Framed, Semi-Framed & Frameless Shower Enclosures: Which One’s Which?

November 1, 2021

When it comes to glass shower enclosures, there are three primary types from which to choose: framed, semi-frameless, and fully-frameless shower enclosures. These three distinct types differ from each other in many ways—both in the materials used to make them, and the cost of labor to install them. As you’ll soon discover, they also weigh differently—each bearing varying thicknesses of glass, look different—offering various hardware finishes and styles, and come with their own unique benefits. 

The three types of shower enclosures can vary so much, in fact, that making the distinction (and the decision) between one and the others is often the first step when it comes to purchasing a new shower enclosure. That’s why we wrote this post—because when it comes to buying glass shower enclosures—no choice is more pivotal, or more important. 

Read on to learn more about the different kinds of shower enclosure designs, and find out what type is the best choice for your unique shower enclosure needs. 

Fully-Framed Shower Enclosures

Fully Framed Shower Enclosure

Fully-framed shower enclosures are completely framed showers—made with framed glass panels, doors, and material across the top, bottom, and sides. Cost-effective, practical, and easy to install, they’re among the most common of shower enclosure installations. 

Fully-framed glass shower enclosures are typically made from 3/16 inch glass that’s thinner compared to frameless and semi-frameless enclosures, but with their own frames, are often more stable. Their doors are attached directly to the frame, with metallic handles typically attached on the edge. Fully enclosed, they tend to make a big, bold visual statement, while providing maximum water retention. 

Benefits of Fully-Framed Shower Enclosures

  • Practical, more affordable option
  • Simpler, cheaper installation
  • Maximum water retention
  • Great way to complement other bathroom finishes

Cost of Fully-Framed Shower Enclosures

Practical and common, fully framed shower enclosures are often the most affordable, budget-friendly option when it comes to glass shower enclosures. They’re often made with thinner glass and aluminum hardware that’s cheaper, and are usually easier to install, ensuring cheaper labor. Installation typically ranges between $600 and $900, depending on materials, local labor, and the size of your shower. 

Semi-Enclosed Shower Enclosures

Semi-Enclosed Shower Enclosure

Typically thought of as a midway between framed and frameless enclosures, semi-frameless shower enclosures have frames along the top and/or sides, with glass doors that can slide or swing at a hinge. This provides a frame that doesn’t totally enclose the door, giving it the same “unobscured view” of a frameless shower, without the cost associated with it. While semi-frameless shower enclosures do require maintenance to keep the edges clean, the doors themselves don’t have a frame—and can be easily cleaned with a squeegee. 

Semi-frameless enclosures are typically made with ¼ inch clear glass, and feature hinges made of aluminum hardware and adjoining panels of glass, leaving the outside edges frameless. This results in a lighter, more transparent look that’s often no less sturdy than a fully framed enclosure.

Benefits of Semi-Enclosed Shower Enclosures

  • Ideal for incorporating shower finishes without obstructing the view
  • More affordable option than frameless shower enclosures
  • Shows off your shower more
  • Easier to clean & more hygienic than fully framed

Cost of Semi-Enclosed Shower Enclosures

Semi-frameless are often more expensive than completely framed shower enclosures (but less than frameless), as they require slightly heavier glass and more labor. That said, semi-frameless shower installs typically range from $800-$1,300, including the cost of labor and materials. 

Frameless Shower Enclosures

A frameless glass shower enclosure is exactly what it sounds like. These types of shower enclosures aren’t supported by frames, and are instead mounted to the sides of your shower space via mounting hinges and channels. This creates a striking, seamless, and elegant look—ideal for modern homes.

Open as they are, frameless glass shower enclosures allow in a lot of light, making the bathroom brighter and highlighting the other features of the shower—such as tile designs, or custom shower systems. They’re also easier to clean and maintain compared to framed shower enclosures—as they lack the metallic frame from which corrosion can so often build up. 

Frameless enclosures are typically made from 3/8inch to 1/2inch glass that’s thick and heavy—strong enough to maintain its shape, with custom-made brass hardware that’s installed directly on the glass. This creates the “floating” glass appearance that frameless enclosures are known for, while providing a minimalist and modern look that compliments the rest of your bath.

Fully Frameless Shower Enclosure

Benefits of Frameless Enclosures

  • More elegant; with a clean, premium look 
  • Custom crafted, frameless enclosures fit more design options
  • Shows off your shower more
  • Easier to clean & maintain, plus more hygienic
  • Quiet enclosure — your doors won’t creak

Cost of Frameless Shower Enclosures

It’s no surprise that frameless shower enclosures are more expensive than framed and semi-framed shower enclosures. They’re a premium option—often made of distinct hardware finishes and heavy glass—that must be custom cut to a showers’ own unique size and fit. They’re also more difficult to install, since every tiled wall or shower enclosure is different. Most walls lean out—either at the top or the bottom—and most “tub decks'' (the area your glass rests on) are slightly uneven. This makes for a harder installation that often requires professional planning and fabrication to get right. 

Frameless shower enclosures typically range from $1,500-$2,100 for a full installation, but can fluctuate depending on the size of your shower and the cost of materials and local labor. 


Decided on a shower design? Resolute on a framed, frameless, or semi-frameless shower enclosure? Curious to learn about all your options?

Depending on the type of shower enclosure you go with, you can also choose from a variety of other ancillary options to make your enclosure more unique. Not only can you choose the thickness of the glass you have installed, but also the glass style—including both its texture and design. You can also choose from various coatings (which protect against corrosion), as well as hardware types, styles and finishes for a truly custom look.

Ready and set on your next shower enclosure, but not sure how to make it happen? Contact Southwestern Home Products to find out how we can help. Our shower enclosure experts can measure the size requirements of your shower space, and work with you to create a custom enclosure that looks as good as it fits. From frameless, semi-frameless and fully-framed shower enclosures, we have a wide selection of enclosure styles to choose from, and would love to help you find the best option among them. 

Contact us now to schedule a free consultation!

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