Key Considerations When Buying a Frameless Shower Door
If you have decided to go ahead with a frameless shower door, there are some essential considerations to keep in mind as you look for the right one.
1. Fully Frameless vs. Semi-Frameless
One of the biggest frustrations when it comes to buying a frameless shower door is the lack of standards. One seller will define a frameless shower door in a different way from another and a third one will choose yet another definition. Honestly, it can be pretty confusing to a lot of homeowners.
Two terms you will come across are fully frameless and semi-frameless. Some shower doors make use of long U channels at the bottom or sides of the door to secure it. While some sellers will still say this is a frameless door the more accurate term agreed on by many in the industry is semi-frameless. Other frameless shower glass doors use clamps to secure the glass door to the wall or a fixed glass panel. This is what many refer to as a fully frameless shower door.
When you go shopping ask whether the door uses U channels or clamps (sometimes called clips). Clamps generally have a more minimalist look compared to U channels.
Related: 27 Walk in Shower Tile Ideas That Will Inspire You
2. Type of Hardware
Another very important issue is the type of hardware used on the door. This refers to the material used in the U channel (for semi-frameless doors) and in the clamps (for fully frameless doors) as well as any other component including the hinges.
You will find terms like brass construction, aluminum construction and anodized construction. If possible, always go for brass hardware. Shower frameless glass doors are quite heavy, sometimes weighing up to 200 lbs. The hardware used must be able to bear all that weight safely and ensure structural integrity. Brass is much better at this than aluminum and many other materials you encounter.
You can then choose to have the brass components coated in a finishing of your liking. Common finishes include chrome, oil rubbed bronze and brushed nickel.
One tip that can help you determine that you are buying the right hardware is to ask for part numbers. Look up the part numbers online to find original manufacturer information. This will tell you exactly what materials are used and safe weight tolerances as stated by the manufacturer.
3. Type of Hinges
For the door to open and close, it must be fitted with a hinge. Installing a hinge on a glass door and a frameless one at that, is an entirely different kettle of fish from installing a hinge on a normal door. The hinge must be able to support the weight of the door and allow it to turn smoothly without any problem.
There are three types of hinges you can use for your frameless shower door: door-to-wall hinges, pivot hinges and glass-to-glass hinges. Ask your contractor for recommendation on which is best in your situation. Each hinge comes with its own benefits and complications.
For example, a glass-to-glass hinge is more problematic to install compared to a glass-to-wall hinge. A pivot hinge has the advantage of allowing the shower door to open 180 degrees in either direction.
Take a look at some great images and additional information we found at Dulles Glass & Mirror.
4. Type and Thickness of Glass
Lacking in framing, frameless shower doors must be thicker to achieve proper support and structural integrity. There are two sizes that are recommended: 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch. Anything thinner than this and your shower door will keep wobbling whenever you open or close it. Note that 1/2 inch frameless shower doors cost more than 3/8 ones.
In addition to the thickness, you also need to choose the type of glass you prefer. This is mostly a matter of aesthetics and each seller stocks different variations, some with proprietary names. Some of the options you will come across include clear glass, frosted glass and rain glass. One thing they all have in common–they are all tempered glass. Tempered glass is as a result of a special manufacturing process that makes it stronger and changes how it breaks. In case of breakage, it fragments into numerous small chunks that are not as hazardous as normal glass.
A Note About Accessories
Make sure to ask the seller what kind of accessories come with the door and which ones you can add on your own. All shower doors come with a door handle while others also provide a towel bar. Other accessories you may want to include would be a threshold to prevent leakage, towel bar/handle combos and recommended glass cleaner.
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