Beyond the Curtain: Choosing the Perfect Shower Door

Tired of that shower curtain sticking to your legs every morning? When drawing up plans for your bathroom renovation, maybe replace that curtain with a shower door.

Imagine a stunning stand-alone shower with beautiful tile work, a bench and chic fixtures — and no shower curtain in sight. Whether you decide on country farmhouse, minimalistic-modern or colorful vintage, you want to show off the hard work you’ve put into your renovated bathroom by choosing the right shower entry way.

There are many different types of shower doors and panels that can make your bathroom feel like a personal oasis. Narrow down your options by considering the following factors. 

Get to Know Your Options: To Frame or Not To Frame

Before selecting a bathroom door, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the available options on the market. The first question most people consider is whether they want a framed, semi-frameless or frameless shower. 

Showers enclosures with doors are supported by metal frames that are typically aluminum. When it comes to glass showers, these tend to be the most affordable option. Though framed doors are not the most modern look, they can be customized and have a finish applied that adds a beautiful touch.  

From the framed shower, came the frameless, says Lee Wallender at The Spruce. A frameless shower door removes any unwanted visual distractions in your bathroom, as it is carefully attached via small hinges. The minimalist design of the frameless shower door exudes luxury and elegance. 

For those with smaller spaces, frameless shower doors can be a great way to make your bathroom feel more spacious. “The less visual impact the doors have, the more open the room seems,” says Jessica Dodell-Feder at Apartment Therapy. It also helps that they are greatly customizable, which makes them possible for most bathroom sizes. 

If you are thinking of a frameless door, consider what type of shower base or tub you are using first in case a track or some form of frame is required. Installing a frameless door usually done by a professional, so communicate with them first about your vision for your entire shower, not just the door. 

If you are looking for a middle ground between framed and frameless doors, there are semi-frameless doors. “These are most popular with people who want a fully frameless door, but they can’t quite do it for logistical or financial reasons,” writes the team at Block Renovation. A semi-frameless door has a metal enclosure around the structure but not around the door itself. It can give you a sleeker look than a traditional frame, without the extra cost.

glass shower door

Your Space Impacts How the Door Opens 

Regardless of your framing choice, there are several ways your shower can open.

If you are dreaming of a large open shower, with double faucets, a bench and space to share, a wide door that swings open may be the choice for you. Alternatively, if you are looking for something beautiful and practical for your tiny loft apartment, a bifold opening door might be more appropriate. 

For starters, think about whether you would prefer a pivot or sliding door.

“A pivot shower door features hinges on the side that allow the door to open outward,” explains  Heather Asiyanbi at Hausera. “This means a pivot door requires enough room to open and close freely, so, for small or cramped bathrooms, this style of door likely will not work.” If you choose a door that pivots, you will have to consider the location of the shower and whether the door interferes with other bathroom fixtures.

A bypass or sliding door is another sensible option for small spaces. If immediately think of an old tub with a clunky frame and frosted glass, don’t worry: Sliding doors have evolved since then. They are now available in modern frameless or semi-frameless designs with clear glass. They can also be attached to stand-alone showers, says Aaron Stickley at The Spruce. This can make for an elegant and space efficient shower entrance.

“Frameless sliding shower doors offer something totally different by way of aesthetics,” adds the team at Drench. “They are ideal in a contemporary bathrooms, adding to a luxurious and clean feeling.”  

If you have a particularly small space, bi-fold doors are another viable way to incorporate glass, while saving space. “Bi-fold doors can be purchased with two or even three folds which save space in a more interesting way than the traditional sliding door,” according to plumber Travis Harper. If the shower takes up half of your bathroom, bi-fold doors can fold back into the walls to make the space seem much larger when you’re not showering.

Another option is to go with a walk-in shower. “A walk-in shower is actually completely free of doors or curtains,” says home decor writer Sienna Livermore. Walk-in showers often have a half wall made of a single glass panel. 

“It’s a great way to visually enlarge the bathroom, as the shower seems to merge with the rest of the space,” agrees software engineer Nancy Mitchell. The one downside is that they can be chilly because there is no enclosure to trap in warm steam. Underfloor heating is a fix you might consider to keep things comfortable.

Glass Options that Fit Your Bathroom

You have options when it comes to the type of glass you choose for your bathroom shower door. 

“Clear glass is one of the most popular choices for showers,” say Luke D. Hall and Benjamin St. Jacques at home innovation platform House Tipster. “The non-intrusiveness of the transparent glass will make the bathroom seem less crowded as there’s no splitting of the room into sections and no glass ‘wall’ encasing the shower.” Translucent glass looks invisible, making your bathroom feel more open and modern.

To get a clear glass look, choose a low-iron glass, advises the team at Shower Door Specialties. “Low iron glass is a relatively new look that gives the consumer a 6% gain in light transparency in your bathroom space, but more importantly removes the greenish look that is prevalent in large glass pieces with an open edge,” they explain. 

For showers with beautiful design elements, clear glass really shows off all the other stylistic elements of the shower. Deborah Baldwin at This Old House highlights a shower with gorgeous glass and marble mosaic tilework. To show off the mosaic, the owners chose a clear glass door that swings outward. 

If you want to add privacy to your showering experience, patterned, frosted or tinted glass types are available. However, in terms of design trends, clear glass is king right now.

glass shower door

Coordinate Finishes With the Bathroom Hardware 

Even the most modern of shower doors will have some type of metal to support its weight and to enable it to open and close. Even tiny details like the hinges on the door or the handle finish work together to make your bathroom a cohesive, relaxing space.

“One of the latest trends in home remodeling is the ever symmetrical geometric pattern,” says Sean Mahan at Homeyou.com. A bathroom with black and white patterns can use a black matte frame on the shower door to complement the rest of the bathroom’s design. 

French style influencer Garance Doré’s bathroom uses stunning champagne bronze finishes in her dual bath/walk-in-shower. Tiny details bring this bathroom together and will make you daydream about designing your own modern-minimalist bathroom.

It can be fun to play with different finishes in the bathroom, but be sure that the finish on your shower door hardware matches that of the shower head and drain cover. Otherwise, the overall look can seem unplanned and chaotic.

It’s Not All About Aesthetics — Remember the Practical Details

You can gawk at all the beautiful shower designs you want, but you still need to consider practical details before making any final decisions. Space is the most important factor when determining what type of shower door you choose. 

“Consider the available floor space when picking a shower style,” says Bob Swift, owner of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen. “A walk-in shower is good if you have the space to spare, but a corner shower or even a combo shower could be better for more compact bathroom layouts.”  The shower door you choose will primarily be determined by the square footage in the bathroom you are transforming. 

Another factor to consider is where to place the shower head.

“Be sure that your shower head doesn’t face the door,” says stylist Emily Henderson. If the showerhead points at the shower door, it will be a nuisance to turn on and off because it will spray outside the shower unless you’re inside with the door closed when you turn it on. Be prepared for either a blast of cold water or water everywhere.

Last but not least, don’t forget cleaning. Cleaning the shower is a chore no one enjoys, so you will want a shower door that requires very little maintenance. Frameless doors make the cleaning process much easier, says Diana Lopes at Homeyou.com. Without a frame, there is less space for organic growth to hide in tiny crevices. Instead of scrubbing for mold, you will just need to pass a squeegee over the glass from time to time. 

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