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Shower Enclosures Buying Guide

Written by  Wilfred Weihe

Shower enclosures are the luxury add-ons for your personalized bathroom. But due to the great variety and options available for these luxurious add-ons, the purchasing of a new shower enclosure can be a little difficult. As such, it is very important to have some knowledge about these enclosures before you plan to buy one.

This shower enclosure guide covers most of the information that is needed to select the best option available in the market.

Installation

Firstly, it is necessary to know the exact space that is available for implanting the shower enclosure. Also, it is very likely desirable to know which shower enclosure, among the various options available will best suit the bathroom as well as your style. Most shower enclosures vary from 1600mm to 2000mm, therefore it's clear that your ceiling should be tall enough to provide space for both enclosure and tray. For such purpose, two approaches can be carried out:-

1. 3D Modelling Software

In this approach, a 3D modelling software is used to animate the original space on a monitor. This approach gives exact measurements of the space plus various additional details about the space.

2. Drawing out a scaled plan

This is the common method, it is simply approached by measuring the space yourself. Two parameters needs to be measured. First, the height of the bathroom, i.e., the space between the floor and the ceiling and secondly, the floor are that will be the specific space of the shower.

Whichever approach is chosen it is also desirable to plan out radiator installation points, opening space for the shower, windows, etc. It should be kept in mind, that if the floor is made of concrete then you may need to raise the shower tray up around 50mm to 100mm for allowing space for the shower waste underneath. If hinged shower doors is an issue then you should consider in-swing, bi-fold or sliding shower door.

Based upon the specific positioning of the bathroom enclosure, two types of installations are popular among majority of the people. First of these two popular installation points is, within a recess in the wall. At such a place, a fully enclosed space for a shower is created by the already present 3 solid walls plus a door and a tray or a tiled wet room floor. The other popular installation point is against a wall or a corner. In this case, a full enclosure is needed to form the shower space. The enclosure needed for such purpose maybe, a shower door and side panel(s) or offset quadrant or a standard quadrant. Further details about the types available in these installation points are described below:-

Installation Types

• Recessed

While installing a shower enclosure within a recess space, purchasing only a shower door and tray will suffice. At recess installation, four standard door options are available namely, hinged, pivot, bifold, and sliding shower doors. Each type of shower door has its own advantages and disadvantages, so make sure which type of shower door will suit you best before making a full-fledged decision.

• Corner

Corner installation of a shower enclosure provide more options in design, i.e., it increases design flexibility. You are free to create your own enclosure size by combining doors with either one or two panels. Also there are options available for quadrant, offset quadrant, and corner entry. Mixing all these options, 6 different door options are available namely, hinged shower doors, pivot shower doors, sliding shower doors, bi-fold shower doors, quadrant shower enclosures, and lastly corner entry shower enclosures. Again, it should be clear that every type has its own advantages and disadvantages. So, best and convenient type of shower doors should be selected before making any purchase of the required components.

Enclosure Formation (Combining Side Panels and Shower Doors)

Creating a shower enclosure that exactly matches your requirements, is made possible by the combination of shower door and side panel(s). For example, if the requirement is to place a 1300mmx850mm shower tray against a wall, then you will need a 1300mm shower door of specific design along with 2 matching side panels of 850mm for forming the enclosure. An enclosure sitting in a corner will require a single panel, whereas an enclosure sitting against a wall or a recess will require two side panels.

1. Option 1 – Against A Wall: - If you want your bathroom enclosure to be installed against a wall then you will require one shower door plus two side panels as there will be one wall already present.

2. Option 2 – In a Corner: - If the installation of the bathroom enclosure is in a recess or corner then it will require one shower door plus one side panel as two walls will already be available.

Selecting a Shower Tray

Following is a list of all the materials available for the construction of shower trays also, this list consists the advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of using each kind of material.

Material/Finishes List:

1. Material Name – CERAMIC

Ceramic shower trays are also known as fire clay shower trays. Solid bathroom basins and Belfast kitchen sinks also employ the same material in its construction. Often, these ceramic trays are heavyweight and of high quality. These are ideal for employing at locations where frequent use is required.

Advantages – I. Highly durable as per their heaviness.
II. Able to withstand long term load.

Disadvantages – I. Colder to touch.
II. Limited design options.
III. Expensive than other shower trays.

2. Material Name – ABS Stone Resin

This material is formed by pouring a mixture of stone material and resin into shower tray moulds that has been already pre-lined with a material on its topmost layer. These trays are somewhat stronger than standard acrylic shower trays and weaker than fire clay shower trays.

Advantages – I. Much stronger than reinforced acrylic shower trays.
II. Warmer to touch.
III. Greater design flexibility. Number of designs are available.
IV. Cost effective.

Disadvantages – I. Less sturdier than ceramic.
II. Limited wear and tear capability.

3. Material Name – Reinforced Acrylic

Reinforced acrylic shower trays are made of the same material employed in making standard baths with an additional process for making them lightweight. The manufacturing methods employed for making such trays provide lightness and design flexibility to these trays. Various reinforcing methods are used by manufacturers like using wooden or steel frame structures.

Advantages – I. Inexpensive to buy.
II. Lightweight is a trademark of such shower trays.
III. Easy installation.
IV. Warmer to touch.
V. A large number of designs are available and possible.

Disadvantages – I. Not sturdy.
II. Lesser durability.

Depths Available

Next is the depths availability of shower trays. Also a shower tray waste is must.

• Low Profile

Low profile shower trays measure around 25mm to 40mm in depth and due to their design flexibility they are currently in the standard height of shower tray in the market. Due to their slim nature, these trays are ideal for creating low level or level access within a bathroom enclosure.

• Standard Depth

Standard depth shower trays measure around 45mm to 100mm in depth. These trays provide traditional look to the bathroom. Typically, these shower trays are available in a reduced number of materials like reinforced acrylic.

• Riser Kit

Riser kit is an additional equipment required in two situations. Firstly, if you are laying the shower tray on a concrete floor, then there would be difficulty in concealing the waste components of the shower tray within the floor so a space needs to be created to have them set above ground level. Secondly, if you have the possibility to fit the waste within the floor but you not want to do. Then also a riser kit may come handy.

• Shower Tray Waste

Shower tray wastes are 90mm tall beneath the shower tray itself. This is so due to the need of operating the waste to remove waste water flowing from the shower.

Shower Enclosure Replacements

Following is list of all the replacements or alternatives available to replace a shower enclosure.

• Shower Baths & Screens

If there is a restriction of space for bathroom, and still you want to have a full-fledged bath within your bathroom, then the best option available is a shower bath. Full bathing experience is offered by shower baths and combining these with a bath screen can provide sufficient space for all your shower needs. Smallest bathrooms can also have shower baths thanks to the variety in sizes these baths offer.

• Wet Rooms

A wetroom is such a room that has been tanked or waterproofed, instead of being applied a shower tray. Such configuration allows the elimination of the need for shower doors because the room (wetroom) itself transforms into a shower enclosure. Such replacement is ideal if you want to add luxury to your home with a sleek and popular shower enclosure replacement.

• Walk-In Shower Enclosures

An open plan shower space that is door-less (without doors), is called an walk-in shower enclosure. From the construction point of view, these shower enclosures are created with the help of an 8mm or 10mm thick glass shower panel and a low profile shower tray, additionally a support bar can be combined with the glass for increased rigidity. At some places, depending on the design and size of the room that will be having the enclosure installed, an optional end screen or return panel can be used.

Common Features

• Quick Release

Quick release is a feature that almost every shower enclosure manufacturer provides. This feature is usually accessed from the runners of the enclosure. This feature allows the doors and panels to be released effortlessly. Quick release feature facilitates the cleaning procedure of an enclosure.

• Magnetic seals

Some of the shower doors and enclosures come with magnetic seals. These magnetic seals are applied along the edge of the door. Upon closing, the magnetic seals within the enclosure ensures that the doors aren't likely to open if accidentally or intentionally knocked.

• Shower Profiles

Some pieces of material are required to seat a panel or shower door against a wall. Such equipment is known as shower profiles. Shower profiles are often adjustable as per the requirements. Secondarily, these shower profiles help in creating a tidy and seamless finish in your enclosure.

• Power Shower proof

Some materials are not strong enough to endure the high pressure of water emanating from the power shower. For such purpose all bathroom enclosures are manufactured with a power shower proof standard ensuring safety of the enclosure as well as the user alike.

FAQs

• Can I install a shower enclosure under a sloping ceiling or in a loft conversion?

Yes, it's possible to install a shower enclosure at such places like, under a sloping ceiling or in a loft conversion. Generally, most of the manufacturers that manufacture shower doors and/or enclosures do not provide their products in custom sizes. For such custom needs the manufacturers need to be provided an ad-hoc (according to need) contact with the customers.

• What should I expect when purchasing an uncommon sized shower enclosure?

Rare sized shower enclosures such as 1110mmx760mm or 1000mmx720mm, etc. are provided by several bathroom enclosure manufacturers that stock these uncommon sized enclosures. But, the fact is that these uncommon enclosures have a common drawback of wasting some door opening width due to their irregular size. An average quadrant shower enclosure provides a door opening width of about 400mm to 500mm, whereas uncommon sized enclosures will reduce this width about 50mm to 150mm, resulting into a width of about 350mm. However, a smaller door opening width is practically utilisable in an average bathroom.

• What is a low level access or level access shower enclosure?

The height of an average shower tray is about 40mm to 50mm, when it is combined with a riser kit, it can stand up to nearly 100mm of height. For having a slimmer look, some shower enclosure manufacturers provide low profile shower trays that are measure around 25mm in height. Such trays provide a low level access when placed directly on a floor, providing an ease in getting in and out of the shower plus a contemporary feel to the shower. Additionally, these low profile shower trays can be directly bedded into the bathroom floor to provide a complete level access shower enclosure. Such configuration is ideal for disabled, elderly people, wheel chaired, children, and others that need a much safer and easy showering experience in the bathroom.

• What is 'easy-clean glass' and what are the benefits?

Technically, an easy clean glass is a clean finish on a glass with a micro-thin layer of an invisible coating. This coating is aqua phobic in nature, i.e., it repels water. Nowadays, most of the brands offer this common feature under their own trademark name. For example, 'Simpsons Clear' coating is offered by Simpsons on their shower doors, Saneux endorse this with the name 'Clearseal' coating on their products, etc. Basically, all of these coatings are identical in the way of providing benefits to the glass upon which these are applied. Some of the benefits of easy clean glass is that, as the glass repels dirty water thanks to its aqua phobic coating, it restricts streaks, marks and dirt that otherwise sticks to the glass, hence significantly reducing the amount of maintenance and cleaning that is required by the shower enclosure over a time period. Also, the glass remains clear all the time, even when taking bath as the droplets won't sit on the glass, again due to the water phobic nature of the coating applied.

• What is 'toughened safety glass' and what are the benefits?

A toughened safety glass is a glass that has greater tensile strength than a normal glass. This toughness is achieved by processing the glass under controlled thermal and/or chemical treatments. Such process is technically termed as 'Tempering'. Tempering creates balanced internal stress within the glass piece under the process. Such glass, when damaged or broken, do not break into jagged and dangerous shards instead, the glass gets crumbled into small pieces. Nearly, all shower doors and enclosures in the market nowadays, comes with a standard EU regulated toughened safety glass.

• How important is glass thickness in a shower?

Normally, each shower enclosure design comes with a variety of choices among the glass thickness, varying from about 4mm to 10mm (or more). As seen from the perspective of safety, the thicker the glass is, the safer, durable, and lasting it will result. Also, thicker glasses provide a classy and luxurious feel as thicker glass doors lend themselves (adjust) well to contemporary bathrooms.

• What are frameless, framed and semi-frameless doors and enclosures?

The doors and enclosures of a bathroom enclosure can be any among the three types namely, frameless, framed, and semi-frameless. These types are described as follows:-

FRAMED – In a framed shower enclosure a metal trim can be found around the entire structure even including the door. From style perspective, they are more traditional looking and look great in complex bathroom enclosure designs such as, in a pentagonal enclosure.

SEMI-FRAMELESS – Like framed enclosures, a semi-frameless bathroom enclosure has a metal trim all around its complete design, excluding the door of the enclosure. Hence, these are termed 'Semi-Frameless'. These are the most popular designs in the market as they allow to create an astonishing looking shower enclosure with a stable and solid frame.

FRAMELESS – As the name suggests, this design contains none of the metal framework that the previous designs employed around the glass panels. Although name is frameless, still some equipment is needed to keep the panels attached to the wall or other panels, this support is provided by metal hinges. To classify a shower enclosure as frameless, it must meet certain characteristics like, the glass thickness must be between 9.5mm to 12.5mm plus no metal trace should be found around the glass panes. Due to the lack of support for frameless enclosures, additional support bars are provided to maintain necessary rigidity all around the enclosure.

• What are door adjustment allowances?

In most of the cases, when fitting a shower enclosure or door, one or two of the walls within the area being used may be 'out of true' or not perfectly straight, i.e., not fit for installation procedure. Adjustment allowances that are stated in the descriptions of all shower enclosure products indicate what amount of 'give' the shower doors have in respect for getting the perfect fit. This is made possible by sliding the door edges into comfortable adjustable profiles that come with every door and enclosure.

We hope that our Shower Enclosures Buying Guide helped you in your journey to get best shower enclosure you need for your house.

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