The final detail to a luxurious shower is a glass shower surround. It not only functions to keep the water contained, but it doesn’t block the view of the shower tile and helps the room to feel larger rather than boxing off the shower with an opaque surround or a curtain.
Shower surrounds vary widely. It seems like the most popular ones are the frameless type that don’t have metal that frames each piece of glass. Instead, the thick, tempered glass is mounted in a couple places and sealed with a gasket or just silicone caulk. Without a frame the surround may seem to disappear, especially if you keep it clean.
Often a shower surround is a custom design that you can purchase through a specialty glass & mirror store. They will design and fabricate the surround to exactly fit your shower. These can often be very expensive so if you can avoid a custom surround you can save some money. I advise my clients to try to design the shower to fit a standard size so that a stock surround will fit. This was the case with this particular neo-angle surround in the corner of a bathroom in East Nashville.
Long before I arrived my clients purchased a Vigo 36″ Neo-Angle Frameless Glass Surround from Overstock.com. These sell for between $700-800. I was somewhat skeptical at first, wanting to have it on the jobsite before I started to make sure all the pieces seemed to be there and that I could design the shower to be a perfect fit for the surround. Before ordering a surround it’s good to check the actual measurments and make sure it’s what you want. For example, this 36″ surround is made to fit on the center of a curb that is 36″ from the wall, that means the surround is actually only around 34″ from the wall. This can be tricky so double check everything from the beginning.
The surround arrived in a large cardboard box as you can see in the pictures above. It blows me away that you can ship these huge pieces of glass through UPS or FedEx. It was packed extremely well and everything was labeled clearly to assist with assembly.
The most important thing about installing a surround is to make absolutely sure that your walls are plumb and your curb is level. You have only a tiny bit of room for any adjustment once you start assembling the surround. If something is out of plumb/level the door won’t fit right or you’ll have gaps in places that might let water out. It’s also very helpful to make sure there are studs in the exact places where the mounts will be attached. They sent some drywall hangers in the kit, but I don’t think you want a glass door to be supported by a drywall hanger! If it starts to pull out the door will not close properly and you won’t be singing in the shower anymore!
When you are assembling a surround for the first time, it can be confusing to figure out the instructions, especially about how all the plastic gasket pieces fit on the glass on how they need to be cut so they fit together well. When in doubt, cut it a little long and trim it later.
The first step is to screw the rail down to the curb that the glass and door threshold rests on. For making small holes through the tile, you’ll probably want to get a diamond tipped bit. Home Depot sells one with a little water reservoir that helps the bit stay cool and last longer. It’s around eleven bucks and worth every penny. You definitely don’t want to crack a tile after it’s installed and have to fix that. You can read more about drilling those holes at this post.
Once the curb rail is in, you have to attach the mounts on either wall that support the glass vertically. The mounts are made up of two pieces of metal that are screwed together to sandwich the glass in the middle. There are some plastic pieces that go next to the glass to keep it from slipping. Again, the key is to attach the mounts perfectly plumb above the curb rail. I find that my laser level/plumbline again is quite helpful for marking the location of all the mounts.
After the walls and door are in, this surround had a couple angle-brackets that install at the top for added extra stability to the entire stucture. With everything in place, I caulked all the joints as directed by the instructions and made sure the door was closing tightly and easily.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the Vigo surround. The shower looked awesome and the glass surround, while still a hefty investment, was a great value, especially compared to anything custom made. It just takes a lot of planning to bring it all together.