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Shower Doors and Enclosures

The most common type of solid shower enclosure (as opposed to a simple shower curtain) has two doors that slide horizontally, usually independently of each other. Each door normally is made from a single pane of glass framed in metal. These doors, in turn, are mounted side-by-side in a larger metal frame that has two tracks (channels) in both its upper and lower sections. This setup is normally called a bypass door.

For a sleeker, more elegant alternative, there are numerous types of enclosures with a hinged door. These designs can be frameless, or at least with much thinner frames than the sliding doors require. Doors that swing outward from the shower obviously require a more spacious bathroom than does a setup with sliding doors. You may be able to overcome this difficulty by mounting a door that swings into the shower stall, rather than out. If so, be very sure that such a design does not create a safety hazard by making using, cleaning, and maintaining the shower unduly awkward.

If the shower is mounted above a bathtub, ensure that climbing over the tub wall will be safe in both directions, when the tub is both wet and dry. Consider placing handholds in appropriate places. Take measures to give secure footing both inside the tub and on the floor just outside it. Even if there are no aged or infirm members of your household now, look ahead. Anticipate your own possible needs as you age, or if you should be injured.

If the tub actually will be used for bathing, the enclosure must not impede your ability to sit down in the tub and get out. An inward-swinging door may be a problem in this case. Take care that your shower enclosure does not eliminate too much of the ledge space on the tub that you would like to use while bathing, or as a handhold to climb out.

Deciding how high your enclosure reaches (whether all the way up to the ceiling, or somewhere below it) involves both aesthetic and practical considerations. What will look better? What is necessary to keep water from splashing outside the shower area? What is necessary to make the entry door high enough so that no one bumps a head?

The glass that you select can be clear, frosted, etched with designs, and/or tinted with various colors. Much more importantly, seek a shatterproof safety glass. This substance normally is really a polymer that is softer, more flexible, and less brittle than true glass. The tradeoff is that its surface is more scratch-prone. Accordingly, you must be very careful to use non-abrasive cleaning products recommended by the manufacturer.

Indeed, an important issue with any type of shower enclosure is proper maintenance to keep it clean, free of mold, mildew, soap

stains, and water stains. Be sure to understand these requirements, including manufacturers’ suggestions, when choosing among designs. One oft-cited drawback of the traditional bypass door is that it can be difficult to keep clean in the tracks and where the glass portion of the doors meets their metal frames.

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