Reinforcing Drywall to Mount Stuff (or Fixing Drywall)

Damn terlit paper holder.

There is no way you can mount this type of stuff to drywall without it coming loose at some point.

You take a trip to the home center to find some new type of magic anchor that will actually hold something on the wall.

But you just buy a bigger anchor.

You progressively enlarge the holes, using anchor after anchor, then it gets loose again.

Then you try a toggle bolt, but of course you find you don’t have the depth for one since there’s brick/concrete block/a pipe in the wall.

Well suck it, dear drywall where-my-toilet-paper-holder-is-mounted.

I beat you today.

I cut you out, and put a board behind you. Then I patched you.

And you don’t even know what happened.

Except that you will no longer have control over how solidly-mounted my toilet paper holder is.

That’s a job for wood.

 

Fxing drywall where toilet paper holder is mounted.

Mr. Bathroom Accessory Designer, you placed the mounting holes for my toilet paper holder so close together, it is impossible to retain a solid connection to the wall for any longer than one month. But I’m happy you could retain your minimalist design cues as I need my toilet paper to be supported by something that has the aesthetic the Bauhaus approves of.

Tools for repairing drywall.

Here’s some tools you’ll need to do this. Look how awesome you are toilet paper holder. Next to those dirty, functional tools.

Cut out the offending drywall with a…well…drywall saw. Then you can get a look-see at what’s going on behind there. Okay, I already had a good idea that there were no wires, pipes, etc, since I put the drywall in this bathroom.

Concrete block! Oh how I want to put a tapcon right through the toilet paper holder into this block. But that will fail without some kind of support (furring strip or something).

Fixing hole in drywall

Alright. To get the 1x4 board in this space, I needed to enlarge the hole. You’ll see why in a photo or two.

Reinforcing drywall or sheetrock

Okay, so you’ll see why in the next photo. There wasn’t enough space between the drywall and the concrete block to push the board in top-to-bottom. So I took my 1x4 pine board, which is about 4” proud (taller) of the height of the hole I opened, put a screw in the middle of it, and used it like a handle to insert…

…rotate, and hold the board while I fastened it with some drywall screws. That’s right there is a tip for the back of a popular mechanics magazine. You know, all that crap you wish you thought of when you are in a jam and they have some cartoony guy draw it out. Like Fix ‘ems (For those of you who read Street Rodder). Well, I’m sure I didn’t come up with this, but I felt smart. Smarter than the drywall for sure.

Back drywall with wood to mount bathroom accessories.

You’re screwed now. This will provide a great backing to support the accessory mount.

The saw leaves a rough edge, so I like to clean it up some. I also like to bevel the outer edge with my razor knife so you don’t get any straggling bits of paper in your mud. (This shot shows beveled edge, but not the opening cleaned up.)

Patching wall with sheetrock.

I cut a filler piece of drywall and here’s a test fit. Nice. And. Clean.

Drywall patch is ready for tape and drywall compound.

Four more screws and ready for some tape and mud.

Apply fiberglass seam tape for drywall repairs

Here’s some tape applied over the patch. I like using the fiberglass kind. You can use the paper kind, but you can also fight with it for awhile.

Apply joint compound and allow to dry.

This is my first pass with mud. I know, it doesn’t look great right now. I probably could have done this in one pass, but with the existing texture on the wall, I wanted to do some sanding and blend the second coat in better so I wouldn’t have a bulge to look at every time I walked in the bathroom. I’ll feather the edges of the second coat out nice and wide and then it will be ready for texture.

Wall texture is applied to prepare for painting bathroom wall repair.

Well, I somehow forgot the shot of the second coat. But I used an 8" knife to apply it, feathering the edges of the joint compound out making it blend into the textured portion of the wall. Also removed the grab bar I installed when my wife's leg was broken. Healing nicely, thank you. I used some oil-based texture in a can and blended the repair in. It still gets everywhere, so put down some paper and mask appropriately. It’s better than setting up a texture gun, compressor, mixing up some texture…

Now it’s ready for some paint and I can mount the toilet paper holder again.

For the last time.

 

28 Comments

  • Scott

    Yes! Great idea Marty! I have more than one application for this… Now my question is- you did such a good job blending, do you have any way of marking where your wood backer is, so you can mount the holder in the same spot?

    Reply

    • Marty

      Yeah, I guess I left that out. I took some measurements before I mudded it up. I measured from the door trim and up from the base molding. I also did this same thing for a towel hook. When I drywalled our back room, I actually planned ahead of time so I used 1×4 furring in places I’d be mounting wall speakers and stuff, so I’d have something strong enough to bite into. Thanks for checking us out man, hope all is well!

      Reply

  • Rob Martin

    Guys, I have really enjoyed reading many of the posts on the website over the last couple days. I found this tip when looking for ideas on how to repair our holder. I am in the unenviable position of having our bathroom painted a designer color selected by my wife and not having any of it left to patch with. We also had the good fortune of having a two-sided paper holder, so the strain on each side is less than the one you showed.

    So I was trying to avoid the cut and patch method you described, and my hole isn’t TOTALLY blown out yet. I saw online a product recommended called WetnFix, which looks pretty much like a gauze pad soaked in drywall dust, that you wet, then wrap around your wall anchor before inserting (re-inserting) it. Tried to buy them but they’re only sold in the UK. I flashed back to my grandfather, fixing screw holes in wood when i was a kid, by stuffing the old hole full of steel wool before screwing the same screw back in. I guess it was more dense and grabby than wood filler. (Doesn’t work for long outside though…). I made my own patch cloth by taking a gauze pad, 3×3 inch, cut in half, covered it with a thin layer of spackle, wrapped it around my plastic wall anchor, then screwed it into the hole, slowly, with the driver. I let it dry for a couple hours, trimmed off the stray strands of gauze hanging out, and then screwed my fixture in. Torqued one of them pretty hard, and it held well.

    So I know this doesn’t let me ultimately beat the drywall like your solution did, but it was another treaty that let me defer the harder job of patching and painting for another year while taking care of my immediate problem. Now I’m working on training my daughter not to lift herself up off the pot by the paper-towel holder, and I’ll be all good.

    Keep at the posts, I love the site.

    Reply

  • Stan

    Finally! Someone with a smart fix for
    when the holes for the tp holder are way too
    big for any other remedy.

    And I’m about to paint the bathroom so this
    is right on the money.

    Thanks a Million.

    Reply

  • Eric du Toit

    Marty – awesome fix! I’m a dad with 4 young girls and the TP holder is dual function in my house – holding TP and hand support for getting on and off the pot.

    I just started the cut-out process as my bathroom is in need of repainting so this is a great time to find your fix.

    Thanks again!


    Eric

    Reply

  • sandy starelli

    Desperate to help my aging parents, and being the youngest of three girls I was sure that a larger anchor would do the trick in repairing a bungled job the remodel man did on the toilet paper holder. Frustrated, and wanting to be the hero, (as I’m often referred to) I soon found the problem was out of my league. Three holes about the size of a dime and one much bigger, inserted with small anchors and four different size screws! Oh how badly I wanted to call John from “Hole In The Wall” and tell him to “come fix this the right way bud!” but that would just create more distress and problems. I feel your instructions are quite clear and thinking of heading to “The Home Depot” to get some supplies. Wish me luck or give me the name of someone who lives in Eugene, Oregon that doesn’t cost my parents a three figure price and I still remain the hero for a while longer. :>) Thanks for your help! *** Sandy***

    Reply

  • Tom French

    If nothing is in the way behind the drywall, will the toggle bolts actually work? I’d almost rather go back to wiping their bottoms until they’re old enough to stop using it as a chin-up bar than start another project that I leave half finished.

    Reply

  • Phil

    Thank you, I was able to re-secure an old work wall fixture box that was causing my bathroom light fixture to sag. The metal plate that snugged up against the drywall to keep the box in place weakened the drywall over time and it crumbled. Putting a piece of wood behind the drywall worked well and now the box is snug with the metal plate catching the wood instead of drywall.

    Reply

  • KH

    Great fix-it. Loved the wooden insert and screws above and below to hold it in place. Wondering if maybe some heavy duty glue on the back of the wood block would prevent the screws from eventually wiggling. Probably not necessary, but just an idea…

    Reply

  • FSH

    I know this is an old thread, but I had the occasion to look up “reinforcing drywall to mount stuff” which led me to this site. I have a double towel bar that is a bit heavy as the rods are 1 inch in diameter glass, about 2 feet long, attached to some substantial chrome brackets at each end.

    Because towel bars are hardly every offered in multiples of 16″ to allow aligning into studs, I originally mounted the bar with the garden variety wall anchors. Those quickly failed. That was followed by the screw in, larger anchors. Those work reasonably well as long as you don’t disturb them, which I did by unscrewing the screws holding down the brackets in order to paint the walls. The screws had a good enough bite to the anchor that the anchor, too, unscrewed, which ruins the hole into which it is screwed. So, those were unusable a second time.

    I finally got tired of trying to fit a square peg into a round hold, so to speak, and reinforced the drywall using the method described here.

    I didn’t see any mention of how large a hole to cut. I ended up using a piece of 1x4x7 inches long. There wasn’t any magic to the 7″ length. In fact, I intended to cut it to 6″ but made a noncritical mistake. My goal, though, was to have about 1.5″ overlap on both the top and bottom of the hole to offer good support. The hole I cut ended up being 3.5″ wide (matches the width of the 1×4 stock I used), and 3″ high.

    I carefully cut the hole with a utility knife so I could use that same piece of drywall for the patch. That worked out well.

    The tip to put a screw in the middle of the board to hold it was great. In my example, though, that screw blocked the board’s path all the way into the cavity, so I just moved the screw down towards the bottom of the board. I had another screw handy to re-insert to the middle when the board was situated.

    One thing I did to help hold the board in place was to screw 2 screws on the wood along the bottom edge of the hole, so the screws would rest on the drywall, stabilizing it while I screwed through the drywall to the board. I also drilled pilot holes through the drywall into the board so that the board wouldn’t just push away from the screw and not get drawn up against the drywall.

    Thanks for getting me on the right track. The whole process turned out to be a lot easier than I anticipated. And now my towel rack is anchored better than ever.

    Reply

    • Marty

      FSH, thanks for checking us out. Glad you got a tip or two from this post. For some things, I just avoid wall anchors anymore and go right to this “technique.” That oughta be the last time you have to mess with the towel rack.

      Reply

  • Nancy Rosenberg

    I have a handyman coming to install grab bars in a friend’s bathroom wall. The wall is wallpapered. He proposed a similar technique (blocking behind the wall) to the one you described and said that he can cut out the wallpapered drywall and then reuse that piece of drywall after placing the block, so the wallpaper will be able to be preserved. Does that sound doable ? I hope so!

    Reply

    • Marty

      Nancy,thanks for checking us out. I would ensure that a grab bar is installed/fastened directly to wall studs, or that any blocking put behind drywall is also fastened to wall studs and sufficient enough to support that kind of load. In our post, the reinforcement wood behind the drywall is “floating,” and not connected to wall studs. Our technique helped to reinforce something like a towel holder or toilet paper holder, but not a grab bar. Also, I’m not certain the approach of being able to reuse the portion of drywall with wallpaper on it, without there being some kind of visible edge where the drywall was cut. I suppose this could be done with a razor knife but there still would be a visible artifact of where the piece was cut out. I’d ask your handyman to walk you through a detailed demonstration of how they would accomplish this and what the end result would look like…ask lots of questions

      Reply

  • marc

    how do you shore a drywall?

    Reply

  • Stella

    Hi, long time toilet roll holder hater here. Thank you so much for your post. I was wondering interms of affixing the toilet roll plate with your method would you suggest lag screws with thread hold for extra strength? Otherwise what screws would you recommend. Many thanks

    Reply

  • DWM

    I am inserting something like a handrail. I installed 2x blocking in the wall behind the drywall. Do I need to put some sort of anchor into the drywall and blocking first so the screw “bites” into both the drywall and block?

    Thank you in advance!!

    Reply

    • Pete

      I would think you only need to worry about the screw getting into the 2×4 blocking and not worry about the drywall, so I wouldn’t use an anchor but I’d be sure the blocking is attached very well to the studs.

      Reply

  • William E. Kessler

    To repair larger drywall, it’s best simply to cut out the damaged area between two studs, and install new drywall.

    Reply

  • J connerty

    thanks for sharing! Good call about using the screw to insert the wood back there.

    Reply

  • Dave

    In my case, it is not a toilet roll holder. It is wire shelving (ClosetMaid stuff). The entire length of wire shelving fell down and one of the two rectangular wall brackets (the ones that hold the edge of the shelving) put a whole right through the side wall. I am going to use this technique and am wondering if the 1×4 will be strong enough to hold the wire shelving bracket (and the weight of the clothes that will hang on the wire shelving). The bracket used to be held by just the 2 cheap anchors that come with the brackets (into drywall – no stud). I assume the 1×4 with the bracket screwed into it will be stronger than what used to just be the cheap drywall anchor going into drywall only. Does that sound right?

    Reply

  • Charles

    I do the same thing. I use plywood instead of #2 1x material. Less chance of splitting and makes it even stronger. The problem is depending on the size of the hole you cut out, angling in the wood blocking makes the size of it limiting (small). So I compensate by using plywood. 1/2″ ply is fine. I try to use 5/8″ if possible, 3/4″ would be ideal.

    Reply

  • Scott Pfleeger

    We recently started our new drywall and painting business and came across this article. Really appreciate you taking the time to educate us on this. I would have never thought to put screws in the original wall as well as the new piece but it makes perfect sense. Drywall by no means is an exciting topic to write about but you make it look easy and kept it entertaining. Thanks a ton

    Reply

  • Mrs. G

    Thank you!! We have a beautiful pivoting toilet paper holder. The inevitable flipping and striking has loosened the drywall. I didn’t foresee this problem or I would have requested a wood reinforcement (like I did for all the towel racks). Thank you for a well documented permanent repair for what I needed.

    Reply

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