With so many shower enclosures on the market, it’s difficult to choose the one that’s right for your bathroom space. Competition for your custom is particularly stiff around the £200-£300 price bracket (Sept 2018), there are literally hundreds of models to choose from. Which are the best shower enclosures on the market?
We thought we’d write a quick guide on the features to look out for regardless of price. These are the features and benefits that you should consider in order to make an informed purchase. So in no particular order here are our top 10 best shower enclosures features to keep an eye out for.
Thickness Of Glass
Above all features manufacturers always try to sell shower enclosures based on the thickness of the glass. Be it cheap contract 4mm, standard fair 6mm or designer enclosure 8 and 10mm. It’s like the processor speed of a computer or the BHP of a car. Some manufacturers such as Image of Ireland even offer 12 or 15mm on their Escape range.
Does it really matter?
Well, there’s certainly something to be said for the robustness of the space with thicker glass. Showering in an 8mm unit feels more cut off from the world than in a 4mm offering. It’s a little like comparing closing the door on a premium car to that of a cheap runaround. it just feels better.
Generally, the thicker the glass the deeper your pockets will need to be.
You also need to bear in mind delivery and fitting costs when dealing with heavy 10mm models, it’s a 2 man job. If you’re purchasing for a family bathroom then we’d say go for at least a 6mm offering, this will be safe, robust and the choice is plentiful.
Perhaps more important is that the glass is to British Safety Standards, this will shatter upon heavy impact in a safe fashion. The laminated glass will form cubic shapes and be kept in a single sheet rather than forming dangerous shards and covering the floor.
If buying from a showroom look out for markings like the European Standard EN 12150 for flat glass or for curved glass lookout for toughened/safety or possibly European Standard EN14428. Online check the specifications for a mention of the above safety standard rating.
Be wary of cheap 8 and 10mm models. Remember thicker glass also requires upgraded associated parts, stronger profiles and rollers that can take an increased weight. This comes at a cost so unless you’re buying something in a sale keep clear of anything below £200 unless it’s a single wetroom screen such as that of the value for money Aquatech 10mm.
No Need To Clean with Easy Clean Glass Coatings
While we’re on the subject of glass it’s worth mentioning easy clean coatings. Under a microscope glass has a rough surface with peaks and troughs, this allows water droplets, dirt and limescale to stick to the surface. An easy clean glass treatment essentially fills the voids and allows water to run off more easily.
Manufacturers have umpteen names for it but essentially they all serve the same purpose, Merlyn calls it Mershield, ShowerLux calls it Shower Shield (see image above) while Aquaglass call it Aquashield, you get the picture.
This feature used to be only found on more expensive models but this can now be found on budget enclosures such as the Merlyn Vivid Two or Aquaglass Purity ranges. So if you want to save yourself time cleaning then choose a model with this feature.
Cut & Shaped Glass Detailing
A recent introduction is that of cut and shaped glass. Rounded profiles or cutouts whereby rollers can sit on top of the actual glass edge. This looks stunning and also reduces the need for some mechanical parts improving product longevity. Take a look at the sliding door and fixed panel on this Aquaglass+ product. The likes of Merlyn, Aquaglass+ and .dilusso have also used cutout glass to replace the need for a handle, genius!
Have it Your Way with the Finish of Glass
You wouldn’t think that there would be that many things you could do with glass but another current trend in the market is to offer different finishes. This is particularly true of enclosure spaces made up of wetroom screens.
Phoenix offers a 1 way mirrored glass feature while April offers some of their Identiti2 models in smoked glass. Aquaglass+ also have frosted modesty glass and tinted designer glass offerings on the market at prices the big brands can’t match. The dark smoked/tinted glass looks particularly contemporary in design and can even be matched up with a black coloured shower tray.
Contemporary Black Wall Profiles
It was bound to happen. First came the options for glass finish and now some enclosures are available with black profiles.
Back in the day white and gold profiles were all the rage. For the last few years, those have made way for chrome. White just looked too cheap while the gold finish would eventually come off owing to some enthusiastic cleaning rituals.
Now we have black and if you have a more modern home (or a bachelor pad) it could really look the part. Aquaglass seem to be the main instigators of this trend.
What we would say is if you have children and are precious about finger prints marking the black matt finish then stick to the chrome. Otherwise, go for it. The profiles are still aluminium made and will stand up just as well to contact with water.
Branded or Unbranded Products?
Branded or unbranded. Every time we would go for a branded shower enclosure. You need to know that products that include metal and glass have come from a reputable source that will adhere to any local or national guidelines. Buying a cheap unbranded unit from eBay might save a few pounds upfront but do you know where it was made, what factory, what’s the provenance of the product? Will it come with instructions and will you be able to source spare seals or rollers?
With a branded enclosure the answer will almost certainly be yes.
Consider reputable brands such as HSK, Merlyn, Mira, Ultra, Phoenix, Aqualux and Premier or at the very least brands that are owned by a stable manufacturer such as Frontlines own AquaGlass and AquaGlass+ brands.
Reduce Hassle with Easy Fit Shower Enclosures
A relatively new development is the introduction of easy fit shower enclosures. Manufacturers such as Ultra Finishing, owners of the Hudson Reed, Ultra and Premier brands, have listened to the market and understand that not everyone is going to employ the services of a plumber or builder to fit an enclosure, many home DIYers want to have a go themselves.
Easy fit models make it easier for a single fitter to accomplish the task that is generally meant for 2.
Choose models such as the Hudson Reed Apex or new Mira Leap range if you value easy fitting. The Apex, or Matrix range as previously called, have profiles with T-Shaped connectors that securely slot together without the need for screws. The fit was snug on the example we looked at and formed a perfectly robust showering space. The Mira Leap has a patented ‘Twist & lock’ screwless installation system, we haven’t yet seen this in action but have heard good things from industry professionals.
As well as the Apex range Ultra have now adopted and filtered down this fitting ingenuity to their cheaper Pacific and Ella ranges.
Quiet Please – Cushion or Piston Soft Closing Buffers
In a busy family environment, anything that can potentially reduce noise or prevent slamming is a real plus point. On better-specified enclosures, some manufacturers have fitted cushion stops to their sliding door models. These can be a simple metal stop with rubber cushioning while better models incorporate a sprung and dampened piston. If the door is flung open with a little too much force these buffers will help bring the door to a halt a little more quietly and gentler than if they weren’t fitted.
Quality Quick Release Shower Door Rollers
On all but the very cheapest of shower enclosures with sliding doors you should be looking out for metal bodied rollers with metal, ideally sealed stainless steel bearings rather than plastic constructed offerings. These allow the doors to glide smoothly and quietly rather than juddering along. Furthermore, they will last much longer. The spring clip mechanism built into rollers on many shower doors also allow the door to be clipped off to allow for easy cleaning of the enclosure space.
Even on the best shower enclosures, this will be one of the parts that you may have to renew after extended use so get the best you can in the first place. Also, ask the retailer if spares are available or covered under warranty. ShowerLux, for example, has a dedicated spares website. (Mar 2017) Unfortunately, the ShowerLux brand is no longer available in the UK, though spare parts are.
It’s worth pointing out that fitting the rollers to the shower doors, top and bottom is one of the most fiddly aspects of constructing the enclosure space. Your fitter will thank you if the rollers are already pre-fitted to the door or if they are at least of a decent quality.
Cheaper spring clip examples have been known to explode when taking them out of the box!
Don’t Cut Corners on Door Furniture
If you have a limited budget we would always advise ensuring your money is going on the aspects of the enclosure that impact safety or durability. For instance, make sure the glass is to European Standards. Beyond this, if budget allows look out for good quality door furniture, handles, trims, magnetic closure and seals.
The cheapest enclosures tend to come with plastic d shape handles. This is all very well if it’s a means of getting down the base price to be more affordable but if you can spend the extra few pounds then do so. Chrome on brass handles are the way to go and at the high end, these often have a square box-like design. Usually, a knob-like handle is also fitted internally so that you can open from the inside after showering.
Complete Waterproofing with Self Sealing Profiles
On some mid, to high-end showers the profiles that come into contact with the shower tray or wall are self-sealing. They have a strip of rubberised silicon that mates the surface to the wall and provides a watertight seal. It works best if the grout between your tiling comes out almost to the same level as the tile. Better still fit the shower against a flat Showerwall waterproof panelled surface.
This is a nice touch and can be seen on enclosures from Vogue Aqua Latus and Sanucci 8 Series ranges. Sadly neither of these models are no longer available in the UK (June 15 Update) but some high-end enclosures do incorporate this feature. Regardless a seasoned plumber will always run their own bead of silicon too but hey it won’t do any harm.
Zero Frustration with Good Quality Instructions
Good quality instructions might not get the juices flowing but if you’ve ever tried to fit a piece of flat-pack furniture with a poor set you’ll certainly appreciate them. Some cheap units we’ve seen on eBay come with barely legible wording and only the poorest of exploded parts diagrams.
If you want instruction heaven do yourself or your plumber a favour and make life easier with models from Mira or Aquaglass. These companies have paid for a technical author and illustrator to produce IKEA standard instructions. Good instructions will reduce the time it takes for a plumber or builder to fit, give you a check list of parts that should be present and potentially save you a few pounds.
Avoid the Non-Existent After Sales Service
Buying that cheap and cheerful enclosure from eBay for a £100 delivered might seem like a good idea but what do you really expect for that? Bearing in mind the retailer will be turning a profit and then the price will be split between eBay’s slice, delivery costs, packaging and the actual cost of the product that doesn’t leave a lot to factor into after sales service.
After sales service isn’t free, a retailer has to factor this into the running costs of a business so the old adage of you only get what you pay for is true. Do you really think you can spend a £100 on eBay on some no-name enclosure then go back to that retailer in a years time when the rollers have broke, best of luck with that. That’s not to say there aren’t good retailers or products on eBay, we just implore you not to go too cheap and cheerful.
Best Shower Enclosures Features
We hope we’ve given you some food for thought and maybe mentioned 1 or 2 things that aren’t so obvious on the feature list. It’s not just the features that marketing people push at you that is important, look beyond the obvious.
If you let us know the best shower enclosures features that you’re on the look out for in order to make a buying decision then we’ll expand our list, happy shopping.
Sept 2018 Update
This blog piece was always written with the intention of giving people food for thought in terms of the things they to consider prior to purchasing a shower enclosure. The idea was that you’d bear in mind all of the above and match to the requirements of your own home. Despite that, we’ve had numerous private messages asking us which we think is the best.
With years of experience of these products, we’ve put a list below of the 3 ranges that we feel currently (Sept 2018) offer the best features and value for money in the budget, mid and premium price ranges. If something usurps these ranges or they’re no longer available we’ll change the info.
So drum roll…
The Budget King
If you’re on a budget then a few months ago we would have highly recommended Merlyn’s Vivid Two range of doors and enclosures. This range combines excellent build quality with great looks, the backing of a big brand and instructions that won’t leave your fitter baffled.
However, we advised that the Vivid 2’s days were numbered in the UK and unfortunately that day has been and gone. Like any product once it becomes popular prices are driven down and then they become nonviable for the manufacturer.
Our budget alternative is now the Pacific range from Ultra Finishing. This is a vast range with options for all bathroom shapes and sizes. The fact that prices of this range have come down considerably recently and the inclusion of the EasyFit system from the more expensive Apex range makes this range our budget king.
Mid Market Maestro’s
At the mid-range, there is a wealth of quality options but bang for buck we’d go with the Hudson Reed Apex range from Ultra. There are quadrants, offset quadrants, sliding and hinged door options. All have an excellent no quibble guarantee and the design makes them relatively easy to install.
Money No Object
If money is no object then consider the HSK or Aquaglass+ ranges. You’ll need deep pockets for the HSK Free Curve but the HSK Vita Pivot door is a bit more affordable yet still has the same German engineering flair and bomb proof construction.
The Aquaglass+ range has more variation and will be a little more affordable to most. We especially love the sliding door with cutout glass detailing. The tinted quadrant, frameless 10mm quadrant and frosted walk-in are also seriously worthy of consideration if you have the budget.
It’s worth mentioning that some HSK models are imported from Germany so delivery can be up to 3 weeks. No retailer will stock them due to the expense. The Aquaglass range, however, is available within 1-2 working days due to the fact that the distributor Frontline is responsible for the brand.
A Real Discount Code
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