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Is cement board (1/2in Durock to be exact) strong enough to hold a grab bar without those special anchors?

My bathtub had drywall behind tiles. A few tiles fell out so I decided to just upgrade to cement backer. I told my guy I intended to install grab-bars and to mark where the studs are. I neglected to tell him to add horizontal nailers if there are no studs in the right place. So of course he just hung all the cement backer without in anything in place to facilitate a grab bar.

This wall had insulation begin it so those behind wall anchors may not even slide into place right if I use them. So I was wondering if normal screws into cement wall are strong enough? Or code?

Here's a question about tiles, but not about the cement backer.

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  • IIUC the 1/2" Durock is on the studs, but not yet tiled, and there is no horizontal blocking in place behind the Durock. I suppose the best thing would be to remove the Durock and put a full set of 2x8" horizontal blocking, but I think the clamping mounts (like Wingits) are as strong as needed. If you want to just go forward with tiling you could. Are the studs located where you would want to place the end of a grab bar? Nov 20, 2022 at 20:15

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Nope. Not even with those special anchors.

Any such bar should be able to support 200 lbs. While it might, for a while, it'll weaken over time and let go at a very inopportune moment.

Such hardware intended to support human weight must have lumber backing. My suggestion is to install a longer or larger support bar than you have planned so that you can achieve that with the existing studs.

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  • That's what I thought. I even walked by when the wall was open. Wish I just said "Oh it looks like we'll need a nailer across there, I happen to have a 2x4 in my basement". Next time I walked by it was closed up. He said he thought would just put a vertical grab bar, but I wanted it to be one of those towel rack appearance grab bars.
    – Joe C
    Nov 17, 2022 at 14:59
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    ... and install grab bar under an angle/tile to match stud space with bar length if needed
    – P2000
    Nov 17, 2022 at 15:59
  • Always better to use studs or blocking, but I believe Wingits or other clamping devices are fully acceptable by professional standards. I have had success with simple plastic anchors, but this may be due to the fact that the bathroom walls in our house are ceramic tile over concrete board over sheetrock IIRC. A neighbor is in rehab medicine and tells me that Wingits are the gold standard and that my use of the plastic anchors is substandard. I have complete confidence in my installation, but If I had to do it over I would use Wingits. Get the right model of Wingit though. Nov 19, 2022 at 19:39
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I installed grab bars in a tub/shower in our house with plastic anchors sized for the stainless screws that came with the grab bars and these are holding perfectly after years of service. I then used these anchors to install bars in a walk-in shower with 4 or 5 inch sill. I use a stud finder to find studs but our studs (24 in on center) are not always where I want to place a bar. (We remodeled our two bathrooms years ago when we didn't realize we would ever need grab bars and so did not put horizontal blocking in place.)

When I started installing bars I intended to secure into studs or use Wingits, but I misused the stud finder on the first bar I was installing--the drill went through the ceramic tile, through 1/2 in cement board, through 1/2 in drywall into . . . emply space. No stud! #$@&##

This was an 18 inch vertical grab bar at the outer edge of the control wall of a tub/shower (so high step over!). I decided to go against recommendations and use the holes to see if the anchors would hold. This was the shower I use so I knew I could evaluate whether it was holding or not. When I decided it would work I used the same technique on the 2nd bath in our house and a bathroom in another house with similiar wall construction.

All the shower/tub grab bars I have installed with plastic anchors are completely solid after 7 or 8 years. I apply full force with my right hand/arm getting into the tub (left hand stepping out. I am 200 lb and 78 years old. I don't want to slip getting into the tub.

I have a horizontal 36 in bar on the long wall in my tub/shower also secured with the same plastic anchors. It is also solid.

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From my experience Wingits is the best type of hollow wall anchot out there. I've used them often. My suggestion here is to mount one end of the grab bar (the higher end if applicable) in a stud. On the lower or other end, if it misses the stud, use a Wingit or similar type anchor.
They are rated at 400 to 600 pounds. You'll never have a problem.

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