James grew up working on a cattle ranch in Northern Utah, which taught him how to do many ad hoc repairs and to make use of limited materials. Two years of missionary and humanitarian work in the Philippines with Operation Smile instilled a great appreciation for the opportunity to work, to avoid wasting resources, and to help others. Now back in the U.S., James has worked as a programmer/data engineer for several Fortune 100 companies.
Bathrooms are one of the most frequently used areas of the home but are often forgotten when we think about upgrading our decor.
What’s incredible about bathroom renovations is that seemingly small alterations can completely transform the look and feel of the space.
For example, sometimes, instead of raising the bar, it’s better to remove it! Removing your standard towel bar, holder, or storage shelf and replacing it with a custom-built DIY towel rack is often all that’s necessary to give your bathroom a rustic, industrial farmhouse vibe that’s both undeniably chic and practical. And you can do it all yourself for less than $20!
In this lesson, we’ll show you how to build and install a towel rack so you can hang your bathroom towels in style, all while saving money in the process.
Expensive store-bought towel bar, no thanks, we’ll hang our own, better-looking towel rack instead!
Before constructing the new DIY bathroom towel rack, it’s a good idea to remove the old one.
This affords the opportunity to see the surface the towel rack will be attached to and provides an idea of repairs you’ll need to make to the working surface, such as patching and painting holes in the drywall left from the previous towel bar.
If repairs are, in fact, necessary, taking the time to do this step first also saves an extra trip to the hardware store when picking up materials for the new towel rack project.
Determine the length and width you wish the towel rack’s wooden backboard to be. To do this, use a measuring tape to find out what size towel rack will look good in the bathroom and meet your requirements (i.e. think about how many hooks you’ll want).
After purchasing your chosen piece of wood, use a circular saw to cut the wood to the needed dimensions. Using a quick-square to keep the saw in place ensures a straight, square cut.
A hand saw can also be used for those that don’t have a circular saw. Many hardware stores can also cut the wood for you, so bring the dimensions with you to the store.
Tip: You can often use scrap wood for projects like this custom DIY bathroom towel rack. Scrap wood is heavily discounted, and in many cases, is 70-90% off the regular price. Scrap wood can easily be identified because it’s spray-painted at one end. If not, ask someone at the hardware store if they have any. Saving money is always a plus!
It’s now time to prep the wood before staining. Use coarse sandpaper, like 80-grit, to sand all surfaces (even the ends, sides, and corners) of the wood until unwanted defects are removed.
Now use finer sandpaper, such as a 220-grit, to sand the wood until everything is nice and smooth.
Use a clean cloth to wipe the dust off the wood when finished sanding.
Tip: Before applying stain to your bathroom towel rack, use a scrap piece of wood and test to see if the color is appropriate for the desired finish. It is very difficult to lift wood stain once applied, so better to be safe than sorry!
Apply wood stain to the towel rack baseboard with a lint-free cloth. Cover all areas of the wood, paying attention to wipe the stain with the direction of the wood grain, until the top, bottom, back, and sides are coated, and let dry.
For the cut ends of the bathroom towel rack baseboard, use the cloth like a sponge to absorb the stain into the sides of the wood.
The more coats of stain used, the darker the wood will become. As a rule of thumb, we recommend at least two coats to ensure the stain is applied evenly. Give adequate time for the wood to dry between applications.
For accurate drying times, see the manufacturer’s instructions on the can of stain.
While waiting for the wood to dry, use a stud finder to mark the location of the studs behind the drywall. Most studs are 16 or 24 inches apart. The DIY towel holder baseboard will be attached to these studs.
Think about what height will make the new towel rack functional for you and aesthetically pleasing when marking the studs.
Slowly drag the stud finder along the wall horizontally. The stud finder will light up or beep when a stud is located. Mark this position on the wall with a pencil.
Repeat the process to find the next stud, as we will need to fasten the towel rack to at least two studs for this project.
The larger the towel rack, the better idea it is to fasten the board to more studs, but it is crucial to fix the board to the wall in at least two places to secure it and ensure it remains level.
Another project that can be done while waiting for the wood stain to dry is to remove any old drywall plugs or anchors in the wall left from the old bathroom towel bar.
A regular kitchen knife can be used to pry the plugs away from the drywall. Once there is enough space to grip the plugs, simply pull them out with your hands.
With the drywall plugs/anchors removed, use spackling to fill the holes.
The spackling can be applied using your finger. Press the spackling into the hole, and then wipe the excess off the face of the wall.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, as the spackling will need to be sanded afterwards, anyway.
Tip: Some spackling brands are pink when applied and turn white when they are dry, letting you know it’s ready to be sanded.
Gently sand the patched drywall with heavier-grit sandpaper (100-120) to eliminate the bulk of the excess spackling.
Now use a fine-grit drywall sanding sponge to sand the area until it’s flush and blends with the existing wall. Remove any dust with a dry cloth.
With the drywall patched up, paint over the area so that it matches the rest of the wall. Let the paint dry.
Tip: If you no longer have the paint swatch or any extra paint, bring in paint chips from the wall to your local hardware store to match your existing walls’ exact color.
Once the stain has dried, it’s time to measure where the hangers will go on the DIY bathroom towel rack.
Use a tape measure to measure the length of the towel rack baseboard, and place the hangers so that they are spaced evenly across the wood. Leave a corresponding amount of space on the ends of each side of the board.
Now center the towel rack hangers by measuring the width of the board. Mark the hanger placement lightly with a pencil.
Tip: When deciding upon hanger placement intervals, try to align two of the hangers with where the board will be attached to the studs on the wall. Doing this will hide the screws that fasten the board to the wall.
Use a screwdriver to fasten the hangers to the bathroom towel rack baseboard using appropriately sized screws.
Ensure the screws aren’t too long, or else they pierce the back of the board, preventing it from being flush with the wall.
Don’t affix the towel hangers that will cover the screws that fasten the board to the wall yet. Attach these once the board is secured to the wall.
Drill at least two holes (may need more than two depending on the size of the towel rack) into the baseboard, where it will be fastened to the studs. Use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the grabber screw that will attach the board to the wall. Pre-drilling prevents cracking the wood.
Line up the board with the markings made earlier to identify the stud placement. Use a drill to set a grabber wood screw/deck screw/construction screw on one end of the board, attaching it to the wall.
Use a level on top of the board to make certain the bathroom towel rack is straight, and then fasten the other screw(s) until the towel holder is secure.
Hide the grabber screws by attaching the remaining bathroom towel rack hangers using a screwdriver.
And just like that, you’ve installed your own custom-built DIY bathroom towel rack! All for less than the price of one towel!