DEAR TIM: I need a new shower door for my bathroom. While visiting a showcase of new homes, I saw lots of interesting shower doors that had very different glass. After seeing all of them, I’m convinced I want a frameless shower door that will make my bathroom like a dreamy spa. What do I need to know about frameless shower doors before making a purchasing decision? What do you recommend to ensure the shower door doesn’t leak in the future? Patty P., Stoneham, MA
DEAR PATTY: A glass shower door, especially a frameless glass shower door, can add the pizzazz it takes to really move the needle when it comes to eye appeal in a bathroom. As with many building products, shower doors have really come a long way since the first sliding one my Dad installed at our home over 40 years ago. Cleaning that beast was almost impossible, as gunk would accumulate in the track that sat on the tub edge.
Recently, my wife and I had installed a glamorous frameless shower door in our master bathroom. I’ve always wanted one, but never realized how dramatic the look would be in our own home. I have a second neo-angle shower door in another bathroom, but the aluminum framing around each panel of glass, plus the aluminum at each corner makes it look clunky compared with the new door.
Before you make your final decision to buy, there are quite a few things you need to consider. First and foremost, you should make sure you’re dealing with a company that sells both standard and custom shower doors. Look for a dealer that’s been in the business for a long time, preferably over 30 years.
You should be able to choose from numerous frame finishes that should match identically the fixtures and faucets in your bathroom. In our bathroom, the new shower door handle is polished nickel that matches exactly the finish on the shower faucet as well as the nearby vanity faucets. Better yet, the style of the shower door handle also matches the design of the faucets. One would think that they were made by the same company, but they’re not.
I feel the glass options are very important. My wife was able to pick from 16 different types of glass. Our pattern is called Rain, and looks like random vertical grooves made by water drops that might run down a glass panel. The grooves are on the outside of the panels so it’s easy to squeegee the inside to keep it sparkling clean.
The shower door seal is really important, but the curb the door assembly rests on is the foundation of a leak-proof installation. In my opinion, it’s mandatory to use a solid material with no or minimal seams for the curb. I used three pieces of granite for my curb, and the seam at each corner of my neo-angle shower where the granite meets is bonded permanently with epoxy. You can use marble, solid-surface material, cast stone, etc. I would never recommend ceramic tile for the curb, as each grout line is a possible leak location.
The curb should also be sloped back towards the shower. It must be level side to side, but it should slope inwards to the shower so that water doesn’t pool against the intersection of the shower door panels and the curb.
Make sure the shower wall surfaces are squeaky clean before the new shower door is installed. This ensures the caulk that creates the leak-proof seal will adhere well to the wall surfaces. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as to wait time before you use the shower. Some want you to wait 24 hours, allowing sufficient time for the caulk to cure.
Leaks from frameless shower doors can sometimes be traced to poorly positioned shower heads. There can be a small open gap between the door and the adjacent pieces of glass. Make sure the water stream coming from the shower head doesn’t aim directly at these gaps.
Consider installing a rain shower head if you have a chronic leak. These heads produce a gentle stream, and the water tends to fall straight down instead of an angle. The only disadvantage of the rain heads is they don’t produce a vigorous stream of water that you might need on an early morning as you begin your day.
As you might imagine, over the years I've installed quite a few shower doors on my jobs. In almost every case, it was one made by a company named Basco. They happen to be based in Cincinnati, OH. My customers never had an issue with these doors. That's important to me - no problems after the install. That's why I used them to install the door in my own master bathroom. The order process was easy, the measuring crew and install crew were professional and Kathy is happy. That's all that matters. Of course the door looks fantastic and fits like a glove.