Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Costs of Frameless Shower Doors

How much do frameless shower doors cost?

Cost variation and options is the single most popular topic we are asked about by pros and homeowners a like. So we thought you may enjoy this article where we'll discuss why prices are different and what you should look for before installing your shower enclosure. For more information about our company, please visit our website:

Stellar Glass Works. Phoenix, AZ. Phone: 602-679-8346

Frameless shower doors are one of the most popular home improvement remodel projects because of the beauty and creativity they offer. We have more inquiries on frameless shower doors than any other service. And for good reason. But part of our experience is that we hear a lot of questions, and it's in these questions that we'll hopefully answer your questions as well.

Q: I am getting prices for my shower remodel. I am getting the same thing from each place, please explain why the prices are so different- is one guy trying to rip me off?

The truth of the matter is - you are not getting the same thing from each place. There are many different options when it comes to shower enclosures, the hardware fittings, and the glass. This is why it is so important to choose the right contractor. Each contractor has their supplier that they purchase their glass from. Each supplier has their own system for fabricating shower doors, and almost every fabricator makes their glass differently. Plus, there are different construction methods and types of materials. There’s a lot of gray area regarding what a frameless shower really "is", so you want to choose a reputable contractor who uses high quality suppliers to ensure you’re getting the best materials.

The biggest difference in price, however, is in the method. You have the "U" channel method of installation, which is more of a semi-frameless enclosure, and then you have the clamp method for a truly frameless shower. Both can be made to look absolutely stunning, but the fully frameless showers will require more glass work and more expensive materials. So let’s compare the variables. 

The “U” Channel Method vs. The Clamp Method

Look at the estimate you’ve been given. Is your enclosure being installed with "U" channel or glass clamps at the fixed panel locations. If this is not clearly written out for you on your proposal, you should call them and ask as soon as you finish reading this. The "U" channel method is significantly less expensive because “U” channel semi-frameless showers use aluminum materials that are much cheaper than the brass construction fittings of a fully frameless clamp shower. "U" channel enclosures are also cheaper because you’ll save time and money on the process. Where less accurate glass cutting is necessary and your tech won’t have to fabricate to the house glass clamps. This means the price will be lower because the shower can be installed quicker and you don’t need as skilled of technicians.

A frameless enclosure installed with glass clamps will typically add about 20% to the cost of the enclosure because of the additional cost of the fittings, and the additional glass work that’s needed. Fully frameless showers are going to require more precise measuring and installation too – which means you’re going to pay more for the time of a more experienced technician. It’s important to know which style of shower you want before you start, and then you need to ensure that all proposals are being priced the same. You will often see the term "fully frameless" included in the description when glass clamps are being used. 

Hardware and Materials

Materials are the other primary component of the cost equation. What type of hardware construction are they using? Your main hardware materials are going to be either brass or aluminum. When installing a U channel shower, the entire perimeter of the glass will be secured so using aluminum materials should be okay (but ensure your shower’s structural integrity before construction). When it comes to frameless showers that are clamped – remember that glass panels made of heavy glass are going to be very heavy... And if your shower is not engineered properly, it can create a dangerous safety hazard. Just because a hinge or clamp looks the "same" as what another company is proposing, you need to be sure they’re brass. Then you can have them plated with whichever metal finish complements your décor the best (chrome, nickel, etc.).

Brass fittings are designed to support the heavy weight loads of glass - meeting and exceeding structural requirements. Keep an eye out when you’re comparing proposals and check to see if anyone’s trying to use aluminum fittings as their standard for their frameless enclosures (using terms such as chrome anodized, brushed nickel anodized). Then giving you an add on option to upgrade to brass.

Other factors that contribute to price change:

·       configuration variations - glass to glass hinging is more expensive than wall mount or pivot hinging.
·       header-less designs are more expensive than with a header. If your enclosure has a return panel, such as a 90 degree or 135 degree, how are these panels being "tied" together? Through the glass clamps are more costly than "sleeve over" clamps that fit over the top of the glass. Through the glass is a higher end look and requires more expensive hardware fittings and additional glass processing.
·       1/2" glass is more expensive than 3/8"- (be sure to find out if you are getting standard clear or more costly low iron products)
·       installer- a senior level technician is more expensive than someone who is at entry level

Things to watch out for: 

If you compare proposals and the installation methods, specs, and hardware are all equal but you're still seeing a difference in cost, there can be more outside variables. 
There may be a difference in overhead. Large companies in big warehouses are going to have more operating costs than an expert craftsman who prefers to keep their business smaller.
Profit margins vary. Different companies set different profit margins for their work, that's just part of business.
Now, if you receive a quote that is drastically lower than someone else, and I mean your getting prices of $1,850.00-$2,000.00 from 2 companies, and then a third company comes in with a price of $900.00 installed... Be true to the old adage "You get what you pay for". I'm sorry to break it to you, but you are not getting the deal of a lifetime. Something weird is going on and it may be one of the following:
Unskilled or entry level labor
The company doesn't have proper insurances/ warranties
The glass and materials they're going to use are flawed.
They're not licensed and bonded to perform any work.

We're all for you getting the cheapest deal you can get on your new shower enclosure, all I'm saying is that you may want to look real closely at what you're getting and do a little research into who you're getting it from.

You need to do what's best for you. Find pictures of what you would like and work with your estimators to create the shower you want, that's going to be everything you want. Your estimator will be able to advise you on the options and adjustments you have to deliver what you want and stay within your budget, if at all possible. Some seemingly small details can make a big difference in cost without altering safety and integrity. And verify what you're getting, there may be a more costly company, but they're proposing a much higher end product - you want to define what you want and ensure that your contractors are pricing the same shower enclosure. Then, at the end of the day, see how they compare and what details are most important to you. 

Homeowner- Contractor Tips:

Don't be afraid to ask for proposals to be compared or for a spec list. Most companies will take the time to specify the part numbers that will be used for the construction of your enclosure with the manufacturer name so you can validate the offers. You can also ask for a layout drawing so you can see what it is they're actually proposing. When you have the details put in writing with a drawing and you know you have multiple offers who can do the job you want, right. Then it's up to you to choose who you believe in the most. 

Stellar Glass Works specializes in frameless shower door installations and if you're looking for an estimate for your shower remodel in the Phoenix, Arizona are - don't hesitate to call. (602) 679-8346.


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