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The attempted shower seat

I recently tried to install a shower seat in my shower. It came with an aluminum wall bracket, and is anchored with 5 approximately 3'' screws inserted into typical plastic wall anchors. I had my doubts this would hold, so to minimize overall damage, I managed to limit drilling to only one tile.

Attaching the seat, it held well, but after further testing, the tile cracked in the middle, horizontally. Oddly, the adjacent tiles, left and right also have a hairline crack aligned with the middle crack. I did not expect this type of failure.

Questions

  1. What caused this? Did the backing (whatever it is) break and transfer to attached tiles?
  2. How do I proceed?
  3. Any guidance for attaching things to unknown walls?

I'd like this seat to work, but can't proceed without understanding why it failed. I assumed anchors would pull out or the tile would crack. bracket attached to tile with crack above

extra details

  • this is a rental, so some techniques may be limited.
  • the mortar at bottom of tiles is loose, I might be able to remove to spy on backing material only tub edge visible
  • while hammering in plastic anchors, the wall reverberated quite a bit, and seemed very hollow.
  • this wall is oddly thick and I'm unsure what is behind it. somewhat large distance between window and shower wall
  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. I'm guessing any answer will depend on just what that wall is made of; any additional info you can provide would be welcome. – Daniel Griscom Feb 14 at 3:14
  • Removing grout near tub revealed nothing: just the lip of the metal tub edge. Do you think removing a screw and anchor might allow me to peek at the backing? I could use this as an excuse for a cheap scope! – TonyH Feb 14 at 3:37
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The screws hold the plate to the tile; when the plate flexed under load, it bends the tile with it, but tile is not flexible like the metal, so it cracked.

As far as guidance for attaching to unknown walls: you really have to get to where you know what you're anchoring into before you can do so safely.

With bigger holes you could use stronger anchors such as toggles that get past the tile into what may be stronger material behind, but that could really be a can of worms. The backing material may be stiff enough that things won't flex and crack the tile but it's very hard to say for sure, you could make this much worse.

So how much was your security deposit? :)

  • This is NYC so $2500 or more :(. What about the adjoining cracked tiles? Maybe first tile cracked, then backer (drywall or backer board) cracked the others? – TonyH Feb 14 at 13:21
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The tiles cracked because anything supporting the weight of a human has to be stronger than a tile and cement board. The adjacent tiles cracked because the middle tile is pulling the entire wall with it off the studs. Those shower benches need to be fastened very securely. Bathrooms are the most dangerous place in the house. If you are going to replace the tile make a small hole through the backing material and locate the studs.

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