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Easy Living with Katie and Gene Hamilton

Install a Grab Bar

Safety experts agree that the bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in a house. Most accidents in the bathroom occur getting in or out of a slippery bathtub because there's no grab bar to hold onto. It's not easy when you're able, but with a sore knee or a sprained elbow it's near impossible to safely maneuver without a secure handle. To prevent an accident, install a grab bar and make your bathroom safe.

In the past, the only way to retrofit a wall with a grab bar was to locate the studs behind the wall to provide the strength and stability to hold the weight of a bather. A new blind fastener, the WingIts system, can install directly into wallboard without needing an attachment to structural support. The fastener should be installed only on a sound wall made of 5/8-inch thick wallboard or tile over plaster, cement board or 1/2-inch wallboard.

A carpenter will install a WingIts grab bar fastening system for $135, but you can buy the kit for $60 and install it, saving 56 percent. It's available by calling (877) 894-6448 or by visiting www.WingIts.com. For tools you need a 1-1/4-inch carbide-grit tile hole saw with a pilot bit for drilling tile, screwdriver and rubber mallet or hammer.

Steps by step Instructions

Grab bar and 2 WingIts
Silicone caulk
Rubbing alcohol

Electronic stud finder
Masonry or twist drill bits
Carpenter's level
Rubber mallet or hammer

Before you begin
This installation is for a grab bar using WingIts(R), a blind fastening system that can be installed directly into any sturdy wall such as 5/8-inch thick wallboard or tile, acrylic or fiberglass tub surrounds backed up by at least 1/2-inch thick cement board or drywall. The system exceeds all building code and ADA (American with Disability Act) specifications.

Step 1: Layout the location
Install a vertical grab bar inside a shower 18-24-inches from the shower head end for safe entry and exit. Inside a bathtub enclosure, position a grab bar horizontally, approximately 36-inches from the bottom of the tub so a bather can use the bar to help raise themselves from sitting in the tub. For stepping into and out of a tub, consider installing a vertical bar at the tub edge as a convenient handhold as well. If you're installing a grab bar for someone with an injury or disability, get input from that person to decide the best location for the bars.

The WingIts® grab bar comes in various lengths and finishes and includes a fastener at each end. The 1 1/4-inch mounting holes must be located so the center of the grab bar fastener slides into the holes. To find the center to center distance for any WingIts(R) grab bar, measure from the inside of one bar flange to the outside of the other. This is the center to center distance or the distance the 1 1/4-inch mounting holes should be spaced apart.

Step 2: Drill the pilot holes
Clean the wall surface where the bar will be installed. Then mark the location of the mounting holes on the tile with a felt tipped pen. Use a masonry bit to drill a 1/8-inch pilot hole through the tile at these marks. Then hold the grab bar with fasteners attached up to the wall to check that the pilot holes align with the center of the fasteners. Adjust if necessary then use a 1 1/4-inch hole saw to enlarge the pilot holes.

If you hit a wall stud while drilling the holes you can mount the grab bar directly to the wall stud with 2 1/2-inch long #12 stainless steel screws instead of the fastener.

Step 3: Temporarily install the bar
The fastener comes with the mounting bolt fully threaded into the body of the fastener. Use a screwdriver to back out the bolt until the end of the bolt is flush with the nut at the opposite end of the fitting. Temporarily install the fasteners to the ends of the grab bar with the stainless steel screws provided with the fitting. Wipe the wall surface around these holes with rubbing alcohol so the tape will adhere. Remove the paper covering the adhesive on the faceplate. Insert the fasteners into the holes in the wall while they are attached to the grab bar. Then press the grab bar tightly toward the wall for a moment so the fasteners can adhere to the wall in the correct position.

Step 4: Tighten the bolts
Remove the grab bar from the fasteners. Then, with a screwdriver, firmly and quickly punch the head of the bolt toward the faceplate or hit the screw gently but firmly with a rubber mallet or hammer. Pull on the bolt and tighten it by hand at the same time. Use a screwdriver to tighten the bolt very tightly. Then attach the grab bar to the fasteners with the stainless steel screws.

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