How to Repurpose Towel Rail into Toilet Roll Holder
A wooden toilet roll holder with plastic spring loaded spindle; in many ways it is not unlike my bespoke repurposed design in this DIY article.
Repurposing Towel Rail to Toilet Roll Holder
This DIY project gives a detailed step by step guide on the simple task of re-purposing materials from an old wooden towel rail, along with the spindle from an old plastic toilet roll holder, into a new toilet roll holder on a zero budget.
And Reusing an Old Toilet Roll Holder Spindle
Transforming one thing into another (repurposing) by recycling what would otherwise be redundant material is a great way to breathe new life into old objects and a great money saver by salvaging what would otherwise by rubbish.
This DIY project is a prime example of repurposing when we wanted to replace our old toilet role holder as part of modernising our shower room. In renovating our shower room the old towel rail and radiator below it became redundant when they were replaced with a modern heated towel rail.
Dragging our old shower room kicking and screaming into the 21st century (as part of these renovations) meant ripping out our old tatty plastic (and dated) toilet roll holder, with a desire to replace it with something more modern and smarter.
Hence the concept of repurposing the old towel rail into a toilet roll holder.
If you have an old wooden towel rail or wish to design and make your own bespoke toilet roll holder but you don’t have the spindle from an old toilet roll holder then this is just the job to complete your DIY project; similar to the repurposing project described in this article.
Time required: 2 hours
- wooden towel rail
- Spindle from toilet roll holder
- Wood glue
- Sawdust (or wood filler)
- Wood stain
- Thin sheet of scrap wood e.g. 6 mm plywood
- Tape measure
- Hand saw
- Wooden drill bits
- Masonry drill bits
- 8 screws
- Wooden vice
- Spirit level
1. Layout your component parts on a workbench and dismantle them, namely the old towel rail and the spindle from an old toilet roll holder. The particular parts from the old towel rail that are needed for making your toilet roll holder are the back plates, the two longest side brackets and one of the center polls.
2. Measure and mark the length of the side bracket ready for cutting to size. The radius of a toilet roll is about 2 inches, so allowing for half an inch clearance you will want to measure 2.5 inches back from where the center of the spindle will be to the base of the side bracket. In this DIY project the side bracket was just over 3.5 inches from the base of the side bracket to the middle of the circular recess which previously held the towel rail poll. Therefore to get the desired length I just needed to shorten the side brackets by one inch.
3. Using a hand saw carefully cut the side brackets to the required length, ensuring the cut is true and square. Once cut place them upright on a flat surface to check they are perfectly perpendicular using a square and, just as importantly, your eyes e.g. stand back and look at them for all angles to see if they do truly look perfectly straight. If you are slightly out you should be able to square the base with a bit of course sandpaper to make them stand perfectly straight.
4. The existing holes in the two side brackets, which previously held the rod for the towel rail, are too big for the toilet roll holder spindle and will therefore need to be filled in. The diameter of these holes is just slightly larger than the thickness of the towel rod that they use to house. Therefore off-cuts from the rod is ideal for plugging these holes. This is easily achieved by putting one end of the rod into one of the holes, marking around the pole with a pencil and cutting at that point to create the plugs for filling the holes.
5. Put a generous blob of wood glue in the bottom of each hole, press the wooden plugs into the holes, press down firmly with the aid of a G-clamp. Release it from the G-clamp; wipe off any excess glue and leave to set overnight.
6. Once the glue is set you will need to drill new holes, slightly larger than the end prongs on the toilet roll spindle. A tape measure will give a rough measurement, which may be good enough, but for more accuracy I find the measuring plate in my drill and drill bit toolbox extremely useful. It is handy for quickly and accurately determining the size of screws, bolts and other similar sized round objects to determine the correct size drill bit required for the job. In this case the end prongs on the toilet roll holder spindle was sized 8.5mm therefore I needed a 9mm drill bit.
7. Having determined the correct size to drill, firmly old one of the side brackets in a bench vice and carefully drill a hole in the center of the wooden plug to the depth of the end prong on the toilet roll holder spindle. Repeat the process for the second side bracket.
8. In order to re-assemble the side brackets you will need to drill pilot holes in the side brackets to prevent the wood from splitting; and to do this you need to know where to drill the pilot holes. Fit a screw, with a sharp point, into the original screw hole of the back plate so that just the tip of the screw is poking out of the front. Gently press the side bracket onto the back plate in the correct position so that the tip of the screw leaves an indentation; this will mark the spot for you to drill your pilot hole. Repeat the process with the second side bracket and base plate.
9. Having drilled your first pilot holes glue and screw the side brackets to the base plate firmly but not over tight; as with one screw the side brackets can swivel on the base plates and you will want to get these perfectly straight and level so that you can drill a second pilot hole in each side bracket. With one screw and the glue should hold firmly once the glue has set.
However, overtime, with the amount of pressure exerted from using the spindle to replace spent toilet rolls with new ones you will want to be sure your new toilet roll holder is durable; a second screw will ensure this. Therefore, once glued and screwed with one screw, and straightened up, measure and mark on the back of each back plate for drilling a second pilot hole. Place one of the side brackets into a wood vice, drill your second pilot hole, add your second screw and fully tighten the first screw. Repeat this process for the other side bracket and base plate.
10. Your bespoke toilet roll holder is now complete and ready to install in your bathroom next to you toilet. However, trying to line both side brackets up on your bathroom wall straight and level and at the correct distance from each other, and then trying to mark through the screw holes onto the bathroom wall to indicate where to drill for your fixing screws can be fiddly. Therefore, to ensure a perfect fit, make a template to mark out the correct locations for drilling the fixing holes on your bathroom wall.
The advantage of using a template is that you only need to get the top level with a spirit level and because it is not very thick it is easy to get a thin tipped marker pen through the pre-drilled holes onto the bathroom wall to mark where to drill the fixing holes. For the template I used an offcut from laminate flooring as it is guaranteed to be straight and square and thin enough to easily get a pencil or thin tipped marker through the templates holes for marking the bathroom wall for drilling.
Using a thin piece of scrap wood that is straight and square line up one of the side brackets in the top right hand corner and (using small screws) firmly screw it in place. Using the toilet roll holder spindle position the second side bracket at the correct distance with the top edge level with the top of the scrap wood and screw that in place.
Undo all the screws, remove the side brackets, and drill suitably sized holes where the screws were e.g. 3mm. Your template is now ready for use.
11. Decide where you want to fix your new toilet roll holder in your bathroom, place the template in that location and level the top with a spirit level. While holding the template in that location (and ensuring it does not slip) mark you four holes using a thing tipped felt tip pen or pencil to mark the spots for drilling.
If drilling through tiles, gently tap the spots to drill with a sharp nail and hammer to break the glaze at that point so the drill bit has something to bite; reducing the risk of the drill bit from slipping. But do not hit the nail too hard otherwise the whole tile is likely to crack.
Using the smallest drill bit you have, drill pilot holes on the drill setting only; not the hammer drill setting; as the hammer action of the drill will most likely break the tile. Then change your drill bit to the correct size for your wall plug and re-drill through the tile. Once you are through the tile switch to the hammer drill setting to continue drilling into the wall behind. Drill to the depth of the length of your wall plug plus the thickness of the tile as putting a wall plug in a tile risks the tile cracking when you tighten the screw.
To prevent this risk you will want to get the wall plug behind the tile, to achieve this, once your holes are drilled, use a drill bit slight larger than the width of the top of the wall plug and drill just through the tile itself, not the wall behind. Then you should be able to push the wall plugs into the wall behind the tiles; easily achieved by giving a screw a few twists into the top of the wall plug so that it begins to bite and then gently tapping it with a hammer.
Once the wall plugs are in simple fix your new bespoke toilet roll holder, re-purposed from your old towel rail, onto the bathroom wall and load it with toilet paper ready for use.
Detailed visual step by step guideClick thumbnail to view full-size
Homemade Wood Filler
Simple solution for a quick job
Having repurposed the old wooden towel rail into a toilet roll holder if your old towel rail had two rails for holding towels (as mine did) you will be left with fixing screw holes where the second side brackets once were. If you do not have any proprietary wood filler to hand a couple of good alternatives to commercial wood filler is to either use car body filler (which, once set and sanded down) is just as good as wood filler, or make your own from equal amounts of wood glue and sawdust.
For this DIY project I mixed the wood glue and sawdust together in my fingers and pushed it through the fixing hole at the back of the base plates until it protruded through the hole in the front; and then just removed the excess. Once set it can then be lightly rubbed down and touched up with wood stain to match the existing.
Making use of what is available
In my case I happen to have a spare spindle from an old toilet roll holder to reuse as the spindle for the new toilet roll holder. However, if I had not had this spindle I could have still repurposed the old wooden towel rail by using part of one of the wooden bars instead for the spindle.
This would have been easily achieved by instead of blocking up the recessed holes (that originally held the towel poles in place) I left them and cut a channel in one of them (as shown by the area marked in black in the photo) with a hand saw, chisel and wooden mallet. With a cut channel pointing upwards it would allow the cut down towel pole to easily slip in and out to change the toilet roll when the old one was empty, and remain in place by gravity holding the toilet roll ready for use.
No doubt with a bit of imagination, other alternative repurposing solutions could be found to suit whatever redundant materials are to hand. For example, if you have a spindle from an old toilet roll holder but no towel rail to marry it to then I am sure there are always plenty of other household objects that could be used instead e.g. wooden bookends or you could make your own brackets to hold the spindle with some plywood offcuts, old floorboards etc. and fashion them into something smart with a router.
The possibilities are endless.