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How to Install Towel Bars and Hooks on Fiberglass Tub and Shower Surrounds

Toggle bolts solve tricky mounting problems on thin plastic walls.

FH05NOV_TOGGLE_01-3Family Handyman
Use small toggle bolts to fasten bath accessories to fiberglass or plastic tub and shower surrounds. Avoid cracks and pullouts with these simple installation guidelines

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Drill carefully, then install bolts

Photo 1: Mark locations carefully

Mark the hole positions and drill 3/8-in. holes through the fiberglass. For a clean, chip-free hole, use a brad point bit.

Brad point bit

A brad point bit cuts a clean, sharp hole exactly where you want it without chipping, tearing, or wandering.

Photo 2: Insert the bolts

Run a light bead of silicone caulk around the holes and insert the toggle bolts.

Photo 3: Tighten the bolts

Tighten the toggle bolts. Hold the mounting bracket away from the wall as you turn the screws; otherwise the toggle will simply spin inside the wall.

Toggle bolt

Use a brass screw for the toggle bolt rather than steel to avoid rust.

Fastening towel bars, shelves or hooks to a fiberglass or plastic shower surround can be tricky. The surround is simply too thin to hold screws and there's often a gap of 1 in. or more between the surround and the wall studs behind it. But with 1/8-in. toggle bolts, you can mount most light-duty hardware (like the adjustable showerhead bar shown here). Keep in mind that this leaves big holes (3/8 in.) in the surround that can't be patched later, so anything you mount will have to stay there permanently. The mounting system shown here isn't strong enough to support the full weight of a person, so we don't recommend it for installing safety grab bars.

Photos 1 – 3 show how to use 1/8-in. toggle bolts in a surround. Everything you need is available at home centers and hardware stores. Here are some pointers:

  • Some areas of a fiberglass surround may be reinforced with plywood. After you mark the hole locations (Photo 1), drill 3/16-in. holes. If you strike plywood behind the fiberglass, you can drive in stainless steel screws instead of using toggle bolts. If you don't hit plywood, drill 3/8-in. holes.
  • When you're drilling through the side of the surround where the shower valve is mounted, apply only light pressure as you drill. Otherwise, you might suddenly punch through the surround and puncture pipes.
  • When you buy toggle bolts, also buy brass machine screws to replace the steel screws that come with the toggles. Steel heads will rust and stain the surround.
  • When you tighten the toggle bolts (Photo 3), it's OK to use a drill. But do the final tightening by hand. Too much torque can crack the surround.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Caulk gun
  • Cordless drill
You'll also need a 3/8-in. brad point bit

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1/8“ brass screws for toggle bolts
  • 1/8“ toggle bolts
  • Silicone caulk