What You Should Know Before You Install a Shower Door

comes to shower doors you may want to think twice. It can be more difficult than you think, especially if you don’t have help readily available. Today’s shower doors are relatively lightweight compared to previous generations, but don’t let that fool you. There’s also the trend of frameless shower doors, which are larger, heavy, and can be difficult to handle. However, even if you have help, you’ll probably want to hire an expert.

The door construction, whether frameless or not, is just one of the considerations. There are a few types of glass on the market, but all (in western countries) are safety glass. This means when it breaks, similar to the windows of a car, the glass is gummy and relatively safe. Just a few decades ago, shower glass turned into dangerously sharp shards when broken. This was problematic for many reasons—who wants to be naked and wet while surrounded by sharp glass?

Still, even safety glass can be dangerous. Of course, hopefully, you don’t break the glass during an installation. If you do, and you’re taking a DIY approach, you’ll be in charge of replacing that brand new shower glass.

The Removal
Many people are in the position of replacing an old shower door. Unless the shower door is going into a brand-new home, removing the original door is one of the most challenging parts of the process. There is a myriad of constructions possible depending on the age of the old shower door. It can be a dangerous and trying process. Even though you might not necessarily be worried about damaging the old glass (though a shattered door is still quite a mess), remember that you can also damage the frame. If you’re working with an existing frame that doesn’t need to be swapped or modified for the new shower glass, you’re already saving money.

Disposal of the old door is also an issue. It’s not going to fit in any residential bin. Professional shower door installers will remove the old shower doors for you—sometimes for a nominal fee, and oftentimes they may repurpose or recycle the glass. This alone is worth the installation fee.

All Doors Lead To…
The actual installation can be tricky depending on what’s necessary. Do you need to attach hinges? Make sure the shower door is on runners (similar to sliding closet doors?). Is there additional hardware, such as handles, that need to be installed? Are you absolutely certain that installation was correct and you’re in no danger of the shower door falling in the future?

Even if you’re confident in your installation abilities, a DIY approach can negate any warranties. This is another reason depending on a professional is the best move. Whether you have the standard manufacturer’s warranty or have sprung on an extended warranty, you’ll want to take advantage of that protection. Warranties provide fantastic coverage, especially during the installation period.

Warranties aren’t just to cover completely shattered doors. They may also cover small chips, most likely to happen during an unprofessional installation. Even the tiniest of chips or scrapes can be maddening. After all, you just bought a brand new shower door and it’s a bit of an investment. A single chip will be all you’ll see, and it may interfere with the function of the door.

If You’re Committed to DIY
In some instances, a DIY project is the only option. Maybe you don’t have a professional installation company in your area. If this is the case, research the type of door—there are thousands. If possible, find an instructional video you can follow along with as you install the door. For those still in the shopping process, keep in mind that standard doors and sizes are going to be easiest to install. They will also be the doors with the most how-to videos online. The lighter the door, the easier it will be to handle (and might even be more affordable).

Make sure to have at least one helper available. Ideally, your helper is physically capable of holding the door up themselves if necessary. Gather and assemble all the tools you’ll need prior to installation. Make sure the bathroom is clear of any clutter and there are no wet spots on the floor. You may want to put tape along the edges of the glass to easily see the borders.

If you opt for a framed shower door, you may need to trim the frame edges. Measure the shower threshold length and use a hacksaw to trim the base so it fits tight in between stall walls. You can smooth the cut area with a file. Vacuum the metal filings right away to avoid injuries and damage to shower bases and floors. Next, measure the track (for framed doors only). Mark the area from end to end. You’ll also want to mark the shower walls, adjusting the jamb until it sits flush. Create a divot (if it’s not already present) with a hammer or automatic puncher. You may also have to drill holes for wall anchors if they aren’t already there—a 3/16-inch masonry bit is a safe size. Next, tap in the wall anchors with a plastic mallet. Press the jamb to the wall to align screws and attach with plastic anchors. A pan-head screw should fit into each hole (1.5-inches).

To actually hang the door, lift it with the hinge rail able to swing out and place the hinge rail into the jamb. Check for the strike edge for clearance. You may need to adjust for plumbness. Next, drill 7/23-inch pilot holes through the hinge rail holes so it accesses the mounted jamb. You will also need to install remaining side jambs with a helper.

Having the right tools is essential for a job well done. They can cost well over the price of a professional installation, so keep all costs in mind when deciding to DIY or not.

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