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What is the Best Sliding Shower Door?

A Sliding Shower door is great for locations where access to the shower faucet may be partially blocked by a toilet or vanity. A small or poorly designed bathroom may create such an undesirable situation. The simplest method to avoid this is by relocating the faucet and shower head to the opposite wall. If moving the faucet isn’t feasible, then a slider will allow access and save you from a cold water spray. Nonetheless, one may simply want a slider just to have two ways in and out of the shower. Keep in mind though some barn style frameless sliders have one sliding door and a stationary panel by design. No matter the reason, deciding which is the best can lead you down a rabbit hole of endless options.

Framed Slider
Framed Slider

Framed

Like doors that swing, sliding shower doors come in three different styles: framed, semi-frameless, and frameless. Framed shower doors have a metal perimeter (usually aluminum) that completely surrounds the enclosure. The glass panels on a framed shower door are typically 1/8” or 3/16” thick and must also be framed. Without the metal frame, the glass doors would simply be too wobbly. The frame strengthens the glass and thus allows manufacturers to safely use a cheaper thinner glass.

Semi-frameless slider
Semi-frameless Slider

Semi-frameless

Akin to framed shower doors, semi-frameless sliders also have a metal perimeter that completely surrounds the enclosure. Glass thicknesses for semi-frameless doors are typically 1/4” or 3/8”. These thickness make it possible to have doors that don’t require a frame.

Unlike framed doors that have handles and towel bars mounted on the frame, semi-frameless doors have the towel bars mounted on the glass. Some manufacturers even offer options such as through the glass handles and finger pulls. 

Frameless Slider
Frameless Slider

Frameless

Lastly we have frameless sliders. Typically frameless sliders use some sort of “Barn Style” mechanism. Depending on the style, either one or both doors slide. Frameless sliding shower doors are available in 3/8” and 1/2” glass thicknesses. These thicknesses make for quite sturdy glass panels.

A metal perimeter isn’t necessary for a frameless slider. Framed and Semi-Frameless doors typically have a header that sits on top of and is screwed to the wall jambs. On a frameless, the header on which the panels glide is secured to the walls on both ends. Most models offer built-in stoppers that prevent the panels backside from slamming into the walls. The front side is normally protected by a clear poly wall strike.

Frameless Slider
Top of the line frameless “Barn Style” slider

So What is the Best Sliding Shower Door?

To answer that question, you must consider the pros and cons of each type. 

Framed sliders use quite a bit of aluminum framing which most people will find visually unappealing. Though some may not necessarily think they’re ugly, in time as water builds up and sits inside the channels it will begin to leave behind mineral buildup. This is especially prevalent if you have hard water. The “gunk” left behind will become harder and harder to clean and become more pronounced towards the bottom of the panels. On the upside, they are the most affordable type and can always be replaced a few years down the road.

Semi-frameless sliders use less metal and are quite nicer than framed. The aluminum perimeter however, can still be a turn off for most people. Cleaning is also much easier, but nooks in the aluminum perimeter still offer places for water deposits and soap scum to collect. 

When it comes to keeping your shower enclosure clean, the frameless slider can’t be beat. Cleaning between the doors and the header can be somewhat challenging, but the ease of keeping the overall unit looking new more than makes up for it. Frameless sliders use a track or bar and roller system that can be quite stylish, but not all are of high quality. Some can be cheap and gimmicky and only give the illusion of barn style.

Unfortunately frameless sliders don’t work with all tubs and prefab shower pans. There are shower pans with a slim curb and some tubs may not have enough room on its ledge to properly accept a frameless slider. 

A major downside to sliding shower doors is the limited availability of hardware finishes. Check with your shower door installation company that the finish you want is available before buying all your faucets.

A Frameless Sliding Shower Door is Best

If you want quality, a frameless slider is the best option. They also cost two to three times more than a semi-frameless. The luxury and style that a frameless enclosure offers more than makes up for the price tag. The ease of cleaning is just a bonus.

Sliding Slower doors are typically used in locations where access to the shower may be partially blocked from one side due to a toilet or sink, but one may simply want a slider just to have two ways in and out of the shower. Whatever your reason may be for wanting a sliding shower, deciding which is the best can lead you down a rabbit hole of different types, options, and manufacturers.

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