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Anatomy of a Shower

Before we dive into doors, it's important to understand the shower itself. Shower/bathtub modules are pre-made units that are the go-to choice for most customers. Walls, a tub, shelving—it's all molded into the unit. Modules are a great choice, but creating a custom-built shower is just as easy and it allows you to be more creative with the design. All it requires is that you pick out the right walls, pans, and doors that fit your unique sense of style.

The Difference in Shower Materials

Every unit you see here is made from long-lasting, easy-to-clean materials that can only be improved by adding a good-looking door. Fiberglass and acrylic showers are far and away the most common options due to their durability and value. Here's what sets the two of them apart:

  • Fiberglass is an easy to repair and a very flexible material made from molded layers of polyester resin. It's that flexibility that allows fiberglass showers to adjust to uneven walls so installation is quick and convenient. Fiberglass showers are a terrific choice for smaller budgets, second bathroom, or remodeling projects.
  • Acrylic is the more heavy-duty of the two and often includes a far lengthier guaranty to drive that fact home. These advanced polymer showers can be 3 to 5 times thicker than fiberglass and they're more resistant to chipping and cracking, have a glossier finish, retain heat, won't fade, and they resist mold and mildew.
Click to view larger image.
Where Should a Shower Go?

There are a wide variety of shower designs available to suit any interior design. Think about what fits in the existing space you have and what would look best with your decor. All of these possibilities can be achieved with a module or by building your own bath piece by piece.

  • Alcove Showers are built into the wall itself and can even come with a tub. It takes more work to install, but you'll have more floor space.
  • Corner Showers stand alone and make use of your area's unused nook or cranny. Their compact construction makes them a go-to choice for small bathrooms or master baths that have a separate bathtub.

Always take note of a shower's floor before you purchase. Be certain that the shower's drain configuration you select matches up with the plumbing or you're going to have a much harder job ahead of you come installation time.

Measure Twice, Buy Once

Be sure to measure the space where your shower will be installed before committing to buy. This goes for shower doors as well. Always measure the space twice for accuracy and only when the space has been completed.

Whether you're getting a brand new shower or just looking to enhance the look of the one you have, a shower door is a practical and affordable way to elevate your bathroom decor. Vinyl curtains? No thanks. Even the least slimy curtain will cloak a shower's beautiful craftsmanship and make the room feel small. A door, however, creates openness and an air of sophistication. You're building a shower to be proud of, don't hide it!

Installation Types for Shower Doors
  • Sliding: Traditional sliding glass doors that glide past one another to save space and make getting in and out effortless. Only consider getting a sliding door if you have a standard shower/bathtub with an opening wider than 60-inches or a stand-alone shower with a 48-60 inch opening.
  • Round: A sleek and smooth option, the round shower door is ideal for corner showers with a rounded base. The curved design gives you more elbow room and requires less elbow-grease when you need to scrub away soap scum.
  • Neo-Angle: Doors fitted to corner installations with a three-sided base. All single-door stand-alone shower doors can be installed to swing left or right.
  • Pivot: This one-panel door swings outward from one side and is best equipped for large openings that aren't quite wide enough for a bypass design. Think of alcove and corner stand-alone showers.
Measuring for a Door

Accuracy is paramount. Go too big and the door won't fit; go too small and you won't have a water-tight seal. All doors can be adjusted slightly for the most minor variation in width but that's no excuse for being lazy about your measurements.

  • Measure width at three different points: the base, midpoint, and top of the wall.
  • Compare and contrast your numbers, making sure to jot down the largest width measurement you recorded and make that your guide.
To Frame or Not to Frame

Why are we talking about frames before we're talking about glass? Because a good frame means you don't need to spend as much on glass! Whether or not a frame is truly necessary or not is really dependent on the look you want to achieve and the budget you've allotted yourself.

  • Frames add extra support so that the glass you buy can be lighter and less expensive. Frames can also feature a track that traps water for easier cleaning, but it's important to keep in mind that a frame is as fashionable as it is functional. There are countless frame designs that complement your glass and the surrounding bathroom decor.
  • Frameless showers look great in a modern bathroom that's going for a minimalist appeal. You'll get more moisture and mildew, but without the frame in the way that mess will be easier to clean. The downside here is that you'll need to buy higher quality glass to make up for the lack of a frame's support, but then again, when the other option is to spend extra money on a frame to compensate for weaker glass, who's to say who comes out on top!
The Glass Changes Everything

Frosted, tinted, textured… Glass doors are as functional as they are elegant and the selection you find here is a testament to that fact. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while weighing your options:

  • Spring for the thicker glass when going for a frameless look. Generally you want something in the 1/4 - 3/4-inch range, but the thicker and heavier the glass, the better!
  • Framed shower owners can pick whichever glass thickness they like.
  • After going through the meticulous work of tiling your shower interior, show it off with a clear glass door! Nothing frosted or patterned, clear glass makes your hard work visible and makes the space feel more open.
  • Frosted, opaque, textured, and patterned doors add privacy and make a stylish statement.
  • Plexi-glass is a great alternative. It's hard plastic that's convincing enough to be glass while offering superior durability and scratch resistance.
Installation and the Tools of the Trade

Frameless enclosures are the most challenging to install. Not only do they require thicker glass, but they also necessitate more expensive hardware and far more attention to detail on your part. With no frame to hide the slightest mistake, every flaw will be plainly visible on a frameless glass door.

Hanging a framed door and side panel, however, can be completed in an afternoon by Do It Yourselfers of all skill levels.

No matter which option you choose, both framed and frameless doors come with detailed instruction on how to put everything into place and all the must-have installation hardware is included. But what about the tools needed to put that hardware into practice? Here's a list of tools you should have handy before tackling shower installation of any kind:

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Several tubes of caulk (look for caulk that's mildew - and water-resistant)
  • Cordless Drill
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Level