Everything You Need To Know About Shower Doors

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Is your head spinning over the seemingly endless number of shower door choices on the market? We can help you make the choice that's right for you.

Shower doors are panels of glass designed to keep water from splashing and spraying all over the bathroom. Along with preventing slips and falls on wet floors, they add a certain elegance and finish to your bathroom that a shower curtain usually can’t equal.

Invented in Ohio in the early 1960s, shower doors were at first considered trappings of the rich and famous. As they became more widely available, many people ditched their outdated shower curtains for a glass shower door upgrade.

What Are the Types of Shower Doors?

“There are many different types of shower doors to select from for your bathroom,” says Carlos Coronado, lead designer at Muretti.

One of the most popular types is the sliding or bypass. These doors slide from side to side and take up the least amount of space. “Whether you go with a framed shower door, frameless, a sliding or hinged door, all these are factors that can be decided based on the look you want to have as well as your personal preference,” says Coronado.

Here are the most popular types of shower doors:

  • Hinged. Opens into the bathroom. Best suited for large spaces.
  • Pivot. Swings on a pin so it doesn’t require a lot of clearance.
  • Sliding. Suited for showers with wide openings (two or three panels) or bathtubs.
  • Quadrant. Curved to fit into corners, they maximize space.
  • Screen. Stationary glass panel.
  • Saloon. Pivot or hinged double doors that swing out or in.
  • Bi-fold. Folds inward on hinges.
  • Walk-in. No tracks or rollers to wear out, they’re ideal for those with mobility issues.

And here are three luxury options:

  • Shower cabin. Equipped with steam jets, chromotherapy, Bluetooth, etc..
  • Shower and whirlpool. A level beyond a standard shower/tub combination.
  • Frameless. Sleek and modern, a frameless shower door opens up the space, making it seem bigger.

Glass Shower Door Options

Another factor to consider with your shower door is the type of glass. “Options such as clear will provide a modern clean and edgier look, while a frosted or patterned finish will give you more privacy,” Coronado says.

Choose the correct thickness of glass for your shower doors; pros recommend a minimum of 3/8-in. to guarantee stability. And don’t ignore aesthetics.

Here’s a breakdown of on-trend shower door glass options:

  • Clear;
  • Low-iron (superior clarity);
  • Frosted or opaque (provides privacy while allowing light through);
  • Obscure (slightly blurred);
  • Tinted (a coating or film available in various tones and colors);
  • Textured/fluted (pattern or ribbed);
  • Etched (stripes and motifs);
  • Rain (waterfall or bubble effects).

Shower Door Sizes and Measuring

Standard shower doors generally are between 22 and 36 inches wide, with an average height of around 72 inches. Shower sizes can vary widely from home to home. Be sure your shower door fits correctly by measuring the opening where it’s going with the utmost precision.

Don’t be discouraged if you find your shower surround or bath/shower combo is a non-standard size. “There is always a solution,” says Coronado. “In this case, it’s good to contract a local glass specialist who will come in and measure to custom make your door. There are usually no added fees for measuring and this will ensure that you are getting the proper fit.”

Shower Door Costs

Prices will differ depending on the company you use, the cost of living in your state and, of course, the materials you choose. The thicker the glass, the higher the price tag. Prefabricated shower doors can cost between $500 and $2,500 or more.

Pro tip: If you choose sliding or bi-fold doors, avoid ones with plastic rollers, because they’re more likely to wear out or break. Stainless steel or zinc alloy fittings with nylon wheels are strong choices. It’s better to splurge on quality parts. You’ll get smoother sliding action, durability and longer life.

How To Choose the Best Doors for Your Shower

Don’t rush the process. Think about all the factors mentioned above to ensure you’ll be happy with your choice for years to come.

If you’re outfitting a small bathroom, look for space-saving designs. Got a busy family? Make sure the glass is tempered and meets all safety standards. For combination tub/showers, consider a sliding door or fixed screen enclosure. Are you a clean freak? Choose glass with a protective coating that resists soap scum and limescale build-up.

Shower Door Installation

Some types of shower doors are more complicated to install than others. If you have the skill and confidence to do a shower door installation yourself, bravo!

Before diving in, gather the tools and materials you’ll need:

  • Safety glasses;
  • Measuring tape/pencil;
  • Hack saw;
  • Miter box or square;
  • Level,
  • Electric drill and bits,
  • Screwdrivers and Allen wrenches;
  • Caulking gun/silicone sealant.

This basic installation kit is perfect if you don’t already have these items.

Three more things;

  • Clean the shower stall surface thoroughly;
  • Ask a friend to help (optional);
  • Follow the step-by-step instructions, which are usually included with your shower door purchase.

Framed shower doors are easier to install than frameless or custom glass shower doors. If you’re apprehensive about completing the project yourself (glass is fragile), there’s no shame in hiring a professional installer. In most areas of the country, labor costs range between $300 and $500.

Shower on!

Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.