Glass Shower Enclosures and Doors: What To Consider Before You Buy

This article helps answer all your questions on shower enclosures, one of the more popular home products that homeowners choose to buy for their house. Pioneer Glass is very experienced in helping homeowners choose the best option for shower enclosures and will install it for you!

When considering quotes for frameless, semi framed, and framed shower enclosures and doors, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. The main difference in price may be the thickness of the glass and whether there will be a surface protectant added.

Frameless, Semi-Frameless, or Framed?

FRAMELESS SHOWER ENCLOSURES are all the rage and 90% of our requests are for frameless shower enclosures. I certainly agree as they can be truly spectacular!

Frameless shower enclosures can mean slightly different things to different people. A true-to-name frameless shower enclosure should have no frame whatsoever and just hinges and metal clips to hold the fixed panels in place. To do this, everything must be completely square. While we all like things perfect, sadly, life is not that way. It may make sense to use small amounts of U-channel which can help adapt to small imperfections in the level of your shower area. U channel can generally be matched to your shower hardware and is relatively unobtrusive. In addition, for longer spans, a header may need to be installed.


A metal rail fitting over shower glass panels that secures them to the floor, ceiling, wall or another glass panel. It reduces the cost of the frameless shower because the glass does not need to be drilled or notched.



Typically a frameless shower enclosure is top of the line, making it more expensive than a framed shower enclosure.

SEMI FRAMELESS SHOWER ENCLOSURES have metal around the frame but there is either no frame on most of the door, or the door is completely frameless. The advantage of semi-frameless shower enclosures is that using some frame helps with the support of the enclosure. This allows the thickness of the glass to be reduced, in addition to the cost when compared to frameless showers.

FRAMED SHOWER ENCLOSURES have framing on the whole surround and the doors. This is usually the least expensive option and is also very sturdy. Framed shower enclosures can be very attractive, but current designer trends all point to the sleeker appearance on frameless shower enclosures.

As for the glass, itself you can be sure it is safety glass as it is illegal to not to use safety glass on shower enclosures.

Frameless shower enclosure Bourne, MA
A frameless enclosure. Notice how inconspicuous the U-channel on top of the half-wall is. This design requires support, which would typically entail a header. The customer did not like the amount of metal showing with the header and elected to have us install a support arm, which looks fantastic!
custom shower doors frameless MA
A semi-frameless shower enclosure, as evidenced by Cardinal's Uptown Grand series. By adding some frame but keeping the door and header frameless, this shower is as sleek as a truly frameless enclosure. Because it has some framing, it can use thinner glass and can readily adapt to walls that are not quite "square."
shower enclosures in Cape Cod Massachusetts
This is an example of a framed shower enclosure. This Cardinal Neo Angle framed enclosure provides maximum stability and makes the most use of the the available space in this bathroom.

Treated or Untreated Glass

Surface Treatment

It makes great sense to order your shower enclosure with a surface protectant. It will not need to be cleaned as frequently, and it will be much easier when you do have to clean your enclosure. A surface protectant that repels water, oil, and is resistant to UV exposure will pay you back for the extra cost. Most surface protectants come with a ten-year warranty. These protectants are applied prior to the shower being installed. You can view manufacturer information, recommendations, and a FAQ here.

Manufactured Glass Protection

For a lifetime of gorgeous glass, you may want to consider shower glass that has been precisely manufactured with a permanent protective layer. We like to think of water as being pure and clean. That may be, but water also contains many minerals which can very slowly pit and discolor glass. If you want the most maintenance-free shower glass that will hold up for as long as you are in your home, click here to learn more about the fabulous Guardian Showerguard®. Be sure to watch the video on this page – It is very cool if you are a person that likes to know “the how and why” on interesting things.

Traditional Hinged, Pivot Type Hinged, or Sliding (Bypass) Doors

Hinge and pivot doors, in many cases, can have stops removed to swing in and out like saloon-type doors. Most customers prefer to leave the stops in and just have the doors swing out. One advantage to a double swing is that you can open the door in the inward position to drip dry. Doors that only swing inward are not allowed by national building codes. Determining which type of hinge to choose for your shower door includes various factors.


Swing doors must have clearance to toilets and sinks. Sliding doors will not open sufficiently to work in small shower stalls. Knowing the space you have to work with is key to your selection.


The more track you have, the more cleaning you will have to do. That said, current tracking systems are more upkeep-friendly and are much easier to keep clean than older versions.


Framed doors of any kind tend to be the least expensive, as you can use thinner glass. The frame, rather than the glass and supports, contributes to the structural strength of the door.


Many would argue appearance is the most important factor of all. You are spending a lot of effort and money on your shower enclosure. At the end of the day, make sure it is what you love.

Modern shower tracking for sliding doors Taunton, MA

Sliding Doors

Sliding doors (called bypass doors in the industry) sit on tracks and slide on the track. You can buy models which have both sides sliding on the track, or one with one side as fixed glass. Years ago, tracks had two grooves for the glass to slide in. Modern tracks have one track with drip (weep) holes to drain water and are much easier to clean. Traditional sliding doors on new shower enclosures are not very common. Sliding doors still have a major role in the bath and shower industry where they are mounted over tubs. An exception to this are trackless sliding doors. Trackless sliding doors are on the upper-end of shower doors. These doors need to be made of thicker glass and need a very strong upper track to carry all the weight of the door.

Shower Enclosure Hinge Door Buzzards Bay, MA

Hinge Doors

Hinged doors are the most popular choice of all. You can get a traditional hinge set up on the doors very similar to the interior and exterior doors of your home. The hinges mount on the side of the door. There are also continuous hinges that run the length of the door. This hinge also affixes to the side of the door. This type of hinge has a “self centering “mechanism” so that the door always returns to the closed position. There are also continuous hinges which are used when walls are “out of square.”

Shower enclosure pivot hinge door Northborough, MA

Pivot doors

Pivot-type doors swing on the top and the bottom. This allows a very clean and sleek look to the side of the shower door due to the lack of traditional hinges. Most pivot doors require less screw holes into the tile or fiberglass. As a general rule of thumb pivot doors are easier to open and close. To best understand how a pivot door functions, walk over to your refrigerator. Look at the operation of the door. There are no hinges on the side. The door swings open on pivots at the top and bottom. Most outdoor gas grills also have doors that pivot rather than open on hinges. Many types of shower doors that have top and bottom pivot-type hinges also have a continuous hinge that runs in a hidden rod in the trim for extra support.