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How to Choose Shower Doors

Know your shower door options to select the right one for your enclosure

By Jan Soults Walker

Frameless shower doors? Glass shower doors? Shower door styles, materials, and construction vary wildly—so what's the right selection to suit your bathroom? Learn how to make the right choices for your shower enclosure.

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Susan Fredman
While shower curtains lend a softening effect as well as color and pattern to your shower or shower/tub enclosure, shower doors provide an even wider range of benefits. The clear, translucent, patterned, or opaque glass panels are easier to clean, admit light into the enclosure, and can make the room appear more spacious. Here's what you need to know to make the best choice.

Know the types

Linda Allen
There are a number of door styles to suit your shower enclosure scenario:
  • Framed vs. frameless. Shower doors and enclosures come with a frame or without. Frames, which support thinner glass panels, are generally fashioned from metal in a finish to complement the bathroom faucets and hardware. Frameless versions look sleek, are easier to clean because there's nowhere for soap scum to collect, and eliminate visual interruptions. Frameless doors and enclosures are generally more expensive (about 40 percent more costly than framed versions) because they are made to fit precisely using thicker glass panels (3/8-inch thick minimum) that compensate for the lack of frame support.
  • Neo-angle. This type of shower tucks into a bathroom corner and features a single door, framed or frameless, that swings or pivots to open.
  • Pivot or swinging. Hinges allow a door to swing open like a standard hinged door, while a pivot hinge lets the door swing 180 degrees into the shower enclosure or out into the room. A center mount pivot allows a door to revolve 360 degrees.
  • Round. A rounded shower door can help save space by gracefully enclosing a corner shower.

  • Sliding (or bypass). When there isn't space for a shower door to swing out into the room, consider a pair of glass panels that slide past one another on a track, allowing them to open from either direction.

  • Steam. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels help hold steam inside the shower enclosure. Some enclosures feature an operable transom above the door to vent steam when desired.

Select the glass

Nancy Leffler- Mikulich
All glass shower doors and enclosures must be made from tempered glass, which is stronger than standard glass and, if broken, shatters into small, rounded bits. The minimum thickness for a frameless shower door is 3/8 inches with ½ or ¾ inch considered a sturdier option.

Glass also comes in clear, etched, or patterned with a design, seeded or textured for interest, or frosted or opaque for privacy.

While standard tempered glass has a slight greenish tint, you can opt for low-iron glass that eliminates the tint but costs about twice as much as standard tempered glass.

Acrylic, or polyacrylate, panels are another option for your shower door. While less expensive and lighter weight, these can scratch more easily and require cleaners formulated to avoid discoloration or fogging.

Hardware and finish

Select suitable styles and finishes for frames and hardware, such as polished or matte nickel, chrome, or oiled bronze, to match or complement the faucets and other hardware in your bathroom.

Measure carefully

Have a professional measure for your frameless shower enclosure. If you're planning to replace a swinging or hinged single door, or a sliding (or bypass) unit, measure both the height and the width of the opening twice for accuracy.
  • Width. Measure precisely to the nearest 1/16 inch from side to side at both the top and bottom of the opening. If these two measurements differ, use the wider measurement for a sliding, or bypass, door; use the smaller number when selecting a hinged or pivoting door.
  • Height. Measure both sides of the opening from the bottom to the top of the area you want to enclose, finding accurate dimensions within 1/16 inch. If the measurements aren't equal, go with the shorter height to choose your door.

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