Fixing through panels is very straightforward. There will be many items that you need to fix to the walls once the panels are installed. Things such as shower heads, soap dishes, shower curtain rails, etc. will all need fitting.
The first thing to say about wall panels is that they are decorative. They are not structural. So with this in mind you need to fix items through the panels into the wall behind. You do not fix things to the panels.
The following examples are for fixing through hollow-section PVC panels. Laminate panels have a solid core and are not subject to the same problems. So let’s look at at the various methods that are available to you.
Lightweight items can include things like slider rail kits for a shower.
For very lightweight items you can fix directly through the panel into the wall behind as in Figure 1.
This method is usually sufficient for shower cubicle frames too. Even though the frame is quite narrow the load is spread along the entire length. You would usually buckle the frame before crushing the panels through over-tightening. But frameless designs with support rods will need a more solid fixing.
The panels themselves will have some bearing on which method that you need to use. Some panels are much stiffer and more solid than others. If you are in any doubt opt for a more robust installation technique.
You can crush the honeycomb structure of the wall panel if you over-tighten the items being fixed or if it exerts too much pressure on the panel when in use , as shown in Figure 2. Grabs rails are an example of an item that requires a very solid fixing. They regularly have to take a person’s full weight.
Medium-duty fixing can include things like shower mixers, shower curtain rails etc.
The easiest way to achieve this is to use wall plugs that are cut to length (as shown below). By fitting them flush with the surface of the panel it acts as a packer stopping the panels from being crushed (figure 3.).
This method can be improved upon by using a metal spacer the same thickness as the panel. You could make these from metal tube (microbore copper pipe for example) or a stack of small washers.
A further option is to sink screws through the panels into the wall. The screw heads are tightened until they finish level with the panel surface.
These screws are purely used for levelling. They are not used to fix anything and will prevent any item fixed over them from being able to crush the panels.
The more screws you use for this purpose the more solid a surface you will have to work with.
When you make any holes through panelling it is vital that the holes are sealed with silicone sealant. If you do not do this water can get through the gap behind the panels and cause problems.
There are some items used in bathrooms that require very heavy duty fixings. Examples would include wall hung toilets, wall hung basins and shower seats.
The last two items listed above take a person’s full weight so it is vital that they are totally solid in use. There is a method that can be used for these items but it is quite involved so it is available as a separate article here: fixing wall hung toilet pans