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Are Frameless Shower Doors Truly Frameless?

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Are Frameless Shower Doors Truly Frameless?

There's a lot of confusion these days about what a "frameless" shower door truly is. Industry terminology includes such phrases as all-glass, framed, frameless, semi-frameless, and heavy glass. What's the real story?

At the crux of the discussion is the frame - the piece or pieces of metal that essentially form the structure of the shower enclosure and secure the glass. The actual pieces of metal that comprise the frame can differ greatly in length, width and style. It is the variation in the framing due to personal preference as well as safety requirements that leads to the confusion about what a frameless door truly looks like.

When speaking in terms of a single door in heavy glass (3/8" or 1/2" thick), the door is truly frameless as the only visible metal would be the hinges and the handle. All four edges of the glass are exposed.

However, once glass panels (in addition to the door) are incorporated into the design, everything becomes a little more complicated. While the door can be secured to the wall using wall mount hinges, any additional glass panels must be secured using a slightly different method.

First, panels are most often secured at the bottom and along the side to the shower sill and to the wall using a thin piece of metal (approximately 1" high) known as U-Channel. Second, a common approach to secure the panel at the top is to include a header bar that runs across the length of the shower enclosure and attaches to the wall. High quality header bars for frameless showers are typically rounded and have approximately a 1 ¾" profile. Though there is channel on 2 sides of the panel and a header bar on top of the panel, the side of the glass adjacent to the door is exposed.

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