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I'd like to attach a magnetic, metal knife rack to a tile back splash in the kitchen of my rental apartment. The tile is glazed white and the attachment points on the rack are small (about 0.9 sq in of metal). The rack weighs 2.5lb and with the knives and a margin for error, we're looking at about 5.25lbs total weight.

Lsat week I asked for guidance on choosing an adhesive, but that was roundly identified as a bad idea. Now I'm looking for alternatives. Since it's a rental, I'm not willing to break the tile (or risk breaking it).

  • Could I drill into the grout?
  • There are white formica wooden cabinets on either side, but I don't know how to drill into those in such a way that I could patch it later without being obvious.
  • Could I use a horizontal tension rod between the cabinets?
  • Could I use vertical tension rods between the sink and the cabinet above the sink?
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    Two sided tape may actually be a good way to go. It can hold a few pounds and is easy to remove (Compared to filling in holes in tile or grout) – DarthCaniac Nov 19 '14 at 15:50
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If the tiles have a non-porous glaze, an adhesive over a larger contact area should work fine.

Adhesive Joint Strength and Surface Area

The strength of the adhesive joint is proportional to the area in contact. This is how drywallers hang 100lb sheets of drywall with adhesive and almost no screws: Because of the large area over which the adhesive spreads the holding force to the studs or joists. The larger the sheet of drywall, the larger the adhesive surface area, the higher the holding strength.

Adapter Plate

Because the rack's mounts have small surface area, you would build an adapter plate with adequate adhesive contact surface area to support the weight. You mount the rack to the plate and adhere the plate to the tile.

Suppose the plate had an area 4"x4" in contact with tile. That bond will be 20x the strength of the 0.9"x0.9" area of your existing mounts. Increasing the contact area is how you get strength from your adhesive joint.

Adhesive Type

Once you've increased the contact surface area, you are no longer requiring anything extraordinary from your adhesive. I would guess that something like silicon tiling caulk that is designed for clean removal from tile would work best. You don't want something with too much holding force per unit area because it will take too much force to pop the plate off when you're done.

Plate Material

Ideally the plate material is something slightly flexible so that you can peel rather than pop the adhesive joint when you remove it.

If the plate is rigid then you'll be applying the entire failure force to the tile when you remove it. This could crack or lift the tile.

On the other hand, a flexible plate allows you to peel the plate which means overcoming only a small area of holding strength at a time. This is the exact same principle as peeling scotch tape.

Sacrificial Test

To be safe you'll want to test a representative mockup of an adapter plate and tile to test the following:

  • the plate/tile bond is adequate to support the weight
  • the adhesive can be removed without marking or marring the tile or grout
  • you can pop the plate from the tile without breaking or lifting the tile
  • Great answer! What would you recommend for suitable plate material? – David Braun Apr 6 '16 at 16:30
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    I suppose the ideal material depends on the look you are striving for and the mounting features of the rack. I would look at finish-grade 3/16" plywood appropriately shaped and sanded/painted/stained to suit. Ideally you would use countersunk machine screws through the back side of the plate to fasten to the rack. You might also get away with wood screws through the front side with the points clipped and ground flat on the back side. – alx9r Apr 6 '16 at 16:47
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Command Strips are definitely worth a shot for attaching the knife rack, and will do absolutely no damage. The large picture hanging strips can hold significant weight, and can be cut to a size that will fit and be hidden. Do make sure to keep the tab in tact so that you can easily remove them when you move out.

For $4, 5 minutes, and no risk of damage, it seems like a really good option: http://www.amazon.com/Command-Large-Picture-Hanging-Strips-4-Strip/dp/B00404YKZI

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    I've used these for other things. Whether it will work in this case depends in part on the design of the knife rack; as with most tapes, these work best when the contact surfaces are both reasonably flat so there's a decent amount of surface area to adhere to. If it only has screw loops, one solution might be to screw it to something like scraps of plywood and then use the tape to adhere those to the wall. – keshlam Dec 20 '14 at 20:14
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Drilling into the tile or grout is your most secure option. To do that, you will need a tile or glass bit.

Glass bits are best because in my experience they cut clean holes with minimal jitter. It will work if you want to drill the tile directly or just the grout. Don't push hard though! It is slow drilling, but very effective. If you push hard, you will wear the bit out in a few moments.

Glass Bit

Also, I recommend you put tape over the spot you want to drill, to prevent cracking and damage.

Painters Tape

  • IME small diamond hole saws are less likely to crack tile. They distribute the drilling stress over a wider area and require less material to be removed. – alx9r Nov 19 '14 at 18:41
  • @alx9r A hole saw for a tiny hole for a screw? – DarthCaniac Nov 19 '14 at 19:40
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    Exactly. Here's a 1/4" diameter example. Here's a 3/16" example. It's the only thing I use for drilling mounted tile. I've cracked tile with pointed bits; never with a hole saw. – alx9r Nov 19 '14 at 20:21
  • Nice man! I will try that out some time! – DarthCaniac Nov 20 '14 at 4:51

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