If you have a walk-in shower with a shower curtain you might be considering replacing the curtain with glass. This is a nice upgrade that will least to a more modern looking bathroom and one that will add considerable value to our home. Shower curtains, however practical they might be, can’t be cleaned easily like glass and they can make the room feel small and outdated.
The upgrade from a shower curtain to glass shower doors isn’t hard and it’s worth considering for almost any bathroom.
Types of Glass Shower Doors
The first thing you’ll need to do to assess the job is to decide the type of shower doors you want.
The number one distinction you’ll have to make is if you bathroom has a bathtub or not. If there is a tub you can place a shower door on top of it, but you’ll have to get a reduced height model to accomodate for the height of the tub wall.
Next you’ll have to decide the door style you want. While sliding doors, known as bypass doors, were once the most popular choice, many more modern styles designers have moved to hinged doors. This is a more elegant look with more glass and less metal hardware. It isn’t for everyone as a large glass door might not be the best option for people with children.
Lastly the door frame style is another big choice. While all glass shower doors used to be framed (in metal mounting hardware), current models often use frameless designs which are almost entirely glass except for some small mounting brackets. These units are a little more difficult to install but look very clean once in place.
In the middle of the two you have semi-frameless which will usually have a frame at the top but not in the middle. It’s a good middle ground between the two others but should be chosen because you like how it looks more than anything else.
And then last you’ll have to decide on the aesthetics — do you want nickel hardware or oil-rubbed bronze? Do you want frosted glass for additional privacy or is clear preferable?
Finding The Right Shower Door
With the above decided, you can start your hunt, but this has to start with the requirements of your shower. Go into the room and figure out:
- The width of the opening of your shower
- The depth of the ledge or shelf on which the shower doors will rest
- The height of the opening of the shower
- Where you will place the door (showerhead side or opposite)
- If the door will open in or outward (or if you will get a slider)
Shower Door Width
A typical opening with of a glass door will be something like, 58 to 58-1/2 inches wide by 72 inches high. Because every shower is a little different there will be that half inch or so of wiggle room which the shower door brackets can accomodate for as can the opening because the fixed glass panel and the door.
Shower Door Height
Standard glass shower doors in a walk-in shower will be 72 inches tall (6 feet). If you want to go premium to can extend the height to 76 or 78 inches. This will do a better job of keeping steam in the shower, making for a warmer shower even with a low-flow shower head. Taller glass will also look nicer, quite like you had a custom glass installer come and to the job even thought you just got off-the-shelf parts.
If you opt for the added height expect to spend about an extra $100-$150 to move up to 78 inches.
Shower Door Glass Thickness
Some shower doors will move to a thicker glass which will look nicer, will be stronger, and will insulate the shower (slightly) better. The normal thickness of shower door glass is 3/8″, which is perfectly adequate. 1/2″ is common with premium models, but it’s not necessary. Some curved doors will move to 5/8″ but this done to accomodate some complexity in the design not because it’s otherwise required.
If you have a frameless glass shower door you will need that 3/8″ glass but if you have a frame you can technically get away with less, like 1/4″ or 3/16″. Even so, we’d recommend sticking with 3/8″ glass as it’s a nice thickness and leads to a sturdy door.
The downsides of a thicker glass is that the door gets heavier and considerably harder to install, requiring two people. A single 28″ x 72″ x 1/2″ glass door will weigh a hefty 42 pounds which might not seem bad until you realize it’s a 6-foot tall piece of glass that just cost you $400, so you can see why the extra weight is a pain.
Shower Door Placement
While some pivot-style shower door kits will only have a door (say, for a 28″ opening) an alcove shower will use one fixed plate of glass and one door.
Typically you’d want the door on the same side as the shower so you can easily reach inside and turn the shower on. The downside of this is that it you open the door inward it might hit the shower head or hot/cold valves. If this is the case you’ll want a door that opens outward or to place the door on the other side.
Placing the fixed plate on the shower side and the door on the other side means you will have to get into the shower or reach around the plate to turn the water on. This might be a challenge for people limitations on their dexterity, but you can solve for this by turning the shower head away from you or simply turning the water on low as you let the shower warm.
Pretty much all shower door kits will include the hardware, so make sure you like the finish and quality before you invest. If you work with a custom glass installer then you can get custom hardware, otherwise you will be limited to the included parts.
While mainstream brands like Kohler and Delta do exist in the shower door market, they don’t dominate. Choosing a brand you know won’t necessarily get you better glass, but it will ensure the hardware is to your liking. Even so, a big name brand will limit your choices and raise the price.
Shower Door Installation
While I’d love to offer some pro insights here, the best advice I have is to follow the manufacturer instructions really, really closely. This is a slow job that should take about 2 hours and requires to people.
The tools required are…
- 4-foot level
- Tape measure
- Caulking gun and silicone sealant
- Wood shims
- Phillips screwdriver
- Straight blade screwdriver
- Razor or knife
- Power drill with a 3/16″ ceramic/tile drill bit (size might vary based on the shower door)
That should be about the kit you need, give or take some adjustments from one job to the next. Good things to have would be a backup tile bit in case yours dulls and ensuring that you use high-quality silicone caulk like a GE or a 3M to ensure good waterproofing over the light of the doors.