A Pain in the Glass

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Seamless glass showers can be gorgeous but be careful with installation.
Seamless glass showers can be gorgeous but be careful with installation.

 

by Ginger Rodriguez

We love the look of a sleek, seamless glass shower door. There’s something magical about them — they are there, but almost not there at all. But, you might want to take a second look at this see-through-sensation. More than almost any bathroom décor element, this absolutely must be planned and executed with precision and perfection. Surprised?

Well, let’s think about it. Water, showering, eyes sometimes blurred by soap and steam, bare bodies (calm down!), slipperiness underfoot, and what, of all things do we introduce into this equation? How about a seven-foot tall, 5-foot wide sheet of glass!

Question from reader Susan Ericson:  

Ginger, I purchased a glass shower door online and had it installed by my handyman. Last night I heard a huge crash and running water… and I was terrified. I found my shower door was shattered and the sound of water was actually the sound of glass pieces continuing to shatter. I couldn’t get in the bathroom because there was glass all over the floor, counter and sink.  How could this happen? Incorrectly installed? Manufacturing defect?  Freak of nature? 

Answer:

Susan, I’m so sorry to hear this, but glad you were not injured. Many of you know I’m a huge fan of seamless shower doors. Frankly they are just sexy! An upgrade I want in all my bathrooms.

Faulty manufacture? It can happen. Stress can occur at the suspension points and can start to produce hairline cracks. When one of these cracks reaches a tempering stress cell (the small pieces of crumbled glass you found all over the floor) it will propagate explosively through the whole sheet. Most likely it was incorrectly installed. I’m a huge fan of DYI projects, but not with something like the installation of 250 pounds of glass that you are going to be surrounded by while wet, barefoot and naked!  It’s definitely a vulnerable situation where we want everything done precisely and accident-proof.

Still undaunted?  If you insist on DIYing, it is reasonable for you to do the shower pan and its surrounding “curbs”, but please, carefully follow the advice I got from The Pros!

Start from the bottom. You can use your existing plastic shower pan, but it’s usually better to build a concrete one. It takes a little more time, but the finished product is well worth it. When building a concrete shower pan, the most important element is to make sure your curb slopes towards the inside of the shower, so when water runs down the glass, it goes back into the shower and not onto the bathroom floor. Improper curb setup is a mistake that even experienced contractors often make. If this is not done correctly, water will leak.

Also you’ll need correct blocking in the wall to support the weight of the glass and it’s always a good idea to make sure it’s plump before you tile your walls. If it’s not done correctly you will have a HUGE mess.

After your pan and curbs have been created and you have tiled, then the DIYing should stop! At this point you should turn the rest over to a glass door specialist. Better yet, even if you are doing it yourself, call them first and let them give you the specifications for your project, so that it will be what they need when the actual door is installed. I personally use a local company, Custom Euro Glass & Shower Door Company. They are amazing, and known for consistently beating their competitors’ written estimates! 301.576.2226

Susan, my advice is to build a concrete shower pan with wall support, do the tile yourself, and then spend a little extra on a company that specifically installs glass doors. This will keep you safe and might avoid a big clean up and thousands of dollars down the drain.

Check our next issue – Where to Spurge or Save on your Next Bathroom Update.