Securing Glass Panels: Clips or Channel?

February 13, 2012

The term frameless leads some people to believe that the glass is magically floating in air and is not attached or secured to anything. The term “frameless” should really be “lessframe”. The heavy glass “lessframe” shower enclosures that we sell and that are becoming more and more popular still utilize some metal framing components to secure the glass to the walls and base. This article shall discuss those framing components in greater detail.

The standard way for the glass door to be attached is by using wall mount hinges. If your frameless shower door also includes a stationary panel or two, the glass panels must be supported and attached along at least (2) sides, under normal circumstances. The easiest and most economical way for a DIYer to secure a panel is to use channel. With a profile of approximately 3/4 of an inch, the channel (also called U-channel) is very accommodating to the frameless look. The amount of visible metal is far, far less than that of a traditional framed shower.

The image below is of a brushed nickel piece of U-Channel (with the quarter) and a piece of header.

When installing the channel, the end user will just need to cut the metal to the appropriate length and secure it to the base or wall using a few screws. Silicone applied to the inside and outside edges creates a water tight seal.

U-channel panel

Some purists protest the channel however and claim that it distracts from the true “frameless look”. Thus an alternative approach is to use clips (sometimes called clamps). As shown below, clips perform the same function as the U-channel and secure the glass panels to the base and walls.
Frameless Shower with Clips

Whether or not you think clips provide a more “frameless” look is your own opinion. Personally, I feel that clips stand out while U-channel blends into the wall and creates a cleaner look. Either way, the pro side of the argument is subjective.

On the con side of the argument, clips are more precise and require greater skill to measure for and install. The additional play provided by U-channel is not present with clips. Further, clips will cost more money as each clip requires an additional hole or notch in the glass. Every fabrication to the glass can add as much as $25 to the price. The additional cost of the clip hardware must also be considered. Finally, unlike with U-channel, there will be a small gap between the base of the wall and glass. Depending on the type of clip and the installer, the gap could be as large as 3/16″. The end user must caulk this gap with silicone or water will rush out. There is no such open gap with U-channel (though caulking is still required).

In the end, it comes down to a balance between aesthetics and price. In an upcoming article I will discuss the different types of clips available and which ones we provide.

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