When you are in the market for a custom frameless shower enclosure, there area few options you might want to consider upgrading. Five to ten years ago, the choice was should you go with frameless or framed. And that was pretty much it. With the cost of frameless showers decreasing dramatically over the years, framed shower enclosures have become obsolete. I hesitated over saying they were obsolete, because even I didn’t think I’d see the day.  I am sitting here trying to remember the last time I sold a framed shower enclosure, and couldn’t remember one in the last couple years. Then I remembered. I had a client who insisted they wanted a framed shower enclosure last year, despite the minimal cost savings. I tried to convince him the additional 25% investment would be worth it in the long run, he cited water leakage and cost as his reasons for wanting the framed unit. We installed that antique looking framed shower for him and he was not happy. He didn’t like the metal, or the color of the metal and we ultimately gave him a refund. I think that is the official final framed shower enclosure for us.

So now that we have established the choice is frameless, it’s time to consider which features to include in your frameless shower enclosure. As frameless shower enclosures have grown in popularity, so have the options. Which options for Frameless shower doors should you consider adding?

Some of the options for Frameless Shower Doors-

  • Clips vs. U-channel
  • the thinner 3/8″ thick glass or the thick 1/2″ glass
  • standard pull, a towel bar or pull combo, or  luxury Portals pulls and towel bars
  • standard clear glass(has green edge and slight green hue) or ultra clear or starfire glass for optimum clarity
  • standard shower glass height of 72″, a taller height of 80″ or 84″, or a steam shower

Clips vs. U-Channel

The discriminating client knows that for a true frameless shower enclosure she must have clips to achieve the look. The fixed panel in your shower enclosure will need to be attached to the wall somehow. WE know you want frameless, but we do have to attach the glass to the wall somehow! Using a u shaped metal, screwed into the wall, used to be the norm. I will admit the amount of metal is minimal and you will still enjoy the look of a frameless glass enclosure with the metal only be installed on the bottom and one side of the glass. But what if you could instead have virtually no framing, just a couple clips used to affix the glass to the wall? This is obviously the preferred choice!

Pros and Cons of U- Channel

Pros of U-channel

  • cost effective- glass won’t need to be ordered ‘out of square’, no fabrication of holes needed to glass
  • easier to install for entry level glazier
  • for walls out of plumb, u-channel can hide this

Cons of U-Channel

  • not a ‘true’ frameless installation
  • more metal to keep clean
  • not as secure and strong without any holes being drilled in the glass to secure it

Pros of Clips-

  • Most minimal amount of metal for a true frameless design
  • Optimum strength and stability- glass will have holes pre fabricated for clips
  • less metal to clean
  • Most modern look and appeal

Cons of Clips-

  • Higher cost- clips, compared to u-channel will add approximately $100- 300.00 to cost
  • More difficult to install, experienced installers only
  • Precision measuring- with no channel to hide walls that are not straight, glass has to be ordered to fit tight to the wall, even if the wall isn’t straight. Glass often has to be ordered out of square to ensure a snug fit.

Thick 1/2" Glass shower door with towel bar and clips

How thick should the glass be? 3/8″ thick or thicker 1/2″ Glass?

If you would have asked me five years ago about 1/2″ glass, I would have talked you out of it. I would have told you it’s not worth the extra money, that the 3/8″ looks exactly the same. Well, I was wrong! Although it doesn’t look that much different to most people, 1/2″ glass does have a more solid, rich look to it. It’s when you open the door though that you will understand. A thicker 1/2″ door just feels so much more solid and luxurious. The fixed panels will be more solid and stable too. If you are like me, and throw your towel over the glass, you will enjoy the solidness the 1/2″ glass provides. The thinner 3/8″ is solid enough, but it does have flex to it in larger panels.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see, or feel, my large glass panel in my shower move.

is that 1/2″ glass has become much more affordable. It was hard to justify the benefits when the price doubled. Now, 1/2″ glass upgrades can be as little as $100.00. The hardware price doesn’t change much and the labor cost is the same. With the competitive pricing being offered by glass manufacturers 1/2″ glass is an upgrade you won’t regret.

A frameless shower enclosure should last you far longer than the old framed models. If you might have the same glass for the next 20 years and beyond, I would recommend doing it right the first time.

Back to back pull. towel bar or towel bar pull combo

When it’s time to decide the hardware for your shower door it’s important to know you have options! The average customer doesn’t even know they have a choice when it comes to the hand for their shower door. Many glass companies won’t suggest a different option. They don’t think outside of the box and if you don’t ask, they won’t think to tell you.

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Portals Towel bar pull combo

It wasn’t until I was replacing the shower doors in my own home that I realized how valuable a towel bar would begin my shower door. I had recently sold 5 showers to a designer who specified a towel bar/pull combo in the master baths for her client. When I went to visit the job after it was completed, I loved the way it looked. Since it was a designer who specified it, I assumed she did it for aesthetics only. When it came time to order my own shower door I realized that I am constantly hanging my towel over the door or fixed panel. It just looks sloppy! It was then that I realized the functionality of adding a towel bar to the outside. I was so excited by this idea that I decided to take it a step farther and add a robe hook to the fixed panel for an additional towel to dry. Unfortunately I have a smaller bathroom and my wall space is very limited. I just don;t have the room for towel bars and hooks on the wall.

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portals towel bar

 

A back to back towel bar in lieu of a pull is also a great option. The towel bar serves as your handle to open and close the door while also giving you two more spots to hang your towels. The double towel bar only requires 2 holes fabricated in the glass and will be slightly more economical.Portals symphony back to back towel barFinally, the pull or towel bar is completely customizable to your design. For a more modern bath design consider square towel bar pull or back to back pull.

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Do you like your glass clear or with a little green hue?

When it comes to frameless shower door options, This might seem like an obvious answer. Who would want there clear glass to be green, right? Nobody wants a green tinted door The only reason you might have a glass door with a green hue is because no one told you there is another option. The other option is Ultra Clear or Low Iron Glass. This is probably the most important choice you can make when selecting which options for your frameless shower doors. Ultra Clear will come at an additional cost, no more than 25% of the cost of the shower door. The investment is well worth it. The crisp sparkle will be enjoyed for as long as you own your home. ultra clear shower doors

Standard height or tall and stoic?

When comparing estimates for your shower door you will find most companies quoting a 72″ or 76″ height. They do this to save money, standard doors come ready from  China in these heights. You know what else comes from China? Green Glass. Green short glass. These standard heights have become obsolete in the luxury homes. The preference for a  taller, rich looking door is called for when the ceilings and shower head are all taller than standard builder grade. We only order our doors to size to ensure a custom fit each time. Consider 80′, 84″ or even 96″.

 

Hi I’m Leslie Pabst, co-owner of the Glass Shoppe & Builders Glass of Bonita, Inc. I’ve been running both shops as president for nearly 10 years. I took over the 30+ year old business from my parents. So I’ve grown up surrounded by glass. We’re happy to help answer any questions about glass and provide all of Southwest Florida a great place for glass and interior design ideas.