Volume 41, Issue 12 - December 2006

A Look at What Some Say are the Hot Trends in Shower Doors
by Paul Williams

It might have a refrigerator, television, chaise lounge, stereo surround system, art on the walls or even a fireplace. The “not-so-great room” has become a “really great room” as homeowners across the country take their relaxation to entirely new levels spending not only more time, but also more money in their bathrooms. Bathrooms had come out of the closet blossoming from functional spaces into at-home spas offering the latest in bathroom luxury and upscale amenities.

According to the 2006 K+BB Market Forecaster, the projected number of bathroom jobs costing more than $8,000 will total 921,000 units, accounting for $21.73 billion, luxury bathrooms are quickly becoming the standard, not extraordinary. And with an average price tag of $26,052 to convert an existing bathroom to a luxury getaway and $47,212 to add a luxury bathroom, homeowners are sparing no expense in creating their in-home getaways.

The greatest escape proves to be shower enclosures, providing a more exhilarating, efficient alternative to whirlpool baths. Homeowners are rejuvenating their bodies and their minds by stepping into glass enclosed shower environments bejeweled with ornamental tile that feature multi-function showerheads, body sprays and jets, state-of-the art thermostat controls and steam units.

 “We’re in the business of remodeling bathrooms, and time after time, project after project, the focus of the room and where we spend the most time and energy is the shower,” reports Emily Burton, producer of the DIY Network’s “Bathroom Renovations” program. “More than anything else, people want a fantastic shower, and ‘bigger is better’ is the overwhelming trend. We’re doing custom jobs, so we work with custom shower doors of the highest quality. It’s always amazing what a clean, polished look that final touch gives to the bathroom.”

Frameless First
Frameless shower doors are the fastest growing trend within the category. Popular among homeowners because they do not appear restrictive, and because they provide a large, open feeling in the bathroom, frameless doors also offer the advantage of being easier to clean.

 “When it comes to glass in a shower, we’re seeing a pretty consistent trend of clear, thick, frameless swing doors. People want a quality, functional shower door that doesn’t detract from the beauty of their shower or the rest of the bathroom,” explains Burton.

 Brian Becker, general manager of White Bear Glass in White Bear Lake, Minn., agrees. 
“We’re seeing more and more customers interested in as little frame or hardware as possible. The demand is especially high for heavy glass frameless shower enclosures,” says Becker.

Sizing up Your Options
The average shower size has grown in the last few years. A simple 36-inch shower stall is a thing of the past. It’s not unusual to see shower stalls up to 72 inches wide and 42 inches deep or even “shower rooms.” With the bigger size comes the room for more amenities.

“Showers today are also about the water features—body jets, body spray tiles, adjustable-height spray arms, even computerized shower systems that do all the work for you,” says Burton. “Then there are the extra accessories: mood lights, skylights, steam generators, ambient music systems, even hands-free telephones.”

Becker reports that his customers are asking for taller doors to accommodate shower heads that are being located higher on the wall than in the past, typically around 78 inches off the shower floor.

“We’re starting to see a trend in heavy glass steam enclosures,” reports Michael Zelle of Viking Glass in North Canton, Ohio. “These enclosures are fabricated with mitered glass edges to contain the steam in the shower. Adding transoms to the enclosure also allows steam to be vented if the homeowner wants to take a ‘normal’ shower.”

All That Glass
While many glass options are available for shower doors, clear glass continues to be the top choice for homeowners. Clear glass sets the stage for showcasing tile work and can make bathrooms look larger.

 “Traditional solid color fiberglass units are a thing of the past. We’re seeing wall and floor treatments customized with tile, granite, marble or a combination of materials,” says Dan Traynor, president of Traynor Glass in Hampstead, N.H. “We encourage our customers to show off their choices and integrate them into the room by selecting clear glass. Using obscure glass hides the walls and can make the room appear to be smaller than it is.”

Burton reports that nearly ever shower that “Bathroom Renovations” completes is tiled from top to bottom, stone or ceramic. “We’re seeing a lot of glass tile accents in showers, a horizontal band at eye-level, wide vertical stripes and definitely glass tile niches wherever there’s room,” adds Burton.

Well Educated Consumers 
“Deciding on a shower enclosure is a very personal decision for our clients, so we take the time to discuss every possible way we can install the enclosure for them,” explains Zelle. “A shower enclosure is something that will be used everyday. Everyone brings their own ideas on how they want it to perform.”

Traynor shares the same sentiments.

“When a customer walks into our showroom they’ve usually already been to [a shower door manufacturer’s] website, explored the options and know exactly what they want,” says Traynor. “That’s why it is important to give today’s consumer all the information and hands-on samples you can. Having access to all the marketing tools that [shower door manufacturers] provide including samples, displays, and printed material is much better than the old days of showing someone a black and white page out of a catalog, and trying to describe what they will be getting in the end. I can’t tell you the number of sales that we have made because we were able to show our customer a sample of whatever they were looking for. We top this off with giving them a reasonable delivery and installation time. Now they don’t have to wait forever, and the response becomes ‘when can you do it?’ not ‘how much?’ Our customers like the feeling that they have a truly custom luxury enclosure. To us, it may be a shower door, but to our customer, it is the only shower door.” 

Paul Williams is vice president of sales and marketing for Basco Shower Enclosures.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.