How to Install Towel Holders on Tile Walls

A close look at several pieces of hardware for your bathroom.
  • 24-48 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-150
What You'll Need
Painters tape
Silicone caulk
Towel racks
Stud finder
Masking tape
Power drill
Carbide or diamond tip drill bit
1/4-inch tubular plastic anchors

A towel holder is a necessary feature in a bathroom. The most convenient towel holders hang on the wall, but installing these on tile walls presents some unique challenges.

Before you proceed with the install, carefully chose a convenient location for the towels to hang. Locate them in a place that is easy to reach from the sink, the tub, and the shower.

There are two different types of towel racks that can be installed on a tile wall. These include racks that are glued to the tile and racks that are installed by drilling into the tile.

Method 1 - Glue-on Towel Racks

Step 1 - Determine Location

You can install the glue-on towel racks in the shower or near the sink, shower, or tub, so determine where you want the towel rack and mark the wall with a small piece of painter’s tape or a grease pencil.

Step 2 – Measure and Mark

Once you have determined the general location of the towel rack, measure it and the size of the wall from the edges to be sure the rack will be centered. Mark the location of each of the supports. Then, use the level to make sure the supports will be even and level.

Step 3 - Attach First Support

A tube of silicone caulk

Clean the area with denatured alcohol before using 100% silicone caulk on the back of the support. Put it into place, using firm pressure to put it securely in the proper spot. Use painter’s tape or masking tape to hold it in place while the caulk cures.

After an hour, use the caulk gun to apply a bead of caulk around the seam between the wall and the fixture. Smooth with a wet finger to get a neat look, wiping away any excess with a damp rag, and allow it to set overnight.

Step 4 - Attach Bar and Second Support

After at least 12 hours, clean the spot for the second support, and apply caulk to the back. Insert the towel bar into the hole on the first support and then into the second. Using firm pressure, push the second support into place according to the markings you have made. Use a level to make sure it is correct before giving the caulk any time to dry in case it has to be adjusted. Tape the support into place and allow to sit for one hour. Caulk and smooth around the perimeter as you did for the first, and then allow it to cure overnight before removing the tape. Allow the caulk to cure for 12 more hours before allowing any water to touch it.

Method 2 - Drilling into the Tile

Step 1 - Determine Location

Use a stud finder to locate studs on the wall, and determine if you will be able to attach the towel rack on the studs based on its length. If so, you can use screws to mount the towel rack. If not, you will need to use hollow wall anchors instead.

Holding the rack up to the wall, mark the location where you will mount it.

Step 2 - Level the Rack

Still holding the rod up to the wall, use a level to determine that the support placement is level. It helps to have a second person for this step. Once the rack is level, use a grease pencil or some masking tape to mark the top and bottom of the supports.

Step 3 - Drill Holes for the Supports

Orange and black drill

Measure the supports to find out where you need to drill a hole, and then mark the location on the tile. Use masking tape to create a 2x2-inch piece pad on the spot where you need to drill. You should be able to see through the tape to transfer the mark from the tile to the top of the tape. The masking tape prevents the drill bit from skipping and damaging the surrounding tile as you bore through.

Using a carbide drill bit for ceramic tile or a diamond-tip bit for porcelain tile, drill slowly through the tile and into the wall at the marked location. If you are installing wall anchors, determine the size of drill bit you need by reading the package. If you are drilling straight into a wall stud, then drill a small pilot hole, smaller than the screw.

Step 4 - Wall Anchors

Insert your tubular wall anchors into the wall at this time. You may need to use a hammer to gently tap them in until they are flush with the tile. If they don’t go in with gentle tapping, you may need to ream the hole just slightly.

Step 5 - Install Holder

Complete the install of the towel holder by first installing one support, then inserting the towel bar and installing the other support just as you did in the first method. Check the level of the towel bar as you go.

Towel holders make an attractive and convenient addition to the bathroom and are easy to install, even on ceramic or porcelain tile.