Shower Doors: What To Know Before You Buy

Bathroom shower
TerryJ / Getty Images
  • 01 of 11

    A Room With A View

    Summer Thornton via

    Whether you're adding a new shower or updating an existing one, you'll be making all sorts of crucial decisions, not the least of which are what type of doors to buy. While your choice of enclosure might seem as transparent as — well, glass — it's actually a bit more complicated. Facts you'll need to know include the exact dimensions of your shower space, how much room you have between the shower and other fixtures, how much time you want to invest in daily cleanup and whether those frameless shower doors you saw on a design blog are really the best fit for your lifestyle and your wallet.

    Take a look at the gorgeous steel-framed shower enclosure pictured above. Yes, it's custom-built and undoubtedly expensive. But it's also a reminder that there are loads of shower door options available in a range of prices — including some very attractive framed models. Armed with the right information, the best choice for your bathroom is sure to become crystal clear.

    Continue to 2 of 11 below.
  • 02 of 11

    What's So Special About Frameless Doors?

    RODA by Basco

    Let's get the big questions out of the way first: What the heck is a frameless shower enclosure and why does everyone seem to want one? 

    A "frameless" shower enclosure uses sturdy tempered glass (usually 3/8" to 1/2" thick) that does not require the support of metal around its exterior edges. The result is a clean-lined, modern look that is free of visual obstructions. In fact, one reason frameless shower doors are so popular is that they help showcase beautiful stonework, intricate tile designs and gleaming hardware.  

    One thing to keep in mind, says Tom Huck, President of Shower Door Experts in Jefferson, MD, is that frameless doors generally do include some metal. "Frameless units can be virtually metal-free, except for clips on any stationary panels, hinges and handles," he says. What's more, the term "frameless" can also apply to doors with frames along the top edge and around the sides. This type of installation is sometimes — but not always — referred to as "semi-frameless." 

    A word on price:  A frameless shower generally costs twice as much as a basic, metal-enclosed model. 

    Continue to 3 of 11 below.
  • 03 of 11

    Semi-Frameless Shower Doors

    Kohler-Lattis Semi-Frameless shower door.jpg

    If you desire the contemporary look of a frameless enclosure but your layout and budget say "no can do," a semi-frameless model can be a fine alternative. Look for high-quality components such as the permanently bonded hinges, solid handles and patented glass coating built into Kohler's Lattis, a semi-frameless pivot door with 3/8" thick tempered glass and a taller-than-standard 76-inch height that helps to impart a sleek, streamlined look. 

    MSRP: $949 to $2,108

    Continue to 4 of 11 below.
  • 04 of 11

    Framed Shower Doors

    Shower door
    Basco Shower Doors

    Just because they're more affordable doesn't mean framed shower doors can't be as eye-catching as their frameless counterparts. You'll find many models that are not only chic but sturdy, thanks to heavy-duty aluminum framing that adds strength and support. This classic pivot shower door is part of Basco's Thinline 136 series. While the door itself is frameless, the oil-rubbed bronze finish that surrounds the unit makes a striking statement that works equally well in a traditional or contemporary bathroom. (Don't forget to add a matching drain cover). MSRP: $659 to $1485

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Glass Tub Enclosures

    DreamLine sliding tub

    Can't part with your tub, but crave a look that's sleeker than a shower curtain? A glass tub enclosure could be your happy medium. The Enigma X frameless sliding tub door features 3/8" thick glass treated with an exclusive protective coating. Doors glide effortlessly on stainless steel wheels over a stainless steel track bar. Priced at around $1000.

    Continue to 6 of 11 below.
  • 06 of 11

    Opening Styles: Sliding Doors

    Sliding door shower

    How your shower door opens depends on your style preferences and your bathroom layout. Sliding (also known as bypass) doors are a practical choice for tub enclosures and narrow bathrooms with closely-spaced fixtures. The frameless sliding doors in this photo show off the beauty of the shower without hogging too much room. Sliding doors can range from $500 up to $1,500 or more.

    Continue to 7 of 11 below.
  • 07 of 11

    Opening Styles: Pivoting Door

    Walk-in shower with pivot door designed by Chambers + Chambers, Mill Valley, CA. Photo © John Merkyl

    Pivoting shower doors — also known as swinging or hinge doors — open like a standard door. They can make a sophisticated statement in a traditional or cottage-style bath such as this Mill Valley, CA master suite.

    If you're planning to buy a swing-out door, it's a good idea to enlist a professional to help you measure your space. You'll want to make sure there's enough clearance between the fully-opened door and surrounding bath fixtures before installation. 

    Continue to 8 of 11 below.
  • 08 of 11

    Bi-Fold Shower Doors

    DreamLine's Butterfly bi-fold shower doors. Photo © DreamLine

    Folding or bi-fold shower doors are a good option when you're looking for a wider walk-in opening but lack the space for a pivot door. The frameless design of DreamLine's Butterfly door offers a clean, custom glass look and can be installed over a shower stall or a tub. 

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Partial Tub Enclosure

    DreamLine's AquaUno partial tub enclosure. Photo © DreamLine

    A partial glass enclosure over a shower stall or tub is a European-style option that is both affordable and modern. DreamLine's Aqua Uno features a curved silhouette and a sophisticated frameless design. Price: $250 to $400.

    Continue to 10 of 11 below.
  • 10 of 11

    Glass Finishes: Clear Glass

    RODA's stunning Preceria shower doors feature a curved front panel. Photo © RODA by Basco

    At their best, clear glass shower doors can be like gleaming works of modern art. However, be prepared for daily squeegee-ing to maintain their pristine look.

    Continue to 11 of 11 below.
  • 11 of 11

    Glass Finishes: Textured Glass

    Sterling's Portilla frosted shower doors, available at Lowes. Photo © Sterling by Kohler

    Frosted or textured glass adds privacy and a bit of fun to your shower, and they're easier to maintain than their clear-glass cousins.