Shower enclosures are a fantastic finishing touch to a bathroom design and add that little bit of extra luxury. This being said, purchasing a new shower enclosure for your bathroom can often be a difficult task, given the amount of style and size options available on the market today.
To make things a little bit simpler, we’ve compiled a comprehensive buying guide to shower enclosures. Whether you’re looking to install a recessed, quadrant or walk in shower enclosure, you’ll find all the information that you could ever need within this guide.
Where to Install Your Shower Enclosure
First and foremost, you’ll need to work out exactly how much space you have to work with and what the most convenient shower enclosure or door will be to match your needs. Take a look at your room layout and make sure the space is used in the very best possible way. Drawing out a scaled plan is an ideal way to start off and it will help you visualise exactly what fits.
Start by measuring out the floor area you have to work with along with the height of your bathroom. Most shower enclosures will vary from around 1700-2000mm in height so it’s imperative that you have a tall enough ceiling to allow for both enclosure and tray. Bear in mind that if you have a concrete floor, you may need to raise the tray up by 50-100mm to allow space for the shower waste underneath. If your ceilings are particularly low or angled, you might like to consider a bespoke shower enclosure.
It’s also recommended that you plan out your windows, radiator installation points, doors and opening space for the shower door itself. Bear in mind hinged shower doors will require enough space for the door to open without crashing into anything! You might like to consider either an in-swing, sliding or bi-fold shower door if this is an issue.
Recessed or Corner Installation
Generally speaking, there are two main areas within a bathroom in which the majority of people install a shower enclosure.
The first common area for installation is within a recess in the wall. In this instance, an enclosure has already been created within 3 solid walls and just a door and tray (or tiled wet room floor) are needed to create a fully enclosed space for a shower cubicle.
The second is installing a shower in a corner or against a wall. In this instance, a full enclosure would need to be purchased, be that in the form of a standard or offset quadrant or in the form of a shower door and side panel(s).
In A Recess
When fitting a shower cubicle within a recess space, you would often only need to purchase a shower door and tray. There are four standard door options available for recess application and these are pivot, sliding, bifold and hinged shower doors.
In A Corner
Installing a shower enclosure in the corner of your bathroom or against a single wall can give you a significant amount more flexibility in your design options. You can now combine doors with one or two panels to create your own shower enclosure size and the options for quadrant, offset quadrant and corner entry shower enclosures are now available.
Combining Shower Doors and Side Panels to Make an Enclosure
Combining shower door and side panel(s) is a great way to create your shower enclosure exactly how you want it. Depending on whether your envisaged enclosure sits against a wall or in a corner you will need either two or a single panel respectively. As an example, if you wanted to place a 1200 x 900 rectangular shower tray against a wall, you might want to purchase a 1200mm shower door of whatever design you would like along with 2x 900mm matching side panels to complete your enclosure.
To make things a bit easier when purchasing a shower enclosure, please see below for a quick guide as to what options you have based on where the enclosure will be located. Please note that if you’re placing an enclosure against a wall instead of in a corner, you may need multiple side panels.
Types of Shower Tray
Ceramic Shower Trays
Ceramic or fire clay shower trays are made of the same materials used to make Belfast kitchen sinks or some solid bathroom basins. They are often incredibly high quality and heavyweight and are used in locations where frequent use is a requirement. Ceramic shower trays are much heavier and more durable than other trays but tend to be much colder to the touch and can be limited in design flexibility.
ABS Stone Resin
A stone material is mixed with resin and poured into shower tray moulds that have been pre-lined with a top layer material and left to set. These trays sit somewhere between heavy ceramic trays and standard acrylic shower trays. Stone resin is very durable and can withstand long term wear.
Reinforced acrylic shower trays are often made of the same material as you would see in standard baths. They tend to be lightweight and more flexible in their design due to the manufacturing methods use. Some manufacturers use various reinforcing methods including wooden or steel frame structures. Acrylic shower trays are warm to the touch and are available in a variety of designs. However, they are less durable and long lasting than alternatives.
Shower Tray Depths
Low Profile Shower Trays
Low profile shower trays tend to measure between 25-40mm in depth and they are the standard height of shower tray on the market today and this is due to the design flexibility that they offer. Being so slim in depth, they are perfect for creating low level or level access within a shower enclosure. There is a full explanation of level and low level access in the ‘Frequently asked questions’ section at the bottom of the guide.
Standard Depth Shower Trays
To create a more traditional look within a bathroom, some people opt for a higher shower tray. Standard height shower trays vary from 45-100mm in depth. These thicker sized trays will often be available in a reduced number of materials, typically reinforced acrylic.
Do You Need a Shower Tray Riser Kit?
There are two situations in which people will purchase a riser kit for the shower tray. The first is when the shower tray is being laid upon a concrete floor. In this instance, there would be little or no way that the waste components of the try can be concealed within the floor so a space would need to be created for them to be sat above ground level. The second is if you have the capability to fit the waste within your floor joists but opt not to. In this case, once again, the shower tray riser kit would lift the tray high enough to place the shower waste above the floor.
Shower Tray Wastes
Shower wastes tend to sit at around 90mm tall beneath the tray itself. This is due to the speed in which the waste needs to operate to remove waste water flowing from the shower.
What Alternatives are There to a Shower Enclosure?
Shower Baths & Screens
If space is at a premium and you still want to have a full sized bath within your bathroom, you might want to opt for a shower bath.
Shower baths offer the full bathing experience but, when twinned with a bath screen, can offer an ample space to shower also. Shower baths are also available in a variety of sizes to benefit even the smallest bathroom.
You can find more information on shower baths by reading our how to choose the right bath for your bathroom article.
A wet room is quite simply a room that, instead of a shower tray, has been waterproofed (or tanked) completely. This eliminates the need for shower doors or glass screens as the room itself becomes a shower enclosure. This is fantastic option if you’re looking for a sleek and contemporary showering solution that adds value to your home.
For more information about wet rooms, read our Definitive Guide to Wet Rooms article.
Walk-In Shower Enclosures
A walk-in shower enclosure is a door-less open plan shower space, typically created using a low profile shower tray and an 8mm or 10mm thick glass shower panel with a support bar for extra rigidity. In some cases, an optional return panel or end screen can be used, depending on the size and nature of the room that the enclosure will be installed within.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I install a shower enclosure under a sloping ceiling or in a loft conversion?
It’s entirely possible to create a bespoke shower enclosure to suit almost any bathroom space. Most shower enclosure manufacturers won’t stock custom sized shower doors or enclosures and they tend to be manufactured on an ad-hoc basis based on the needs of the customer.
What should I expect when purchasing an uncommon sized shower enclosure?
As mentioned previously in the article, there are several bathroom manufacturers that stock the more uncommon sized shower enclosures on the market such as 1100 x 760mm or 1000 x 700mm offset quadrants. The main drawbacks of these enclosures are that you’ll tend to have to sacrifice some door opening width. The average quadrant shower enclosure will provide a door opening width of around 400-500mm of space whereas a more odd-sized enclosure will provide a reduced door opening of around 350mm. This being said, a smaller door opening width is entirely usable in an average bathroom.
What is a low level access or level access shower enclosure?
A traditional shower tray height is around 40-50mm and, when combined with a riser kit, can be anywhere up to around 100mm. To create a sleeker look, some manufacturers offer ‘low profile’ shower trays which are around 25mm in height. These trays offer low level access when placed directly onto a floor, offering a contemporary feel and making getting in and out of the shower that little bit easier. To take this further, low profile trays can be bedded into the floor of your bathroom, offering a completely level access shower enclosure. This is perfect for the less able bodied or elderly consumer, offering a much safer and more wheelchair friendly showering experience.
What is ‘easy-clean glass’ and what are the benefits?
A lot of brands on the market today will offer their own versions of ‘easy clean glass’. For instance, Crosswater offer their shower doors with a ‘Crosswater Clear’ coating, Saneux with their ‘Clearseal’ coating and so on and so forth. Fundamentally, all of these various coatings are almost identical in the way that they benefit the glass. An easy clean finish on glass is typically a micro-thin layer of invisible coating that has aqua phobic properties that repel water. The main benefits of this is that it as the glass repels dirty water, it stops streaks, marks and dirt sticking to the glass, significantly reducing the amount of cleaning and maintenance that your shower enclosure will need over time. The other benefits of aqua phobic class coatings are that droplets don’t sit on the glass when you’re taking a shower, leaving the glass completely clear all of the time.
What is ‘toughened safety glass’ and what are the benefits?
Toughened safety glass is processed by controlled thermal or chemical treatments to increase its tensile strength compared to standard glass. This process is known as ‘tempering’ and it creates balanced internal stressed within the glass piece which, when damaged or broken, forces the glass to crumble into small pieces instead of breaking into jagged, dangerous shards. All shower doors and enclosures on the market today come with EU regulated toughened safety glass as standard.
How important is glass thickness in a shower?
When purchasing a shower door or enclosure, you’ll often notice that each design comes in a choice of glass thicknesses, varying from 4mm to 10mm+. From a safety perspective, the thicker the glass, the more durable and long lasting it will be. Thicker glass doors also lend themselves well to contemporary bathroom designs and create a luxurious feel.
What are frameless, framed and semi-frameless doors and enclosures?
A framed shower enclosure has a metal trim around the entire structure, including the door. They tend to look more traditional in their style and look fantastic in more complex designs, such as a pentagonal enclosure.
Semi frameless enclosures provide a metal trim around the entire structure of the enclosure but do not have metal around the door, allowing the term ‘semi-frameless’. These are some of the most common on the market today and allow you to create a stunning looking contemporary shower enclosure with a stable and rigid frame.
Just as the name suggests, a frameless shower enclosure contains no metal framework around the glass panels. Frameless showers may, however, have metal hinges to keep the panels attached to the wall or other panels. To characterise a shower enclosure as ‘frameless’, the glass thickness must be between 9.5mm and 12.5mm and must contain no metal around the door. Due to the nature of a frameless enclosure, support bars are often offered to maintain extra rigidity around the enclosure.
What are door adjustment allowances?
A lot of the time, when fitting a shower door or enclosure, one or two of the walls within the space you’re using may be ‘out of true’ or not perfectly straight. The adjustment allowances that are stated in the descriptions of all shower enclosure products on the site indicate how much ‘give’ the shower doors have in regards to getting the perfect fit. This is achieved by sliding the door edges into adjustable profiles that come with each door or enclosure.
Common Features Explained
Some shower doors will come with a quick release mechanism on the runners. This allows the doors or panels to be easily released, making cleaning your enclosure an absolute breeze.
Some shower doors or enclosures will come with magnetic seals along the edge of the door itself. When closed, this creates a water tight seal within the enclosure and adds the reassurance that the doors aren’t likely to swing open if accidentally knocked.
The term ‘shower profile’ refers to the pieces of material that seat a shower door or panel against a wall. They are often adjustable, as mentioned previously, to allow for out of true walls and they aid in creating a tidy and seamless finish.
Power shower proof - With such a high flow of water emitting from a power shower, some materials are not strong enough to endure it. This being said, – all shower enclosures sold in the UK market are power-shower proof as standard.