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How to Install a Shower Door

Contractor Rich Rosenfield's step-by-step guide to creating a tempered-glass enclosure

"Done right, nothing beats a shower enclosed in glass," says Rich Rosenfield with pride, as he wipes the glass-and-metal door to a spotless shine. Rosenfield has just spent an hour and a half installing this enclosure, one of about 40 he puts in every week for Banner Glass Shelmar of Waltham, Massachusetts.

Tempered-glass shower enclosures are permanent and easy to clean, and have a sleek transparency that makes a bathroom appear bigger. And when properly installed, they keep water where it belongs.

These enclosures come in two types: framed and frameless. The frameless systems, while elegant, require thicker glass, expensive hardware, and flawless fabrication. Framed units weigh and cost less, and can take more abuse.

He also says that frameless enclosures are much more challenging to install, whereas hanging a framed door and side panel is a project most homeowners can complete in an afternoon.


Steps // How to Install a Shower Door
1 ×

Shower Door Overview

 
Step One // How to Install a Shower Door

Shower Door Overview

Illustration for installing a shower door
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Planning Ahead

•Measure the width of the shower opening in at least three places: threshold, up to 5 feet, and halfway in between.

•Any wall that's more than ½ inch out of vertical over 5 feet will need a matching filler strip so that the door can be made plumb.

•From the point on the threshold where the door will pivot, measure the distance to bath fixtures or any other potential obstacles that an outswing door might hit.

•Draw a sketch of the shower in plain view (looking down from above) and in elevation (side view). Fill in all the measurements and take it with you to the showroom.

Click ''enlarge this image'' to view illustration labels.

 
2 ×

Cut the Base Track to Length

 
Step Two // How to Install a Shower Door

Cut the Base Track to Length

Setting the base track of a shower door
Photo by David Carmack

Measure the length of the shower threshold, then use a hacksaw to cut the aluminum base track to fit tightly between the stall walls.

Smooth the cut end with a file. Vacuum up the metal filings immediately so they don't scratch the bathroom floor or shower base.

 
3 ×

Set the Base Track

 
Step Three // How to Install a Shower Door

Set the Base Track

Centering the base track of a shower door

Place the track on the threshold and use a tape measure to make sure that it's centered from front to back.

With a pencil, mark the threshold along the edge of the track near each end. This allows easy repositioning if it slides around during installation of the jambs.

 
4 ×

Mark Position of the Hinge-Side Jamb

 
Step Four // How to Install a Shower Door

Mark Position of the Hinge-Side Jamb

attaching a hinge-side jamb of a shower door

On the side of the shower opening that will support the door, hold a jamb piece against the wall so that its lower end fits into the base track. Without moving the track, use a 4-foot level to adjust the jamb until it's plumb.

Stick a pencil through the jamb's screw holes to mark the wall.

Remove the jamb, and at each pencil mark make a small divot using an automatic punch or hammer and nail set. (These tools chip the tile's glaze enough to prevent the drill bit from wandering.)

 
5 ×

Drill Holes for Wall Anchors

 
Step Five // How to Install a Shower Door

Drill Holes for Wall Anchors

drilling holes for a shower door with a 3/16-inch-diameter masonry drill bit

Drill holes at each mark using a 3/16-inch-diameter masonry drill bit.

Tap a plastic wall anchor into each screw hole. Use a plastic mallet to avoid marring the walls.

Hold the jamb against the wall so its screw holes align with the plastic anchors. Drive a 1½-inch stainless steel pan-head screw into each hole.

 
6 ×

Hang the Door

 
Step Six // How to Install a Shower Door

Hang the Door

Lifting a shower doo into its base track

Lift the door with its attached hinge rail positioned to swing out, and slip the hinge rail into the jamb.

Hold the door in place and check its strike-side edge with a level to make sure it's plumb. If it's not, pull the hinge rail out of the jamb slightly at the top or bottom.

Once the door is plumb, the hinge rail should still be engaged in the jamb—there's a full ½ inch of adjustment for plumb between these two pieces.

While a helper holds the door in place, drill four 7/32-inch pilot holes through the holes in the hinge rail and into the mounted jamb. Fasten the hinge rail to the jamb with the ½-inch stainless steel pan-head screws provided.
 

 
7 ×

Install the Remaining Side Jamb

 
Step Seven // How to Install a Shower Door

Install the Remaining Side Jamb

installing the remaining side jamb of a shower door

If there is no glass side panel, slip the magnetic strike rail onto the remaining side jamb. Holding the rail and jamb, close the door until it lines up with the base track.

Adjust the jamb until it's flush against the wall. Mark the wall alongside the jamb. Remove the jamb from the rail.

Align the jamb with the pencil line and mark screw hole locations.

Drill the holes for the plastic anchors. Screw the jamb to the wall.

To install a glass side panel, slip the remaining jamb onto one of the panel's edges and the magnetic strike rail onto the other. Fit the panel into the base track. Butt the jamb against the wall.

Close the door and mark the wall along the jamb.

Remove the jamb and the magnetic rail from the panel and attach the jamb.

Slide the panel back into its jamb and base track.

 
8 ×

Set the Header

 
Step Eight // How to Install a Shower Door

Set the Header

Completing the enclosure of a shower door

If a header is being used, measure and cut to length as in Step 2. Slip it over the top of the hinge jamb and side panel.

Drill a 7/32-inch pilot hole through the inside face of the header at each end and into the corresponding jamb. Drive a ½-inch screw into each hole.

Replace the magnetic strike rail on the strike jamb or, if used, on the edge of the stationary panel. Adjust it so that the magnetic strips on the door and rail produce a watertight seal along their entire length when the door is closed.

Screw the strike rail into the holes of the strike jamb or stationary panel with the ½-inch screws.
 

 
9 ×

Screw Together the Frame

 
Step Nine // How to Install a Shower Door

Screw Together the Frame

installing a shower door

Install the door handles that come with the kit. Align the outside door handle with the holes in the doorframe. Attach the interior handle and tighten the setscrews.

Stabilize the assembly by drilling a pilot hole and driving a ½-inch screw through the outside face of the base track wherever it meets a vertical frame member.

Repeat the process on the inside face of the header.

Center the screws on the aluminum extrusions to avoid hitting the glass.
 

 
10 ×

Attach Drip Rail

 
Step Ten // How to Install a Shower Door

Attach Drip Rail

Waterproofing a shower door

Pull the thin vinyl sweep out of the drip rail and set it aside.

Cut the drip rail with a hacksaw to match the width of the door. Round off the ends of the cut with a file.

Slide the vinyl sweep back into the groove in the rail. Crimp the ends of the groove closed with pliers to hold the sweep permanently in place.

Trim off its overhanging end with a utility knife.

With the vinyl sweep pointing down, hold the drip rail against the inside bottom edge of the door. Drill 7/32-inch pilot holes into the doorframe through the elongated mounting holes and low enough to avoid hitting the glass, which sits ¼ inch into the trim.

Attach it with the ½-inch screws. Before tightening the screws, tilt the rail down slightly toward the hinge side so that water will drain away from the strike.

 
11 ×

Apply Silicone Caulk

 
Step Eleven // How to Install a Shower Door

Apply Silicone Caulk

Waterproofing a shower door

To make the new shower enclosure totally waterproof, apply a bead of clear, mildew-resistant silicone along both the inside and outside edges of the base track.

Also, apply silicone along the inside edges of both the right- and left-side jambs.

Smooth out the silicone immediately after applying it to create a neat, even joint.
 

 
 
 

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