Pros’ tips for installing grab bars

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Q: As my parents have gotten older, they have begun asking one of the towel bars in their bathroom to do double duty -- as a grab bar. You can probably guess what happened. Last week my dad, who is not a small man, used the towel bar for an assist off the commode. The result was a dangling towel bar and a nice quarter-size hole where the screw used to be. I have two questions: How do I fix the hole in the drywall, and what's the best way to install a grab bar to make sure it stays put? A: While properly installed grab bars can do double duty as towel bars, it doesn't work the other way around. Even the best towel bars just aren't beefy enough. Also, they generally aren't fastened to a stud -- wall anchors are usually the preferred hardware. We'd bet that this is the case with your folks' towel bar. After years of use -- and a healthy assist from your dad -- it was bound to come loose. The solution is to provide a solid backing for the screws. Here's how: 1. Use a utility k...