Tips on Designing, Preparing, and Installing a Frameless Glass Shower Enclosure

Here at CK Glass Company, we have many happy customers who called on us to install their frameless shower glass enclosures as the final step of their newly renovated master or guest bath. As with any type of profession, sometimes everything goes smooth – and other times, there are unexpected and even costly surprises and time delays.

For some of these surprises, additional costs, and time delays, they could have been avoided altogether had certain considerations been thought out more thoroughly prior to finalizing the concept and decorative design features of the new frameless shower enclosure.

To help make your bathroom remodel project go as smooth as possible, here are a few common elements to consider during your design and remodel phases.

Structural and Plumbing Elements:

  • It is important to pay special attention to the shape and condition of the walls, floor, soffits (eaves above the shower) and/or curb that will support and outline your new glass shower enclosure. If they are bowed out even the slightest bit, or not perfectly plumb, it will cause havoc when you try to install the glass for your enclosure. This could incur additional labor costs for repairs to the structure to make it straight, as well as additional costs for re-cutting the glass.
  • Consider whether your enclosure will be built up on a curb, or flush with the rest of the bathroom floor. This is especially important to consider for homes that need wheelchair accessibility. A curb does help protect from leaks better, whereas without a curb, water has more of a potential to pool on the floor if the drain is not at an angled slope within the shower enclosure.
  • Before tiling any walls and floors, ensure that there is a solid wood or metal structure supporting every square inch of the areas that will be tiled. Any hollow spots or areas left unsupported and then later covered by tile, are more likely to crack and break during installation and normal use.
  • Always make sure the shower head is aimed at a tiled wall and not aimed at the new glass walls or doors of the shower enclosure, or water will leak out of the enclosure.
  • Ensure that the plumber and electrician hired for your remodeling job know the full design of the shower enclosure, so they do not install plumbing or electrical wiring in a place where an anchor screw will be needed to hold up the glass enclosure. Otherwise, there could be a puncture to the plumbing or wires could be cut, causing additional time and labor costs to repair.
  • If the shower will contain a seat, buttress, or knee wall, make sure the design of the glass enclosure uses a fixed wall that can be cut and adjusted to accommodate that structure. That way, the glass door itself will not have to be modified at all, and the integrity and safety of the door and hardware will not be compromised.
  • Keep in mind that building code requirements state that all hinged shower doors must swing outward or swivel both ways – but it cannot only swing into the shower stall. If installing a hinged glass door, ensure the bathroom design allows for that space, which is approximately a 30” area outside the shower door.

Design Elements:

  • If your new shower enclosure includes a glass door, the standard door sizes are 24”, 26”, and 28”. You can also go as wide as 32”, but you will then need a special type of wall structure added to support the weight properly (which means additional hardware and labor costs).
  • For the height of the walls and doors, you can go as high as 84” before needing special accessories to affix the glass properly. This height accommodates for steam showers, floor to ceiling, where a transom (a glass vent panel above the shower door) would be needed.
  • If installing a steam shower, be sure to account for the need to tile the ceiling of the shower enclosure, instead of leaving the drywall and paint exposed. This will need to be done prior to installing the glass enclosure.
  • For custom designs with additional angles in the glass enclosure, the design cannot call for the tempered glass to be cut smaller than 4.5” wide, due to the support needed for the surrounding glass and hardware.
  • As you consider the aesthetics of the tile you choose for the walls, floor, and ceiling of your new shower enclosure, any type of raised decorative edges used in the area where the glass will be affixed to the wall will need to be hand-notched and smoothed out so that there is a consistent smooth edge between the glass walls and/or door, and the tiled wall of the enclosure. If a raised, decorative tile is used, it will incur more time and labor during the installation to get the glass enclosure to function properly with the decorative, raised tile pieces.
  • Do not select glass tiles for the areas where the glass shower enclosure will be affixed. Glass tiles are not made to be drilled through or used as additional support. They could easily crack during and directly after installation, as well as with normal use.
  • When measuring for a glass shower door in a floor to ceiling enclosure, please remember to account for any ceiling fixtures, lights, and vent fans that are within the swing range of the door. If there are elements in the ceiling that prevent the door from swinging fully open, a fixed transom can be used above the swinging door to accommodate those features.

If you have any questions about glass installation, hardware, types of glass to use, or want to know if your creative, custom design for a frameless glass shower enclosure is even possible, give CK Glass Company a call.  We’ll talk through the possibilities and help you bring your vision to life. We want to work with you beforehand to help ensure the only surprise you get is how smooth the process was to get a newly remodeled bathroom that looks even better than you imagined it could.