There are three types of glass shower enclosures: framed, frameless, and semi-frameless. They differ by price and appearance. Framed glass shower enclosures are the least expensive, frameless are the most expensive, and semi-frameless enclosures fall somewhere in between.
The most common type of glass shower enclosure is the framed enclosure. It is identified by the metal frame that wraps around the top, bottom and both sides of each glass panel. A framed glass shower enclosure also has a frame around its door.
Framed enclosures contain thinner glass, typically around 3/16 inch (about 0.5 cm), which is connected to the frame at key spots via u-channels. A u-channel is a molded piece of metal shaped like the letter U that fits around the glass. For decorative purposes, these u-channels can be ordered in a variety of finishes, including brushed nickel, chrome, brass and gold.
Frameless glass shower enclosures are both the most expensive and the most popular option. There are a number of reasons for its popularity. For example, it is easier to clean, because there are no crevices in which dirt can build up. Additionally, it comes with thicker glass, either 3/8 inch (about 0.9 cm) or 1/2 inch (1.27 cm), which is more durable and more luxurious in appearance. If the homeowner has installed specialty tile throughout the bath, a frameless enclosure can enhance its appearance by providing an unobstructed view of its detailed features.
In a frameless glass shower enclosure, individual panels are held together with clamps and sealed with clear silicone. Clamps join the glass at the necessary points. Next, silicone fills in the 1/8-inch (about 0.3-cm) gaps that separate the glass panels from the walls. The result is a shower enclosure that is secure but has the attractive appearance of being nothing more than clear glass. For decorative purposes, the clamps for this enclosure are also available in a variety of finishes, including brushed nickel, chrome, brass and gold.
If one is looking for the sleek design of a frameless glass shower enclosure on a more limited budget, the mid-range option is the semi-frameless glass shower enclosure. The semi-frameless enclosure combines the best components of the framed and frameless enclosures. This type of enclosure frame also represents an attractive, yet reasonable, do-it-yourself project.
The focal point of the semi-frameless glass shower enclosure, its door, is frameless. Like a framed enclosure, the glass panels are attached at the bottom with u-channels. At the top, clamps — like those on a frameless enclosure — are used to join the panels to the walls and to each other. In the same manner as frameless glass shower enclosures, the 1/8-inch (about 0.3-cm) gaps between the walls and the panels are sealed with silicone. With this design, the u-channels and the clamps are available in a variety of finishes.