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Tips From the AIP Handyman: Stud Finding

Home Improvement

Tips From The AIP Handyman - Stud Finding

Your grab bar needs a wall stud!

Our Aging In Place Builders Handyman has installed so many grab bars that he has started to dream about them at night. These simple, yet effective pieces of hardware can add a huge layer of safety and comfort to your bathroom without having to break the bank. However, it's very important to install the grab bar correctly so that injury is prevented rather than caused by the hardware. This article will quickly walk through one of the most important aspects of installing a grab bar - finding the wall studs. 

Finding the Wall Studs

Wouldn't it be nice if the grab bars could magically stick to the wall with some magical force? Unfortunately, a lot of weight is put on this type of hardware and therefore it is best if it is sufficiently anchored. Grab bars around the toilet, sink, or other areas outside of the shower will generally be installed on a plaster or sheetrock wall, which itself is being held up by some form of framing wood (aka Studs). 

  • These structural pieces are not easy to find. The quickest and most accurate way to locate a stud is to use a Stud Finder. You simply follow the instructions of the device to let it peer through the wall and find those crucial anchor points. 
  • If you don't have a Stud Finder, one method is to use some surrounding clues. Can you identify nail holes in the baseboard or crown molding? These are often nailed into studs (or should be) and can give you a clue as to where the stud is. Do you have a way to see behind the wall by removing a vent, light switch or outlet? If you can locate one stud, you should be able to measure 16inches (for most somewhat modern homes) to find the next stud. 
  • If your investigative skills have fail thus far, you can use your trusty knuckles to rap on the wall in a horizontal line. The noise should change from a hollow noise to a much more solid noise once you tap over the stud's location.

Finding the Edges of the Stud

In order to secure at least two of the three grab bar screws into a stud, you must know where the center of stud is in order to avoid missing. A stud finder should help you locate the center of the stud pretty easily.

However, the best way to test for the latter two methods is to take a 2-inch finish nail and hammer it into the location where you think the stud is located. Do this in an inconspicuous place on the wall, or some place you will cover up or can repair easily. When the nail hits the stud, it will be tougher to hammer in versus if the nail goes into a hollow area. When you have identified/marked the approximate two edges of the stud, you can confidently identify the center of the stud, which is where you should be securing your grab bars. 

Although grab bars can be a moderate do-it-yourself project, if you're at all unsure about where or how to install this equipment you should contact your local Certified Aging In Place Specialist to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Written by Jeff LaBombard of AIP Builders in Northfield, MA. 

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