How to Choose a Shower Enclosure
Boost your bathroom and splash out on a new shower enclosure – but which doors, where to position it and what’s best for small spaces?
Professional advice from: Jayne Barnes of Aqata; Elliot Lees Bell of Island Bathrooms; Marten Baker of Crosswater
More in this series: How to Choose a… Shower; Shower Head; Shower Tray; Bath Material; Basin Tap; Vanity Unit
Starting your bathroom project? Read How to Plan for a Bathroom Renovation
The traditional shower has always been a square tray surrounded by glass panels and a door, which slots snugly into a corner. This still works fine, but there are many other options available, too.
Browse thousands of images of shower enclosures to help you decide on a style.
Recessed shower enclosures: A recessed shower enclosure that fits between two walls is an excellent solution for small bathrooms, leaving the rest of the floor space free for other bathroom furniture. “With the walls already in place, the only consideration needed is the type of water barrier preferred – fully enclosed or walk-in,” says Jayne Barnes. (More on walk-ins shortly.)
Door options available on fully enclosed recessed shower enclosures range from hinged, pivot and bi-fold doors to sliding doors (see below for more doors information). If floor space is limited, sliding doors are ideal.
Quadrant enclosures are a great space-saving alternative to rectangular or square corner enclosures, taking the shape of a quarter circle, with two sides of the same length and a rounded outer edge.
“Losing one of the corners of your shower has little impact on how big the enclosure feels when you’re stood inside, but saves valuable floor space,” explains Elliot Lees Bell. “‘Quadrant enclosures often have one or two sliding doors, making them an excellent option for compact bathrooms where an outward opening door would cause an issue.”
Alternatively, opt for a space-saving pentagon shower enclosure. Another corner solution, it resembles a square with one corner cut off (as seen here).
Find a bathroom designer in your area to help you work out the best options for your space.
The popularity of the walk-in and walk-through shower has grown significantly, driven by our desire to achieve a wet-room look without the expense of tanking the floor and walls. Comprising a simple glass panel teamed with a low-profile or concealed underfloor shower tray, one end is left open allowing you to ‘walk-in’, or both ends are left open to ‘walk-through’.
Walk-in and walk-through showers are low maintenance, according to Elliot. “There are no hard-to-reach seals or runners, as they generally consist of simply a piece of glass sitting upon either a shower tray or a tiled and waterproofed floor,” he explains.
They have a number of practical benefits, too. A simple panel teamed with a flush-to-floor shower tray is safe for all ages, as there is no awkward step up into the shower. “Future-proofing and households with three generations living under one roof are hot topics, and easy-access walk-in showers are one solution for this situation,” says Marten. To create space for your walk-in, consider trading in your bath; a standard bath is 1,700mm x 700mm, which will give you enough space.
More: How Easy Would It Be to Change My Bathroom Layout?
When opting for a shower enclosure, always think about the type of doors that will best fit your space and preferences.
Hinged doors: A hinged shower door opens into the room – something to consider when planning the layout of your bathroom. Best for spacious bathrooms, hinged doors offer wide access to the shower.
All shower enclosures are made from tempered glass, also known as safety glass. “Glass comes in different thicknesses, and this has a bearing on price,” explains Elliot. “Cheap enclosures are often made from 4mm glass. You will generally find that when you open and close the door, it does not feel as smooth or substantial due to the lighter weight. More expensive, but usually reasonably affordable, are shower enclosures made of 6mm glass, while premium enclosures often utilise 8mm or even 10mm glass.”
“But glass thickness is not the only indicator of quality. Hinges, runners, wheels and design all play a part.”
Untreated glass can suffer staining from hard-water deposits, which are difficult to remove even with regular cleaning. To keep your shower enclosure sparkling for longer, many manufacturers offer a protective coating as standard – so make sure you check.
“This is an effective, invisible coating that acts as a lasting protective barrier on the surface of the glass, helping to reduce staining from hard water and chemical deposits that accelerate the ageing process, and making the glass easier to clean,” explains Marten.
“Don’t forget about storage within your enclosure. You can ask your builder to create some cubbyholes or a built-in shelf,” suggests Jayne.
“An attractive seat installed inside a shower enclosure provides a secure place to rest while showering,” says Jayne, “which is particularly useful for those with mobility problems.” You could also consider fold-down options if space is tight or your shower enclosure is already complete.
Always choose branded products as opposed to cheaper imports: this will ensure quality performance and dependable after-sales service. “There is no substitute for an up close and personal inspection,” stresses Jayne. “For enclosures and screens, doors should feel solid, not wobble, and close tightly to prevent water escaping. Sliding doors should have a smooth, pleasing action and handles should feel sturdy and easy to grip.”
Are you planning to update your shower enclosure? Or have you recently done so? We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips and see photos in the Comments.