How to Install Ceramic Bathroom Fixtures in Drywall

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A complete how to guide for installing ceramic bathroom fixtures like towel bars, toilet paper holders and soap dishes.

A lot of bathrooms are missing towel bars, soap dishes, and toilet paper holders. Sometimes they are installed in an inconvenient spot. Luckily this is an easily corrected situation. Most homeowners can complete this task without calling a contractor.

To do this you will need a ceramic fixture set that matches the existing tile. When they are placed across the room from the tile the color does not need to match perfectly. You will also need a bag of white thinset.  Unsanded thin-set works best because it is extremely sticky. The tools you need are a razor knife, bubble level, pencil, margin trowel, sponge, and a bucket. Masking tape can help hold the ceramic to the wall while the thin-set dries. This is only necessary in high traffic areas. A hacksaw can be used to cut a long towel bar.

Not much is worse than when you sit on a toilet but can not reach the paper holder. Another common placement issue is a towel rack that is across the room from the shower. Keep these in mind when planning the ceramic fixture placement. Towel bars should all be at the same height. Four feet off of the floor is common.

Hold the fixture against the wall. Trace an outline of the ceramic nipple on to the drywall. If you are installing a towel bar use the bubble level to adjust the height of the second post. Most towel bar kits come with a template. This template is designed for full length towel racks. If a shorter bar is desired then cut the bar with a hacksaw. The amount that you cut off will need to be transferred to the template.

Score the bottom pencil line with a razor knife. Cut all the way through the drywall on the two side and the top lines. Push on the top of the square. It should fall back into the wall. This will form a shelf for the thinset to rest on. Hopefully there will NOT be a stud. If there is a stud then you must cut through the drywall along the bottom line. Completely remove the drywall square. Place the ceramic bathroom fixture in the hole to make sure it fits properly. Now is the time to adjust the hole if it is to small. Extra thin-set will hide the hole if it is a little too large.

Make about one cup of white thin-set for each ceramic fixture. To make thin-set properly, place the correct amount of powder in a bucket. Add water to the bucket while stirring with a margin trowel. Add just enough water to wet the mortar. It cannot be soupy.

With a wet sponge dampen the drywall. Basically you will just be removing the dust. Place some thin-set on your margin trowel. Press this mortar around the inside of the hole in the wall. Liberally butter the back of the ceramic fixture. Place some extra thin-set on the shelf. This must blend into the thin-set that is behind the wall. All of this thinset that is in the wall will bond with the thin-set on the fixture. This will lock it in place once dry. Push the ceramic fixture into the hole. Some extra thin-set should squish out from the joint at the wall. Use your finger to make a nice bead. Clean the left-over mortar off of the wall and the fixture before it dries. Some people place a piece of masking tape across the ceramic and onto the drywall to hold it in place. Repeat this step for each fixture.

You must wait 24 hours after installing the ceramic bathroom fixtures before using them. This process can be used to reinstall fixtures that have fallen off the wall due to improper installation. This type of bathroom remodeling job is quite simple. The finish product is quite eye catching and useful. 

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