Is it frameless? Yes. But, is it REALLY…? Yes.

I want to put to rest the idea that frameless showers require no hardware whatsoever. A thousand curses on Pinterest, IG, Houzz and the misguided individual who first posted a photo of gravity defying heavy glass panels, staying securely upright by the faith of the homeowner and the unfailing strength of silicone alone. These images have been a thorn in the side of responsible glass shop owners since they first popped up in bathroom inspiration galleries a decade or so ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent frameless shower diagrams to customers and they insist we forgo some necessary part, whether it be u-channel, clamps or a header; they wanted “frameless”!

What does the term “frameless” mean?

Frameless shower is kind of a catch-all term for heavy-glass showers (3/8” or ½” glass). They’ll typically be designed using the fewest hardware components necessary to achieve a safely installed glass enclosure. This can be as little as channel buried in tile, giving it a floating glass look, but could be as hardware-heavy as a header or support bar across the top of the glass. It depends on the layout of that particular shower.

Why the header?

Heavy glass doors are, well, heavy. That substantial weight needs to be properly supported, and this can be accomplished several ways. The most common method would be to hinge the door off a wall with solid backing. Those hinges, that door, are going nowhere. If you’re anchoring a pivot hinge into the ceiling instead, same deal. Layouts with a centered door, or a door hinged off an adjacent panel don’t have a 2×4 wall doing the heavy lifting. This may make a header necessary. There are a couple of headerless alternatives available, such as using heavy-duty clamps or extending panels to the ceiling, but these are oftentimes not feasible options due to hardware limitations, ceiling height, or other factors. In this case, you’re left with a header. It may not be the vision you initially had for the shower, but it’s not an unattractive look.


Sliders are a different animal altogether

When it comes to sliders there are a variety of frameless options available. Some have headers, some have sills, some have both. The more stripped down they are, the more likely it will require one of the glass pieces to be fixed (non-operable) and only allow for one moving door. Frameless sliders with two operable doors generally require a sizable header to handle the substantial weight of the two doors. Besides being heavy-glass, the other feature that distinguishes these frameless bypasses from semiframeless bypasses is they don’t have sidewall jambs (vertical metal that the door slides into.) They all employ a polycarbonate seal along the tile or glass edge to protect the glass as it slides flush to the tiled wall.

But the picture…

The takeaway is don’t believe everything you see on social media, as if you needed reminding of that… Those miraculous floating panels either rely on channel buried in tile (which is completely viable, but needs to be planned out in advance), or employ methods which no glass company that values the safety of their customer would endorse. Installing glass panels that rely entirely on the longevity of silicone without the use of mechanical fasteners, such as u-channel or clamps, is a total liability! So, take it easy on your local glass company when they try to tell you need a particular piece of frameless shower hardware. They’re not trying to be a stick in the mud, they just want to provide a safe, professionally installed product that is going to be the crown jewel of your designer bathroom for years to come.

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