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If you’re looking to install floating shelves on a tile wall or tile backsplash, it requires the use of anchors to keep things sturdy and safe. Here’s how.
The floating shelves in the laundry room are now painted and finished! They’re everything I wanted: wide, solid, long… and not at all chunky. That last part seems to be one of the hardest-to-find elements when it comes to floating shelves, so I’ll have a tutorial ready for you on Monday with the full play-by-play and final photos (I’m waiting on the last coat of paint to cure before putting anything on top of them, & then I can take photos).
I’m excited to start loading them up and putting them to use, but there’s one very important part that I thought could use its own bit of instruction before the full how-I-built-them tutorial: installing shelves that have (at least) one part belonging to a ceramic tile wall, but without a wall stud (aka, using wall anchors).
Using wall anchors on a tiled wall for sturdy floating shelves
The tile wall behind the washer and dryer in my laundry room did not have studs in the right spot that would allow me to secure the first cleat for the shelves to sit on. You definitely don’t want to hang anything straight onto hollow walls without some added support.
And since these shelves were going to be long, wide, and preferably thin, I knew that getting this piece secure would be crucial to the shelf’s ability to support and distribute weight. Much of this info applies if you’re hanging bathroom accessories like a grab bar, medicine cabinet, or towel rack. Here are the details!
- 5/16″ drill bit for ceramic/glass tile (determined by the size of the wall anchors and screws I was using; look at the back of the package of the wall anchors for manufacturer info)
- #10 Cobra Triple-Grip (blue) anchors – that link looks like it’s green, but the color of the anchor is actually blue (H/T to PHG for this tip)
- 3-inch #10 drywall screws (to go through the 1.5″ width of a 1×2 on its longer side and the 1.5″ length of the wall anchor; use a shorter screw if you’re going through thinner material)
- painter’s tape
- spray bottle of water
- paper towels
- dust mask
The important things to remember about drilling through tile are these two main points:
- Slow & steady is the name of the game; be patient!
- Be absolutely certain that’s where you want the hole; there isn’t any room for error!
And one more thing: it’s really not that scary! Sure, you may not want to make a mistake, but I promise you that you’re probably building it up in your head more than it will amount to be.
With all the work I put into tiling the back wall of the laundry room, the last thing I wanted to do was drill in the wrong spot or worse, crack the tile by putting too much pressure on the bit. To get started, I measured out two spots on the shelf support (a 1×2) where I’d predrilled holes and then measured the same on the wall. I used painter’s tape to mark a level line in both places for where the shelf supports would go. The painter’s tape was actually thicker than the support, so I used a level and a scrap piece of wood of the same thickness to make sure I was marking each spot correctly and lining them up to the other level lines I’d made on the wall.
Be sure your holes are LEVEL! I know I said it already… but it’s worth repeating :)
With your holes marked on the tape, you’re now ready to take the plunge and drill the first hole. Load a spray bottle with water and put a paper towel beneath your work to catch drips (if you don’t want it dripping all the way down the wall, consider taping both ends of a folded-up piece of paper towel a few inches lower to the wall… it will soak up the moisture as you go!). It’s also recommended to wear a dust mask (tile dust isn’t awesome on the lungs) as well as protect your floors below your work; tile dust will leave scratches.
The drill bit should say on the package that it’s okay for use on tile, and specifically the kind of tile you’re drilling through (some might be okay for multiple types, but I spotted one tile bit that said not to use on ceramic, so I had to keep looking) … these are available in the hardware section of your local Blue or Orange and specially packaged/labeled separate from the usual bit sets. Also pay attention to the size of the bit… some multi-packs will include various hole sizes, but since you’re also using a wall anchor here, be sure that they all match up for the same use (for example, a 5/16″ bit was mentioned on the package of the 5/8″ wall anchor, so I knew which drill bit to purchase).
Using the proper bit, begin drilling the first hole; go very slow and then pick up a little speed when the drill bit starts to gain traction in the hole created. The friction will cause the bit to get very hot and may even smoke, so use the spray bottle of water to cool things down as you go. Drill… spray… drill… spray. And so on.
The tile dust and water will create some dirty sludge that you’ll need to clean off of the bit before drilling the next hole.
When finished creating all holes, peel off the pieces of tape and clean up any remaining sludge from the wall.
The wall anchors I bought also came with its own drill bit, which I found that I did have to use even after doing all of this with the specialized bit. The hole for the anchors was just a smidge too tight, and I didn’t want to risk the anchor breaking the tile when I tapped it into the wall; luckily the second bit for the anchors etched away just a small sliver more (it did chip the edge of the hole in the tile though, so I was glad to have used the other bit first), and the anchors popped in with a few light taps of a rubber mallet.
With the anchors in place, you can now add the first shelf supports on the tile wall and continue on with the rest of the shelf installation. When screwing into the anchor, be sure to screw all the way in so that the little wings of the anchor expand (for some reason these anchors appear to have bad reviews with some retailers, but I had zero issues).
That’s enough for this post, but I’m very happy that these shelves are finally done and ready for a supporting role (ha) in the rest of the laundry room makeover. The full floating shelf DIY will be up next week!
More from this laundry room makeover:
Want to see how everything looks now? Check out these other posts!