It’s the age old question of bathroom design, and probably the one that depends the most on your personal taste: shower curtains or shower doors? There are arguments for or against either one, but despite the fact that they serve exactly the same function, they’re vastly different in style, cost, maintenance, and even user experience. So which one is right for you and your bathroom?
Above and beyond the obvious difference between having your shower covered by a curtain or (essentially) a window, there are several important differences between shower curtains and shower doors in the overall aesthetic of your bathroom. Even a basic shower rod like this Classic Twist Tight Rod from Speakman can be covered in a huge variety of shower curtains. PVC or cloth, printed or solid colored, opaque or transparent, and held up by any variety of shape, size, color, or material shower rings, shower curtains offer a nearly infinite variety of styles that make it easy to mix, match, coordinate, and change your bathroom decor.
On the other hand are shower doors, which are almost literally set in stone once you install them. They aren’t often colorful (though some do have patterns in etched or frosted glass), but something like this Neo-Angle Shower Enclosure from Vigo will present a much cleaner, more modern look than a shower curtain, and and a tangible, permanent value to your space. And because they’re made of glass, you don’t really need to worry about coordinating them – they merge well with any decor. As well, the fact that shower doors are made of glass (and therefore see-through) can also make your bathroom seem larger, where shower curtains can make your bathroom feel closed off. That said, though, even frosted shower doors offer less privacy than opaque shower curtains, if that’s a concern.
The biggest difference between shower curtains and shower doors is cost. Even a really nice shower rod, like this Double Shower Rod combined with a high quality washable cloth shower curtain will only cost you a few hundred dollars at the most and is completely DIY-able in terms of installation. Even if you want to change your style (shower rings or shower curtains) frequently, the cost is low enough to be negligible. That said, while the start-up costs are low, shower curtains have a greater reoccurring cost than shower doors, simply because shower curtains become soiled, moldy, or even damaged over time, and need to be replaced as little as every few months, which might not seem bad, but can add up over time.
Conversely, the biggest drawback for shower doors is like this Evo from Roda by Basco their expense. Whether for a shower or a shower/tub combination, shower doors can be quite costly to buy and sometimes even need to be professionally installed, which can take up a significant portion of your bathroom remodel budget. That said, shower doors have almost no reoccurring costs – once they’re installed, with proper care they’ll last you for many many years. As well, shower doors are much less likely to go out of style, and unlike shower curtains can actually add to the value of your home.
I touched on this briefly before, but it’s a sad fact of life that shower curtains are basically magnets for mold and mildew growth. The humidity and constant moisture of a bathroom, especially a well-trafficked one, can reduce shower curtains to gross moldy ruins in a matter of just a few months, even if you have an expansive shower rod such as the Curved Shower Rod from Barclay and the shower curtain is left out to dry properly. And mildwey shower curtains means scrubbing, chemicals, a trip through the washing machine, our out-and-out replacement.
The smooth glass surface of a shower door like this Dresden Frameless Shower Panel is resistant to mold and mildew, but is more susceptible to hard water stains and soap scum, which can be just as hard or harder to clean if left unaddressed long-term. Shower door maintenance can range anywhere from simply squeegeeing your door after every shower or equipping your shower with one of those cleaner-sprayers (you know, the ones with bubbles that scrub) to do the job for you, to doing a thorough scrub-down with a calcium-eating cleaner or diluted vinegar once a week or so. Whether you prefer the shower curtain scrub down or squeegeeing shower doors is largely based on your own cleaning habits – if one or the other of these sounds awful, it should be a big factor in your decision.
Shower curtains are pretty flexible creatures – they can be shoved out of the way, stretched out to dry, slung over a shower rod, or removed entirely without much effort. This also makes them the best choice for a freestanding tub, as you can get a large shower enclosure like a Rectangular Shower Rod to keep a tub enclosed for added shower functionality without a wall or three to build around. But that flexibility is a double edged sword. Shower curtains also billow, bulge, and all too often get up close and personal when you’re just trying to wash your hair (especially gross when combined with a mold problem!). Weights or magnets placed on the bottom edge can help lessen the problem, but if the thought of a piece of slimy wet PVC reaching out to touch you makes your skin crawl, this might not be the best option.
Shower doors on the other hand stay where you put them, either opening like a door (in a shower) or sliding from side to side (like this Fluence Bath Door from Kohler, made for a combo shower/tub). This can give you better water-proof coverage because there aren’t any potential cracks for water to leak out of, but flat out won’t work for a freestanding tub. As well, in a combo shower/tub the doors can slide out of the way, but you won’t get a complete open air experience. That said, you also won’t have to ever worry about your shower door touching you while you’re showering, and can enjoy a better lit shower or bath because the glass door won’t block the light the way a cloth or PVC shower curtain will.
Ultimately whether you opt for shower doors or shower curtains is a personal choice – neither one is a clear winner in all regards, though probably anyone that’s read this far will have a clear preference! Which one wins for you: shower doors or shower curtains?