Sunday, June 29, 2008

Installing a Shower Door

I recently installed a shower door myself. Bottomline, would have preferred to pay a handyman, but the experience is worth sharing.

Choice of door: There are several options around framed vs frameless glass, silver vs brass finish, clear vs frosted or designer glass, door size (28-30", 30-32" etc). Frameless glass looks more sleek, but is more trickly to handle during installation and use. Clear glass shows your tiled shower stall or tub better, but will require you to keep it spotless. The door size is important so it fits precisely once installed. The specs are very important, so you should measure your shower stall and match it right. Otherwise, the door may not fit in your shower stall and will be useless (water will splash outside).

Ordering & Delivery:
The stores usually carry only framed doors or frosted glass, so you may have to order clear glass or frameless doors online. I explored in Home Depot, Lowes, OSH, and ordered online from Home Depot. It was a Kohler Fluence(R) frameless, clear glass that is meant for a shower stall. The cost was around $250. Either store or online, it is better to get it delivered, as this stuff is glass and can be unweildy.

Installation: Ironically, the local Home Depot store told me they don't know installers they could refer me to, since the store sells another brand. I couldn't find a handyman easily, so I was on my own. I went through the first few steps of installation, and those are pretty straightforward, shoving one piece into another, screwdriver job, and marking for holes.

: You should make sure you get the pivot side and the hinge side correct, or your door will hit your shower handle (you may not be able to get inside).

There is a hacksaw and filing job to get the base piece fit precisely - not difficult, if you have some experience with a hacksaw before. If you haven't used one, this could be the opportunity to learn. The most difficult part was drilling 8 holes on the wall tile of my bath. This almost took me a month, finding the right drill bit for porecelain tile, and carefully drilling each hole through the wall, without breaking the tile. The masonry bits are pretty useless to get a grip on the tile to start with, as well as to drill through, and what worked finally was DeWalt drill bits (OSH, ACE Hardware carries them for around $5). To gain confidence, test by drilling on a similar spare tile lying in your garage or somehere, so you get a feel for how much pressure you can comfortably apply. A corded drill with an extension cord is a much better choice than a cordless drill, as it is going to take a long time to get through the tile (Each hole was more than 40 minutes off and on drilling, in my case). As you drill, have someone spray water where the tile and the drill bit meet, so it keeps them both cool. The wall anchors do not fit into the hole size they recommend, so I had to try a few other types that matches the wall, weight and hole specifications. I finally used a wall plug and different screw than what was given.

Caution: This is not the same as putting a picture frame on the wall, so you have to be careful what you pick matches the wall type (dry wall, tile, wood etc), the depth and width of the hole, and what type of anchor can withstand the weight (like 200 lbs).

Once you get past the drilling, you need to carefully move the glass from your garage or outside to the bath. Use 2 people for moving, and use the carboard and foam so you dont ding or scratch it. The way the glass sits on the hinge wall frame is on 4 screws that should be done carefully so it is right the first time, so the door fits snugly with the opposite frame. Caution: Adjusting it by unscrewing and screwing back and forth loosens the screw (they don't tell you this in the manual), and holding up the heavy glass to make this right is unweildy.

The rest is like applyling caulk around and stuff that is pretty easy.

I think they can make it more installer friendly, with a few changes to the design. The manual could be more proactive with warnings and better pictures - at least they can have a video or better stuff online, and refer to it from the manual

I have a close to perfect installation, and it looks sleek, but it was a tough job for someone like me, between novice to amateur.

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