For (true) frameless shower doors, you have 2 choices when it comes to the thickness of the glass used. The most common thickness is 3/8″. Some people choose to upgrade to the thicker 1/2″ glass. Is one better than the other? Which one should you choose? What’s the difference? Let me tell you…
First off, let me discuss the glass used in standard framed showers. Framed showers (typically) do not use the same “heavy glass” that is used in frameless showers. They don’t need to. All of the additional metal framing provides most of the support for the door or panels. Typically, glass of the following thicknesses is used in a framed shower: 3/16″, 5/32″ and 1/4″.
If you’ve ever opened a framed shower door that doesn’t use heavy glass, you may have noticed that the door “wobbles” due to the thin glass vibrating.
With a frameless heavy glass shower, the supporting metal is not present. The thicker glass weighs at least 5 lbs per square foot and provides substantially more support. When you open a 3/8″ thick frameless glass door, you do not notice any wobbling or glass vibration.
So – to the question of whether you should choose 3/8″ or 1/2″ for your frameless shower. The difference between 3/8″ heavy glass and 1/4″ glass is clearly noticeable by just opening the shower door. However, by upgrading to 1/2″ glass, you will not notice a huge difference over 3/8″. Sure, the door is going to feel more solid and will be slightly heavier to open, but it’s not like a 3/8″ door is blowing in the wind.
Structurally, you are not really gaining any advantage over 3/8″ by using 1/2″. Reputable glass shops (ourselves included) will never sell you and will never install a 3/8″ frameless shower that is not absolutely structurally sound.
A major negative for upgrading to 1/2″ glass is disproportionately higher costs. Not only are you paying more for the thicker glass per square foot but you also must pay for heavier duty hardware designed to support the added weight of the thicker glass. You may also have to pay more in labor (if having it installed). A single installer could handle a 30 x 78 x 3/8 door weighing approximately 80 lbs. Two installers would be required to handle the same door in 1/2 glass weighing approximately 110 lbs.
So why pay the money to upgrade to 1/2 glass? From a value perspective, you’re not gaining anything for your money by getting the thicker glass. However, some people may simply prefer the upgraded look and feel as well as the premium price they paid to get it. And that’s ok by me.