Shower Enclosures: Everything You Need to Know
Glass shower enclosures bring an elegant touch to any home bathroom. From pre-built designs to custom designs, the team at B&L Glass takes pride in providing our customers with the perfect glass shower doors, accessories, and finishes to complete the bathroom of your dreams.
Our highly trained and experienced staff can assist you with the entire process: from planning and design, to purchasing, to installation and after care. To make it easier for you to find exactly what you need, we carry products from some of the best and most trusted glass shower door manufacturers on the market and are happy to assist with any custom needs.
We understand that designing your own custom glass shower enclosure or finding that perfect high-quality shower door can be challenging and time-consuming. Therefore we created this page to provide you with all the information you may need to successfully complete your shower project.
Table of Contents
- Glass Shower Enclosures
- Shower Glass Doors
- Semi-Frameless Doors
- Shower and Internal Glass Panels
- Shower Design
- Shower Replacement
- Shower Products
- Shower Leakage
- Protective Coating
- Shower Cleaning
- Shower Enclosure Cost
Glass Shower Enclosures
During our 60 years of serving customers here in Santa Rosa and the broader Bay area, we have created many different shower enclosures. Here are three specific glass shower enclosures to consider:
1. Shower and Tub Enclosures
A standard glass shower stall or walk-in shower displaces about 9 to 12 square feet on average, whereas a standard-sized tub takes up roughly 13 to 15 square feet. When you consider that the average bathroom is 40 square feet in size, this means a shower and tub combination can take up almost 40 percent of your bathroom floor space.
Bathrooms can be used frequently and, for couples and families, by more than one person at a time. For that reason, a walk-in shower may be the best choice for the smaller bathroom as they take up less floor space and the additional open floor can add a sense of elegance and depth.
2. Walk-In, or Built-In Showers
Walk-in showers, such as frameless custom shower enclosures, have several advantages over showers in a bathtub. Walk-in showers are easier to get into and easier to maintain. Tile and glass tend to be easier to clean than the typical porcelain or acrylic of low-end shower interiors.
Another advantage is that walk-in showers fit in almost any sized bathroom. Custom built-in showers can be designed for your actual space, eliminating the challenge of fitting a standard-sized shower into a small or unusually shaped bathroom.
- Dimensions of small walk-in showers: 32” by 32” to 34” by 34”
- Dimensions of medium walk-in shower: 36” by 36” to 48” by 36”
Having a walk-in shower can be an elegant complement to a free-standing tub, eliminating the need for a single shower and tub enclosure.
3. Steam Showers
Steam showers are becoming popular for their “at home” spa-like features and their promise of a perfectly relaxing oasis.
Frameless steam shower enclosures can be installed as elegant, stand-alone structures that are sealed so that moisture cannot leave the shower enclosure. A button on the shower’s control panel activates the shower’s steam generator, which then heats water to produce steam.
The steam is channeled through the specialized steam head, which then fills the shower enclosure with relaxing, restorative and reinvigorating steam.
Alternatively, a steam generator can be added to your standard shower, so there’s no need to install a separate enclosure. And no additional ventilation is needed as the steam simply condenses back to water and drains away.
With simple digital controls to make it easy to activate the shower, you can adjust the length of time for the steam and adjust the temperature. In addition many models come with extras such as:
- Built-in sound systems
- Infusion of scents to the steam
- Adjustable lighting
LIke traditional showers, steam showers can be designed in a wide variety of both framed and frameless glass enclosures.
Shower Glass Doors
Showers traditionally have used curtains for privacy and for preventing water from leaving the shower enclosure. In addition, both walk in showers and shower and tub enclosures are also designed with both sliding and hinged glass doors.
Glass shower enclosures take the concept of a glass shower door to another level of sophistication and luxury. The doors themselves are produced in a wide variety of designs, types and functionality.
Types of Glass Shower Doors: Framed vs. Frameless
Along with shower fixtures, the doors of glass shower enclosures are both functional and provide the style and elegance that sets these showers apart. These enclosures can be had with either framed and frameless glass shower doors. Both types are typically made of tempered glass, which can also be treated for easy cleaning.
Framed Shower Doors
Framed doors are usually composed of thinner glass panels as the frame provides support for the door. The frame is typically constructed of aluminum, stainless steel or composite material and can be produced in a variety of colors and finishes
These door frames can be smooth or textured, and the glass panels are sealed into the frame to prevent leaks. In addition, some styles of framed shower doors will include a track that can collect and trap water, requiring periodic cleaning.
Framed Shower Swing Doors or Pivot Doors
A popular and stylish option, pivot doors swing from pivot points at the top and bottom of the door or, in some cases, the side of the door. Framed pivot shower doors only open outward to allow access into the shower area. Sometimes referred to as swinging shower doors, they’re designed to be installed on the tile apron or shower pan.
Sliding Glass Shower Doors and Sliding Glass Bathtub Doors
Also known as “bypass” doors, these glass doors use top and bottom tracks to guide and support the doors. Sliding glass shower doors on glass enclosures are perfect for the smaller bathroom. While eliminating the need of space for a swinging door, these framed doors still provide for easy access.
Semi-Frameless Sliding Doors Tubs and Showers
As the name suggests, a semi-frameless sliding door does not have metal around the entire door, although the enclosure has metal around its entire structure.
Semi-Frameless Hinged Doors for Tubs
Semi-frameless hinged doors are perfect alternatives where a frameless version might not be practical. These designs make use of full-height hinge assemblies which can also be used to block any gap between the glass and a wall that is out of square.
Frameless Shower Doors
Frameless doors typically consist of thicker panes of the same tempered glass as used in their framed counterparts to compensate for a lack of a supporting frame. As a result, these sturdy glass panels possess enough inherent strength to be supported solely with hinges.
Hinges, clips and handles are set into the glass and the panels are caulked at the edges and corners with a thick silicone to seal the glass. In addition, these doors are often fitted with a rubber “sweep” at the bottom to keep water in the shower.
Frameless glass shower doors are designed in a variety of styles that offer a number of creative options for your glass shower enclosure project.
Frameless Pivot Shower Doors
Like their framed glass counterparts, frameless pivot, or swing, shower doors use pivot hardware at the top and bottom of the door or, in some cases, the side of the door. However, unlike the framed versions, frameless glass pivot doors can often open both in or out. This is great for smaller bathrooms or those with limited space around the shower entryway.
Shower and Bathtub Screens
Installing frameless shower or tub screens are an elegant way to break up the space in the bathroom and create more open, glass shower or bathtub enclosures. They are the ultimate minimalist glass feature and can take your bathtub or shower to the next level of sophistication. Frameless bathtub screens actually swing out, so you can open your shower or tub completely for easier access.
Barn Door Systems
Also known as a frameless sliding door, this style is typically reserved for luxury shower and bathtub combinations and larger walk-in showers. The frameless glass sliding doors overlap with a smooth sliding action.
These are variations on more traditional sliding shower doors and have become quite popular. Making use of roller and bar systems, these doors are typically suspended from an upper support and do not depend on a bottom rail to slide on. This system gives the glass shower enclosure a clean, minimalist look.
Frameless Hinged Door
While similar to the pivot door, these frameless shower doors swing instead on either a set of hinges or, with some designs, a full-length concealed hinge. This allows a smaller built-in shower space to become a luxurious destination and even small openings can be transformed into a luxury showering experience.
Shower and Interior Glass Panels
Shower glass panels are becoming more popular for bathroom remodels in the U.S. They make smaller bathrooms appear larger, are easy to clean and can be customized to fit almost any layout or design.
Glass panels are used to create a seamless transition between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom. In addition, they can be used for a glass back splash. Because interior glass panels are affordable, they can be used to give a bathroom a high-end look with a reasonable budget.
How Your Shower Can Be Designed
Many homeowners prefer to have a bathroom with a custom, design-built glass shower enclosure or custom designed shower doors. Because the layouts and combinations of elements are almost endless, a homeowner can, with the help of a design professional, have a unique design that is both highly functional and luxuriously elegant.
There is a wide range of choices for hardware and features on custom shower doors, as well.
For example, door handles can include Colonial, D-handle, Ladder and Victorian styles, while faucets, knobs, showerheads and other features run the gamut from Victorian to Art Deco to Modern Chic.
In addition to custom glass shower doors, luxury features such as a shower bench and built-in shower shelves can add to the utility and beauty of a glass shower enclosure.
While custom design types vary, they can be grouped into a few general styles:
- Inline designs keep the shower and tub separate, but “in line” along a common wall.
- A 90 degree angle design typically makes use of one corner of the room, placing the tub on one wall with the shower enclosure aligned along the joining wall.
- Neo angle designs are one of the most efficient shower layouts for small bathrooms. They incorporate a shower with neo angle shower doors to provide an angled opening for easy access to the shower between other fixtures in the room.
Standard Design Sizes
A common approach for new glass shower enclosures is to consider more budget conscious designs. These are typically standard-sized enclosures that come pre-designed in a wide variety of styles and layouts.
Opting for a standard design does not mean you must sacrifice style, elegance and luxury. In fact, many standard designs rival any custom, design-build glass enclosures and offer all the features and upgrades to create a truly spectacular shower experience.
Glass Shower Design Options
Framed vs Frameless
Both framed and frameless shower doors offer many style options, and both can feature glass that is infused with Diamon Fusion to help prevent water spotting. The biggest style difference is in the configuration of the enclosure.
With frameless doors, it’s easier to create custom looks that include knee walls and three-wall enclosures of glass for an open, more minimalist look. It’s also possible to add frameless splash panels, or stationary panels without a moving door, that will contain some of the spray and not create a barrier to entry.
Both types of shower doors can provide a good view of the shower beyond. In terms of style, because of the heavy metal edge, framed doors are often referred to as formal or traditional in appearance, while frameless doors are considered more contemporary.
A pony wall creates a visual and functional separation between two areas, such as the tub and the shower, without closing them off from one another. Because the wall doesn’t extend all the way to the ceiling, the spaces retain an elegant open look and feel.
For glass shower enclosures, the use of matching glass partitions to separate areas of the bathroom, including tubs and showers, is popular. The result is a design that is both elegant and expansive.
When replacing an existing shower, or shower and tub combination, with a glass shower enclosure, the old structure will need to be demolished and removed. While this is not much of a concern for a homeowner if you’re having this done by a contractor, it can be challenging if you choose to take on this part of the project yourself.
There are several items to consider when removing and replacing an existing shower. The process is quite a bit different, for example, when removing a tub-and-shower combination than for a simple, molded acrylic walk in shower.
Regardless of what is on the shower walls, they will need to be stripped down to the underlying studs in order to access the existing plumbing. And, if tile needs to be removed and possibly replaced, these are tasks that may best be done by a qualified tile contractor.
Once any demolition and site preparation is completed, a new glass shower enclosure can be installed. If you have contracted for a fully customized, design-build enclosure this is where you get to watch as your bathroom is transformed into a beautiful oasis of relaxation. If, on the other hand, you are installing your new luxury shower enclosure yourself, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
Shower Glass Installation Considerations
When it comes to glass shower enclosure installation, here is a brief overview of a few key issues to be considered:
Existing walls that are out of square
There are a few reasons for this. It could be an error in the original construction but, if your home is older, settling can also skew the wall alignment over time.
To compensate for gaps this can create on shower enclosure walls, one simple solution is to use corner trim moldings. These trims can hide gaps in corners so that big caulk joints are not visible. They can also add a greater degree of water protection, while reducing maintenance of the caulk joint in the corner.
Typically, even if the project does not involve a complete bathroom remodel, some other fixtures may have to be moved. The layout of the bathroom can include the location of the toilet, sinks, and vanity and the placement of the shower door.
Shower enclosure heated floors
Radiant floor heating, also called underfloor heating, can be a great addition for a glass shower enclosure, especially for homes in colder regions. Warming the cold tiles of a wet shower floor heating is a luxurious enhancement of a shower enclosure.
How the bathroom door opens
Building codes require that all hinged shower doors must open outwards. However, they can also open in both directions, outward-opening and inward-swinging. The layout should also avoid the possibility of the door hitting any hard surfaces when fully opened, such as the corner of the sink counter.
Perhaps the most important – and most enjoyable – aspect of choosing a glass shower enclosure is deciding on the final product. While this can also mean deciding which additional features you’d like to include such as a steam generator, underfloor heating, and other upgrades, the most essential product decision is the finish for both the glass elements and the hardware used.
The finish on a glass shower enclosure can be clear, but many glass selections offer a frosted or bronzed finish. In addition, glass doors and panels can come with an etched pattern of which there are a number to choose from with names such as Obscure, Rain, Reed, Ice and Aquatex.
Hardware includes the framing on the doors, brackets, hinges and other supports, and can come in a variety of finishes including:
- Satin brass
- Satin nickel
- Silver plated
- Polished nickel
- Brushed nickel
- Gold plated
- Oil-rubbed bronze
The finish on glass shower enclosure hardware is also determined in large part by the style chosen.
In many ways, glass shower doors are far more efficient at preventing water leakage than the traditional shower curtain. However, the construction and design of luxury glass doors for shower enclosures are founded on the need to prevent leakage.
Framed and frameless glass shower doors are both sealed in around the edges, most commonly with silicone caulking, to prevent water leaking from the shower. However, worn out or missing caulk can let moisture escape. Sealant should last at least five years when applied properly and maintained.
Frameless shower doors will tywpically have sweeps attached to the bottom of the door which keeps water from leaking out of the shower underneath of the door. Additionally, installing vertical sweeps along the door edges can be an added measure for preventing leaks.
Keep in mind that, over time, the bulb vinyl strip on the shower door can deteriorate and will need to be replaced in order to maintain an effective glass shower seal on the door.
Understandably, people will have safety concerns with glass shower doors and panels. Perhaps the most common concern is the possibility of the glass shattering. Fortunately, it’s an extremely unlikely and rare occurrence for the glass in a shower enclosure to break.
Glass Shower Enclosure Safety
Manufacturers strive to produce safe shower doors, however, safety issues you should consider are glass size and glass attachment, and fully framed doors as opposed to frameless doors. Oversized doors and panels are a bit more at risk of damage, while frameless doors are more likely to shatter than framed doors, although it is still quite rare.
While they are inherently safe, there are precautions you should take to ensure the safety of your glass shower doors:
- Never let the glass make direct contact with hard surfaces.
- Keep all hardware firmly tightened.
- Avoid slamming shower doors.
- Never put excessive weight on the knobs, towel or safety bars.
- If the glass drags or does not move easily, have the door adjusted immediately.
- Routinely check the door to ensure its functioning properly.
The glass used for shower doors and panels in your glass shower enclosure can come with a protective coating. This allows for both easier cleaning and protecting the glass from small scratch and abrasions. One of the best is a product called Diamon-Fusion coating.
Diamon-Fusion is an ultra-thin, invisible barrier that protects glass shower doors and panels, as well as other glass and glass-like surfaces from hard water stains, corrosion, and other environmental pollutants.
It functions in a similar fashion to a non-stick cooking pan and the low-maintenance Diamon-Fusion coating reduces cleaning times and frequency at which you need to clean and keeps glass looking newer for longer.
It is recommended that only clean water and a nylon puff be used with Diamon-Fusion, however, if you would prefer to use a cleaning product, only use one of the following:
- White household vinegar diluted with water
- Sprayway® Ammonia-Free Glass Cleaner
- Seventh GenerationTM Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner
- Simple Green®
- Ammonia-Free Windex®
Proper care and maintenance of Diamond Fusion coated products is simple. For best results rinse your shower enclosure with clean water and wipe down any remaining water droplets. You may also towel dry the surface or use a squeegee.
Also, once a month you should wet the shower enclosure and then use a nylon body puff over the surfaces until they are clean and smooth. Afterwards, simply rinse and wipe down any remaining water droplets.
For glass shower doors and panels that do not have specific cleaning instructions, such as those with Diamon-Fusion coating, for example, there are simple and effective approaches to keeping your glass doors crystal clear and refreshingly clean.
Cleaning Glass Shower Doors and Enclosures
- Wet the shower glass with the shower sprayer or splash the walls with water.
- Spray down the glass thoroughly with white vinegar and let it soak in for at least 10 minutes.
- Use baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub the glass. Baking soda serves as an abrasive and vinegar dissolves hard water spots and soap scum.
- Rinse the shower glass with fresh water and dry with a microfiber cloth.
- Finally, use a glass cleaner to finish cleaning the glass.
Depending on where you live and the frequency of use, glass doors and panels can form hard water spots. Fortunately, using the white vinegar and baking soda solution will almost always do the trick. The key here is to leave the vinegar on the glass for at least 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing.
Another cleaning issue is discolored silicone seals. This typically occurs from mold growth and can usually be resolved with the same treatment applied to the glass doors and panels. However, in extreme cases it may be necessary to reseal the shower with new silicone.
While it is certainly possible to spend quite a bit on a fully custom, luxury glass shower enclosure, it is also possible to have a stylish and elegant structure installed for about the same cost as a high-end standard shower.
Shower Enclosure Costs
Framed shower doors can cost as much as 40 percent less than the higher-end frameless doors. Frameless shower doors tend to be more expensive because the glass is thicker, and they require special hardware. For example, frameless shower doors need strong nuts and bolts as the glass is heavier.
In addition to knowing the average labor rates in your region, these are the typical components of a shower enclosure estimate:
- Shower Surround and Fixtures:
- Shower/tub combo
- Installation Labor
- Project Supplies
- Glass Door
- Tile Surround
Glass shower enclosures use a few types of glass. The type most commonly used for shower door construction is tempered glass. This glass goes through a process of heating and rapid cooling that leaves it much more durable than annealed, or normal, glass.
In addition, laminated glass, two sheets of glass adhered to a thin central layer of clear vinyl, is sometimes used. While It looks like normal glass, if it breaks the pieces stick to the vinyl and the sheets of glass remain intact.