How to Install Sliding Bathtub Doors
Glass sliding doors instead of shower curtains can really accessorize your bathroom in a positive way while providing a more attractive bathtub area with a huge array of possibilities, from clear glass doors to frosted or patterned glass to suit any taste, style, or budget. Bathtub doors usually come in kits that include all that you need to be able to put them together.
Such a project can be accomplished by almost anybody. The sliding door kit will basically come with two double channeled door jambs, a top track, a bottom track, and the bottom track divider. Those are the basic components needed to put together the rectangular framework inside which the glass panels will slide from side to side.
Step 1 - Installing the Wall Jambs
The supplied wall jambs from your door kit are simply an “H-shaped” channel with the recess on one side of the trim deeper than the one on the opposite side. In a normal bathtub installation, the enclosure’s net opening shouldn’t be any more than 59-3/8 inches wide. The wall jambs will then be installed with the deeper recess pointing towards the glass panels.
If the net width should exceed that measurement and run up somewhere between 59-3/8 and 60-inches, the wall jamb will need to be installed with its shallower edge towards the inside to provide better coverage of the opening.
Note - If the wall jambs supplied in your kit are simply single channel instead of being “H” shaped, your glass doors are probably made to accommodate any size opening up to 60-inches wide. So simply disregard whatever is written about shallow or deep channels and install the channel towards the glass panes.
1.1 - Measure the full width of the enclosure opening, and depending on the width of the opening, decide which way the wall jambs should be placed—shallow channel out or deeper channel out.
1.2 - The wall jambs must sit flat against the wall and the threshold ledge of the opening. If there are any imperfections altering a perfect fit, use a metal file to shape the edge to a proper fit. If the corner between the threshold ledge and the wall is rounded, you can use a coin of the same radius to mark the corner of the wall jamb for a better fit.
1.3 - Place two pieces of painter’s tape at each end of the threshold ledge where it meets with the walls. Measure the width of the wall jamb as well as a center mark and trace it on the painter’s tape, centered at the same distance from the front edge and the inside edge of the ledge at both ends.
1.4 - From the center marks on the painter’s tapes, use a spirit level to trace the vertical center lines marking the center of the jambs on both walls about 4 feet high.
1.5 - With the use of a stud finder or simply with a small nail and a hammer, scan or nail along the lines at intervals to find out if the wall is solid behind the drywall or the ceramic tiles.
1.6 - Take both wall jambs and drill a pilot hole right in the center in the channel of each one. Then drill another pilot hole about 3 to 4-inches from each end of both wall jambs.
1.7 - Make sure that the shallow channel is against the wall if the wall-to-wall opening measures no more than 59-3/8 inches, or place the deeper channel against the wall if the opening is wider, up to a maximum of 60-inches (Step1).
1.8 - If the corner was rounded (step 2), proceed to cut the radius traced from the coin on the corner of the two wall jambs with a hack saw, a rotary tool, or a grinder. The resulting burrs can be removed with a file or sandpaper.
1.9 - Make sure both wall jambs are plumb. Place them on their respective wall centered with the threshold ledge and use a spirit level to have it perfectly plumb. Temporarily hold them in place with painter’s tape. Check to make sure that the wall jambs sit tightly against the wall and the ledge. Use a metal file to correct any fitting imperfections from the jambs.
1.10 - Maintaining the jambs vertical, extend the pilot holes into the walls. Redrill the pilot holes in the jambs to the size specified in the instruction sheets or to the diameter of the screw threads. If the wall is hollow, drill each pilot hole large enough to secure the wall anchors into them, usually at 5/16-inch.
If you have ceramic tiles on the walls, you will have to use a 3/16-inch ceramic drill bit, which will leave enough material to provide good retention without the risk of cracking a tile.
1.11 - With this completed, apply a bead of silicone on the underside of the jamb along its full length.
1.12 - You might need some assistance at this point as you now need to bring the jamb close to the wall without making contact.
1.13 - As someone else holds the top of the jamb slightly off the wall surface but aligned with the mark on the wall, bring the bottom of the jamb at its alignment marks on the ledge and against the wall. Insert an end bumper on the first screw and slip it in the bottom hole of the jamb, screwing it in just enough to maintain the alignment at the bottom.
1.14 - Insert one of the end bumpers onto the next screw and insert it through the top hole of the jamb and into the hole or anchor in the wall at the top of the jamb. Partially screw it in the wall—again, just to maintain a proper alignment at this stage of the installation.
1.15 - Insert the 3rd screw through the middle bumper and install the bumper in the center hole left on the jamb, screwing it right in but without any pressure.
1.16 - Tighten the other two screws to bring the whole jamb in contact with the wall, then finish it up by tightening the 3 screws in place to form a perfect seal.
1.17 - Clean up the excess silicone with a clean cloth.
1.18 - Repeat steps 1.11 to 1.17 for the other wall jamb.
Step 2 - Installing the Bottom Rail
Both the top and the bottom rails are supplied longer than needed and will need to be cut to fit perfectly inside both jambs. However, they should never be cut from one length measurement as the top measurement will likely differ from the bottom one, each of them being mounted differently.
2.1 - Starting with the bottom rail, use your measuring tape to measure the exact length along the ledge between the two jambs. The measurement is taken from inside the recess of one of the channels to the inside of the recess in the opposite jamb.
2.2 - Transfer that measurement to the bottom rail with a pencil mark and cut the rail at the mark with a fine-toothed hack saw. The cut edge can then be smoothened out with a metal file.
2.3 - The bottom rail is extruded in the general shape of the small letter “h” with the taller edge facing away from the inside of the bathtub. The top section of that same taller edge is provided with a special extruded slot into which you have to insert a special plastic glide strip onto which the outermost glass pane will lean and slide.
2.4 - Insert the plastic glide inside its slot on the rail, sliding it right up to the other end. With the plastic glide pushed flush to one end of the rail, cut the other end exactly flush to the other end of the rail.
2.5 - Temporarily remove both bottom bumpers from the wall jambs to make the bottom rail installation easier.
2.6 - Apply a bead of silicone under each of the edges that will sit flat on the bathtub ledge.
2.7 - Make sure that the wider side of the rail is facing out or towards the center of the bathroom, insert one end inside the appropriate channel while keeping it from touching the ledge yet. With the opposite end raised higher, gradually lower it until it touches the opposite jamb. Start inserting the rail inside the channel.
Once the rail gets pretty much level just above the ledge, lower it slowly onto the ledge and firmly press down. This will spread the silicone along the joint ensuring a better seal.
2.8 - Replace the previously removed bumper back on the wall jamb and tighten them in place.
Step 3 - Installing the Top Rail
The next measurement will be for cutting the top rail, which will be installed on top of the wall jambs. The top rail runs across the full width of the opening from wall to wall.
3.1 - Take the measurement between the two walls at the top of the wall jamb rails. The length will therefore be longer than for the bottom rail.
3.2 - Transfer that measurement to the top rail and cut the rail at the mark with the hack saw, smoothing the burrs with the metal file.
3.3 - The top rail will be attached to the wall jambs with a T-Strap at each end. The T-Strap is a fastening plate that is made to perfectly match the inside profile of the top rail so that it can lock the rail in place once it is screwed into the wall jamb.
Insert both T-Straps inside the top rail and position the top rail on top of the two wall jambs making sure it sits firmly on top.
3.4 - Slide the 2 T-Straps so that each one is against one of the wall jambs.
3.5 - Mark the location of the screw hole of each of the T-Strap on the wall jambs with a pencil (or a center punch).
3.6 - Pull the T-Straps away from the jambs and drill a 1/8-inch hole into both of the wall jambs at the marks for the screw holes.
3.7 - Slide the T-Straps back into place and secure them to the wall jambs with the pan-head screws provided—but Do Not Overtighten!
Step 4 - Prepare and Install the Glass Doors
It is now time to install the two hanger brackets on each of the glass doors starting with the inside glass. Use extreme care when handling the glass so that it doesn’t get chipped or broken. The textured side of the glass is going to be the inside of the door, while the smooth side is the outside.
The shower door kit is supplied with four hanger brackets with a wheel on one side which is to face inwards on the inside door and outwards on the outside door—with the textured surfaces on the inside.
The brackets have three holes at the top, with the wheel usually attached through the middle one, the other two providing final height adjustment. All four brackets are to be installed on the glass panes with bushings and padding gaskets to cushion the contact between the glass and the metal parts of the brackets and screws.
4.1 - Insert one bushing inside one of the holes in the glass and place the gasket inside the jaws of the first bracket to be installed.
Since the 1st pane to be installed is the inside door, place the hanger bracket, so the wheel faces towards the inside of the glass and slide the bracket down to line up the holes and insert the machine screw to secure everything in place. Do Not Overtighten.
4.2 - Repeat the exact same procedure for the next bracket on the same door.
4.3 - Carefully bring the glass panel inside the bathtub area, inserting the top inside the top rail while slightly pulling it in at the bottom. Push the pane all the way up inside the rail, then pull out the top section against the inside of the rail, and let it drop some until the wheels catch inside the rail’s grooves. You can now let the bottom of the glass pane swing back inside the bottom rail.
4.4 - Install the two brackets on the next glass pane exactly as described in steps 4.1 and 4.2, with the exception that the wheels on the brackets should now be facing the outside of the glass—the smooth surface.
4.5 - Standing outside of the bathtub with the outside of the glass facing you, slide the top of the door inside the top rail while holding the glass tilted out from the bottom. Push it all the way up, then swing the bottom back in and over the high side of the bottom rail. You can now let it come back down while pulling it in against the top rail until the wheels come to rest on the outside rail’s groove.
4.6 - Make sure the bottom of the door is resting inside the bottom rail and against the plastic glide strip (steps 2.3 and 2.4). If it’s not inside the rail, repeat step 4.5.
4.7 - Place a piece of painter’s tape at the center of the bottom rail. Measure the distance between the two wall jambs, find the midpoint, and mark it on the painter’s tape.
4.8 - Open one of the doors and slide the door divider on the bottom rail between the two glass panes. Check to make sure at the bottom rail that the clearances with the rail are enough but not too much. If you have to readjust, the door bracket wheels can be adjusted higher to lower the door or lower to raise it. The wheels can be accessed by removing the door panel.
4.9 - Center the divider on the midpoint mark and secure the door divider with the provided self-tapping screw or screws with a power drill set on low torque. Once the screw(s) is through, finish tightening by hand.
4.10 - You can finally complete the installation by applying a bead of silicone sealant along all the joints inside and out.
Many of those glass door kits come complete with a long horizontal handle that also serves as a towel bar. They will usually be attached to the glass pane at both ends, and you just need to follow their particular instructions—usually quite simple—to put them up.
For more information on how to accessorize your bathroom, check out our pieces on Modern Bathroom Fixture Options, 4 Tips for an Efficient Bathroom Layout, and Increasing Accessibility to Bathroom Countertops.