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I have been fighting with this gate for several years (and three toddlers), and right now I'm losing...

At the top of the stairs where the gate needs to be, there is only about 1.5 inches of overlap between the walls on both sides, as shown in this top-down view (the gate must go inside the circle):

top view

side view

While there is a wooden baseboard at the bottom for the lower hinge, the upper hinge needs to be mounted directly on the wall right at the corner.

Originally, I simply followed the directions that came with the gate and installed the hinges using the drywall anchors that came with the gate. With the strain of swinging open and closed, it fairly quickly worked the anchors loose from the wall, and also chipped off the paint, leading to the discovery that there isn't much drywall around and behind that metal corner for the anchors to bite into. (Ignore the blue anchors at this point.)

broken corner

I decided to spread the load across a larger portion of the wall and try to get some anchors in more stable wall-board by mounting a piece of wood to the wall and mounting the gate to that:

mounting board

This has worked well for a year or so, and now it has worked itself loose from the wall again. All four anchor holes are so loose that I can pull the anchors out of them by hand.

I have tried looking for a stud, but there does not seem to be one anywhere near the corner. Shining a flashlight through one of the holes in the metal corner piece reveals a few splinters of wood, enough to guess that there's a thin board in there that the top of the railing is screwed to. However, there isn't very much there and some exploration with a long thin nail into some of the existing holes reveals that I cannot reach that wood.

  • Short of opening up the wall and adding some kind of internal bracing, is there anything I can do here?
  • If I do end up having to open up the wall, is there anything specific I should try to do?
  • I am not very experienced with drywall work. Given that the other side of this wall is inside a closet, should I try to open the wall there and put in something from the back so that my first major drywall job isn't right where every visitor to the house will see it immediately when they walk in?
  • If I don't need to open up the outside of the wall, what is the best way to repair this cracked edge where the metal corner piece is visible?
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    The safety issue with the gate is a big concern. The drywall work is nothing - couple hours for a noobie. I would be most concerned about the big black blob at the top of the stairs :). Seriously no idea how there isn't a 2x4 connecting that rail. Maybe you are on the edge of it on some of the anchors?
    – DMoore
    Dec 8 '20 at 6:26
  • @DMoore at most there is a 1x4 connecting the rail. This entire neighborhood was built in 1979 and there are 300+ exactly like our house (and many hundreds more of other designs) in our neighborhood. With that many to build, the builder took some shortcuts, and it shows.
    – Moshe Katz
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:44
  • It may be worth opening up the wall from inside the closet, just to see what you've got there. As noted, it's possible that there's a 2x4 in the corner, but since this probably isn't load bearing, they may not have taken much care in forming the corner and that your screws are just hitting the edge of the 2x4 so they're pulling out easily. And, as you noted, hiding your first drywall patch in the back of a closet can inspire more confidence in attempting the job in the first place.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 8 '20 at 14:19
  • I've never in my life seen a corner like that without at least one stud. Start punching holes with a small drill bit where the wall is already bunged up and clear up this confusion. It's not rocket science.
    – isherwood
    Dec 8 '20 at 14:41
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    There's got to be some framing in there. Otherwise that railing would have worked loose over the years. Dec 8 '20 at 16:34
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My guess is that as the screws had come loose as they were so close to the edge of the wall with not much wall to hold them in place. Fixing the broken corner beading might not be worth it if you can cover it up with painted timber. As this beading goes all the way up the corner and if you pull it wrong, it may make it worse.

If you have access to the wall behind in the closet, try and see if you can securely add some timber so you have something solid to screw into.

Alternative Option : Have the gate at a slight angle. It looks like you can extend the sie of the gate to do this. This way you will have more that 1.5 inches to use.

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  • Putting the gate at an angle was going to be my suggestion. Find a stud and put the hinge side into the stud. Leave the latch side on the left (when looking up the stairs) so that the latch is as close as possible to the top step for those coming up.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 8 '20 at 14:18
  • My wife (and both of our mothers) would be horrified to see it at an angle instead of straight across.
    – Moshe Katz
    Dec 8 '20 at 17:28
  • I'm not sure how that's relevant.
    – isherwood
    Dec 8 '20 at 21:52
  • I wouldn't like it at an angle either, @MosheKatz, but it's better than a kid leaning on it, pulling the screws from the wall again and tumbling down. Sale complete!
    – FreeMan
    Dec 9 '20 at 14:51
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I decided to spread the load across a larger portion of the wall

You had the right idea, Now scale it up.

I would find where the first stud is to the left of the corner, Cut a board just wider than that distance, It can be Painted white or made of nice attractive wood.

Now screw the board into that first stud and into the corner stud. (There must be something in the corner for the drywall to be attached to.) Now you have a solid surface to attach the gate to.

You can extend the knee wall, the wall the other side of the gate latches to, with the same material that you used on the opposite wall so you do not have to place the gate at an angle.

NOTE: I do not have a CEO that can veto my common sense and practical solution because it is not pleasing to them. YMMV

An alternative would be to use a very robust Toggler anchor. I have many answers here with instructions on how to install them, do a search.

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Another option for you would be to find the closest stud on that rail side (corner labelled "walls" in your diagram). On the opposite side (labelled "ledge" in the diagram") screw in boards stacked until they are even with the stud. It may look slightly janky, but with wood filler and paint/stain you could make it look decent and match the existing rail color.

Essentially extend the "ledge" until you get to a stud.

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