What is a Frameless Shower Door?

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Many people are making frameless shower doors part of their home improvement and bathroom remodeling projects. While these shower doors have a great, modern look, they aren't the right choice for every homeowner and every bathroom. Today we'll take a closer look at frameless shower doors so you can make the best decision for your needs.

What is a Frameless Shower Door?

Framed shower doors consist of a metal frame around all sides, that holds a glass or plexiglass shower door in place, much like the frame around a window. These doors often slide open and closed on tracks, but may also open with hinges.

Frameless shower doors do not have the surrounding metal frame. Instead, the entire door is a single panel, and they are often hinged directly to the wall or to stationary glass panels.

Framed shower doors are usually made of tempered glass, but the glass is lighter and thinner, since the structure is supported by the frame. Frameless shower doors are made of thicker and stronger tempered glass, since they have no external support.

Frameless shower doors have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are the things to keep in mind.

PROS

  • More visually open, spacious, and modern

Without the metal frame, these shower doors are airy and open, reducing visual clutter and maximizing the appearance of space and light in a bathroom.

  • Easier to customize size, shape, and fit

Because these doors don't have to fit into a frame, there are more options for how they can be created and installed.

  • Easier to clean

Because they are a single glass surface with minimal fixtures, they are much easier to clean. They do not attract mold and mildew like shower frames or shower curtains, and don't have hard-to-access corners or pockets where dirt and stains can build up.

  • Easier to maintain

With fewer parts, fixtures, attachments, and components, frameless shower doors are easier to maintain

  • Reduced chance of corrosion over time

The aluminum frame of a framed shower door is susceptible to rust, particularly in the humid environment of a bathroom. Frameless shower doors don't have this problem. 

CONS

  • More expensive to buy

Because the glass is thicker and more substantial, and the hinges need to be more substantial as well, frameless shower doors cost more to purchase. And, of course, they cost much more if you are customizing your shower door.

  • More expensive to install

Again, because they have more weight to support and more substantial hinges, frameless shower doors can be more expensive to install.

  • More susceptible to water leaks

The surrounding frame in a framed shower door does a better job of sealing a shower and containing the water inside. A frameless shower door is more likely to leak or drip water from the shower.

How to Know If a Frameless Shower Door is Right for You?

​Some things to consider when you are looking at installing a frameless shower door:

  • Door clearance

Framed shower doors can slide open and closed on a track, so they don't need space for door clearance on either side. Frameless shower doors always require door clearance, either inside or outside the shower, or both.

  • Water leakage

While many frameless doors come with a rubber “sweep” at the bottom to prevent leaks, they are overall more susceptible to gaps and leaks. If you have a small shower or small bathroom, these leaks can be more impactful or even harmful to your home.

  • Structure for installation

Because frameless shower doors are heavier, they need more support and integrity for installation. While there are a variety of installation options, you will need to have a wall, shower enclosure, or other structure that can support the weight of the door.

  • Cost of installation

While both kinds of shower doors should be professionally installed, installation of a frameless shower door takes longer and is more complicated. The hinges need to be extremely strong, and extremely level, to keep the heavy door from sagging over time. While installing a framed shower door may be as easy as slipping it into the track, it takes 2-4 times as long to install a frameless shower door as a framed one. Meanwhile, a curtain rod and curtain can be installed in just minutes.

  • Reduced cleaning and maintenance

While the silicone sealing around all shower doors will inevitably degrade over time, frameless shower doors don't have as many spaces that can harbor excess moisture, leading to mold and mildew. They are easier to clean and less prone to corrosion over time. Properly installed, they have a longer functional lifespan, and will look newer for longer.

​Conclusion

Ultimately, frameless shower doors may be a fantastic choice for bathrooms with more space for door clearance, and a larger shower enclosure overall to reduce drips and leaks. The higher initial purchase price gives rewards in improving the look of a bathroom and potentially the resale value of a home, and in reduced maintenance costs over time. They may also be a great choice for those with reduced agility, who need surfaces that are easier to clean and maintain.

However, they may not be the best choice for small bathrooms without door clearance, or bathrooms with poor floor and shower sealing, where leaks are more problematic. Many homeowners seek to close these gaps and openings with extra caulk, sealers, and gap fillers, but all these fillers and accessories tend to negate the beauty and simplicity of a frameless shower door; if you need to fill and leak-proof, it's better to look at a framed shower door with minimal framing, like a U-channel door.

Finally, if you don't have good wall structure for the added weight, installation can be even more complex and expensive than it might otherwise be. Remember that a high-quality installation is extremely important in a frameless shower door. Your investment in the door itself is wasted if it is installed in a way that is crooked or unstable.

Frameless shower doors are simply beautiful and very trendy right now, but they may not be the right choice for every bathroom. Now you have all the information you need to make the right choice for your needs.

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