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How to install a no-drill grab bar in a bathroom

Ingenious system allows for a sturdy support without defacing the walls

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Q: The Corian shower enclosure in my home has been easy to keep clean for years. Now I need to have a grab bar installed to enable me to age in place. All handymen I consulted would not take on the job for fear of drilling in the wrong place and/or cracking the Corian. One recommended a no-drill bar, which I bought, but he never returned to install it. Is this something I can do myself?

Potomac, Md.

A: It is possible to install grab bars in a shower lined with Corian, provided the installer uses a stud finder to ensure the screws dig into studs. But stud finders are imperfect tools that could lead a handyperson to drill where there is no stud; a drill bit could also skid and leave a deep scratch in the Corian.

No-drill grab bars of the type you bought are a great alternative. Some use suction to grip to the wall. Although these can work when a shower wall is flat, it’s risky to depend on the suction to hold over a long period. The type you bought has an adhesive mounting system that is far better. Not only is there no need for the clunky suction fittings, but these adhesive-mounted bars also meet consumer safety and ADA standards for grab bars rated for up to 250 pounds. They are even removable, generally with no damage to the wall, although you would need to buy a pair of new mounting pads if you wanted to reinstall a bar somewhere else.

Home Depot sells a 10-inch adhesive-mounted bar from Draad, the brand you bought, for $125.45. The same mounting system is used with the 18-inch Gripp bar, which Home Depot sells for $99.

Any reasonably handy person should be able to install one of these on their own, or you might be able to come up with a list of repair tasks that would warrant having someone come to your home for a half or full day. This one task is probably too quick to justify hiring someone for it alone.

If you go to the Home Depot website and search for either of these products, you will find a link to installation instructions, complete with pictures. The website nodrillingrequired.com has additional tips, a link to a how-to video, and a system that allows people to buy bars in different styles and lengths.

The ingenious mounting system is named “nie wieder bohren” (never drill again) for the German company that bought the patent and uses lowercase in its name. Manufacturers had tried using adhesives before, but to cure, the adhesive needs access to air during a long hardening process. This system solves those issues by introducing an adapter layer that holds the adhesive and allows access to air while the adhesive is curing. A temporary adhesive band holds the mounting plate to the wall while the adhesive cures.

To install the bars, first clean the shower wall using a wipe included in the package. You then loosely screw on the nuts that hold an adapter plate to each of the mounting plates at the ends of the bar, pull off the protective cover on an adhesive ring at the back of each plate, and press the assembly to the wall. Because both mounting plates are attached to the bar at this point, there is no risk the plates will line up incorrectly. Then you unscrew the nuts and remove the bar, leaving the mounting plates and their adapter plates on the wall.

To glue them in place, use the little tubes of adhesive included in the package. There are two holes: one for pressing in the adhesive, and one as a sort of window that allows you to see when the space between the adapter and the mounting plate is full. When adhesive is visible in that second hole, stop filling. Add glue to the other adapter and mounting plate in the same way. Wait 24 hours without putting pressure on the plates, then reinstall the bar, tighten the nuts and press the end covers in place. The bar is then ready to use.

If you need to take down the bar, loosen the end covers and use an adjustable wrench to twist the mounting plate and adapter in a circular motion until it comes off. Then scrape off the adhesive residue with a razor scraper. On rough surfaces, you might need to scrub with acetone or silicone remover.

Grab bars do make bathing far safer. Probably most effective, especially if you have to step into a bathtub, is a vertical bar, typically 18 to 24 inches long, installed close to the outside edge of the tub, with the bottom 32 to 38 inches above the floor. If no children use the shower, a shorter rod might be fine. Attach it where you would naturally grab. A horizontal bar directly over the shower valve, below the shower head, can also be helpful.

If you or others bathe in the tub, you’ll want one or two grab bars on the back wall. Install one at an angle, starting from 6 to 10 inches above the tub and rising at about a 45-degree angle away from the shower. Or install two: a horizontal bar about 12 inches up from the lip of the tub and a vertical one near the end of that wall, farthest from the shower head.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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