Install a Recessed Towel Bar to Save Space

By James Dulley

March 14, 2019 4 min read

Dear James: We are totally redoing our master bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom is narrow, and I always bump the towel bar. Is there a good way to redesign this so there is more space and I won't bruise my shoulder? — Ron F.

Dear Ron: It is convenient to have a towel bar extend well out from the wall for hanging towels, especially wet ones after a steamy shower. As you have found though, this can take its toll on your shoulders and elbows when a narrow bathroom is full of steam.

One simple option is to install a towel bar that mounts on the back of the bathroom door. Other designs mount on the door hinge. With either type, the towel bar is out of the way when you enter and exit the bathroom. The primary drawback to these, particularly in a long narrow bathroom, is that the towels are hanging far from the shower door.

Another option is to recess the towel bar into the wall cavity. This not only gets the towel bar out of your path, but it also provides attractive relief to an otherwise long flat wall. Depending upon the size of the bathroom, the towels may be within easy reach from inside the shower.

Before you begin this recessed towel bar project, you must find a spot on the wall that does not have any plumbing or electric wiring running up through it. It is fairly easy to check the plumbing fixtures to know if water pipes run through or not.

Check for electrical outlets on the opposite side of the wall in the adjacent room. Electric wire sensors that detect a hot wire in a wall can be purchased at most home center stores. Also, try to select a spot in the wall that has a closet on the opposite side. Since you will be removing one layer of drywall, there may be more sound transmission into the adjacent room through the wall.

Once you locate a suitable spot on the bathroom wall, determine the width you need for your towels. If you can get by with just 15 inches, this will simplify the job. Most homes have wall studs on 16-inch centers, so a 15-inch opening will not require you to saw through wall studs.

Locate the wall studs, and cut away a section of drywall to expose the wall cavity and sides of the studs. If you decide you need a wider towel bar, you will have to saw through the center stud. Nail a horizontal header between the two studs to support the severed center stud. This will provide about 31 inches of towel bar space. The height of the opening should be about 6 inches above the towel bar location.

Finish the edges of the wall opening with drywall and corner bead, similarly to how a door opening is done. For a more decorative look, use a fancy molding along the edge. Select one with rounded-edge detail, otherwise you may bump into it or stub your toes.

Place a sheet of high-grade plywood against the back of the opening. This will look nice as well as create a second layer for a better sound barrier between the rooms. Another option is to glue cork tiles against the drywall or plywood. Cork tiles are attractive and have good sound-absorption qualities.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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