Framed vs Frameless Shower Doors And Enclosures | A Complete Guide
Is it time to add a shower door to replace the old shower curtain? Maybe you are planning on a major update for your master en suite. Should you opt for a framed or frameless shower enclosure? Both are long-lasting and functional options, but they each come with their own set of challenges and perks.
In this post, I’ll explain the pros, cons and considerations for each type. So after reading, you’ll know whether a framed or frameless shower door is the right choice for you and your bathroom.
Let’s dive in!
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Framed Shower Door or Enclosure
A framed shower door is the more traditional style found in many suburban homes. They typically have a sliding door design, but can also be found as a bi-fold or hinged option. The thin tempered glass is mounted into an aluminium or powder-coated frame. The frame is screwed to your bath or shower tray and the surrounding walls. Additional caulk is applied around the frame to prevent water from leaking out of the shower area.
You can order the glass as clear, frosted, or textured to add privacy to your shower. Clear glass helps the bathroom feel larger and will show off your custom tile work.
The glass itself is easy to clean, but the frame will corrode over time. That eventually encourages the growth of mould, which will be difficult to clean out of the frame.
Many framed units are sold in standard sizes ready to install on your bath or shower tray. Hiring a professional to install it is recommended, but a confident homeowner can tackle this job with the right set of tools. You will need a special drill bit to cut through tile or stone, saw, caulking gun, measuring tape, screwdriver, and spirit level. A second set of hands helps to position it in place. It takes an experienced installer about one to two hours to tackle this job.
Can a framed glass enclosure shatter? It is possible. The most common cause of catastrophic failure is a bad installation job where the screws are tightened too much. That can deform the frame which can crack or chip the glass. After several heat and cold cycles, the crack can expand and result in the door failing.
A dated appearance is the biggest drawback to a framed shower. The frames do stand out against your modern fixtures and cabinetry. However, in a flat or budget-conscious renovation, a new sliding framed shower door is a serious upgrade over a vinyl curtain.
Pros of a Framed Shower
- Affordable and attractive upgrade to an ordinary shower
- Easy to install
- Available in a variety of glass finishes
- Standard sizes fit the majority of traditional bath and shower enclosures
- Order one as hinged, sliding, or bi-fold design
Cons of a Framed Shower
- Dated appearance
- The frame may corrode over time
- Is more difficult to keep clean
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Frameless Shower Door or Enclosure
If you love the look of a stunning pane of glass standing in an elegant bathroom tiled in marble, then a frameless door and enclosure will be more your style. Since there is no frame to support the glass, the tempered glass is much thicker and thus, much heavier. The glass is supported by mounting brackets positioned along the wall and floor. Even the door handle is mounted directly into the glass. The hardware is available in matching finishes compared to your fixtures such as brushed nickel, brass, chrome, or powder-coated colours.
You can choose whether the glass will run from floor to ceiling, function as a half wall, or just work as a door to your bath and shower enclosure. The tempered glass can be clear, coloured, or etched with decorative designs. The thick pane is treated with an anti-microbial spray that helps it to avoid soap scum build-up and water spots.
This is a custom installation, and you will be hiring a pro for the project. Careful attention must be paid to the mounting hardware to ensure that the floating door hangs square. There are no tracks or rails to keep the glass in position.
It is more likely that you will have some water leaking around the frameless shower enclosure. A quality installation will use a mitred edge of the door, rubber gaskets, and a shaped shower floor to encourage proper drainage. Work with your bathroom designer to decide if you will have a wet-room environment or a more traditional bath and shower with a focus on keeping all the water in the tub.
You cannot have a sliding frameless glass door. However, you can opt for a modern walk-in shower, bi-fold, or simple hinged design. A fixed glass enclosure is much less likely to have maintenance problems in the future.
A frameless shower enclosure is a great way to build a more accessible bathroom for a person that uses a wheelchair or struggles to step into a bath. Its design looks as stylish as any standard bathroom while supporting their particular needs.
Pros of a Frameless Shower
- Elegant, contemporary design
- Easy to keep clean
- No threshold is needed which supports those with mobility challenges
- True custom installation to match your decor
Cons of a Frameless Shower
- Requires professional installation
- More expensive
- The sliding door design is not an option
- Heavy glass can affect the function
- More likely to leak due to its design
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Framed vs Frameless Shower Door and Enclosure: Which is better?
When you take it all into consideration, which one will work better in your home?
Decor and Design
There is no doubt that a frameless shower enclosure is the trending choice in today’s home improvement market. However, when you need to count your pennies during a home renovation, a framed door will add value and function to even the most humble home.
You can hire a contractor to install a framed sliding door onto your existing bath for around £300 inclusive. A frameless enclosure can run anywhere between £600 up to £2000, depending on the amount of glass, etched designs, and finished hardware. A custom job may require multiple visits to measure for templates.
If you are working on a shoestring, you can buy a sliding door kit at the DIY store for under £150 and install it yourself on a slow Saturday.
Ease of Installation
It is much easier to install a framed shower door compared to a frameless one. Even professionals will need an entire day to install a frameless enclosure. If the installation is subpar, you can have leaks, crooked hinges, and a door that is hard to move.
How Long Will They Last?
When properly installed, both framed and frameless shower enclosures will last as long as the rest of your bathroom fixtures. A framed shower door is more likely to show its age as its metal frame begins to corrode, but it will keep working. Both types can shatter, but they have been well-tested to last over the past six or seven decades.
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There you have it! Everything you need to know when considering a framed or frameless shower door or enclosure.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this choice. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly and quick upgrade, then a framed shower door or enclosure will likely be the best choice. However, if you’re looking to make a design statement in your new bathroom then a frameless shower door or enclosure offers up a definite wow factor and contemporary look.
Either way, make sure to take your time installing them or hire a professional to avoid any leaks or crooked doors.
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Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.