Framed vs frameless shower enclosures: the reasons why it is not always easy to decide

Style and structural criteria to be considered for a rational choice.

SLIM | Box doccia con vetro da 6 mm e cerniere pivottanti – in foto: versione per nicchia con laterale fisso e porta pivottante. Maniglie bifacciali e braccetti di supporto hanno un design minimale ed elegante.

Framed vs frameless shower enclosure: this appears to be the first question we face when we start designing our shower. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both solutions.

Showers have changed radically over the past few years: the shower enclosure is no longer simply a cubicle – often with a rather flimsy frame mounted on an existing ceramic shower tray with a totally different style – that provides protection against splashing water.

Shower enclosures have also become larger. More precisely, when designing a bathroom we try to keep as much space as possible for the shower, and often opt for one that covers the full width and height of a bathroom wall, mostly windowed. The glass panels have become not only larger but also thicker and therefore sturdier, whereas the profiles have become slimmer (and have totally disappeared in some cases), giving the shower enclosure a minimalist, elegant look.

Originally designed as a necessary item associated to our daily bathroom routine, the shower cubicle has become the central furnishing element of the bathroom, a personal haven of wellbeing available with different glass panel and profile options that can be stylistically coordinated with the bathroom décor.

When is it worth opting for a framed vs a frameless shower enclosure? Is it simply a question of style?

The answer to the last question is no. There are also technical and structural considerations to be made. To understand them, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options.

Framed shower enclosure: pros and cons

PRO. The presence of a metal frame adds further flexibility to the shower enclosure, which can be adapted more easily to the size of the shower tray (either raised and flush-mounted): this is particularly important where the shower tray is not perfectly level or where measurements may not have been taken correctly (private customers often provide retailers with broad measurements).

PRO. In the same way, a framed enclosure is more easily adaptable in the case of off-square walls. The alternative option would be cutting the glass panels to size, which not only is difficult and expensive, but also entails a high likelihood or error that will only be discovered during installation.

PRO. Nowadays shower frames are available in a wide range of finishes that match the style and colour of the other bathroom elements, such as taps and fittings, radiators, cabinet handles: for example, bronze/brass finish and black shower frames have become very trendy.

PRO. Framed shower enclosures can be an excellent solution when replacing an existing enclosure installed on a shower tray that is not meant to be replaced. As mentioned above, they can also be adapted more easily in the case of off-square shower trays and/or walls.

CON. With certain models the profiles may make the shower enclosure look a little too bulky, which is something not everyone likes.

CON. The finish chosen for the shower enclosure may be very trendy at the beginning – just think of the popular black finish frames inspired by the industrial style – but may become old-fashioned in the long run.

CON. Framed shower enclosures may be more difficult to clean because of the presence of bulky profiles and seal gaskets. In the case of showers with a sliding door, a practical door engagement and disengagement mechanism makes it possible to clean the shower thoroughly.

PRO / CON. A very volatile factor is the price of framed enclosures: those with an older design may be cheaper (generally cheaper than the all-glass showers) and thus provide a design solution at lower cost; the latest-generation models with the frame either varnished or with a special finish are generally as expensive as the high-end models. In short, framed shower enclosures can be an option based on your spending potential.

FOCUS | Framed shower enclosure with 6 mm thick glass panels – in the photo: corner version with a fixed side panel and sliding door. Textured black frame. All showers in this collection feature a practical door disengagement/engagement mechanism that makes cleaning operations easier.
FOCUS | Framed shower enclosure with 6 mm thick glass panels – in the photo: 80×80 cm corner shower with two fixed side panels and two centrally opening sliding doors. Extrabrill finish frame. The handles are built into the magnetic profile of the enclosure.

Find out more about our FOCUS range of framed shower enclosures »

QUADRO| Shower enclosure with squared profile and 6 mm thick glass panels. In the photo: rectangular alcove shower with double sliding door. The handle is built into the frameless sliding glass panel instead of the profile.

Find out more about our QUADRO range of framed shower enclosures »

Frameless shower enclosures: pros and cons

PRO. The airy look of a frameless shower enclosure is beyond question. Without a metal frame the shower enclosure – especially if it has clear or preferably extra-clear glass panels – literally disappears, making bathrooms, especially small ones, look much bigger.

PRO. Because there is no frame, the shower has a timeless style that easily matches the style of the bathroom despite passing trends.

PRO. The glass panels can be cut to size , giving you all the creative freedom you need to meet all sorts of design requirements (for example in the case of bathrooms with a low ceiling that are typically found in mountain homes or attics).

CON. A frameless shower enclosure necessarily needs thicker glass panels, which are usually at least 6 mm thick (or, even better, 8 mm thick).

CON. Frameless shower enclosures must be designed very carefully by a professional because even the smallest error could mean that the enclosure cannot be installed. The glass panels must be of exactly the right dimensions, because they cannot be adjusted.

CON. If the walls, floor and/or shower tray are off square, the glass panels must be cut to size (diagonally, if needed), with a higher likelihood of error.

CON. As mentioned above, frameless shower enclosures are more expensive than their framed counterparts (because the price is driven by market demands, and also because thicker glass panels are more expensive in general). Walk-in shower enclosures are a totally different thing. They are more compact and less expensive – for the same size – than shower enclosures with a door.

PROJECT | Frameless shower enclosure with 6+8 mm thick glass panels – in the photo: shower with a hinged door attached to a fixed side panel (180 degree hinges). The central support bracket gives extra stability to the shower. However it is no longer necessary if 8 mm thick glass panels are chosen. The wall mounting profile can be extended up to 3 cm.

Discover our PROJECT collection of made-to-measure shower enclosures with hinges »

WALK-IN | All-glass shower enclosure (8 mm thick glass panels), also available made to measure. In the photo: glass screen for shower trays . Tinted glass. The fixing brackets can also be used for adding a practical shower curtain.

Find out more about our WALK-IN range of frameless shower enclosures »

SMART | Frameless shower enclosure with 6 mm thick glass panels and ultra-slim hinges – in the photo: corner version with 2 fixed glass panels and a hinged door on the longer side. The side panel is in heat-formed glass, therefore there is no need for a support frame along the corner: the shower is nonetheless very solid thanks to the presence of a stabilizer bar.

Find out more about our SMART range of frameless shower enclosures »

A compromise: ultra-slim hinges and profiles for a truly stylish shower enclosure

Any alternative? Luckily there is an alternative that could accommodate both style and design requirements.

Profiles are becoming slimmer and more minimalist in style, hinges provide opening mechanisms even where there is no profile, support brackets give added sturdiness to the shower enclosure without having an excessive visual impact: modern design shower enclosures seek to combine good looks with exceptional functionality.

SLIM | Shower enclosure with 6 mm thick glass panels and pivot hinges – in the photo: alcove shower with a fixed side panel and a pivot door . Minimal, elegant double-sided handles and support brackets.

Discover our SLIM collection of shower enclosures with pivot hinges »

FREE | Shower enclosure with slim profiles and ultra-flat, squared hinges – in the photo: one-direction bi-fold door with double-sided handle and door disengagement mechanism for easier cleaning.

Find out more about our FREE range of framed shower enclosures with ultra-slim profiles »

In short, before addressing style issues we should try and understand if the best choice is a framed or frameless shower enclosure, carefully considering both subjective and objective criteria.

  1. Wow, I did not know that there were so many different pros and cons for frames or frameless shower enclosures. Although, I can definitely see why one would be better for some homes than the others. I suppose it would just come down to the style and design of you home to find out which one is the best option.

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