The Ultimate Shower Door Buying Guide

shower door buying guide

When it’s time to add some interest, appeal, and style to your bathroom, you need to consider installing a glass shower door. Shower doors are easier to clean than shower curtains and they tend to last a lot longer. They’re also better at keeping water off your bathroom floor.

Shower doors can be the entrance to a standard or custom shower or the cover for the space over a tub. The layout of your bathroom, how it’s decorated, and your personal preferences all go into choosing the shower door that’s right for your bathroom.

Many different types of shower doors are available. Types include:

  • Swinging or Pivot Shower Door
  • Sliding Glass Door
  • Bi-fold and curved Doors

Many of these doors can be either framed or frameless.

Then, once you’ve chosen the type of door, you can further add to your bathroom’s visual appeal by choosing different type of glass for the door.

Swinging or Pivot Shower Door

A pivot shower door is one that rotates on two metal pivots. The pivot hardware usually is mounted near to or at the top and bottom corners of the door. This allows the door to turn 180 degrees inward and outward.

Alternately, this type door can be attached with hinges, especially if the door is heavy. One side of the hinge is attached to the door. The other side is then mounted to the shower wall or another glass shower panel.

Pivot or swinging shower doors can usually be attached on the left or right side of the shower, depending on the available clearance in your bathroom.

These doors can also be ordered with a frame that goes all around the glass, or frameless. Frameless shower doors are considered more stylish, but often cost more.

Sliding Glass Door

A sliding glass door is a door that is made of two or more glass panels that run in parallel tracks on top and bottom. The doors then slide or glide past each other, which is why they are often called bypass doors. Because they don’t open inward or outward, they need less space to open than other types of shower doors.

This type door is usually found mounted over bathtubs because of their length. A typical bathtub is 60 inches long so two sliding panels are used. This can limit the space you have to get in and out of the tub.

Sliding glass doors can also be used for large showers. This can add a lot of style to your bathroom, especially if they are frameless and have a design in the glass.

Some people find this type door more difficult to clean because the tracks have to be cleaned and the sliding pieces of glass may overlap, even when fully closed.

Bi-Fold and Curved Doors

Bi-fold shower doors are made in two folding sections. When you push on the end of the door, the two hinged pieces fold inward and you can get into the shower. This is a good choice when you have a narrow shower and the design of your bathroom doesn’t have enough room for a swinging or pivot door. This type door uses a track, usually at the bottom.

Curved shower doors are made from a curved glass panel. The glass is usually in a frame and attached to the wall at the top and bottom. Like the pivot door, they can usually be attached on the left or right. These are excellent choices for a corner shower.

Framed Shower Doors

A framed glass shower door uses the glass of your choosing supported by metal fittings on all its edges including top, sides, and bottom. Most also have a rubber seal at the bottom to protect against water bouncing out of the shower.

Shower door frames are usually made of a metal such as aluminum, stainless steel, or even plated brass. If aluminum is used it is anodized to add corrosion-resistance. Frames can also be powder coated, which is a technique for applying paint to the frame. This process provides you with a strong frame available in almost any color you want.

Many different finishes are available for the metal frames such as silver, polished brass, brushed nickel, and more. This allows you to match the hardware in the rest of your bathroom.

The metal all around helps protect the tempered glass, reducing the chance of it breaking. The frame also provides definition. Depending on the finish and/or color chosen, this definition can become an architectural element in your bathroom design.

A frame on a shower door can also provide some support for a handicapped or physically challenged person who needs something to hold on to when getting in and out of the shower. (Although it is not a substitute for a grab bar!)

Frameless Shower Doors

Many contemporary designers think that a frameless glass shower enclosure provides a more elegant and luxurious look for a bathroom. It also allows you to show off the marble or tiled interior of your shower. This is why many newer and remodeled bathrooms use frameless shower doors.

A frameless glass shower door is really a door made entirely of tempered safety glass.

Hardware is used where the door is attached to the shower frame or another glass panel that is part of the shower enclosure. This hardware, which can be a pivot or a hinge, is usually used near to or at the top and bottom of the glass shower door.

Sometimes there is a small gap between the glass door and the adjoining shower enclosure glass. This is normal, but you must be sure your showerhead is not aimed at this gap or you can have water on your bathroom floor.

To provide strength, the shower door without a frame typically uses a thick piece of glass. Whereas framed shower glass is about ¼ inch thick, the glass used in a frameless shower door can be up to ½ inch thick. Because the glass is thicker, you must be sure the shower structure can handle the weight.

Door handle hardware can be mounted directly into the glass. This hardware can be chosen to match the rest of your bathroom.

It is usually easier to clean and maintain a frameless glass structure because it doesn’t have metal edges all around in which dirt and soap scum can collect.

There are options for the type of glass you can use for the door including clear, frosted, and etched. Using clear glass on a frameless shower door does have a disadvantage. If someone has partial blindness, they may not be able to clearly see the door and walk into it.

Finally, the cost of a frameless shower glass door is usually higher than the cost of a traditional framed shower glass door. This must be weighed against its durability and visual appeal.

Shower Glass Style

By code, any glass you want to use for a shower enclosure must be tempered. This safety glass is very strong and if it breaks, it will break into many small pieces rather than large, dangerous shards.

Although the glass will be tempered, you will have many choices when it comes to the style of glass.

  • Clear glass is a common choice. This can add a lot of light to your shower and open up your bathroom, giving it a spacious look. On the other hand, it doesn’t provide much privacy.
  • Frosted glass still lets light into the shower but provides some visual privacy when you’re inside the shower. The amount of frosting can be slight or heavy depending on your preference.
  • Patterned glass is a glass door with a design typically etched into the outside of the glass. You can choose a design that compliments your bathroom decoration or provides a focal point for the room.
  • Silk-screen glass has a graphic image on its surface so it can look like patterned or textured glass.
  • Pebbled glass is opaque glass (can’t see through it) with a textured effect on its outside. This diffuses the light entering the shower.
  • Tinted glass doors use glass to which a color has been added.
  • Asymmetrical glass is a glass that has been cut into a shape. A typical asymmetrical pattern is one that is cut to resemble a mountain range along the top of the glass.

Glass comes in varying thicknesses with ¼ inch, 3/8 inch, and ½ inch being the most common sizes.


One purpose of a glass shower door is to keep water off your bathroom floor. But shower doors and shower glass today are designed to go beyond that simple function. They can add a design element that makes your bathroom as much a statement of your personal style as the rest of your house.

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