A properly installed shower enclosure will last for many years and protect the floorboards and walls of your house from water damage. There are two basic types of enclosure, framed and frameless, and although framed enclosures are easier to fit, frameless ones look much more upmarket.
The Tray is the Foundation of a Good Shower
Assuming the shower is being placed against a wall, or in a corner of the bathroom, there will be one or more walls that need to be waterproofed before the enclosure is fitted. Some enclosure kits come with full-height plastic panels that can be attached to those walls but the usual method is to fix ceramic tiles. Either way, it usually makes sense to fit the shower tray first.
The shower tray needs to be absolutely level so take time and care. If the enclosure did not come with a tray then make sure the tray you buy is the correct size. Many resin or acrylic trays will flex considerably and, even if they come with adjustable legs, it might be worth raising the floor under the tray to give the middle of the tray some support. Undue flexing will break the bond between the tray and the walls of the enclosure and lead to leaks.
Attaching the Structure
Once the tray is in position and it’s time to tile the walls and bond them to the shower tray sealed with silicone sealant. The enclosure will need to be mounted onto the tiles, not a plastered wall, which means drilling through the tiles, tricky but not impossible. Note that many shower enclosures, particularly those made from glass, which is a lot heavier than plastic, will have to be mounted to a solid wall, not a stud partition.
There will be specific instructions with the shower enclosure that you have purchased so follow those to the letter. In general, the things that will make a difference between a professional looking job and one that just isn’t as good will be the fit and finish. Check time and time again that the glass (or plastic) walls of the enclosure are vertical and correctly aligned with the walls.
Try a Dry Run
Before finally installing the walls and door, assemble everything first to check that it fits. Hang the door and test it for opening and closing, and make any adjustments that are necessary, then take it all apart again to assemble it properly. This might sound like a pain but it’s much easier than finding out you have to take it apart to fix a problem after you’ve spread silicon sealant along every join.
Seal With Care
Once the walls are fitted you can run the sealant around the edges where they are attached to the walls. With a frameless enclosure you shouldn’t have to put any sealant between the glass walls, in fact it will ruin the frameless effect. With some framed models, you may need to run sealant around the frame before inserting the clear panels. If so, make sure you clean the excess of as best you can so that it doesn’t squeeze out of the frame and set on the glass.
When you are applying the sealant, take care to keep the bead an even thickness throughout each run. This is easier if you can do each run in one pass. Then use a rounded spatula to spread the sealant into the join in a gentle curve and wipe off the excess. This should give a uniform look to the joins, again enhancing the overall finish.
For others like me who have a problem making good looking joints with silicon sealant I now mask up with paper masking tape first. It can be very awkward and fiddly but the results are well worth it.