One purpose of a glass shower door is to keep water off your bathroom floor. But shower doors 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.
The most direct way to make your personal visual statement is to choose either a framed or frameless shower door. Let’s consider some of the differences.
Framed Shower Doors
A framed glass shower door is the more traditional choice. This is 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 powdercoated, 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.
For more information about shower doors, read Types of Shower Doors and Shower Glass.