Shower Door Buying Guide—How to Choose the Right Shower Doors

A modern framed Kohler shower door in a bathroom with earth tone tile flooring and brilliant white shower tile.

Luxurious rain shower head? Check. Shiny new subway tiles? Check. Marble top vanity? Check.

Looks like you’re missing the shower doors! If you’re stalled by the argument between throwing a new shower curtain up vs. investing in new glass doors, we can help.

Sure, you can find a variety of beautiful and even whimsical shower curtains. But why go with fabric that’s guaranteed to need laundering, wear out, or just get plain boring after a year or so? A high quality shower door is more elegant and longer-lasting.

Read our guide and feel confident you have what you need to make the best choice when buying new shower doors for your bathroom.

Grab Your Measuring Tape—Or Don’t

As with most home improvement projects, taking measurements comes first. You can’t shop until you know the amount of space you have to work with. You can grab that shiny new tape measure and get started…or, you can work with us.

If you request a free quote, a Kohler-trained specialist will not only do the measuring for you, but will help you choose the items that best fit your home and budget. That said, if you’re doing your own measuring, follow the simple steps below:

Measure Width

You’ll take 3 measurements from wall-to-wall at the top, middle, and bottom of the shower area. Measure to the closest 1/16th of an inch. If the 3 measurements differ, use the largest.

Measure Height

Start at the top rim of the shower pan (or bathtub) and measure up to where you want the shower door to end. Unless you’re planning on floor-to-ceiling doors, you’ll want the doors to end at the top of your tile or tub surround.

Now you have the height and width of your doors. Next, we’ll look at the different shower door types.

Choosing Slide Versus Pivot

When you shop for shower doors, you’ll find 3 main types: sliding, pivot, and hinged. Look at the features of each door type before you determine which will work best in your bathroom.

Sliding

The sliding type consists of two panels hanging from an upper track. Each panel slide backs and forth on the track. Sliding doors are sometimes called bypass doors because they bypass each other so you can get in or out on either side.

Pivot

This type swings, and features two pintles. One pintle mounts at the top and the other on the bottom of the glass panel, allowing it to pivot on the upper and lower frame.

Hinged

The hinged type works a little like the doors in your home. Unlike pivot doors, hinged doors don’t require an upper frame.

Speaking of frames, you’ll have two choices—framed and frameless. Take a look at the difference.

Framed or Frameless?

A full metal frame surrounds framed shower doors—shocking, huh? The frame, usually made from heavy-duty aluminum, protects the glass. Framed doors are budget and kid-friendly.

Frameless models, as the name implies, don’t need a frame—at least not around the edges. These are made from thick glass, which is why they don’t need the support of a metal frame. They’re easier to clean since there aren’t crevices that attract soap buildup.

Frameless doors are the most expensive but if you’re looking for something in the middle, consider a semi-frameless model. Semi-frameless doors have an unobtrusive metal edge on the top and bottom. You get a sleek, contemporary look without breaking your budget.

Glass Design

Far from boring window glass, glass shower panels come in a wide range of designs.

If you’ve installed a brilliant tile surround, show it off with clear glass panels. Need privacy? Frosted or textured glass offers privacy without blocking too much light.

If you’re looking to draw the eyes to the shower door itself, you can do that too. Look for doors with S-cut panels. For the maximum creativity, shop for doors with etched designs.

Have You Heard of Tempered Glass?

Tempered glass is a safety glass. If it shatters, it breaks up into tiny round pieces. Most showers doors are made from tempered glass to protect you from injury due to contact with glass shards.

Sometimes, you’ll see doors made from laminated glass, especially if you order custom doors.

Laminated glass, made by layering a thin piece of clear plastic between two layers of glass, is more durable. It’s slightly less safe because even though it’s designed to keep glass shards adhered to the plastic, pieces of glass can still escape.

Before you choose between tempered and laminated glass, check with your Midwest Bath consultant and discuss the differences. You may live in an area where building codes determine which type of glass you need.

Glass Doors and Coating

Who knew there were so many options for glass shower doors?

If saving time and effort when cleaning is a high priority, consider buying doors made from water-repellent coated glass. The coating prevents that ugly buildup of soap and hard water stains. It also discourages mold development.

Coated glass is most often available on higher-end models. If you prefer easy cleaning and low maintenance, the cost may be worth it to you.

The Finishing Touch

New shower doors aren’t complete without an attractive finish. What do we mean by finish? This refers to the look of the metal parts of your door.

Brushed nickel and oil rubbed bronze are finishes that look fantastic in any bathroom. Of course, you can also go with the ever-popular chrome.

If you buy framed doors, you can usually choose the finish on the frame. You can also select the finish for hardware such as handles and hinges.

Since you’re upgrading your bathroom, why not go for a finish that matches your shower head and tub fixtures?

Ready for Your New Shower Doors?

Thanks for reading our guide—we hope it helped make choosing the doors for your tub or shower a less of a chore.

Whether you choose framed or frameless, clear or etched glass, the right doors not only look great, they can maximize the functionality of your shower and tub area. Use the information in this guide to assist when you’re ready to make your selections.

If you’re ready to buy and install your new shower doors, or you need extra help deciding what best fits your needs, the experts at Midwest Bath are here to help. Contact us today