How (not) to install glass shower doors

We finally did it!! We got these stupid glass shower doors out of our living room and into our bathroom! We’ve had the doors for several months, but we didn’t want to install them before the granite was completed. The bathroom is so small and it takes two guys to get the granite in, so we just wanted to make sure nothing could break in the process.

Here are the installed doors. Aren’t they pretty?? (Minus the stickers telling you which side faces out.)

But it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Actually there were no rainbows or butterflies. Installing a shower door is not an easy task and in fact, I think it’s safe to say that installing our shower door was harder/more time-consuming/more confusing than installing the actual tub. This is why people hire professionals to do this kind of stuff. Go figure.

The first issue we encountered was the lip on our tub. Our tile wasn’t as thick as the lip on the tub, so we had to cut the wall jambs to make them fit around the edge of the tub. Once we’re finished all the edges will be caulked so you won’t see a gap or any rough edges.

Andrew used a piece of cardboard to make a template for each side and then traced the outline onto each wall jamb. This was our first mistake, but we had no idea it was going to be an issue at the time.

Then he cut the jamb using an angle grinder. It makes a nasty noise, but it was way faster than everything else he tried. And of course, safety first!

Then using a pencil we marked where on the sides of the shower we wanted the jamb.

There are three holes on each jamb for screws, but since there’s a hollow space behind the holes, a pencil wouldn’t reach the tile. So we improvised and got a paperclip with a little dab of paint on the end to mark where to drill.

Then came the actual drilling. I was so worried that the tiles would crack, but luckily this part went smoothly. Just remember you do need a special drill bit for tile! Andrew actually changed the drill bit 3 times to get through the tile first, then the hardi backer (using a masonry bit), and then the wood.

Here’s the first jamb in place. The two brown things are bumpers for the glass door.

Next we had to install the piece that runs along the edge of the tub to keep water in and serve as a guide for the doors. This piece is made slightly longer than a standard tub so that you have room to cut it down to size. We measured the size it needed to be and cut it with the angle grinder.

After we were sure it was the right size, we caulked along the little half circle ridge on the bottom of the track.

This part of the track goes on the outside and the caulk will keep water from getting out of the tub.

Before we put the caulk on the track, we marked where we wanted it to go so we wouldn’t smear caulk all over while trying to reposition the piece.

Next was the second wall jamb. We messed up the holes on this one and had to drill a second hole. I’m going to go ahead and take full blame for this one. Curse my indecisiveness!

But Andrew reassured me that he could drill a second hole and fix it. And fix it he did. Ta-da!

The top piece is also made to be cut down to size. Then it just slides down on top of the jambs and the weight of the doors holds it in place.

Then we attached the door hardware and hung the doors. We left the stickers there because we actually have to take some of it apart and the stickers tell you which side is coated and which isn’t (non-coated side is supposed to face out).

So now for the sad part. The wall jambs are shaped like an H when you look at them from the end. One side of the jamb is deeper than the other. We didn’t realize that the deeper part of the jamb is supposed to face out and the shallow side is supposed to be against the tile.

When we made the cuts on the wall jambs to go around our tub and tile, we made the cuts on the deeper side of the jamb thinking that way we’d have more than enough room for the cuts. But what we didn’t realize was that then the glass doors wouldn’t go as far inside the jambs when they were closed. With the shallow side facing out, the bumpers almost stick out past the metal so the glass doesn’t close very far.

If the doors are on the right sides, they do barely close. But since nothing is ever perfectly square or level (like the walls) we had to make the doors slightly uneven to make each door hit both the top and bottom bumper. But this means when you push the door to the opposite side from where it’s intended to be, it doesn’t close.

We would know which side to keep each door on, but guests wouldn’t and we would hate for there to be a gap where water could escape.  So, it’s back to the beginning. We sucked it up and ordered two new wall jambs online for $20 each. When those arrive we’ll just need to make the same cuts for around the tub (but on the shallow side of the H), screw them into the predrilled holes, replace the top piece, hang the doors, and then caulk. Needless to say, it was a long, frustrating process. But even after the frustration and the now over $400 price tag, we’re still really glad we went with the glass doors. We just hope we don’t have to install another one for a long time!

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4 Responses to How (not) to install glass shower doors

  1. mk November 5, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    Where did you order the wall jambs?

    • Simple House Expressions November 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Go to the Kohler website at http://www.us.kohler.com/us/ and enter the product number in the search bar at the top right. Just for reference, our product number was 1100769 150 MX 56.812. Then select the right finish, add 2 to your cart, and there you have it! We made the mistake at first of searching the Sterling website instead. They don’t have anywhere online where you can order replacement parts. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but in the end the wall jambs shipped to us from a Ferguson Show Room. It was definitely a confusing process, but we did get what we needed! Good luck!

  2. Sergio March 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi. Just wanted to say thanks for posting this AND in such great detail. I have the exact same problem with there being a lip where the wall tile meets the tub. I’ve been looking for a set of glass doors where the side rail is an “H” – everything I’ve seen sits flush agaist the wall. I was about to give up and install a couple of marble strips along the wall to try and even out the step (even though that wouldn’t have looked great and would have been a challenge anyway since the depth of the step is different on each of the two walls).

    Now I know the “H” rails are out there AND you’ve given me the confidence to know that my idea of trimming the rails to the contour of the corner WILL work. Finally, my wife can stop complaining about having to shower in the basement bathroom!

    • Andrew March 29, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

      Lowes and Home Depot both sell shower doors that have this feature. My company now makes Delta branded doors which are very good quality. We installed a Kohler Sterling brand from Lowes and we are very happy with it. Basically the door jambs at most Building Supply companies are this design. If you are not sure ask to take the jamb out of the box and look at it at the store, they will not mind.