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Hi one of my tenants sent me a pictures of my broken towel rack. What would be the most cost effective fix? enter image description here

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    Well, firstly you need to tell your tenant to stop using the towel rail as a handrail ... That large of a hole in the wall implies the rail was originally properly installed using a decent drywall anchor, and sufficient force was applied to rip it through the drywall. it can certainly be repaired, but without major wall surgery not much can be done to make it strong enough to double as a handrail. – brhans Aug 14 '18 at 11:43
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    Title is incorrect: Towel rack was pulled out of the wall. Charge tenant for repairs. – The Evil Greebo Aug 14 '18 at 12:30
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    @TheEvilGreebo - I'd agree with Jim Stewart on the practical realities. Tell your tenant not to do it again, sure, but charging for a 50p / 50c replacement anchor and a few minutes labour? I'd rather keep a good relationship with my tenants, as long as they're not causing bigger problems. – AndyT Aug 14 '18 at 13:05
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    @SharifBhuiyan - FYI your towel rail is on upside-down. You shouldn't be able to see the grub screws (/set screws or whatever name you know them by) from above. More an aesthetic comment than anything important. – AndyT Aug 14 '18 at 13:06
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    People sometimes trip in the bathroom and may hold on to a handrail-like object. There is nothing wrong with that and the tenant is not at fault; obviously has no particular interest in measuring the wall mount strength of the racks, or doing press-ups with a low hand rail. – einpoklum Aug 15 '18 at 9:15
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The traditional solution for a pulled out towel rack is to remove the towel rack, patch the holes (usu two on each end) and place the rack slightly higher or lower. An experienced or inventive person can patch the existing hole and, by adding reinforcement, remount in the same location.

These racks are secured to a pair of metal brackets on the wall with the rack fastened to the brackets by small screws on the undersides. To repair it loosen or remove the screws underneath and then lift the rack off. Then deal with remounting on the side that pulled out.

Oftentimes the original installation was inferior and damaged the drywall, leading to premature failure. The traditional mounting for a towel rack is plastic anchors which require drilling a small hole (3/8" dia or less) in the drywall.

Newer anchors don't require drilling. These have a sharp end that can be forced into the drywall and then plastic threads which pull the anchor into the drywall when twisted. The metal screw for the bracket is screwed into the center of the plastic anchor.

However, in this situation you have a large hole which invites a possible quick repair with one of the new Wingit type anchors intended for grab bars. This might or might not work, but I for one would consider it. The Wingit screw has a rather large head and you'd need to be sure that the existing brackets would accept that.

If I were installing towel racks in a rental property I would consider the Wingits towel bars. I happen to think that tubs and showers should be fitted with grab bars even without elderly or disabled users. Stepping into a tub has some risk. The shower may have been turned on but is not up to temperature and the person steps in quickly and off balance to avoid cold spray. At the very least have an 18" or 24" vertical bar at the entrance to the tub and a long (36", 42", 48") bar horizontal on the long wall.

Base level Wingit 3/4" diameter hole Base level Wingit requires 3/4" diameter hole

If I were going to use a Wingit for a towel bar, I would plan on using only one per side because of the hole spacing on the standard towel bar. The recommended drill bit is the Wingit Apache200 carbide 3/4" drill bit, but anything that will cut a 3/4" hole in the wall should work. I can imagine trying the tip of a drywall saw if I had to (but would probably regret that).

EDIT The following type of drywall anchor works amazingly well and requires no power tools for installation. It does work in undamaged drywall. Screw-in plastic drywall anchors

One product for a drywall repair is shown here: Insta-Back Drywall Repair kit

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    +1 Other products which'll work for large holes: grip-it, or spring toggles. Spring toggles probably being the most forgiving of an uneven hole. – AndyT Aug 14 '18 at 13:02
  • Great answer, but wouldn't it profit from a simple explanation on how to fix a large-ish small hole in a drywall? sand it down some, remove loose pieces, find a spare piece of drywall that fits, or make it fit, get a reinforcement patch, apply paste, fix it, apply paste around it, let dry and sand down / paint. – Stian Yttervik Aug 15 '18 at 8:09
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    I started using metal drywall clips by Hyde to hold small patches with fiberglass tape or commercial patch and mud on the joint. But I have never felt satisfied with any simple patching technique as far as supporting anchors because the paper on the back side is not continuous. It seems to me that inserting wood behind the patch is the only way to make a structurally strong patch. – Jim Stewart Aug 15 '18 at 12:07
  • The Wingit link is dead. All I get is the message “Access Denied: You don't have permission to access "homedepot.com/p/…?" on this server.” Maybe you could inline an image or something in the answer itself? – zrajm Aug 15 '18 at 23:07
  • Link works for me, but I added a picture of what I think is the base level Wingit $15 for 6 so $2.50 each. There is a range of these Wingits with the most expensive stainless steel one costing $30 each and rated at 800 lb pull out force (in suitable walls) and requiring a 1.25" diameter hole. – Jim Stewart Aug 15 '18 at 23:37
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Get to the Studs

Regular anchors are fine for an ordinary towel bar. But not for a grab bar. For regular anchors to work here, you would need to (a) patch the drywall, (b) install the towel bar with heavy-duty anchors and hope the patch is strong enough to hold them and (c) teach the tenant - and future tenants - to not use the towel bar as a grab bar.

The problem, as is often the case, is location. Based on the picture, it appears quite natural that this towel bar would get used occasionally as a grab bar, so the problem could easily happen again.

The solution is to install a real grab bar or reinstall the towel bar with the same (or close to) holding power as a grab bar. To do that, you need to get into the studs.

The wall section is very short, so there may be a stud in the middle, but more likely just at the ends. I would do the following:

  • Remove the other end of the towel bar.
  • Cut a short piece of wood - e.g., 1" x 4", length cut to fit between the tile and the doorway.
  • Install it over the existing drywall holes (the big new hold and the small anchor holes on the other end). Now you don't need to patch the drywall. Make sure you screw into at least one stud, preferably two. If you can only hit one stud, use heavy-duty anchors in two evenly spaced other locations along the wood.
  • Paint the wood to match either the existing wall color or the trim/tile. Use a gloss or semi-gloss finish for durability. You could also stain it, but from the picture I think paint to match wall or trim would look better.
  • Install the towel bar on the wood using wood screws.
  • Oftentimes studs or blocking is not present at the desired location. There are now anchors that are for all practical and legal purposes just as good as screwing into structural wood. In fact some of these products advertise that they obviate the need for installing blocking in a shower renovation or new construction. Wingits are a leading product line and others are copying them. – Jim Stewart Aug 14 '18 at 14:23
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    My concern with Wingits (which I've never used but I looked at the information and they do seem to be quite heavy-duty) or other heavy-duty anchors is that in the end you are still relying on the strength of the drywall. In a case like this one (unlike installing on a new wall), there is significant damage. So installation using Wingits or similar anchors would really be dependent on cutting out a larger section of drywall and patching it securely, sanding, painting, etc. That is, in my opinion, likely to be more work than installing a board behind the full length of the towel bar. – manassehkatz Aug 14 '18 at 14:56
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    What would you think about cutting out a rectangular section of drywall and replacing it with a board of comparable thickness (possibly reinforcing the area between the studs by screwing a second piece to it) if the drywall is only 1/2"), and then using something like a wallpaper accent to cover the board and the gaps above and below? I'm of the opinion that hanging towels in bathrooms should be able to serve as emergency hand holds. Even if a bar gives way, it may be able to transfer some momentum first (thus avoiding or reducing injury), and a good mounting job should accommodate that. – supercat Aug 14 '18 at 15:16
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    @supercat That would work. There is also another "hidden" alternative: Cut out a rectangular section of drywall, sneak a somewhat larger (e.g., ideally at least 2" larger on in at least 2 directions) piece of wood (probably plywood) through the hole, screw through the "extra" section to hold it in place, put a piece of drywall in the (now wood-backed) hole, patch & paint. That has the advantage of providing strength without changing the look (and paintability, etc.) of the drywall. Then use screws instead of anchors to hold the towel bar. – manassehkatz Aug 14 '18 at 15:24
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    @JimStewart: Is it better to build something that last until the next time somebody slips and grabs it, whereupon it will need repair again, or is it better to construct something that will withstand usage as an emergency grab bar? – supercat Aug 15 '18 at 17:56
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This happens when bathroom fixtures are only fastened to drywall -- such fixtures are easily ripped out. If you have young children, they will be mysteriously compelled to swing like monkeys from these. Don't ask how I know.

Here's how I permanently fix such fixtures:

  1. Remove the fixture, if it's still partially attached to the wall.
  2. Use a 3" hole saw to drill a circle through the drywall where the drywall fasteners were previously located. For now, let's assume you drilled two holes.
  3. Cut two 6" lengths of 1" x 2" pine. Tie a string around these, and staple it also.
  4. Insert a piece of pine in the hole, carefully holding the string. Center the pine in the hole and fasten the top and bottom of the pine with drywall screws. Repeat for the other hole.
  5. From a scrap of drywall, use the 3" hole saw to cut two drywall circles to replace the damaged ones from step 2.
  6. Insert a replacement drywall circle in each hole, center it, press it against the 1" x 2" pine from step 4, and fasten with drywall screws.
  7. Use drywall compound & paint to hide the repairs.
  8. Reattach the fixture exactly where it used to be. Because there's now 1" x 2" pine behind the drywall, you can use real screws to fasten it, and not those terrible drywall fasteners.

This is a very easy and permanent repair, and the only step that takes time is waiting for the drywall compound to dry.

If you need something stronger, you can use a larger hole saw (say 4" or 5") and a stronger piece of wood (say 1" x 3" pine or a piece of plywood). You can also slather one face of the pine with carpenters glue before you insert it into the hole.

Ripped out drywall fastener Drill 3" hole where previously fastened 1" x 2" x 6" pine 1" x 2" pine fastened inside drywall Replacement drywall circle fastened to pine Drywall compound to hide repairs

  • A cheaper option (if you have no scrap wood) is to buy those stacks of wooden shims they sell at big boxes. Take 2 of them, stack them, and do the same work – Machavity Aug 16 '18 at 14:18
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Since this is being used as a handrail, perhaps it should be supplemented by a proper vertically-mounted hand rail at the corner?

You could replace the existing towel rail with something thinner, perfectly adequate for holding towels but too thin to be a handrail.

https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HTB1Yq0qPFXXXXaJXFXXq6xXFXXXM/Xueqin-Banheiro-Chuveiro-Banheira-Aperto-de-M-o-de-A-o-Inoxid-vel-Trilho-de-Suporte.jpg


Second option could be to add a backing board behind the rail. This will help spread the load over larger area,

https://twincitieschick.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/photo-2.jpg

Sorry photo's not quite relevant, but a large piece of 150x25mm board (6 inch by 1 inch) painted/stained/sealed to protect it from the moisture, and then edged for prettiness would help spread the load. It should be wider and screwed into studs.

  • I have seen grab bars with diameter of 7/8", 1.25" and 1.5". I have used the 7/8" ones 24" long (in white) for towel bars, and screwed them into studs. They never come loose, and are great for a hand hold, but are not really aesthetic. They are more trouble to take off compared to a standard towel bar and cost twice as much. – Jim Stewart Aug 15 '18 at 18:48
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Patching the wall is simple enough: get some fiberglass mesh (you can sometimes find kits with a sufficient patch size) and fill the hole with spackle. Sand, hit it a second time, final sand and you're basically ready to paint.

As to remounting... I can't tell for sure from the picture, but it looks like it was mounted with drill-in anchors. Do not use drill-in anchors for towel racks. They are prone to pull out just like your picture shows and they cause significant damage to the surrounding drywall when they do pull out. The reason it's a poor option here is there's nothing on the other side to hold onto. Even a basic plastic drywall anchor (which typically flares to better grip the wall) might not hold. I would invest in a basic toggle bolt to hold this up. They're not easy to install here but they hold exceptionally well. There are some more expensive toggle-drive bolts (example) that could do the trick as well.

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    Four toggle bolts, and you're done, +1. – Mazura Aug 15 '18 at 0:34
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patch the wall. move the rack up alittle bit and use wall anchors.

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