Frameless Shower Openings – Square at hip height (already plumb and level)
When building the opening for your frameless shower screen, one of the most important things you can do is make sure that all the walls are vertical, level, and square. Custom made heavy glass frameless showers are not very forgiving of an improperly constructed opening.
There are a number of considerations regarding the “squaring” of your opening and the forgiveness of your shower door. The following describes the basics of measuring out of square and detecting out of plumb. Off plumb refers to the orientation of walls, steps, or buttresses along the vertical plane.
Outside the square
For standard in-line configurations (such as a fixed revolving door and a fixed panel), measure the width of the opening at the bottom along the sill and along the approximate top of the unit, not the top of the opening, unless your shower extends to the ceiling. . It is important to measure up to 1/16 “and measure from tile to tile. You cannot perform the measurement step until the opening is completely tiled.
If your top and bottom width measurements differ by at least 1/4 ″, you have an out of square condition and the glass may need an edge cut to ensure a proper fit. Once you have determined that the opening is out of square, the next step is to determine which wall is causing the out of square condition. To do this, hold a level on each wall.
It may be the case that only one wall is not plumb. For example, suppose the right wall of the opening slopes at least 1/4 “more at the top than at the bottom. This scenario definitely requires an off-square edge cut for the glass to fit properly.
In the event that neither wall is plumb, the interruption of each wall should be considered separately. If, for example, both walls are out of square by only 1/8 “(and the total interruption is 1/4”), then there will be sufficient play on both sides of the opening and an out of square cut can be avoided.
Arched walls present an especially tricky challenge. If you have a wall that arches outward at any point other than at the top or bottom of the opening, you may have a problem. Technically, if the arch is less than 1/8 “and is not on the hinge side of the door, you should be able to bend the channel into place and the glass should have enough room to maneuver. However, anything greater than 1/8 “and you must modify your opening.
It is also possible that your wall will bend. If your opening is for a single door, no problem. However, if your opening is for a door and panel and the arch is not on the door hinge side and the arch is less than 1/8 ″ then you may need to apply some additional silicone to close the space behind the channel. If the gap is larger than 1/8 ″, you may need to modify your aperture.
If your wall arches in or out on the hinge side of your door, consider the following. If the wall arches inward (away from the door), then the only real concern is that you will have a slightly larger gap than normal. Since most shower heads are located close to where the door is hinged (and they spray in the opposite direction), there should be little concern of water leaking.
If the wall slopes toward the door and the arch is greater than 1/8 ″, you may need to modify the opening. The most important thing is that the hinges are aligned so that the door moves correctly. If the wall arches in the middle, you may end up touching the glass. The space between a vertical wall and the glass where the door hinges is 3/16 ″.
Out of level
Being out of level is very similar to being out of lead. As mentioned above, being out of lead by 1/4 “or more requires the glass to be cut at an angle. The same principle applies if your opening is not level at the bottom. If it is out of level by less than a quarter of an inch, there must be enough play to secure the glass or you won’t notice the problem. If your glass doesn’t extend all the way to the ceiling, then it doesn’t matter (as far as the shower is concerned) if your ceiling or bulkhead is level.
Suppose your threshold is not level 1/8 “below your door. You may have problems with the door sweep providing too much friction on one side and not enough coverage on the other end. You can easily modify the sweep to fit perfectly out of the flush opening but cutting the vinyl at an angle with a razor blade.
What does it all mean
Hopefully, you now recognize the importance of building a plumb, level, and square opening. While frame doors have higher tolerances for off-square conditions, frameless showers are custom fit products. To ensure that the glass fits into your opening with minimal gaps, additional cuts are required in the glass to compensate for any angle in the opening. These additional cuts equate to additional costs.
It is equally important that you accurately measure your opening when ordering a frameless shower door. It is critical that you provide information on plumb, grade, and bowing of the walls that make up your opening. If your measurements are wrong, the manufactured glass will not fit properly.