There are a wide variety of units available at your local home improvement store and installing a shower door is something the homeowner with basic skills can do on a weekend
“Options include finish (chrome and brass are common), along with glass type: clear, opaque, and patterned,” says Bob Beall, master plumber and owner of Mr Rooter Pittsburgh, Youngstown and in March 2013, an expansion into Dayton Ohio and surrounding areas.
“Although models vary from one manufacturer to the next, most sliding doors (often called bypass doors) consist of six main parts: a top and bottom track, a pair of side channels, and two doors,” says Mr Rooter, the most referred plumbing and drain specialist in the world.
“The doors are suspended from, and slide along, the top track that bridges the side channels,” says Beall. Side channels fit into the bottom track and when caulked, create a watertight seal around the perimeter. Channels in the bottom track keep the doors from hitting each other as they’re slid from side to side. One or more towel racks may attach to the doors.
BONUS TIP: “Most door kits are designed to accommodate a range of shower sizes – make sure to have your shower measurements in hand when shopping for one,” says Beall.
Tip 1 Measure and cut the bottom track. Measure the width of the shower receptor. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to cut the track to length if necessary (usually it’s cut narrower than the opening to allow the side channels to slip over its ends).
Tip 2 Locate the bottom track. Once the track is cut to length, position it on the ledge of the shower receptor so there’s an even gap at both ends and so the track is centered on the width of the receptor’s ledge. Use masking tape to temporarily hold it in place.
Tip 3 Mark the side channels. Since the side channels support the top track and therefore the weight of the doors, it’s important that they be firmly secured to the walls. In most situations they won’t align with wall studs. That means you’ll need to secure them with hollow wall anchors. Use a level to plumb each side channel and mark the mounting hole locations onto the walls.
Tip 4 Drill holes for the channel fasteners. Drill appropriate-sized holes in the side panels for your hollow anchors (usually enclosed with your shower door kit).
Tip 5 Install the side channel fasteners. Once the anchor holes are drilled in the side panels, insert the hollow wall fasteners. Take care to tap these in place gently to keep from damaging the side panels.
TRADE SECRET: If the walls of your shower are tiled, you will need a glass bit or tile bit to drill through the tile. Glass or tile bits are designed just for “drilling” (actually grinding) through tile and glass. They use a diamond-pointed or a tungsten-carbide tip to grind their way through the glass. You can find glass and tile bits at hardware stores and home centers. When using one, apply constant and steady pressure; if you see visible chips, you’re not pressing hard or steadily enough.
Tip 6 Install the bottom track. Before you install the side channels the bottom track needs to be removed, caulked, and replaced. Apply beads of silicone as directed and set the track in place. Some instructions will advise using masking or duct tape to hold the track in place until the silicone sets up.
Tip 7 Secure the side channels. Now you can reposition each of the side channels and secure them to the wall using the screws provided with the hollow wall anchors. IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s a good idea to use a level to check for plumb as you do this and to adjust the position of the side channel(s) as needed.
Tip 8 Install the top track. With the side channels in place, you can attach the top track, cutting it if necessary to fit. IMPORTANT NOTE: As the top track usually fits over the side channels, it’s cut longer than the bottom track. Set the track in place over the side channels, and secure it to the side channels if screws are provided for this. On some door kits, the weight of the doors is all that’s required to hold the top track in place.
Tip 9 Attach the door rollers. Now you can install the doors. You’ll probably first have to attach the rollers to the top flanges of each door. Take care to follow the directions, as the rollers are often installed differently on each door.
Tip 10 Install the door panels. When the rollers are in place, grip a door firmly on the sides with both hands and lift it up into a channel in the top track so the rollers slip in place. Then pivot the door in so the bottom rests in the corresponding channel in the bottom track. Repeat for the other door. If towel racks are supplied, attach them now.
Tip 11 Final caulking step. All that’s left is to follow the manufacturer’s directions on applying caulk to create a water-tight seal between the side channels and bottom track and the shower enclosure. Maje sure to use 100% silicone for this: It will hold up the best over time.
Tip 12 Silicone drying time. It would probably be a good idea to give the caulking 24 hours to provide the best job. Although it isn’t absolutely necessary – it is highly recommended. Silicone will remain pliable, but can be safely cleaned even with bleach and it will not dissolve. Clear is never, fully clear – check your local home improvement store, perhaps you can match the color to tile or tub – white is always a clean look. Try not apply more caulking than necessary and keep a clean damp cloth (acetone), available for fingertips and drips onto bathtub or floor. Wipe immediately and wear old clothes.