Semi-frameless shower enclosures
Semi-frameless shower enclosures have become increasingly popular and are characterised by minimal thin framework on one side of the glass where the panel attaches to a wall. Slim profiles create a modern uncluttered look whilst still affording a small amount of adjustment to accommodate uneven walls. Semi-frameless shower enclosures are a good compromise between framed enclosures that allow generous adjustment and minimalist frameless shower enclosures, which offer little or no adjustment because they are generally manufactured to fit a space exactly.
Semi-frameless shower enclosures generally have fixed panels constructed in 8mm thick glass with doors in 6mm glass to reduce weight. Some manufacturers produce 8mm glass doors but walk-in enclosures and sliding shower
doors are normally 8mm glass in their entirety. Framework is usually only available in polished silver and most semi-frameless shower enclosures are only available with clear glass.
Unlike framed shower enclosures, which are delivered fully constructed ready for fixing, semi-frameless showers normally supplied in kit form.
Consequently, they are more complex to fit and it may be worth considering having this type of shower enclosure professionally installed. Whilst a successful installation is certainly not beyond the capabilities of a competent DIY enthusiast, it is worth noting that most semi-frameless shower enclosure installations are more easily undertaken by two people.
By design, semi-frameless shower doors are hinged from a slim fixed glass panel. They do not hinge directly from the wall like a framed shower and this is worth considering when planning the layout of the shower enclosure.
The minimal frame determines that the exposed edge of the glass panels will come into direct contact with the floor or shower tray and some manufacturers supply thin clear pads to cushion the glass. Great care must be taken when handling the glass panels during installation. When installing directly onto a tiled floor in a wet room, contact with raised tile edges or crests in the floor surface should be avoided so that the weight of the glass is evenly distributed on the floor. Seating the base of the glass on thin, clear, rubber pads is highly recommended. The cushioning pads can be trimmed flush with the glass after installation and before sanitary silicone sealant is applied.
Framed shower enclosures are screwed to the wall and the panels to each other. This is not possible with semi-frameless enclosures which rely upon wall channels, bracing bars and silicone sealant at the floor to fix them into position. Silicon sealant, when applied correctly to a clean surface, is a perfectly adequate method of fixing the glass in place. In fact, it is surprising just how well the silicone sealant does fix the glass in place and the rigidity of the enclosure increases noticeably when the silicone sealant has cured. The correct method of applying sanitary silicone sealant is covered in the How To section of Shower Advisor.
It is worth noting that sliding enclosures will not normally require bracing bars, a small metal bar providing a firm connection between the top of the glass and a wall.
Typically, a semi-frameless hinged shower door and side panel suitable for a 900mm square shower tray can be purchased for around £1000 from the larger manufacturers. However, more competitive prices are frequently available from merchants and internet retailers.
- Modern design – minimalist clean design featuring predominately glass offering the look of a frameless shower enclosure but at a fraction of the cost.
- Easy to clean – with minimal framework and large areas of glass, they are easier to keep clean.
- Thicker glass – incorporating thicker glass than is normal with most framed enclosures provides a heavier, quality feel to the shower.
- Bespoke shower enclosures – the lack of frame work makes this type of product suitable for angled installations such as a shower room in a loft conversion. Made to measure heights and widths are also generally available.
- Installation – can be more difficult to install.
- Glass – exposed glass edges require very careful fitting and handling - always follow each manufacturer’s instructions.
- Layout – doors are usually hinged from smaller fixed panels which are attached to the wall, this may cause an issue for some bathroom layouts. Many, but not all, semi-frameless shower doors open outwards.
- Choice – due to the design and layout of this type of product, only hinged and sliding doors are usually available. If space is at a premium, it may be worth considering a traditional bi-folding door.
- Silicone sealant – the silicone sealant must be applied neatly and preferably with a silicone application tool. Badly applied silicone sealing can look ugly if ruin the minimal appearance of a shower enclosure.