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As part of my master bathroom remodel I'm adding blocking for grab bars. In most areas where I need blocking, I can just use 2-by-something blocking without any problem. There's a corner though where I cannot just do this, due to pipes in the wall. Here is what it looks like:

enter image description here

All that you see in this image is work that was done prior to this renovation (probably going back to when the house was built). I've merely taken the drywall down.

There's no way to redo the design to avoid the need for grab bars in that area.

I'd like to avoid having to move pipes around.

A 2-by-something piece of wood won't clear the water pipe closest to the face of the stud, or the plumbing vent.

3/4" plywood can be used in place of a 2-by-something but it won't clear the water pipe or the plumbing vent either. I had thought of adding a stud to the right of the water pipes. A piece of plywood could then run from that new stud to the stud on the right of the plumbing vent but the plywood won't clear the vent. (And I don't know about the wisdom of sandwiching water pipes between two studs.)

The only solution I'm aware of that would clear the pipes is to use a 16 gauge galvanized metal sheet to attach to the front of the studs. I'd have to notch the surface of the studs to the depth of the metal sheet so that the metal sheet is flush with the rest of the studs.

I'm not very keen on the metal alternative because in my world when my drill bit hits metal in a wall it usually means STOP AND REASSESS. But if I go with the metal sheet, I'd be putting in the wall metal that is meant to be drilled into (except for where the pipes are).

Is there some other non-metal-based solution that I've missed?

  • The metal sheet doesn't have to be the full height, just where the grab bars need to anchor. As far as notching the surface, got a metal bender or a nearby maker space with one? Bend its ends 90 degrees so they're 14-1/2" apart (or whatever the distances is between your studs). Punch some holes in them first, and run deck screws through. Piece of cake except for driving those deck screws in a narrow space. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 11 '19 at 21:14
  • No matter what material you put there, you're not going to locate the grab bar end right over the pipe, right? Because your anchor screws would go into it. So just build up with 2x4's the side the grab bar end will be over. – Puddles Nov 11 '19 at 21:17
  • @Puddles I'm not planing to locate the end of the grab bar over any of the pipes. I know what would mean drilling into the pipes. However, the requirements for grab bar locations are such that there definitely needs to be a grab bar going across the vent pipe (one end of the grab bar to the left of that pipe and one end of the grab bar to the right of that pipe). – Louis Nov 11 '19 at 21:33
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    How about just filling the gaps behind the bar ends with studs? They're cheap. – Puddles Nov 11 '19 at 22:34
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    Puddles has it right. Add studs where needed and fill between with blocking. – isherwood Nov 12 '19 at 19:19
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Consider simply double lining the wall. A sheet of plywood over the studs, then drywall on top.

This will narrow the room by 1/2-3/4" depending on the ply, but this may not be a problem for you. You could also use thinner drywall as it doesn't have to span any gaps.

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You could cut lumber to float in the space between the pipes and secure it inside the wall with sheet metal. There could be several variations on the idea, but here is one.

Cut a piece of plywood to a width that fits between the copper and the plastic pipes with whatever height you prefer. Mount two metal strips to the studs on either side of the cavity corresponding to the top and bottom edges of the plywood. Secure the plywood to the metal strips.

You could get fancy with the steel if you want to: fold legs so it can mount flush to the face of the studs rather than being surface mounted on top of them, make it support the back side of the plywood rather than the front side, etc.

If you browse the "Simpson aisle" of joist hangers, earthquake straps, etc at a building supply store with a creative eye you may find a bracket that works as-is or with simple modifications.

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Put a doubled up stud in each spot where your grab bar's bases need to go. This will solve your problem with minimal work or cost and make the installation of the grab bars very simple and secure.

(This is mentioned in the comments but it really should be an answer.)

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