In the first part of this tutorial I showed you how to frame up your access panel and get the magnetic latches on it and all lined up. So right now you should have an access panel in the side of your fancy-pants tub and a box of tile just sitting there and laughing at you. If you don’t have that check out the link above. I’ll wait. :whistle:

That post is the meat and potatoes of building your access panel. This one simply describes the basics of installing your tile as well as placing an insert, if need be, into the access panel.

The biggest thing you’ll need to pay attention to as you install your tile is the perimeter of your access panel. You don’t want to get thinset into it or otherwise block it. If you do – it simply becomes a wall with a lot of pieces.

There are several ways to block the perimeter. You can use silicone, tape, backer rod or any number of products either covering or stuck into the gap around the perimeter. Anything that will keep thinset out of the perimeter gap will work fine – it’s only going to be there temporarily. I use blue painter’s tape. It’s just quick and easy.

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the painter’s tape. One of those things I just don’t think about. So I’ve created this really horrible graphic to indicate how it would look:

Marking line-up marks after adjustmentsHere is your panel without tape (what you should have now):






Taping off panel perimeterAnd here’s what it looks like with the tape: (Cheesy, huh?)

It will be the same for any product you choose to use. Anything that will keep thinset out of the perimeter gap will work.



And before the accusations of ’tile heretic!’ or other such nonsense fly – you will only be covering 5/16″ of each perimeter and the tape will be removed. It won’t affect the stability of the tile installation.

Once you do that just install the tile as normal. The next day CAREFULLY remove the access panel with the tile installed to it, remove the tape and put the panel back.

When you grout you will fill the grout lines around the perimeter of the panel with silicone or caulk which matches the grout. Do not grout it! That will defeat the purpose. If you ever need access to it just slice through the silicone with a razor knife and remove the panel.

That’s it.

Any tile placed onto the access panel must have the edge of the tile directly over the edge of the panel. If your tile or pattern is larger than the panel you must cut it to compensate. If you have a pattern or unusually shaped tile you can plan ahead and cut the panel in the shape of your pattern. You must do that before you begin, though. It is always best to measure everything first and build your panel to that size – it eliminates surprises.

If you are simply doing a regular pattern with no inserts or anything else that’s all you’ll need to do. Any liners or accent stripes also need to have a grout line directly over the edge of the panel. That way when you remove it you won’t tear down the rest of your accent.

For this particular installation I had 6×6 inch glass and stone inserts. Due to Murphy’s law one insert fell directly at the edge of my panel. If it wasn’t there it would have looked suspicious. :suspect: I don’t like suspicious tile installations. So I needed to place half of the diamond insert in the access panel and the other half next to it.

After some serious drinking thought I decided to make the insert removable as well. Before I installed the field tile I traced the insert onto the wall and cut out the half in the access panel. I then cut a piece of 2×4 the size of that cutout and screwed it onto the stud behind the cutout.

Access panel removedThis gives the insert a solid backing once placed into the installation so that if someone were to bump or push on it the insert will not disappear into the tub deck.




Removal of inset accentYou can see the cutout and the 2×4 backing as well as the insert itself sitting on top of the tub deck. You’ll notice that the insert is bonded to the little triangular cutout I removed from the access panel on one side. The entire insert is bonded to a piece of ditra because it was thinner than the field tile.


Access panel completed with tile installedOnce it’s all cured the insert just sits right into the diamond cut out of the tile by placing the left triangular piece of drywall into the matching space cut out of the access panel.




That’s all there is to it. Once it’s all set you can simply caulk or silicone around the perimeter of the insert as well. If you place your insert in this manner you do not need to remove the entire insert to remove the access panel.

If you wanted to you could permanently install the insert without making it removable. just cut the triangle out of the panel as you are creating it and only have silicone around the left side of the insert. There is, in reality, no reason to make it removable.

So why did I? No comment. :whistle:

Actually I did it because I first installed the access panel without the insert. That’s how I know it would’ve looked suspicious without it. Even pros need a smack in the head every now and then. :D

If you have any questions give me a smack in the head of your own and ask them in the comment section below. I’ll answer it – really.

Completed access panel
{ 27 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

  • Tom

    So, how does one remove the panel when service is needed to the hidden plumbing? It looks like after the matching caulk is cut there is no “handle” to pull the access panel from its mount. If I pry around the edges won’t the stationary tile chip ??? I really like the magnet idea, but need to know how to make this system functional. Thanks for taking your time to develop the tutorial and answering my question.

    • Roger

      Hi Tom,

      If you need to remove the panel you need to cut the matching caulk out first. Once you do that you can gently pry it away from the magnets.

  • DeForrest

    We’re building a new house and putting in a walk in shower aswell as a whirlpool. I stumbled upon your website by great chance, the tile that I gonna use on the front of the tub is a 12″ x 24″. Would I be able to do this method laying the tiles horizontally and would it require me needing a 2×4 between them. Or could I sort of stack them, I intend to only use a 1/16″ grout joints if possible, but might have to go to 1/8″. I’ll have to have access panels on both sides of the front for faucets and heater / pump accessibility.

    • Roger

      Hi DeForrest,

      Yes it will work with 12×24’s, and yes, you can do them horizontally. You should not need a 2×4 between them I wouldn’t think. You should be able to stack them just fine with 1/16.

  • Ann

    We, a pair of bumbling amateurs, just started tiling a basement bathroom and realized the round cover in the floor right by the door is a check valve access. It’s in front of the vanity, too. Is there a conventional solution for this problem? The store guy had no idea.

    If not, might I be able to adapt your method to our floor? I wouldn’t use drywall (too thick) or magnets, but a tile set on a thin piece of plywood or a metal plate might work…

  • Dan

    Awesome site for casual persnickety tilers. Working on an oval air drop in tub frame with access panel. Frame less sliding door on opposite side. You present great solutions to my dilemma(s).

  • Sandy

    My jetted tub stopped working and called an Electrician out but said I first had to get a Handyman out to cut a whole in my Bedroom to access the motor. the owners installed this jetted tub in 2003 and I would have thought there would have been access to it. The front of the tub has 12″ tiles and could it be that one of them is the access to the motor and how do you know before I have a wall cot in my bedroom that would not look pretty. Thanks!

    • Roger

      Hi Sandy,

      Check your grout lines carefully. If it is all grout (none of it silicone or sanded caulk) then you don’t have an access door (or likely don’t, they may have grouted one in, but that defeats the purpose, no?).

  • Jennifer

    I desire to install glass bricks at shower edge. From what I understand they require drilling a channel to the wall. I’m using wonderboard and Redgaurd to secure the shower walls. What would I do to the wall behind where the channel will go? Use thinset over the redguard and drill?

    • Roger

      Hi Jennifer,

      Drill your hole for the channel then fill it with silicone before you drive the screw into it. It will seal as you drive the screw in.

  • Hal

    Hi Roger,
    just re-read your article on magnetic access panels, I am about to do my jetted tub and was wondering how best to incorporate an access panel in a slight radius tube deck? I have no other options like turning the tub around and the common wall is my shower. Any thoughts on how to keep the substrate in form of the radius?

    2) The top of the tub deck is 1″ glass/stone mosaic. I incorrectly thought it would be easy enough to grind the overhang of the edges to the radius :bonk: Any suggestions since it’s already set/grouted for cutting/grinding? The stone pieces are easy enough but the glass ones shatter. I bought some glass tile nippers and they don’t hatter the glass but won’t cut close enough.

    3) I am also about to start my shower and need to build a curb, I have some solid clay antique bricks which I will bond kerdi over them. My question is, will the bricks hold and anchor for the frameless shower glass wall?

    4) should I kerdi the shower walls and curb before building the mud deck? I am using the kerdi drain and reading your kerdi e-book. P.138 has an example of a shower that has the kerdi on it but started above the floor and I assume the remaining pieces are added after you add kerdi to the floor. Is that your recommended approach?

    PS – I reread your 101 tile tips (after tiling my laundy room and bath floors.) Note to readers – read it all again BEFORE you start. Am I the only one who does stuff like that??

    • Roger

      Hi Hal,

      1. You can build a radius frame behind the panel, just like the flat panel.

      2. Cut them as close as you can get them then use a regular hand-sander with 60 grit first, then 120, to round them over and smooth them out.

      3. Yes.

      4. You can do it either way. As long as you have the 2″ overlap it’s waterproof. I normally do the floor first, but it depends on time.

      No, you’re not the only one who does that, I do it all the time. :D

  • Brian

    Help Roger,
    I have the old black mastic from old linoleum that removed. It’s pretty thin. Do I need to remove it before laying porcelain tile or will thinset bond if I lay over it? Your thoughts please. Thanks. Brian.

    • Roger

      Hey Brian,

      What you have is called cutback, and yes, it must be removed or covered before going over it. Thinset will not bond to it. You need to get it to the point that if you splash a bit of water over it the substrate will absorb it. If it doesn’t do that then thinset will not bond.

      • Brian

        Thanks Roger

  • Jon

    Hi Roger – another question:

    How long can I keep spectra lock in the freezer before it becomes unusable? Is 3-4 days too long?

    • Roger

      Just a couple of hours is the maximum. It won’t cure correctly if you go longer than that. Laticrete recommends not doing it at all.

  • Jon

    Thanks, Roger.

    I uploaded some pics last week, in one (or more) of them you should be able to see the corner shelf I built – re: Jon’s bathroom.

    Tonight I had an epiphany which lead me to first cuss, and then start to contemplate how I could replace the little white tiles in the corner diamond pattern, above and below the corner shelf, with black tiles. I havent been pleased with how that turned out, ascetically speaking, but it took me 2 weeks to think of the solution. There are only two tiles to replace, but they’re really small. To further the problem, they’re tucked behind the adjacent wall’s tiles, and the versabond has had 2+ weeks of cure time.

    I’ve read about replacing a single tile on a floor – I guess I’m just nervous because these two tiles are so small, and tucked behind others at the corner.

    Have you ever attempted something like that? Any advice? Should I set the dog on fire now?

    • Roger

      Hi Jon,

      Remove the grout from around the tiles you want to remove and take a grinder (ideally) and cut an ‘x’ from one corner to the opposites. You can then use a screwdriver or something similar to pry the tile out from the center of the tile.

  • Jon

    Hi Roger,

    I managed to get the glue off the subfloor. Belt sander. One wet pass, with shop vac in hand, then another dry pass.

    So fast forward 3 weeks. The tub surround is all tiled (keep meaning to upload some pics for ya) and I just layed the last of the floor tile yesterday. The floor tile is marble (what I believe to be polished-marble). I was originally thinking I should use some 511 to seal this, but now I’m questioning that because I wonder, one, if it’s necessary, and two, if it’s already sealed because water acts differently on the polished side as opposed to the back. On the back side, the stone is obviously absorbing some of the water /changing color temporarily when wet. On the polished side water just kinda sits there, as if the surface may already have a sealer applied to it. Do you have an educated guess in what I’m looking at, and what would you recommend doing?

    Also, I noticed I (or I assume it was me) have made some very light scratches in some of the tiles. Anything I can do for those? Or just don’t point them out to the wife?

    • Roger

      Hey Jon,

      You are looking at polished marble. :D As the marble is polished it ‘melts’ the limestone which re-crystallizes the stone. This is what leads to the shine, but it also closes up the pores with a crystal structure which inhibits liquid penetration (water sits on it for a while) The back is not as crystallized.

      It will still, however, allow penetration of liquid which will stain it. The 511 will seal up any open areas in the top of the stone and seal it up tight. I would use the sealer.

      You can polish the micro-scratches out with a buffer and regular car polishing compound. I also wouldn’t point them out to the wife. :D

  • Jon

    Hi Roger,

    Great site – learning a ton of tricks for my bathroom remodel. Off topic question, but I hope you don’t mind: I pulled up the linoleum which was on the the bathroom floor. It’s only a couple years old – guy we bought the house from laid it when he was cleaning the place up for sale. Anyway, Lino pulled right up, but I’m left with a sticky mess of adhesive. Have tried some hot water, dish soap and scraper, but it’s wearing me out quicker than the glue.

    Substrate is 3/4 ply over 3/4 planks. Going with Ditra topped off with 12″ marble tiles. My question is – what’s the best way to remove that glue? I was concerned about using orange oil or mineral spirits because I thought the chemicals may cause bonding issues with the thinset and plywood. Is that a logical concern? What would Roger do?

    • Roger

      Hey Jon,

      The easiest way is to actually remove the layer the glue is stuck to. If there isn’t a thin layer of plywood (luan) then the best way is normally to let it set for a day or two in order to solidify (not be sticky) and scrape it off. You are correct about any oil-based cleaners or chemicals, they will compromise the bond of the tile. Another option is to install a 1/4″ layer of backerboard right over it.

      • Jon

        Thanks for the quick reply.

        Throwing down another layer of substrate to cover the glue is out because I’ve only got 5/8″ to work with before I’m over the neighboring flooring in the hallway. The marble I’ll be laying is 3/8, add in 2, 1/16 layers of thinset (one above and one below the Ditra) and 1/8 for the Ditra itself and I’m at 5/8.

        I could cut out the plywood with the adhesive on it, but I’ve already got the cast iron tub installed and a new wall built for the alcove, so removing the ply would involve either tearing that all out and starting over (not gonna happen) or carefully cutting out the ply around the tub and new wall and then likely installing a few new joists to support any edges left without support. Again, not real practical.

        Seems I’m best left to time, patience, and elbow grease to remove the adhesive.

        Here’s another question: on the tub surround, I’ll be installing big box ceramic tiles (4 1/4″) in a checker board pattern. About 3/4 of the way up the wall, I want to flip 3 rows 90 degrees to make a diamond accent, then return to the standard board pattern above that. The first row of diamonds will need every other tile cut diagonally in half. Since these tiles are slightly beveled at the finished edges, what’s the best way to handle the height transition from the factory edges to my cut edges? A row of pencil tile? Also, should I be concerned about chipping the glaze cutting those diagonals? What do you recommend there? New diamond blade for the wet saw?

        • Roger

          Sorry for the delay Jon, you seemed to have been thrown in the bin in back.

          You can use a pencil rail there or you can get a diamond stone to knock down the cut edges of the tile. The height difference is only about 1/32″ in most cases and the stone can take it down to that. With the grout in the line it’s rarely noticed unless you’re looking for it.

          A new saw blade may or may not eliminate chipping. Depends on the blade, saw and tile. Normally simply taking your time with the cuts prevents most of the chipping.

  • Ian

    Thanks for the info Mister Elf.

    I have a simple question, ‘How do you make a hidden panel like you described here, Waterproof?” I have a 4 wall shower with two full height walls and 2 pony walls. I need to make one of the pony walls a water proof access panel to the Jet Engine on my Jetted Tub. I have sealed using kerdi all the other walls in the shower and now am debating on the access panel pony wall.

    What I plan to do us use backer board for the access panel basically 39×36 inches and tile the whole removable thing. I will either Kerdi the top half of the pony wall and leave the kerdi hanigng down on the wall over the access panel and silicone it in place to seal, or Kerdi the back of the access panel to prevent water from getting through it.

    Got any other ideas, or do ya want to plan to come fix this mess in a few years?


    • Roger

      Hi Ian,

      A simple question? :D In that case the simple answer, and only answer, would be with silicone.

      I would completely waterproof all the way around the access then, as you install the tile, place a bead of silicone sandwiched between the tile and kerdi. This creates a dam which will prevent water from running down over or into (behind) the tile placed on the access panel. When installing the panel I would wrap the entire piece of backer with kerdi before installing it to your frame then silicone the gap between the panel and cutout on the wall. Once installed be sure to get a good bead of silicone in the grout line around the perimeter of the access panel.

      If you don’t wanna do that, I’ll come and fix it in a couple of years, though. :D