discern which holes have the stud behind them, would be helpful. – Jack Jan 10 at 3:36

Screws in wallboard do not support anything. Unless your screws hit a stud or an anchor of some sort, the bracket is decorative, not functional.

If there is not a stud in the immediate vicinity, you need to use a serious anchor. I would recommend using a strap toggle type anchor behind the bottom screw and one of the top screws.

strap toggle

The bolt can be replaced with a flat head version if you need that for your bracket.

I would use a plastic anchor for the third hole.

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The top two holes were stripped -- I decided to use plastic anchors (not self-tapping drywall anchors that spin) to fasten the #10 screws to the wall:

enter image description here

It's holding up well. I just have to patch up the plaster a bit because it took me two tries to insert the plastic anchors into the hole, which was pre-drilled with a 1/4" drill bit.

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