How to install a shower door

In the following article, the example used is a simple pivot shower door fitted between two vertical parallel walls.
Disclaimer
This article describes the general principles for fitting a shower door. Please note that none of the information contained herein should be interpreted as superseding any instructions provided with a proprietary product.  The manufacturer’s specific instructions should always be followed.
Preparation
PPPP – “preparation prevents poor performance’
Before unpacking the shower door or shower enclosure, always take time to read the manufacturer’s instructions. When fitting a shower door with a side or extra panels, the instructions are usually packaged with the shower door. If the instructions are missing or you wish to view them before delivery, try downloading a copy from the manufacturer’s website.
The instructions will usually contain the following:
·     Important guidelines for fitting the shower door.
·     Specific “do’s” and “don’ts”.
·     A list of tools required for the installation.
·     A list of parts with specific quantities and relevant part numbers.
·     Assembly instructions for any parts not pre-assembled.
·     Instructions for fitting the door.
·     Instructions for sealing the enclosure.
·     Information about the guarantee relating to the product.
·     Contact details for technical help or missing parts.
Tools required
A list of tools will probably be included in the manufacturer’s instructions, but if not, the following list may be useful.
·     An extra pair of hands (fitting a shower door is often a two person operation).
·     Sharp pencil.
·     Tape measure.
·     Long spirit level (1800-2000mm in length).
·     Masking tape.
·     Masonry drill bits (a specific drill bit is sometimes included with the product).
·     Metal or HSS drill bits
·     Phillips screw driver.
·     Cordless drill (a mains drill may be required to drill the walls depend upon the power of the cordless drill).
·     Stanley knife.
·     Good quality sanitary silicone sealant.
·     Silicone sealant application gun.
·     Silicone smoothing tool.
·     Water spray bottle (ensure it is clean, add a few drops of washing up liquid and fill with cold water).
·     Roll of paper towel.
·     Vacuum cleaner (with soft hand held brush attachment).
·     A soft dust sheet.
 Items to check before installation
·     Ensure that all necessary tiling and grouting has been completed.
·     Ensure that the tiling extends to the front of the shower tray (the shower door or enclosure must be fitted directly to a tiled wall).
·     Ensure that the shower tray is level on all sides and that there is no movement when standing in the tray.
·     Ensure that the shower tray is sealed to the tiles with silicone sealant and that the sealant has been left to cure for at least 24 hours before beginning the installation.
·     Make a final check of the plumbing installation and ensure that there are no leaks.
·     Ensure that the area is clean and tidy to avoid damage to the shower tray and allow silicone to adhere correctly.
·     Unpack the shower door and check all parts against the list of components for missing items. Contact the manufacturer immediately if parts are missing.
·     Inspect the shower door or enclosure carefully for damage before proceeding with the installation. Contact the manufacture immediately to report any damage.
·     Measure the shower door to ensure that the correct product is in the box.
Removing the shower enclosure from the packaging
Shower doors or enclosures are usually delivered in cardboard boxes with one panel per carton. However, some semi-frameless products are packaged with the door and slim in-line wall panel together.
Boxes are normally stapled or glued and may be reinforced with banding straps. Great care should be taken when opening boxes to avoid damaging the contents and packaging should be saved in case it is necessary to return faulty, damaged or incorrect goods. Work along the edges of the box removing any staples or separating the glue from the edge, taking care with staples that can be very sharp. Under no circumstances use a knife to cut through the packaging, which can damage the contents and invalidate the manufacturers guarantee.
Locate the instructions and read them thoroughly. Check the list of contents to ensure that the correct items and quantities have been supplied and carefully inspect each component for damage. If any parts are missing or damaged, make a list including part numbers and report the issue to the manufacture in accordance with any instructions provided by the manufacturer for reporting faults. The manufacturer’s instructions should be followed at all times and failure to do so may invalidate the guarantee.
The component parts of the shower
A simple pivot shower door consists of two wall channels and the door unit. For the novice or first time installer, it is important to understand that the actual door and aluminum surround will be ready mounted within the actual door frame. When the shower door is fitted into position, the sides of the shower door frame will locate into the two wall channels.  As the name implies, a pivot door is mounted on two pivot pins and these will be found at the top and bottom of the door.
The wall channels
The wall channels are normally ‘U’ shaped and have a series of fixing holes on the inside face. Some channels incorporate a flange with fixing holes protruding on one side and with this type the flange will normally point towards the inside of the shower enclosure. The wall channels provide the anchor to the wall for the shower door and a small degree of adjustment to compensate for walls that are not exactly vertical.
The shower door or enclosure is normally located 10 – 20mm back from the outside edge of the shower tray so that a watertight joint can be created with silicone sealant at the base of the door. Positioning the shower door adjacent to the outside edge of the shower tray will leave insufficient room to apply the sealant and could result in leaks. (The correct locating distance for the product should be clearly stated in the manufacturer’s instructions.)
The first task is to measure the correct position for the wall channels back from the outside edge of the shower tray and mark the walls with a pencil on both sides. Stand the first wall channel on top of the shower tray against one wall with the outside face lined up with the setting out line and place a long spirit level (preferably 1800mm- 2000mm in length) against the inside face of the wall channel. Move the top of the wall channel until the bubble at the top of the spirit level indicates that the channel is exactly vertical and then carefully mark the holes for the fixing screws. Repeat this process for the second channel. This part of the operation is critical to the successful installation and operation of the shower door and it is worth getting someone to help with this part of the task by either holding the wall channel or marking the hole positions.
Marking drill holes on ceramic or porcelain tiles can be very difficult and a useful tip is to stick masking tape to the wall either in a long vertical strip or in short strips where the holes are to be drilled. The tape will allow the hole positions to be marked easily and will also help to stop the drill bit wandering when each drill hole is started.
If the wall channels are not vertical and exactly parallel to the opposite wall, the frame will be twisted and the door will not close correctly. This is a very common problem with shower doors and causes the top and bottom of the closing door to meet the outer frame at different times with a characteristic double-clunk. This problem can also prevent the door from sealing correctly allowing water to leak from the enclosure. In most cases, the only remedy is to remove the door and refit the wall channels.
Drilling the walls
The precise procedure for drilling the walls will depend upon the type of wall construction and the material used to clad the walls. For ceramic tiles or softer wall coverings a propriety tile bit with a ground tungsten carbide tip or a sharp masonry bit are both suitable and are best used in a variable speed power drill on a slow speed (without hammer action). For very hard materials, such as porcelain tiles, a special drill bit will be required.
The normal fixing method with a block or brick wall will be with screws and wall plugs but it is important to ensure that the holes are deep enough for the wall plugs to be pushed into the wall beyond the surface of the wall covering. This will ensure that the screw does not crack the tile as it locates into the plug. If the underlying shower walls are formed of plywood, drill through the tile with a masonry bit and then use a smaller high speed steel (HSS) bit to make a pilot hole in the board. Masking tape on the ceramic tile where the hole is to be drilled can help prevent the bit from wandering and scratching the tile.
Porcelain, marble and granite are much harder and drilling these materials will normally require the use of a diamond core bit which comprises a hollow tube with a diamond cutting rim.  The absence of a sharp centre point makes the bit more difficult to guide and if using one for the first time, it is well worth practicing on a spare tile.  Diamond core bits can be purchased from most good tool shops for between £7 and £15 per bit and it may also be worth buying a proprietary guide kit, which both cools and guides the core drill.
The secret to using a diamond core bit is to operate it at a fairly low speed and to keep the tip cool either by frequently dipping the bit in a cup of cold water or having an assistant spray the drill bit with cold water while it is operating.  Avoid putting too much pressure onto the drill as this will over heat the bit and cause it to become blunt. Great care must be taken when drilling into marble and some types of stone, which have a tendency to chip and flake. If using a specialist wall covering such as Corian, always consult the supplier before attempting to drill holes.
Once all the required holes have been drilled, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any debris and dust from the shower tray, wall and the inside of the holes. It might also be necessary to wipe down the surface of the shower tray and walls with a damp cloth. Before the wall plugs are inserted into the wall it is a good idea to inject a small amount of silicone sealant into each hole to help prevent any moisture penetration. Push each wall plug into the hole ensuring that they sit into the surface below the tiles and wipe away any excess silicone sealant. The channels are now ready to be fitted.
Fitting the wall channel for the hinged side of the door
Decide which way round the door should operate, with the door handle on either the left or right. If the door is to open from the right side (when viewed from outside the enclosure), the hinge or pivot point will be on the left. The first wall channel to be screwed into place will be for the hinged side of the door.
Before finally fixing the first wall channel into place, run a thin line of silicone sealant up from the top of the shower tray to the first hole in the tiles. Although it is not generally a good idea to put silicone sealant behind the wall channels (because it can make them almost impossible to remove at a later date), a small amount at the base of the wall channels will help to prevent water ingress if the silicone sealant on either side of the channels subsequently perishes or splits.
Place the wall channel against the wall and insert the first screw into the upper most hole and wall plug. Wind the screw almost fully in stopping just before it starts to nip up then fit the screw to the bottom screw hole. Now check that the outside face of the wall channel is lined up with the setting out line marked onto the top surface of the shower tray and then partially tighten the lower screw. Place the long spirit level against the inside face of the wall channel, check that it is vertical and then fully tighten the upper most screw whilst ensuring that the wall channel does not move. Check the position of the bottom of the wall channel in relation to the setting out mark and adjust if necessary before fully tightening the lower fixing screw and then fit the remaining centre screws.
The action of tightening the screws sometimes causes the wall channel to move slightly and this can be checked by placing the spirit level against the inside face of the wall channel to and ensure that it has not become bowed. If the position of the wall channel has changed, loosen only the screws required to realign the wall channel. It can be useful to have an assistant hold the wall channel while the screws are tightened.
Fitting the second wall channel
When fitting a shower door between two walls, the gap between the walls will generally be too narrow to allow the door unit to locate between two fixed wall channels. The procedure is to push the second wall channel onto the handle side of the door and then push the hinge or pivot side of the whole door frame into the first fixed wall channel. Once the door is sitting into the wall channel and onto the shower tray, the screws can be fitted to the remaining wall channel from inside the door. Before this stage of the operation is carried out clean the inside and outside of both wall channels and the framework on either side of the door to remove any deposits which may scratch the frame. Polished and anodised aluminium, although hard wearing, is marked easily by sharp objects.
Just before the shower door and remaining wall channel are fitted to the wall repeat the process of applying a thin vertical bead of silicone sealant extending from the top of the shower tray up to the bottom of the first screw hole.
With the remaining wall channel fitted to the handle or opening side of the shower door, lift the door onto the shower tray and slide it into (or over depending upon the design of shower door) the wall channel previously screwed to the wall. To enable fixing of the second wall channel the door must now be opened and it is useful to have someone to support the door while the second wall channel is screwed into position. Remember that the door is not yet fixed into position and could slip out of the wall channel.
Open the door so that it is at 90 degrees to the shower tray, this will prevent the door from slipping forward. Stand inside the shower tray and push the remaining wall channel towards the wall, insert a screw through the upper most hole in the wall channel and wind it in stopping just before it starts to nip up. Repeat the process for the lower screw and place the long spirit level against the inside face of the wall channel. Ensure that the base of the wall channel is lined up with the setting out pencil mark on the shower tray and set the wall channel in the plumb position before tightening the upper and lower screws. Fit the remaining screws and check that the wall channel is still plumb and has not become bowed in the centre.
Centring and squaring the door
The shower door should now be held in place between the two wall channels although it can still be moved from side to side. Stand facing the shower door from the outside and carefully close the door ensuring that it does not catch on the outer frame at the top or bottom. Slide the door to the left or right within the wall channels until an equal amount of framework is visible on either side and the door is centred on the shower tray. This is now the correct position for the lower frame and it should not need to be moved again. The upper portion of the door must now also be centred, allowing the door to operate correctly.
When the door is in the closed position, viewed from the outside, there will normally be a visible gap on a pivot shower door between the top and bottom of the door and the outer frame that it closes into. The gap at the top and bottom should be equal across the width of the door. If the gap is not equal along the width, the door can catch on the outer frame when opened or sometimes leak because the drain channel at the base of the door can fill with water towards the handle rather than draining away towards the pivot or hinge point. The door should not be set in the vertical position using a spirit level, for the door to operate correctly it must be set at a right angle to the shower tray. By ensuring that the gap at the top and bottom of the door is parallel the door will be square with the shower tray and will open and close correctly.
Fixing the shower door to the wall channels
Once centred and square within the outer frame, the door should be held in position, ideally with assistance from another person. Stand inside the enclosure with the assistant holding one side of the frame at the top where it slides in to the wall channel. The outer frame is now fixed to the wall channel from inside the shower enclosure using a series of small screws. Holes must be drilled through the wall channel and outer shower door frame before fitting the screws which lock the two components together. The screws are covered by decorative and protective caps; some caps are push fit and others are in two pieces with a base like a washer that the screw sits into before it is wound into aluminium.
Some manufacturers supply a suitable drill bit for this process but if a drill bit is not supplied, the correct size will be stated in the fitting instructions. It is important to ensure that the drill bit is sharp and in good condition.  Some manufacturers indicate the fixing points with pre-spotted marks indicating where to drill the holes through the wall channel and frame; alternatively, the correct positions will be indicated in the instructions. If there are no pre-spotted marks provided on the frame take particular care when drilling the holes because the bit can easily wander causing unsightly marks on the aluminium frame. Drill the first hole at the top of the frame, ensuring that the drill passes cleanly through the wall channel and frame. Insert the first fixing screw to lock the wall channel and frame together. The locating screws are often stainless steel to prevent rusting but they are relatively soft and can snap so it important not to over-tighten them. Non-stainless steel screws will have an anti-corrosion coating but care is still need to prevent them from snapping.
With the upper most screw fitted the frame is held in place. Step out of the shower enclosure and operate the door, check that the gap between the door and outer frame is still parallel and the door and has not moved. It is advisable to vacuum any small aluminium filings after each hole is drilled to prevent scratching of the shower tray. Drill and fit the upper most screw in the opposite wall channel, both of the upper screws should now be fitted in place. Once again stand outside the door, check the gaps and operation of the door. If the door has moved for any reason push the frame slightly to the left or right at the base until a parallel gap is achieved between the door and outer frame.
Following the same process, drill and fit the lower screws to both wall profiles. The shower door should now be locked into position. Before fitting the centre screws to the outer frame and wall channel check that the frame has not been pinched by the wall channels. Often if the wall channel is tight on the outer frame the centre can be pinched and become slightly bowed. Place the spirit level against the two side frames and check that the outer door frame is straight where it meets the wall channel. If it is not, pull it out or push it slightly further into the wall channel. If the frame remains bowed the door may foul the outer frame when closed.  Now fit the final screws to the centre of the two side frames. The shower door should now be securely fitted to the walls and to the wall channels. The final task is to fit the cover caps over the screw heads.
Applying silicone sealant
With shower door fitted the final stage is to seal the enclosure. This creates a water proof seal between the shower door, tiled walls and tray but when the sealant has cured it also adds to the strength of the enclosure. Before any silicone sealant is applied, clean the shower tray and shower door thoroughly to remove any debris and grease that could prevent the silicone from adhering to the tray, tiles and frame.  Always use a good quality sanitary silicone sealant which will contain anti-fungal additives and mould inhibitors. Suitable silicone sealants can be purchased from good builder’s merchants, plumbing outlets or silicone specialists and can be easily located on the internet.
The normal procedure is to apply sealant in a vertical line to either side of the two wall channels which prevents water from passing behind them. The next, and possibly the most important, place to apply silicone sealant is horizontally along the front of the shower door frame where it sits onto the shower tray. This seal is crucial and unless the manufacturer’s instruction specifically state otherwise, sealant should only be applied to the outside of the shower door. The reason for this is to do with drainage; water and moisture from condensation will get into the frame of the shower door, which is designed to allow this to happen. If the water can flow out of the frame easily from underneath the frame back into the shower tray, the enclosure will remain waterproof.
Leaks from shower doors are usually a result of too much silicone sealant being applied, rarely too little. If the shower door frame is sealed to the shower tray on the inside the frame cannot drain and water will start to build up inside the extrusion.  Because water always follows the path of least resistance, the enclosure will start to leak from the joints in the frame and where the outer frame slides in to or over the wall channels. This problem can also cause unpleasant damp smells because water trapped in the base of the frame can become stagnant, further information regarding this issue can be viewed in the ‘Shower Problems’ section of the Shower Advisor. Some manufacturers may also advise that a small amount of silicone sealant should be to apply to the vertical joints between the frame and wall channels to a height of 100mm above the tray.
Once all of the silicone sealant has been applied to the shower door, it should be left to cure for at least 24 hours or it will not cure correctly. This could result in the sealant having to be removed and replaced which is a very messy and time consuming task. For more detailed information and instruction on how to apply silicone sealant you may wish to read the guide provided in the How To’section of Shower Advisor.

 

 

30 June 2011
More "How To..."