Shower Doors Buying Guide

Shower Doors
  • Getting Started

  • Eliminating water from splattering from the shower unit throughout the bathroom, shower doors are functional…yet can be an aesthetic of design. Many shower doors can be installed by handy do-it-yourselfers, but more complex and larger units may require a professional installer. Understand the options.

  • What to Consider

  • Size: The size of the shower will contribute to and even eliminate some options. A small shower stall will suggest a pivot or hinged door that swings out. Walk-in custom showers will require several pieces of glass to provide a full view. A shower installed in the alcove that formerly contained a tub can easily be fit with a sliding shower door. Custom sized showers may require a custom designed shower door.

    Type of Shower: Tub showers are one of the most common units for which several types of shower doors are available. Alcove or stall showers are stand-alone units with no tub built into a corner or alcove. The size and location of this type will suggest a variety of shower door types. Neo Angle or Semi-Round showers are built into a corner with the outer edge rounded or with three edges.

    Measurements: When deciding on the shower door, accurate measurements are vital! Decide upon the height of the shower doors and measure at the walls. Note: the glass doors should block water from the showerhead and accommodate the tallest member of the family. Width measurements should be taken after the walls are finished — tile installation can reduce the size of the door needed significantly. Measurements should be taken at the base—if in a bathtub, at the tub; if in a panel shower, at the lip; if no threshold, then at the floor— again in the middle of the unit; and again at the top at a height chosen. Measure twice.

    Glass: Tempered glass will be required by most Building Departments of the municipality. The color, texture or thickness of the glass is a decision made by the homeowner.

    Installation: Shower doors in a kit will be easy to install by a handy person. Simple tools are involved and instructions are included with the kit. For larger units with several glass panels, or if a do-it-yourselfer is not available choose an installer.

  • Types

  • Sliding doors are the most frequently used in a bathtub shower or alcove. One or both of the glass panels slide on a metal track, which can be chosen to complement the faucets. Sliding doors do not require additional space and are good option for small space units. The track will collect the water and drain it into the tub or shower floor. Glass is available in a variety of colors, textures and thicknesses.

    Swing doors may open into the room so the area outside the shower should be measured to make sure there is enough space.  Or, the swing may be into the shower area. Again, measure the door and the space available so the swing is not hindered.

    Pivot doors are created with a glass panel attached to a frame on top and bottom, and swings in or out. Can be used with other panels to form a complete shower surround.

    Hinge doors swing in or out on a hinge. Can be used with other panels to form a complete shower surround. Found on frameless shower doors.

    Fixed Splash Guards are installed on bathtub showers at the wall with the faucet to block water from the shower splashing onto the floor outside the tub. The guard extends about halfway down the tub and is attached to the wall and the bathtub.

    90-Degree shower doors will contain an extra glass panel at a 90-degree angle to enclose a larger shower with more than one opening. Often bathtub showers will require an enclosure at the far end of the tub, so the third panel can be installed on as a short piece, keeping the bathroom dry. The third panel is stationary.

    Neo Angle shower doors consist of three glass panels, with the center panel swing door.

    Round shower doors contain a curved sliding door that rolls on a track around the semi-round shower base.

    Steam doors will extend to the ceiling or soffit to the floor, sealing the space for a steam shower. Extra height will be factored into the unit, which usually is framed to create a tight fit to eliminate steam escape.

  • Framed or Frameless

  • Framed shower doors are created with a metal frame on each glass section and the shower space. The doors slide in the metal frame or pivot from the top and bottom of the frame. Framed units can accommodate thinner glass or plexiglass panels since the frame is the functional portion of the system. Frames are created from a variety of metals — polished chrome, brushed nickel, brass, oil rubbed bronze — to coordinate with the faucets, showerheads, etc.

    Frameless shower doors do not have metal frames around the glass panels and are connected to the wall and to each other with hinges.  Frameless units can consist of several pieces to meet the shower system needs and provide a modern feel to the room. Glass usually is thicker on frameless units. Hinges are available in a variety of metal finishes to compliment the faucets, showerheads, etc.

  • Glass

  • Thickness will vary from ¼ inch to ½ inch depending upon the type of shower door and manufacturer. Larger, complex units may require the thicker glass so the panel does not flex, especially on frameless doors.

    Clear glass offers an open view and will not block the tile design in the shower unit. Clear glass is available in a variety of tints such as green or gray. Clear glass will show soap spots and should be wiped after each shower.

    Patterned glass has a design etched into the glass panels for an artistic aesthetic. Soap spots are not as visible if the pattern is extensive.

    Textured glass provides privacy in the shower. The textures may be glue chip or rain graining molded into one side of the glass panel. These do not show soap spots as quickly as clear glass.

    Tempered glass refers to the manufacturing process of by heating and cooling or using chemicals to safety standards so the glass will not have sharp edges should it break.

  • Cost Considerations

  • Size - The larger the glass panels and the more of them, the higher the cost.

    Frameless doors are more expensive than framed due to the thickness of the glass required.

    Frame material on framed units can increase the cost - specify platinum frames and the price escalates.

    Installation by a professional will increase the cost.