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Mounting Methods Ceramic Bathroom Hardware [Help page]

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Mounting Methods explained and which you need to choose:

AC Products DID make a lot of bathroom hardware. This page, because it was very helpful in the past, will remain on our website. We will alter a spec due to AC Products being out of business and this hardware no longer being made. What stock we have left is on closeout, and we have scattered items in many of the various mounting methods.

A diagram similar to this one will be seen on some collection pages: (we have removed it where it is now obsolete)
AC Products mounting methods for ceramic bathroom hardware

In the diagram above, four of the pictures show an illustration of the same soap dish. Only the BR recessed mount is way different. On the four that are similar, the soap dish depicted was the model 725 which did come in 4 mounting methods. When mounted, each method looked the same from the front. Only the mounting method (the back of the piece) was different.

As you travel down this page to help you with your repair, new install, or completely new bathroom, each picture will have a brief description to denote why it is on this page.

ALSO NOTE: This is a help page, not a product page. It will show pictures of the products, but to order any of the bathroom hardware, you will need to be on one of the AC Products collection pages. Access to these pages is in the top menu or the text menu toward the bottom of the page.
AC Products thin-set compared to flat back mouting methods
First lesson: Thin-set shown on the left, and Flat Back on the right. Many customers tell us that they need a soap dish with a flat back, but then they say to fit in a hole in the tile. Thin-set has been a traditional way of installing bathroom hardware on tiled wall surfaces. Generally, a piece of tile is omitted in a size equal to or a spec larger than the thin-set protrusion. That is the portion on the back that is sticking out, always smaller than the overall dimension of the soap dish, TP holder, corner shelf, etc. The thin-set depth is also around 1/4", not very deep at all. Since most ceramic wall tile is 3/8" thick, thin-set sinks nicely into the opening left by leaving a tile out, or a portion of a tile. Thin-set is also the most popular choice as almost all pieces are available in a thin-set mount.

The flat back shown on the right is an "afterthought mount." Since there is no protrusion, flat back can be glued upon any wall surface without the need of creating the thin-set indent. Flat back can glue on top of tile, on top of greenboard, on top of sheet rock, or any flat wall surface.
AC Products thin-set mount soap dish over hole in the wall
If you have a hole all the way through your wall on a tiled wall surface, a thin-set mount can still be used. The majority of the back of the piece will have nothing to adhere to unless you can fill in the hole. But the entire perimeter of the piece can be glued to the tile edges, and a small rim of the tile surface. The right waterproof adhesive can hold quite well.
AC Products thin-set mount toothbrush holder on tile wall surface
This is how that thin-set piece looks when mounted over the hole in the wall.
AC Products comparing thin-set mount to mud set mount
If you do have that hole all the way through your wall, you may want to consider the mud-set mount. In the picture above, thin-set is on the left over an area where a tile is omitted on the sheet rock surface. On the right, the tile is on the sheet rock, but a hole is cut through the sheet rock. The greater depth of the mud-set piece, 1-1/4" minimum required, allows the mud-set piece to pass through the wall. If installing with actual mud-set, basically a smooth concrete mud pack, that mud pack surrounds the back of the piece, lodges onto it, gushes in the holes a little, and holds the piece in place from the backside of the wall. A very secure mount.

However, there are a limited number of mud-set choices. Just one soap dish style, one TP holder choice, a towel bar choice, and then the taller tumbler holder. The thin-set mount shown on the left is NOT called mud-set, yet many professionals like to say that they "mud it in." Sometimes a mud-set compound is used to place thin-set pieces in place, especially if the hole is a little deeper and that space needs to be filled in. The pros have many tricks to the trade.
AC Products thin-set and mud-set tile installs
Here's what the thin-set and mud-set items look like when mounted. If they were not labeled, would you know the difference? Probably not. This is one of the common questions we get for anyone replacing a broken soap dish or corner shelf. Until the broken piece is fully removed, you have no idea of what opening existed behind it.
Mud-set soap dish mounted in hole in sheet rock wall
Mud-set can also be used directly on a sheet rock wall. These items are not solely for tiled wall surfaces. If you plan to texture a sheet rock surface and then paint, you can install ceramic bath hardware on that kind of wall. Note, that this most likely will not be a wall subject to constant water bombardment.
AC Products flat back and mud-set mounts compared
We just showed you how thin-set and mud-set look like side by side when mounted on tile, this is how flat back looks next to mud-set. From the front, all appears to be the same. The flat back was actually adhered over the hole left in the tile from a previous picture. Which leads us up to, flat back can be used in place of thin-set, generally for retrofitting or repairs. If you cannot clean out the opening of the old hole, you can fill it in level, or just leave it there and glue a flat back piece right over the top. So the flat back can be used on top of tile, or to cover over a hole in the tile and hide it.
AC Products flat back mount ceramic TP holder
Flat back pieces have no protrusions on the back side. Makes them ideal to glue onto any flat wall surface. But also to be used to cover over uneven openings, and openings that are TOO SMALL for the thin-set indent. An example: We have had many customers looking for roughly a 2" x 2" thin-set towel bar. Seems it was quite a popular size in the mid 20th Century. Our model BA730 towel bar requires a 2" x 4" opening to fit into. If you choose to use a thin-set piece requiring a 2x4 opening when you have a 2x2 opening, it will not fit unless you decide to cut your opening larger. To keep thing simple, you could just glue a BF730 towel bar over that opening and hide it.

We haven't mentioned clip on mount yet. So here we go. Clip on mount, like flat back, can mount on any flat wall surface. With clip on, the mounting clip will be screwed onto the wall first, then the piece will slide down onto the tapered mounting clip. You would tap it down with a gentle tap of your knuckles or soft rubber mallet to wedge it tighter onto the mounting clip. Mounting clips can be mounted to drywall or wood surface quite easily. They can also be mounted onto tile surfaces as long as you use a ceramic tile drill bit to create the screw holes for the plastic anchors.

If you are mounting towel bars or TP holders onto new or even drywall surfaces, this is the preferred mounting method for drywall. The plastic anchors hold the piece more snugly to the wall. And if you like, you can always add a tiny bit of adhesive behind the piece as you slide it onto the mounting clip.
AC Products five ceramic bath hardware mounting methods
To review so far: thin-set has a 1/4" deep protrusion on its backside and requires a divot of 1/4" or slightly deeper to fit into at least the size of the thin-set perimeter. Mud-set is similar to thin-set but requires at least a 1-1/4" deep hole to fit into. The flat back offers flexibility in its mount because it has no protrusion on the back. The back is completely flat and can allow you mount onto new or existing ceramic tile surfaces. Or granite or marble tiles, or any flat wall surface. Clip on is the best choice for drywall walls. The mounting clip must be screwed onto the wall surface, then the bracket embedded on the backside of the piece slides down over the mounting clip.

And now on to "fully recessed."

Fully Recessed Bathroom Hardware explained better

A long descriptive paragraph will follow after all the pictures. But what these pictures are showing is that fully recessed means it goes into the wall most of the way, pretty deep. Not just thin-set which technically recesses only the depth of the tile. Then recessed items can be mounted within tiled walls, or even just into sheetrock that you plan to texture or just paint.
Recessed TP holder shown mounted in tiled wall
Recessed TP holder shown with roll of TP in it
Hole prepared in tiled wall surface for recessed bath hardware
Hole cut in sheetrock wall for recessed bath hardware
Recessed TP holder shown set into sheetrock wall
Comparing recessed to thin-set mount, see the difference
Ceramic TP holder recessed mounted into tiled wall
Mud set back portion will be set into hole in the wall
Recessed is a great design choice. There are recessed soap dishes, TP holders, and then the shower caddies. Almost all available in all colors (the two large shower caddies have limited color selections). Most recessed items are available in the stoneware colors too. Recessed Bathroom Hardware (January, 2024, that paragraph is old. Some items remain available in recessed mount, and in limited colors.)

When designing your bathroom for recessed pieces, there are a few considerations. The first, you must have that free and clear 3-1/2" of depth for the pieces to fit into. By free and clear we mean, you might find some electrical wires in the wall, or even a pipe in the shower or tub area. So when planning that recessed hole, you want to watch out for obstructions in the wall. Sometimes a stud will be in the way, and you do not want to just chisel out a stud. That could weaken your wall. For a new install or a complete bathroom redo where the walls were opened up, you will know where everything is in your walls. But for retrofitting when you want to remove the TP holder you constantly bump your knee on and install a recessed TP holder, you need to know that you have that space in your wall.

The next consideration is placement. For a TP holder, it will be within reach of the toilet. But in your bathtub or shower area, how high will you mount that soap dish? Within reach of someone sitting in the tub, or for easier reach when standing? Will I use one or two soap dishes and then how to align them? If considering a larger shower caddy, how high up should you mount it and on which wall surface? Will the shower niche or soap dish be in direct conflict with the spray of water and always filling up with water? Well.... So much of that depends upon your tub size and shape. Also depends on whether you have a stand alone shower stall, a bathtub only area, or a combination of the two. Most homes in the US from the 1940's to 1990's had pretty much a tub area with a shower head on one wall, thus the combination of the two. Newer homes are starting to see the advantages of a shower stall only, or a really fancy bathtub with Jacuzzi jets, a nice wide deck, and room for dozens of candles.

So most shower caddies are mounted around shoulder height and a little way back from the water spray area. Anything you place in them is designed to get wet, but you would prefer them not to be in direct alignment with the shower head hitting them. This also lessen the chances of having plumbing pipes found to be behind them. A smaller soap dish is more of an appeal choice for placement. It can be on the same wall surface as the shower head thus a couple feet below the shower head. It can be on the side wall, at mid height. Or it can be lower just above the tub surface. But plan to keep it out of the direct water spray.

Last consideration, that comes to mind, on a bathroom wall that is an exterior wall of the house, what is the wall made from? Is it wood frame, thus you will have that 3-1/2" of depth. Or is is concrete block, in which you would have to chisel out part of the block to insert anything with depth. You could hit re-bar, or filled concrete cells. That could become a challenge. So definitely know in advance what kind of wall surface you are considering cutting into. If a concrete block exterior wall, you would be better off NOT going with recessed items, it would be a tremendous amount of work to fit them in.

What adhesives can I use to install bathroom hardware?

We have had this question a lot. Our two-approach answer is: in a water environment, where the soap dish, corner shelf, or towel bar will get wet, you must use a waterproof or all-weather rated adhesive. In an area outside of the shower, behind the vanity sink, or in the laundry room, a good quality brand adhesive will suffice. Such as regular Liquid Nails.

In a water environment, such as the tub or shower, it must be 100% WATERPROOF. Not just water resistant. Your corner shelves and soap dishes will be getting wet daily, you need a glue that will hold up and not breakdown over time. So the adhesive TUBE must say waterproof. In one of our trips to The Home Depot, we decided to check out some current labels on their various adhesives. Seems that instead of the word Waterproof, many brands are now choosing to say All Weather. When looking up All Weather adhesives on Google, it seems that most that claim to be All Weather also state that they are 100% waterproof. If you are ever in doubt, look it up on-line. Most manufactures of adhesives will have more extensive information on their websites.

Several Customers have reported great results using Loctite Power Grab Ultimate.
Loctite Power Grab Ultimate

We do not sell adhesives. You can find this at Home Depot or Lowes. Another choice, and we saw a video of this adhesive being applied under water, is Liquid Nails Fuze-It.

Both of the above adhesives are good choices for water or dry mounting environments. Have another home improvement project planned at the same time because you will probably have left over adhesive to use on something else.

Additional adhesive notes:
If doing a thin-set install at the same time as your tile, you can use the same adhesive (mastic) used to mount your tiles. If installing flat back items, then find any good quality 100% waterproof adhesive, such as the two mentioned above. Note: there are many contractor grade adhesives, and roofing adhesives. These are usually unsightly glue. If you use too much, you will make a mess, and it will be an ugly one.

And we find this important:
If the adhesive says it dries in 2 hours or 4 hours or whatever, don't fully trust that! Please, tape up or secure all pieces in place for a good 48 hours before trusting them not to fall off the wall. And do not caulk the perimeter too soon. If the adhesive has not set fully, and you caulk and thus seal out the air from allowing the adhesive to dry, anything can fall off the wall days, weeks, or months later. Adhesive in a sealed tube remains liquid and ready to use. If you apply some adhesive and then seal the air off from allowing it to dry, it may take forever to dry. We have had some reports of corner shelves jumping off the wall. So do not always believe the published drying time, and do not finish caulk too soon. But you do want to caulk the perimeter a couple days later to block water from getting behind the pieces, that is recommended. Makes for easier cleaning of the edges too with mildew resistant caulking.
This page's function was to describe the 5 various mounting methods that AC Products produced. And to answer the Adhesive Question for just a couple of adhesives that work. There are many others, most marine grade adhesives are good choices also.

We can offer some installation help, but we are not tile-setters. We can describe what to use, and how to use it, but we fully admit, there is a lot we do not know.
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