Attaching and removing panels the right way

Tony Wills
Buttonfix Limited director and partner at design consultancy Wills Watson+Associates

A classic dilemma:
Your plumber needs to provide access to some pipework behind a panel so cannot glue it in place but as the client, you don’t want to see ugly screw heads on your expensive finished panel. Also, the plumber doesn’t want to go through a lengthy marking out process or spend time on the equally long and frustrating task of trying to locate pairs of components which are hidden from view.

We faced this exact problem when designing a commercial washroom system. The same issues arise in fitting domestic bath panels, hotel or office wall panels and auditorium acoustic panels – in fact almost any panel that you might want to change or remove – or simply not wish to see the fixing method. We couldn’t find the right fixings anywhere, so we took the bold step of designing and manufacturing our own.

The principles of designing a classic product is that it must do the job well, look pleasing to the eye and be a joy to use. This looks like a simple brief but is much harder to deliver whilst making the result look effortless.

Button Fix

Our answer is Button-fix; a range of panel fixings made in the UK from very tough polymers to meet a wide range of panel mounting challenges. The experienced product design team are all hands on ‘DIYers’, so had to be satisfied the products would meet their own exacting standards before professional fitters got their hands on them.

The secret weapons are the two marker tool accessories which attach to the Fixes and show you exactly where to drill for the screws, making the process both fast and easy. Another satisfying feature is the audible ‘click’ when the panels are pushed home.

Each Button-fix version has been designed with a specific purpose in mind:

Type 1: where extra strength is essential
Type 1 Flush: for flush fixing
Type 1 Bonded: for thin materials
Type 2: For simple push on/pull off panels

For example, bath panels are usually attached with Type 2 but larger, heavier panels are mounted onto walls using Type 1 or Type 1 Flush. Glass panels backed with steel sheet can be mounted with Type 1 Bonded. For this sort of application, an acrylic based structural adhesive provides impressive strength.

For guidance; when using Button-fix Type 2, make sure the panels are moisture resistant, flat and balanced on both sides since warped panels are difficult to fit and hold in place. For removing smooth surfaced panels, an inexpensive vacuum lifting pad is useful. The Button-fix website has in depth instructions, useful videos, test data and a list of stockists.