In most older houses with the original bathrooms, you’ll find a framed shower door; the glass panels will slide along metal rails. While framed shower doors are still considered a stylish choice, these days there’s a second option—namely, frameless shower doors. These have no metal rails and look more contemporary. But which is best?
Framed and frameless shower doors are made with tempered glass, have a variety of glass and opening designs, can be coated to stop watermarks, and require sealing to prevent leaks. Framed doors are cheaper and easier to install. Frameless doors are easier to clean and less likely to rust.
Below you will find information on how framed and frameless shower doors compare in terms of materials, designs, glass reinforcement, cost, opening options, installation, cleaning, leaking, shattering, rusting, and aesthetics.
Framed vs. Frameless Shower Doors
Let’s take a look at a framed vs frameless shower door, so we can see the differences.
Here is a sliding shower door that’s framed with rust-resistant anodized aluminum. The header comes with a T-lock to help ensure the stability of the door. And the sliding doors come with an anti-jump mechanism so that they open and close smoothly.
This frameless shower door has a bright, contemporary look. It features thick tempered glass for easy cleaning and is coated with Ultra Lux. The doors slide along rust-resistant stainless steel rollers.
Both the framed and frameless shower doors like these can look contemporary and are popular choices. Now let’s look at what these two types of shower doors have in common. Then we’ll explore the differences. Hopefully, this information will help you choose the shower door that will work best in your space.
Framed vs Frameless Shower Doors: Commonalities
There are many things that framed and frameless shower doors have in common. These include:
- Both are made from tempered glass.
- They come in a variety of glass designs.
- The doors open in many different ways.
- Framed and frameless shower doors can be sealed with a protective coating.
- Both types of doors need to be caulked.
Let’s take these one at a time.
What Is Tempered Glass?
Tempered glass is created through a process involving heating, cooling, and subjection to high air pressure. The result is a glass that is four times stronger than regular glass and, therefore, less likely to shatter.
If the glass does shatter, it will not break into sharp and dangerous shards but will instead form tiny, round-edge, harmless pieces. This is why tempered glass is sometimes called safety glass.
While both types of shower doors are made out of tempered glass, you should note that frameless shower doors are made with thicker glass because they lack the support that a frame would provide.
The thicker glass can make the doors of these showers feel much heavier than those of a framed shower door.
Glass Design Options
Both framed and frameless shower doors can have clear glass, frosted (opaque) glass, or etched glass.
You may know what clear and frosted glass shower doors look like, but you may be unfamiliar with what it means for a glass shower door to be etched.
The etching of glass surfaces results in a similar look to that of frosted glass. The most obvious difference is that the opaque or “frosted” areas of etched glass form a specific pattern.
You can get seemingly infinite patterns etched onto glass. You can also buy stickers and films that give the same look without damaging the surface of the glass. These stickers and films can go on framed or frameless shower doors and come in a variety of designs like sea creatures or turtles or palm trees.
You can see examples of framed and frameless etched shower doors by clicking on the following links:
Here is a beautiful example of etching on a glass shower door. This particular example is on a frameless shower door.
How will your shower door open?
Both framed and frameless shower doors have many ways to open. These include:
- Hinged doors. These can be single-hinged or open in a French door fashion (double doors).
- Pivot doors. These have a top and bottom hinge, as opposed to a side hinge.
- Folding doors. This can be a double-fold door or a triple-fold door on a rail. These folds then concertina together. And, yes, even frameless doors can be folded.
- Sliding doors.
- Bypass doors. These are similar to sliding doors except that instead of one stationary panel and one sliding panel, you have two sliding panels, so you can open the door whichever side you prefer.
All these options for shower door openings make a difference in terms of space, style, ease of accessibility, etc. For example, sliding doors, bypass doors, and folding doors are ideal for smaller bathrooms.
Frameless shower doors that slide open are actually quite new on the market, so many people still report that you have to have a framed shower door if you want the sliding option.
Coat Both Framed and Frameless Shower Doors
When you have glass shower doors, especially if they are unfrosted or only partially etched, then you are always at risk of visible and unsightly water marks developing.
Happily, you can now coat your glass shower doors with a special substance like Diamon Fusion that prevents water marks from appearing without having to clean the glass after each time you use it. This means that you will not have to clean your shower as often. (And don’t confuse Diamon Fusion with Diamond Fusion with a ‘d’. These are two different brands.)
According to the Diamon-Fusion website:
“Diamon-Fusion is an ultra-thin transparent glass coating that can be applied to a wide range of glass and glass-like surfaces in the residential, commercial and automotive markets. Similar to a non-stick cooking pan, cleaning is done less frequently and made easier using only water and a microfiber towel.”
This coating is one that covers the actual glass of the shower door, so whether the door is framed or not does not make a difference.
It seems that it is common practice to coat a frameless shower door, but it is a less standard option when it comes to framed shower doors. So, if you are opting for a framed shower door, make sure that you specify that you want the protective coating.
Caulk to Protect Against Leaks
Silicone seals and caulking are going to be required whether you have a framed or a frameless shower door. (For help with caulking, read this post.)
The leaking potential has more to do with the quality of your sealing material and application than with the type of shower door.
Now let us look at some differences between framed and frameless shower doors that you can use to compare the two and decide which would be the best option for you.
Framed vs. Frameless Shower Doors: Comparison
A frameless shower door is more costly than a framed shower door for two main reasons:
First, a frameless shower door is harder to install and takes more time, so installation is more costly.
Secondly, a frameless shower door is made with thicker tempered glass, which is more expensive.
With the wide variety of shapes, sizes, opening methods, etc., it is very difficult to provide an exact price comparison. However, like-for-like, a frameless shower door will always be more expensive than a framed shower door and by a significant margin (even up to a few hundred dollars).
Ease of Installation
Frameless shower doors are definitely the more difficult of the two options to install. The reason for this is two-fold:
First, frameless shower doors weigh a lot more than framed shower doors. This is because the glass has to be thicker in order to withstand the lack of additional support that is provided by a frame.
Second, the frameless doors are attached to the bathroom walls and floors using clips. This makes installation challenging because the glass has to be positioned correctly against the walls and floor while the clips are put in place.
Furthermore, the heavy glass doors mean that if the clips are not put in the correct places, then the weight of the doors is not distributed correctly, and they can start to sag.
On the other hand, the glass of a framed shower door is lighter, and the weight is already evenly distributed within the frame. It is also easier to attach the frame to the walls and floor.
In the end, it can take twice as long to install a frameless shower door as it takes to install a framed shower door.
Ease of Cleaning And Maintenance
The protective glass coating that prevents watermarks is less commonly found on framed shower doors. So if you compare a shower door that is coated in something like Diamond Fusion to an uncoated door, then the coated shower door glass will definitely require less maintenance.
However, if both your framed and frameless options come with watermark prevention, then there will be no difference with respect to cleaning the glass.
Cleaning And Maintaining The Frame
Shower door frames are metal pieces that are continually exposed to water. (However, with a frameless shower door, you obviously don’t need to worry about the frame because there isn’t one!)
If you do not get a coated frame, if there are any manufacturer defects, or if any damage (chipping or scratching) occurs, then the frame can become compromised and can start rusting.
Rust can spread internally in the frame, so while it may look like a single spot, it could actually be affecting the whole frame beneath the surface.
Whether you have a sliding shower door, a folding shower door, a hinged shower door, or any other kind, there are going to be ridges, rims, and grooves in which water can collect.
Standing water can cause corrosion, and lead to bathroom mold. (If you’re wondering how to fight bathroom mold, here’s a 4-part battle plan to destroy it!)
Replacing the Glass
Even though both framed and frameless shower doors are made from tempered glass, this does not mean that cracks or breakage are impossible.
If you have one damaged panel on a framed shower door, replacing it is a simple process.
Also, if you have a damaged glass panel in a frameless shower door, it will be more difficult to replace. This is because the panels are not separated by a frame but are connected to each other with silicone etc.
Furthermore, the mounting clips and hinges are attached directly to the glass, so you may need to replace these as well.
Potential for Rusting
Framed shower doors have a significantly higher potential for rusting. However, there are metal parts on a frameless shower door as well, including the mounting clips, the hinges, sliding rods, etc. But on a frameless shower door, these pieces are a lot smaller and have fewer ridges and other places for water to collect and cause corrosion.
When it comes to aesthetics, people often prefer the look of a frameless shower door, especially if they are going for a contemporary style in the bathroom.
Frameless shower doors are certainly an excellent choice. They are less noticeable, so if you have a smaller bathroom, they can create the illusion of space.
Framed is also going to be your best option if you are going for a vintage bathroom décor style.
Additionally, because they are still made from glass, framed shower doors still let light through the bathroom.
How to Choose the Best Shower Door?
Both framed and frameless shower door options are excellent, long-lasting, and aesthetically pleasing.
If cost is your limiting factor, then framed is the one to go for. And having a framed shower door does not mean it will look like a cottage-paned window.
Also, if you want to install the shower doors yourself, you should also go with the framed option because it is so much less time-consuming and much easier to install.
And if you absolutely loathe cleaning your shower (we all have that one thing), or you live in an area where the water’s composition predisposes your metalware to rust, then you should opt for the frameless shower doors.
Framed or Frameless Shower Door?
Both are available in a wide variety of glass designs, shapes, and opening options. Additionally, both are made from tempered glass (shatterproof), which can be coated in a protective layer of Diamond Fusion (or something similar) to prevent the glass from getting watermarks.
If you’re picking a shower door as part of a bathroom remodel, be sure to fill out the form below. I’ll send you designer secrets for saving big money (like thousands!) on your bathroom renovation.