Shower enclosures have changed quite a bit over the years. At one time, you simply had a curtain rod and shower curtain, and maybe a decorative pattern on the curtain. Then framed shower doors became popular. These doors were generally made from tempered glass with a thin metal frame around it. In recent years, frameless shower doors have become common, in part because of their improved aesthetics.
A frameless shower door is essentially a sheet of tempered glass that either pivots on a hinge on the shower wall or another part of the shower stall or slides open. They tend to be thicker than framed doors, since they don’t have the benefit of the added strength of the frame itself. Frameless doors are generally about 1/4″ thick.
Frameless doors are also heavier than framed models, again because they are thicker sheets of glass. This added weight is a consideration when installing them since the structural integrity of the shower needs to be able to handle the weight.
Another byproduct of the thicker glass is that frameless shower doors are generally 40% to 50% more expensive than typical framed doors. And because there is no frame on the glass, frameless doors are generally easier when it comes to cleaning.
When choosing between the two types of doors there are a couple of things to consider. The first is how close the shower head is to the doors. A framed door seals itself shut using both magnetic strips and rubber seals. This will help stop water from splashing out of the shower and onto the floor or other bathroom fixtures. Frameless doors typically have a quarter of an inch gap around to door, on pivoting designs at least, so if the shower head is close to it you will find that water escapes through the gap. If you choose a sliding frameless design this is less of an issue since the two doors will overlap to a certain degree.
The other major consideration is whether your shower setup will work for a frame-less door. Doors with a metal frame can be installed at practically any angle where the hinges on frame-less doors must be installed to be in a particular position when the door is closed. The door needs to rest at 90, 135, or 180 degrees to the hinge panel, limiting the number of ways it can be installed.