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Old 10-18-2011, 01:27 AM   #1
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


I'm installing a stairway handrail onto a half-inch-plaster surface using brackets. There are unusually wide studs in the basement stairwell for some reason, so the screws in a 3-hole bracket will all go into the stud with no problem. And the studs are very deep, so I will be able to penetrate for the required 1.25-inch depth with sufficiently long screws.

Question: will I gain anything in strength by installing a half-inch screw-in metal anchor in the half-inch-plaster for each of the 3 holes in the bracket?

That procedure was recommended by one hardware guy, but I would rather not have to put in the anchors because it will louse up the alignment with the bracket holes if I slightly mis-place an anchor.

The worst thing I have to admit is that I don't know whether the surface is plaster or drywall. When I drilled a couple of test holes, I saw no evidence of the paper covering found on drywall. But the stud finder (an edge finder, not a center finder) doesn't indicate the presence of laths to hold plaster.

I fix appliances fearlessly, but as you can tell from the above remarks, I know zilch about carpentry.

Thanks for your help.

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Old 10-18-2011, 07:08 AM   #2
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


Screw the brackets into the house framing, nothing else is needed. Just set the screws snug plus a little bit of a turn. You don't have to tighten to ther breaking point.

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Old 10-18-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


I always used a 1X4 with a nice profile mounted on the wall then the rail brackets mounted on the 1X4, usually the rail brackets will eat into the sheet rock or plaster if mounted directly.
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:36 PM   #4
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


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Screw the brackets into the house framing, nothing else is needed. Just set the screws snug plus a little bit of a turn. You don't have to tighten to ther breaking point.
Thank you, Just Bill. Just to get a second opinion on jiju1943's concern, what has been your experience with the bottom of the brackets biting into the plaster after long-term use?

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I always used a 1X4 with a nice profile mounted on the wall then the rail brackets mounted on the 1X4, usually the rail brackets will eat into the sheet rock or plaster if mounted directly.
I hadn't thought of that. The hardware store I went to today is not specifically a construction supply, and they didn't have plates like you mention. For the basement stairwell, appearance is not crucial, and I would prefer something thin: should I use a 1x4inch metal plate, say 1/8inch thick? (I realize it would have to be drillable.)

==> (Edit I should add this information: the back plate of the rail bracket is a rounded triangle; its top side is 1.5 inch, and its height is 2.5 inch. Do you think that's big enough to eliminate the need for an additional backing plate?

Last edited by TryHard; 10-18-2011 at 11:50 PM. Reason: To add information
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Old 10-19-2011, 07:26 AM   #5
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


Occasionally, there is a problem, but usually due to overtightening which breaks the surface of the drywall or plaster. The problem with the wood plate behind is, the weight of someone leaning on the rail could split the plate at the screws. At least two of the screws need to be in house framing. Plywood, oak, etc would work OK, but not pine.
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:55 AM   #6
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


You could also use decorative rosettes behind the brackets. Just be sure the rosettes are screwed into framing.
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Old 10-19-2011, 11:15 PM   #7
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


OK guys, thank you all. I'm going to do a trial run first and then decide what to do about the backing.
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Old 10-19-2011, 11:47 PM   #8
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


Agreed-we install hrail brackets all the time on just
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Old 10-19-2011, 11:51 PM   #9
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


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Agreed-we install hrail brackets all the time on just
Whoops. I was saying, we find a stud and instal the bracket right on the drywall. Yes if u over tighten it can dimple the rock-so don't over tighten. Keep it simple! Install one bracket at top of stairs, one at bottom, and pull a string to mount the others....
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:08 PM   #10
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


Maybe we are talking about two different types of rail brackets. If you have the 601 type bracket, I agree you can probably get by without a backer but if it is like 701 it will eat into the sheetrock, especially if you have teenagers running up and down the stairs.
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Old 10-22-2011, 01:46 AM   #11
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Handrail brackets: do I need anchors in the plaster?


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. . . we find a stud and instal the bracket right on the drywall. Yes if u over tighten it can dimple the rock-so don't over tighten. . . Install one bracket at top of stairs, one at bottom, and pull a string to mount the others.
I haven't overtightened the two brackets I've gotten in so far -- I put the screws in by hand, not with a drill.

As for the chalk line, a professional (who works about a thousand times faster than I do) would do that, but I have no experience with this and will install each of the two interior brackets by leveling a vertical line on the stud-center and fitting the bracket to engage the underside of the railing; then I'll mark and drill and screw in the lower-hole screw; then I'll rotate the bracket back up to re-engage the railing and drill and insert the remaining two screws. I know that's too time-consuming, but it should work, and after all I've got only one railing to put up.

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Originally Posted by jiju1943 View Post
. . . If you have the 601 type bracket, I agree you can probably get by without a backer but if it is like 701 it will eat into the sheetrock.
On the upstairs stairway we have three 701s (5.5 feet apart!) holding a railing on drywall. The railing has been there for 43 years and the brackets have not bitten into the drywall.

The new 701s I am installing on the basement stairway are different: their triangular mount-plate is wider at the top and the "triangle" is very much rounded. So I'm hoping their large surface area will make them comparable to the 601s. The two brackets I have installed so far seem OK. The wide studs in the basement stairwell gave me wood behind all three holes on the two brackets I've got in so far, and the brackets responded well to a vertical-stress test.

(I've spent more time figuring out how to deal with the non-uniform stairstep height and the irregularly-spaced studs than I have in actually putting in the brackets.)

Thank you both for your feedback. All the advice has been very helpful.

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