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Old 04-10-2010, 02:22 PM   #1
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What's behind them walls?


Hi;
I'm trying to install a grab-bar for the bath in an 80+yr old house.
The bar is supposed to be secured to the studs, and I located them 16" apart from the wall behind where I want to install the bar.

When I went into the bath to confirm my stud locations before drilling through ceramic tile to install the bar, I attempted to drill two test holes through the plaster wall just above where the ceramic tiles begin.

First, I had a lot of trouble drilling through the plaster wall. I changed the bit, and still couldn't get through, so I used the ceramic/concrete bit I have and drilled one test hole in the location where the stud should have been.
The bit went through, but did not hit a stud.
There is a dead space between the ceramic tile (and the wall on which it is mounted) and the actual wall (and the studs). I am unable to install the bar in the manner in which it is intended to be installed.

My only solution appears to be using toggle bolts. While I understand that this is not the proper installation, it will still be much better than trying to use longer screws to reach the studs, or to just use plastic or steel anchors in the ceramic.
Currently, my 87 year old dad is using the soap holder (recessed into the wall with a towel bar protruding which he is grabbing) to help himself out of the tub when he bathes.
My dad weighs only about 125lbs, and the grab-bar is rated for persons up to 500lbs, so I think that installing with toggle bolts will be sufficient to support any weight he can put on it.

At a later time, I may have to open the wall in the adjacent room to do some wiring, so I may have the chance to install another stud that would hold the bar.

I am wondering what a professional would do in this situation.

FW
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Old 04-10-2010, 02:33 PM   #2
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I would only mount a grab bar secured to studs or other solid bracing.
  • Not sure understanding the part about a dead space between the tile and the wall? Please elaborate.
  • Why not use longer screws?
  • Does the tile to all the way to the ceiling? If not, find the studs above the tile.
  • Find the studs from the opposite side of the wall.
  • If the spacing of the studs does not match the length of your grab bar - use a 24" long grab mount and mount it at an angle with each end secured to a stud.
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Old 04-10-2010, 03:18 PM   #3
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You can also get special grab bar mounts rated at 500 lbs that do not need to be attached to studs. I got some from Lowes to mount grab bars for my SIL when she lost her legs. It does however require drilling a 1" hole in the tile and backer board. I used a Rotozip for the job.
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Old 04-10-2010, 03:21 PM   #4
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Do you mean the tile actually floats on some kind of base that stands proud of the wall? Maybe mounted on firing strips? If that were the case I wouldn't use a grab bar even if it were secured through the tile into studs. With no actual support behind the tile, I would be afraid the tile would just push in when pressure was applied to the bar. Now if it's not floating but is mounted to a solid backing which in turn is actually against the wall then I would still find the studs.
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Old 04-10-2010, 07:00 PM   #5
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I guess I was a bit sketchy on my description of the situation.

I was able to positively locate the studs from the opposite wall (the bedroom), but from the bathroom wall. My Zircon stud finder was acting up on the bathroom wall, but seemed to work well in the bedroom.
What I first did was to estimate the position of the same stud I had found in the bedroom in the bathroom by measuring the distance from a corner. This is on plaster, not tile wall.
The tiles only go partway up the wall.
When I drilled the test hole in plaster above the tile in the bath, I must have missed the stud, thus the "empty space", but it was confusing that inserting one of the 2-1/2" screws supplied with the bar into the test hole it hit something further in. A 2-1/2" screw should not have hit the opposite wall, unless that will is less than 2-1/2" thick. So that's where I got the idea that there is a sub-wall directly behind the tile, and then the main wall. The sub wall would be mounted to furring strips to the main wall. I don't know why this would have been done, but I do know that the bath was redone at some point at least 40 years ago.

Since I was able to locate the studs in the bedroom, I should have just used a long drill to go completely through the wall next to the studs so that I could locate them in the bathroom. I can do this, since the tile does not go all the way to the ceiling, so that is what I will try next.
Using this long drill, I should also be able to determine whether there is a second wall in front of the first one.

FW
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Old 04-11-2010, 10:55 PM   #6
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I had a problem similar to yours, in my 100 year old home!
I found that the studs were not installed vertically. They were vertical back and front, but not left to right!
This didn't matter, as wood lath was nailed to the studs, randomly and then the walls were plastered!
In my case, my stud finder wasn't effective, as the plaster was too thick!
I had to drill a series of holes, horizontally, above the tile level; until I found the stud!
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Old 04-12-2010, 02:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildie View Post
I had a problem similar to yours, in my 100 year old home!
I found that the studs were not installed vertically. They were vertical back and front, but not left to right!
This didn't matter, as wood lath was nailed to the studs, randomly and then the walls were plastered!
In my case, my stud finder wasn't effective, as the plaster was too thick!
I had to drill a series of holes, horizontally, above the tile level; until I found the stud!
Any idea of why they turn the studs in some walls? It doesn't make sense to me. Makes installation of electrical outlets difficult; you have to buy the shallow boxes, and then number of wires in the box is limited. Very annoying!

FW
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Old 04-12-2010, 07:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KE2KB View Post
Any idea of why they turn the studs in some walls? It doesn't make sense to me. Makes installation of electrical outlets difficult; you have to buy the shallow boxes, and then number of wires in the box is limited. Very annoying!

FW
I'm unsure, but I did find an old whiskey bottle! maybe this is why!
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Old 04-14-2010, 09:05 AM   #9
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Any idea of why they turn the studs in some walls? Answer: NO.
But--I've run across these in many older homes that use "true cut" 2x4 wall studs. For some reason they use to turn the studs sideways, to me at least, and build an entire interior wall this way. After turning the studs, applying lath and plaster the walls were still thicker than today's walls. Did they have inspectors back then? On homes with the metal lath, my stud finders (if my girl friend is not using them) are useless.One trick I use to find studs is to drill maybe a 1/8" hole near where I "think" the stud should be. Then I use a clothes hanger which is about an inch longer than I suspect 1/2 the stud spacing is, with a short handle bent in the same direction, if I can. Moving this clothes hanger around will help find the studs, most of the time . I also use this to find ceiling joist. David
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Old 04-16-2010, 08:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildie View Post
I'm unsure, but I did find an old whiskey bottle! maybe this is why!
Don't laugh! I found empty beer cans above a ceiling in the basement when I was fixing some wiring. There were some suspicious junctions that the beer cans might have explained.

KE2KB
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:01 PM   #11
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Well, I finished installing the bar today.
What I found is that the studs are apparently correctly oriented. I drilled some test holes in the opposite wall (didn't want to mess up the bathroom wall), and located the edges of the studs. They are about 1-3/4" wide and 16" apart.

I went straight through both walls with a long 1/8" bit just past the edge of one stud so I could positively locate it in the bathroom.
Then I installed a screw in the hole and dropped a plumb line so to get the correct position on the tiled wall below; measured over the distance to the center of the stud and marked.

When I drilled holes for the bar, I had to go through the tile, then something very hard behind that (may have just been very old plaster, but I needed the concrete bit), and then there was a dead space of probably about 1", then the stud.
I then used 4" screws to secure the bar to the studs. The bar is angled so it is secured to both studs. It is in solid for sure.

I don't know why there is a dead space between the wall and the stud. Do you think that the tile wall is laid on plywood, which is laid over furring strips, which are nailed to the studs?
I do recall going through wood after the tile, but thought it would be the lath. The only way I can explain the dead space is furring strips.
But after going through the tile with the concrete bit, I tried using a standard bit to drill a pilot hole for the screws, but hit something hard, and had to use the concrete bit again. After going through that is when I think I found the dead space before hitting the stud.

There are no screws coming through the opposite wall, so I am sure that my screws went into the studs.

KE2KB
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Old 04-17-2010, 10:51 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KE2KB View Post
Well, I finished installing the bar today.
What I found is that the studs are apparently correctly oriented. I drilled some test holes in the opposite wall (didn't want to mess up the bathroom wall), and located the edges of the studs. They are about 1-3/4" wide and 16" apart.

I went straight through both walls with a long 1/8" bit just past the edge of one stud so I could positively locate it in the bathroom.
Then I installed a screw in the hole and dropped a plumb line so to get the correct position on the tiled wall below; measured over the distance to the center of the stud and marked.

When I drilled holes for the bar, I had to go through the tile, then something very hard behind that (may have just been very old plaster, but I needed the concrete bit), and then there was a dead space of probably about 1", then the stud.
I then used 4" screws to secure the bar to the studs. The bar is angled so it is secured to both studs. It is in solid for sure.

I don't know why there is a dead space between the wall and the stud. Do you think that the tile wall is laid on plywood, which is laid over furring strips, which are nailed to the studs?
I do recall going through wood after the tile, but thought it would be the lath. The only way I can explain the dead space is furring strips.
But after going through the tile with the concrete bit, I tried using a standard bit to drill a pilot hole for the screws, but hit something hard, and had to use the concrete bit again. After going through that is when I think I found the dead space before hitting the stud.

There are no screws coming through the opposite wall, so I am sure that my screws went into the studs.

KE2KB
My house has plastered walls using gypsum panels as a support lath. This plaster is incredibly hard and I must use a masonary bit to drill.
The gypsum panels have an aluminum foil on the inside (insulation?) and this blocks the use of a stud finder, absolutely!
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Old 04-17-2010, 11:18 AM   #13
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Some of the grab bars have 3 screw attachments at each end. Normally, it is impossible to get all 3 screws into a stud because they are designed to be used horizontally, vertically or on a some angle (30 or 45 degree).

The only solution I have found is to pre-drill each hole with a smaller bit and determine if there is a stud directly behind the hole. If there is no stud, be prepared to use an expensive bit and a toggle bolt. Occasionally a hole may be too close to the stud edge, but cannot find a grab bar to meet all situation.

When you mark to hole locations make sure you use tape to accurately hold the bar in place for accurate marking. Then remove the bar and determine which hole need to be enlarged for a toggle screw. Drill accurately to make sure you can apply silicone to seal each hole during the installation. Not accurately locating a toggle bolt location can head to a slightly mis-located hole that may show outside the bolting flange and cover.

Three bars installed (18", 24" and 36") so far and 2 to go with a combination of screws into studs and toggles through a fiberglass surface, that requires some playing with the screws to get a solid grip and not slip[ on the back/inside. I got my stainless at the orange box, but they seem to be pretty good quality despite the origin but may actually be American stainless tubes that were fabricated elsewhere.

Dick
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Old 04-17-2010, 01:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildie View Post
My house has plastered walls using gypsum panels as a support lath. This plaster is incredibly hard and I must use a masonary bit to drill.
The gypsum panels have an aluminum foil on the inside (insulation?) and this blocks the use of a stud finder, absolutely!
That sounds like my wall. I'm wondering whether the gap is for the recessed soap dish?
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Old 04-17-2010, 01:14 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by concretemasonry View Post
Some of the grab bars have 3 screw attachments at each end. Normally, it is impossible to get all 3 screws into a stud because they are designed to be used horizontally, vertically or on a some angle (30 or 45 degree).

The only solution I have found is to pre-drill each hole with a smaller bit and determine if there is a stud directly behind the hole. If there is no stud, be prepared to use an expensive bit and a toggle bolt. Occasionally a hole may be too close to the stud edge, but cannot find a grab bar to meet all situation.

When you mark to hole locations make sure you use tape to accurately hold the bar in place for accurate marking. Then remove the bar and determine which hole need to be enlarged for a toggle screw. Drill accurately to make sure you can apply silicone to seal each hole during the installation. Not accurately locating a toggle bolt location can head to a slightly mis-located hole that may show outside the bolting flange and cover.

Three bars installed (18", 24" and 36") so far and 2 to go with a combination of screws into studs and toggles through a fiberglass surface, that requires some playing with the screws to get a solid grip and not slip[ on the back/inside. I got my stainless at the orange box, but they seem to be pretty good quality despite the origin but may actually be American stainless tubes that were fabricated elsewhere.

Dick
I used only 2 of the 3 holes. Plenty of strength.
I had to buy longer screws, since the 2-1/2" screws they provided would not have caught much of the studs.
The 4" were tough getting in, mainly because the only bit I had that was long enough to reach the studs was a 1/8", and I should have been using 3/16" holes for the #12 screws.
I was afraid I would snap the heads off (which has happened with the cheap imported hardware), but I kept backing them out one turn for every 3 turns in. That seemed to do the trick.
It was only after the job was done that I thought of using soap.

KE2KB
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