I recently purchased a Sure Hands HM2500 series unit off of craigslist to help my Mom use the bath tub. This is a writeup of how my Dad and I installed the lift.
This particular unit included:
- The HM2500 motor, which includes both up and down as well as a lateral (left and right) motorized movement
- 7′ 10″ of straight track
- The SureHands body support
- An infrared remote for controlling the motor unit
- All of the necessary hardware
My Dad and I installed the lift ourselves (DIY for the win!). It took us a good day to get everything setup, including a trip to the hardware store for an extra long bit for the lag bolts that go into the ceiling joists.
The fist order of business that Dad had taken care of was removing the sink and vanity from the bathroom as it was located in the ideal spot that Mom would use to get in and out of the lift from her scooter. He capped the plumbing pipes and the plan is to reinstall it and setup the plumbing directly outside of the bathroom in the bedroom.
The next item was figuring out where the joists were in order to drill holes for the lag bolts that secure the brackets and track to the ceiling. We started the search for the joists by using a stud finder. We actually tried two different stud finders but both of them weren’t able to give an accurate reading through the ceiling drywall. So instead we took off the plastic molding around the ceiling light fixture and could see that the light fixture was secured to a ceiling joist. We determined the center of that joist (3/4″ of inch from the edge for nominal 2″ joists) and then measured 16″ from that point in order to get to the center of the next joist. We drilled a small pilot hole to double-check that the joists were put in at 16″ intervals and when we saw wood shavings from the drill we knew we were on the right “track”. Then we marked each joist at 16″ intervals where each bracket would be bolted.
Next we determined the ideal distance from the near wall to the center of the track. We did this by measuring out from the wall and seeing where the center of the track and in turn lifting strap would be positioned relative to where the user would want to be placed. We found that the point where the user would want to be sitting in the bathtub was 18″ inches from the wall. We changed this to 17.5″ in order to position one of the track brackets on the joist between the light fixture and the separate fan fixture. You can see that bracket in the following picture:
What we found though after using the lift and body support is that there is a decent degree of freedom in the forward and back positioning when going up and down in the lift so if the center of the track is not exactly over where you want the user to be lowered and raised because of constraints like the light fixture, it will still work just fine. If there were to be a major issue with something like the light fixture being in the path of the track then the light fixture could be moved to a new location.
Next we determined the location from that centerline location (17.5″ from the wall) to the hole in the bracket closest to the wall. This was necessary since we needed to mark the drill holes in the bracket which extend out perpendicularly from the track.
Once we had made a marking for one of the brackets to the far side of the of the room, we used a laser guide from that marking across the ceiling to an additional marking for the joist on the other side of the room. This was to ensure that even if our markings measured from the wall weren’t in a straight line because of possible curves in the wall, the marking would still be perfectly straight.
Once we had those first bolt hole marking, we could then measure down from it using the hole to hole distance in the bracket in order to get a marking for the second bolt hole.. We had also used a framing square to get a nice square line off of the wall along the joist with which the bracket hole markings crossed.
Here’s what our markings looked like when they were all set:
Next we drilled half of the holes (4, as we were using 4 brackets total) for two of the brackets on one side of the track. We used a 21/64″ drill bit for the holes. We found though that our drill bit was too short, about an inch shorter than the lag bolt. So Dad picked up an “Aircraft” 5/16 bit that is probably a good 12 inches long like this one:
Dad was wondering why it’s called an “Aircraft” bit… good question!
Once we had those 4 holes drilled for the two brackets, we put up the track and bolted it down. The idea for doing just the two brackets on one side of the ceiling first was because I was paranoid that, even with using the laser guide to get the markings across the ceiling, there still could be some error since we’re dealing with a 7′ 10″ inch span of track and even a slight error would be amplified at that distance. By putting the track up like that before drilling all of the holes down the line we could really see if our markings were accurate or if we needed to move them. We found that the markings were spot on. Afterwards we determined that the drill holes do not have to be incredibly precise since there is tolerance built into the bracket holes, which are a good deal larger than the diameter of the lag bolts.
It was then time to install the motor unit. We were initially going to try and install it by sliding it in while the track was in place on the ceiling. Unfortunately we only had about a foot of space on one end of the track and the wall if the track was slid in the brackets with the other end all the way against the opposing wall. The length of the motor unit is about 16 inches but this could still work as the actual wheels for the unit only span 12″ or so. So we figured we might be able to move the wheels alongside the track and then slide it in. Now, the motor unit weights 50 or 60 pounds so it’s pretty precarious once you have it overhead. Trying to massage it in with such tight parameters didn’t seem like it would yield a positive outcome. Dad got the idea to take the track down, slide the unit into the track on the floor and then lift the track to the ceiling together using a ladder to support the motor near the ceiling while someone put in the first bolts. So that’s what we did instead.
Because the motor unit is so heavy, it still seemed like getting the motor up and stable at the top of a step ladder would be a challenge. That’s when it both dawned on us simultaneously to take the batteries out of the motor unit before getting going since the batteries account for a substantial amount of the weight. This lightened the load greatly making the lifting much easier. Woohoo!
Next we lifted the track and the motor unit up and placed the motor unit at the top of a step ladder. While I held the motor unit stable on top of the ladder, Dad bolted a bracket in halfway on the far end of the track.
Once we had the one bracket in I was able to hold up the other end of the track and Dad bolted in another bracket and then by sliding the motor unit down we were able to get the other brackets bolted into place.
We bolted in the charging pin bracket where we wanted it installed. One thing to note is that there was a big warning in the manual not to put the charging pin bracket anywhere where the user would be lifted because that load might draw too much power from the AC charging transformer and blow it out. Granted I have a limited understanding of electrical current, but I don’t see how this would be possible if the battery and its available amperage remains part of the circuit. Nevertheless, we complied with the warning and positioned the charging pins away from where the lowering and lifting would occur.
All that was left was reinstalling the batteries, stapling the battery charging cable to the ceiling to get it out of the way of the motor unit and now Mom is able to enjoy a relaxing bath!