My Shower Door
The last step in installing a new shower is usually putting in the door, which can be completed in a few hours of work, provided you use the right tools, measurements and organization. Installing swinging or sliding doors for your shower are similar processes, with subtle differences in the installation outlined below. You can learn to get the right tools and equipment necessary to do the job properly, and how to hang both kinds of doors without a problem.
Starting Your Project
Decide what kind of shower door you want. There are two common styles of shower doors: sliding doors and pivoting doors. Although they work differently, the installation process is nearly identical for both, so your decision should be based on personal preference.
- It is highly recommended that you choose a shower door with a frame. Some shower doors are frameless for a more elegant look, but are much more complicated to install.
- Some people prefer to use a sliding door for wide openings and a swinging door for small openings, since swinging doors tend to be a little narrower and can accommodate smaller spaces.
Measure the space where you’re installing the door. Using your tape measure, measure horizontally and vertically between the surfaces where the door hardware will be mounted, across the tub or the opening for the shower, and up the wall. Record these numbers to take to the store and shop around for a kit that’s big enough to fill the space you need to fill.
- For the most part, the metal tracks of shower doors will be slightly longer than the space you need to fill. They’re made this way, to allow the same kit to be used for multiple projects. By cutting the tracks to size, you should be able to make most commercial kits work fine for the job.
3Buy a shower door kit. Take the measurements with you to your home center and ask for assistance in selecting the correct door kit. These should come with the glass door itself, the track pieces, rollers, and wall screws necessary for mounting the door on the wall. The other necessary tools and equipment are discussed in the next step.
Assemble the necessary parts and tools. Shower door kits will come with a set of metal tracks that seat the shower door, so most of the assembly process involves installing the metal frame. This will be secured by a metal threshold that fits onto the front lip of the tub, two side columns that will be secured into the tile walls, and a single cross-member to connect the columns on top. Most shower kits should be universal, but hold the pieces up to the shower before you start installing them to make sure they fit. If the pieces are too long, you might need to trim them to size with a hacksaw. You’ll also need some basic tools to complete the job:
- Silicone-based caulk and a caulking gun
- Tape measure
- A power drill
- 3/16 and 7/32 drill bits (add a 3/16 masonry bit if drilling into tile)
- Tile screws
- Plastic wall anchors
- Masking tape
- Permanent marker
- A level
Installing a Sliding Shower Door
Measure and mark out where the track will go. You’ll install the threshold first and the side columns next, so it’s a good idea to measure everything out first before you start slapping it on the tub. This will ensure that your shower door will be even and level. Use your level to make sure the mark is true.
- Mark where you’d like the threshold track of the shower door to go. Measure the width of the front lip of the tub to find the center point. You want to install the threshold of the shower in the center, so it will be even on the wall and secure. Mark the center point at each end of the tub lip and once in the center with a marker to give yourself a good indicator during installation.
- Hold each side column on the tile wall, even with the marks you’ve made on the lip of the tub. Most of these columns will come pre-cut with holes where the screws will go, usually three of them. Use your marker to make a little dot where the screws will go later, when you’re installing the columns.
Apply a thin ribbon of silicone caulk to the threshold. Load the tube of silicone plumber’s caulk into the caulking gun, if necessary, and cut the tip to open the flow. Squeeze a thin line of caulk to the underside of the threshold, which should be the flat side.
- Silicone-based plumber’s caulk is water-proof and perfect for attaching the bottom rail to the tub. Water can’t permeate the layer of caulk and escape beneath the rail, making your shower efficient and clean.
Place the threshold carefully firmly onto the tub. Line the metal threshold up with the marks in the center point of the tub’s lip and press it down to secure it, smoothing out the caulk underneath. Make sure the rail is secure and lined up perfectly with your marks in the center line. If it’s off and it dries, the wall columns will be out of alignment and the shower door won’t close properly, so this is critical.
- It’s a good idea to use a little bit of masking tape to keep the threshold secured to the tub while it dries. It shouldn’t take long, five minutes at the most, but while you’re working it’s a good idea to make sure it can’t be jostled and misaligned.
- After the threshold dries, hold your side columns back up to the wall to make sure everything lines up evenly before you move on. You may have to remark the holes that you’re going to drill if you made a mistake in securing the threshold. Check again with the level to make sure everything is true.
Pre-drill the holes you marked with tile drill bits. Fit a small-gauge drill bit designed for cutting through ceramic tile into your power drill and drill into your pre-marked holes about two inches deep. Ceramic tile drill bits have a sharp point with a wide, flat-faced beveled edge that cuts through tile very efficiently.
- Some people like to put a little piece of masking tape over the mark on the tile for the drill bit to grip onto while you’re drilling. Because most bathroom tile is so smooth, it’s easy to slip while you’re trying to push the drill bit in, which can be dangerous. It also decreases the chance that the tile will crack or flake while you’re drilling.
5Hammer your plastic wall anchors into the holes. Take the wall anchors that came with the shower door and hammer them into the holes firmly with the hammer. These create a solid base for the wall screws to grip into, securing the side columns to the wall. If you don’t use these, there won’t be anything for the screws to grip.
Hold the column back up to the wall and screw it in. Line the holes back up with the wall anchors and secure the column to the wall by screwing them in with the corresponding wall screws. They should seat perfectly into the wall anchors. Repeat this process with the other column to secure it.
- Squeeze a thin layer of silicone into the gap where the column meets the tile, on both sides of each. To avoid seepage, it’s usually a good idea to apply a thin layer of caulk around each column.
7Install the crossmember. For most kits, this is a simple press-on fixture that should fit snugly onto the top of the columns. As long as you’ve measured and screwed everything in correctly, it should snap right on, providing the top edge of the shower door assembly.
Fit the door(s) onto the track. Orient the doors so the handle is on the outside and won’t interfere with the opening and closing. On some glass shower doors, you’ll probably have to install the rollers into the recesses on the top and bottom edge, which should slip in easily, but will vary some, depending on the manufacturer. Consult the instruction manual for more specific instructions.
- Maneuver the glass door so the rollers fit up inside the track, and gently lower it into the threshold. This may take a little practice, especially if you’ve got a limited amount of space. If you’ve measured and installed everything correctly, though, it should fit right in with some maneuvering. Make sure the door or the doors slide open easily and smoothly.
Installing a Swinging Shower Door
Cut the tracks to the appropriate size, if necessary. Measure the width at the bottom of the shower opening. Transfer that measurement to the bottom shower door track and mark with your marking pen. If the track fits to size, move forward with installation. If it’s too long, you’ll need to cut it to the appropriate length.
- Using a hacksaw, carefully cut the rail at the mark you made. Be sure the rail is held firmly as you cut to avoid damage to the rail or the saw. Use a file to remove the burrs from all metal pieces you cut.
Measure and mark where the track will go. Before you go attaching the tracks on forever, you need to place them temporarily and mark where they need to go. Place the bottom track along the base of the shower opening with the higher lip of the track facing outward. Make sure the track sits flat along the surface. There should be about 1⁄8 inch (0.3 cm) of play at each end.
- Temporarily tack the bottom track into place with masking tape, then mark the position with your marking pen along the inner and outer edges. Do not remove the bottom track yet.
- The wall tracks should be pre-cut to size from the factory. Slide the wall tracks into position with the bottom track. Make sure the wall tracks fit the bottom track exactly. Use your level to check for plumb.
- Holding each track firmly, use your marking pen to mark the mounting hole locations on each wall then set the wall tracks aside.
Drill the holes you marked. With a nail or a center punch, tap a small dimple into the marks you made for the holes in the wall tracks to use as a pilot hole. This prevents your drill bit from “skating” and damaging the surface. Drill your mounting holes using the proper bit for the surface of your shower.
- If you are drilling into tile, put a small piece of masking tape over each spot to be drilled. This will help prevent chipping. Also, drill deep enough so the plastic screw anchors will fit properly. Anchors won’t be needed on fiberglass.
Install the bottom threshold track. Run a bead of caulk, about the thickness of a bead of toothpaste, along the bottom mounting surface. Center the bead between the two lines you marked when you measured and run it the full length of the gap as well. Then, firmly set the bottom track into place over the bead of caulk.
- Make sure the underside of the track makes contact with the caulking. If not, run a separate bead along the center of the underside of the track.
- Hold the track in place for a minute or two, taping it down to hold it in place if necessary. It should be try in five minutes at the most, then you can move forward knowing that it’s secure.
Mount the wall tracks. Line them up with the mounting holes and make sure they fit properly over the ends of the bottom track. If you’ve measured correctly and marked correctly, they should snap right into place.
- If your kit included them, place the rubber bumpers that come with most door kits over the screws and secure the tracks to the wall by using your screwdriver to turn the screws into place. Do not completely tighten the screws at this point, hand tight is sufficient.
Install the door swinging door. Swinging doors will need to be installed differently, according to the kit that you’ve purchased, so it’s important to read the instructions that come with it and follow the directions accordingly. The door needs to be installed so it pivots outward, but for some kits that’ll be on the left side and for some that’ll be on the right side, and the mechanism works differently, depending. With some, the door will just snap into place, while screws will be used for other kits.
- In most swinging door kits, a strip of rubber will be slid into the wall track opposite the pivot point, held with screws in some cases.
Measure and cut the top track. If you had to cut the threshold track, you’ll likely also have to cut the top track, since it’ll be roughly the same length. Make sure the track fits snugly, connecting between the two wall tracks, and is properly aligned between them. It should just snap right on top.
- Many door kits will have corner brackets that are attached with screws to hold the top rail securely. Defer to the instructions of your specific kit, if necessary.
Seal any gaps using caulk. Finally, run a bead of bathtub caulk along all the points at which the tracks come in contact with the walls. Do this to both inside and outside surfaces to create a neat, watertight seal.
- Let the caulk dry thoroughly and wait at least 24 hours before running water in the shower to test your work. It should be dry in a few minutes, but it’s a good idea to wait and let things settle before you try it out.