Picking a shower enclosure for your home can be a daunting task because you need to think in terms of function and aesthetic appeal. You also want to explore all the options available to you so you know you’re making the right choice.

The best way to do this is to find out what kinds of shower enclosures are out there on the market. Luckily, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. You have a serious tour guide in us here at Demers Glass, where we’ve been making pristine shower enclosures for decades.

From their structure to operational mechanisms, there are quite a few differences between enclosures. This is your chance to discover all these distinctions and characteristics so you can have a better picture of what to expect from the residential glass shower enclosures you encounter.

Framed Shower Enclosures

Framed shower enclosures are the ones most of us are used to. Still, they can come in different shapes like the quadrant shower enclosures, the d-shaped ones, and the pentagonal shower enclosures. Made of glass, they typically have a metallic boundary, or ‘frame’, that keeps them supported and secure.

This metallic frame may come in the form of aluminum, stainless steel, and even brass. The glass in this kind of enclosure is mostly thinner. The reason for there being thin glass is because there really isn’t a need for the thick kind, since you have a metal frame strengthening the whole set-up.

One of the upsides to a framed shower enclosure is its durability. It’s harder to break or crack, and once again; that can be attributed to the frame. What’s more, frameless shower enclosures are affordable, easy to install, and they’re resistant to water leakages. These enclosures are great for people who can’t get around as easily because one can hold onto them without fear of damage.

As great as framed shower enclosures are, they do have their downsides. One of those is the lack of flexibility. If you decide down the road that you need to add a new showerhead or some shelving, it may be difficult due to the frames. Then there’s the issue of corrosion. We all know that if you put metal together with water and expose it to oxygen, rust is likely to occur.

Types of shower enclosures block quote

Frameless Shower Enclosures

Compared to the framed shower enclosures, these do not have a boundary or frame at the edges of the glass panels. They’re markedly more contemporary and elegant in nature and their glass panels are normally fixed to the wall. They also come with tempered glass panels that are meant to compensate for the lack of support. This can be clear tempered glass or low-iron glass, which allows for more visibility than normal tempered glass. Tinted glass, acid-etched glass, and frosted glass are other common options. When it comes to hardware, you’re looking at small and subtle additions like handles, hinges, and brackets. 

One type of frameless shower enclosure is the bath screen door, which lets you switch between spill-free bathing and showering. While the frame in framed shower enclosures fosters a sense of discontinuity, frameless shower enclosures allow for a light, open, and consistent glassy look. They let the light flow in undisturbed and they give one the impression that there’s more space than there actually is. They’re easier to clean, too, since it’s mostly just glass and they never get moldy or rusty.

The glass used in these enclosures is the kind they use in the construction and automotive industries. And it’s no wonder that it has industrial applications, as it’s four times stronger than normal glass and when it does break it breaks up into small, blunt pieces.

This level of durability is also what makes it costlier than most other options out there and because of how thick and heavy it is, setting it up is no child’s play. It’s also worth noting that it’s not unheard of to come across stories of leaking frameless enclosures as they lack the seals or frames meant o trap water which you would find on framed enclosures.

Semi-Frameless Shower Enclosures

A semi-frameless enclosure is one that has some edges of the glass panel fully exposed while other parts are framed. Those that are caught between getting the framed or frameless enclosures to find that this is an ideal compromise for them. Depending on what you like or your priorities, the enclosure can feature different materials; from PVC to fiberglass. 

So what’s great about semi-frameless shower enclosures, you ask? Well, their aesthetic value alone is something that cannot be ignored, as they allow you to enjoy the view without compromising on safety. In addition to being partially framed, this type of enclosure is a more budget-friendly option compared to enclosures that are fully surrounded by a frame.

You’re not going to have insulating materials with this enclosure, though, and with only a few seals available, there’s a chance that water will pass through. This problem can be made worse by poor installation as well and you’ll find it more difficult to get replacement parts for a semi-frameless enclosure.

Bathroom featuring a shower enclosure

Sliding Shower Enclosures

A sliding shower enclosure is an enclosure with doors that open by way of a sliding mechanism. Rather than swinging open, the doors roll along a track or rollers set on the edges of the enclosure. The concept is taken a step further with the bypass door, which has two sliding glass panels.

There are also ‘barn style’ shower enclosures that have one stationary glass door and another sliding one that overlaps it. Some sliding shower enclosures will be framed, some frameless, and others semi-frameless. Frames are usually made from a metal such as chrome while finishes may be composed of fiberglass or acrylic.

Sliding shower enclosures are easy to use for both the old and the young. This is especially important because you’re dealing with materials like glass, which may prove to be fragile. Being a modern and stylish amenity, you can expect this feature to increase the value of your home. The fact that the door slides instead of swinging open also means you’ll have more space inside your bathroom to work with.

One disadvantage of this type of enclosure is the fact that it can allow for the accumulation of dirt, grime, dust, and even mold. Also, depending on the quality of the sliding enclosure and installation; it may not be that easy to maintain. Some sliding enclosure doors can also get stuck in their tracks, causing quite a headache.

Swinging Shower Enclosures

Here you’re dealing with glass shower doors that swing open and closed. There are a few kinds of swinging shower enclosures. You have pivot shower doors, hinged shower doors, and in-swinging shower doors. These enclosures can be made from tempered or annealed glass, with implements such as ‘swing hinges’ being used to let it swing the way it does.

When you have a swinging shower enclosure, you know you’re going to be keeping all the water in the enclosure. They’re made to be watertight, which can reduce your chances of slipping and falling due to spilled water. Swinging shower doors also offer easy access to the shower, they’re a dream to clean and they’re even customizable.

Keep in mind that your swinging shower door will need space to swing open according to its ‘swinging span.’ This may not be ideal in bathrooms where there isn’t that much space, to begin with. Apart from that, you can’t expect the door to swing open and closed a thousand times and remain the same forever. The swinging mechanism puts a strain on the hinges and pivots, which makes them less effective over time. 

Walk-in Shower Enclosures

This one allows you to walk into the shower area without having to swing or slide open any glass door. So if there aren’t any doors, what keeps the water from splashing outside the enclosure? Well, it wouldn’t be an enclosure if there wasn’t anything to stop the splashing, would there? That’s where the strategically installed glass panels come in. Toughened glass is a go-to for this type of enclosure because the panels are made to stick to the wall.

This type of enclosure offers more space for you to move around, and with a typically minimalistic design, cleaning it is as easy as getting a squeegee and some detergent. Because of how open it is, this enclosure can fit into any type of bathroom, from the big to the small. Similar to the semi-frameless shower enclosures, this enclosure makes it easy to access the shower.

On the other hand, walk-in shower enclosures offer little when it comes to privacy. They can leave you vulnerable to cold drafts, which can be very unpleasant if you experience really cold temperatures in your area. There’s also the danger of slipping and falling when it’s wet because you have little to hold on to. Of course, there are ways you can go about avoiding that. 

To Wrap Up

If you made it to this point, you now know that framed shower enclosures are durable and sturdy as well as resistant to water leakage. You also know they don’t offer flexibility and they may be vulnerable to corrosion. Frameless enclosures let light flow in and they provide the illusion of space, but they’re also expensive and hard to install. Semi-framed enclosures, on the other hand, are modern and aesthetically pleasing but replacing their parts is a mountain climb.

You’re now also aware that sliding shower enclosures are easy to use but hard to maintain. As for the swinging ones, you’ve learned they’re watertight and customizable and they can be less effective over time due to prolonged use.

With walk-in enclosures can be installed in any kind of bathroom and they make it easier to access the shower. You also know how they can offer little to no privacy while potentially exposing you to cold drafts. While you have all this useful information, don’t just take our word for it. Consider your own vision and taste for your shower and you’ll be enjoying some shower time karaoke in no time.

Interested in more info? Check out our in-depth review of everything you need to know about shower enclosures here.