That’s the question.
As we all know, this is the Information Age. Today, almost everything is only one click away. By pushing a few buttons, we can find ways to do things like never before. We can build computers, fix engines, paint any surface, make slime, cakes, shampoo, tooth paste, guns, even bombs, all kinds of recipes and countless items. You can learn how to become a professional fighter, a great dancer or a skilled artist.
But is that all really true? Do you think that by simply watching a few YouTube videos, you could be able to defeat Floyd Mayweather, the world champion of boxing, without the sacrifice of daily training over several years, and without the guidance of an experienced coach? Do you think that you could obtain the agility needed to dodge a jab only by practicing the movement at home without the pain and pressure that a sparring partner would put on you?
Or, do you think that you would be able to perform heart surgery by just watching videos online? Do you think that, when the time came, you would know how to handle each of the surgical tools needed to complete the operation? Would you be confident enough to handle unexpected difficulties without having years of study and practice under your belt?
The answer to these questions is obvious.
In the same way in which you can’t become a surgeon or a professional boxer overnight by watching videos online, you can’t become an expert frameless shower installer. Of course, installing a shower is not a life or death situation, but it does represent a significant investment in both money and time. Frameless shower enclosures are safe investments as they have the potential to add value to your home and can last many years. However, they are only safe if there is not much risk involved; when you choose to measure and install the glass yourself – unless you have years of experience in this trade – you substantially increase the risk involved in your investment.
For example, it takes time and experience to be able to measure an intricate shower enclosure correctly. While there are some shower layouts that shouldn’t pose a huge challenge for a beginner, there are many small details that may not be easily detected by someone
who does not know to look for them. These details, though minor, have the potential to cause serious issues during installation. Some of these problems include not having the right tools (such as a functioning level or an angle finder), tools that are not accurate, poorly installed tile which has resulted in bumps or holes rather than a smooth installation surface, or walls and sills that are out of level.
A word about out of level walls and sills: if you think that your walls and sills are level, think again. It is extremely rare in construction for walls and sills to be perfectly level. It takes an expert tile installer to accomplish that kind of perfection but, sometimes even the more skilled tile installer can’t achieve the best installation because of a poor framing job. If you assume these surfaces are level, when the glass is manufactured, it will be cut that way. However, in reality, if the walls and/or sills are off-level and the glass is cut square, there will be gaps between the glass and the wall or sill, or the top edges of the pieces of glass may not line up with each other, or it may even be that the glass will not even fit the space.
Another thing that may prevent a novice installer from completing an installation successfully is not having obtained certain skills that come through experience and daily practice. For example, you need to have the strength and coordination to draw the glass panels near to the walls and curb of the shower so slowly and so softly so that you can be sure that you are not going to chip or break the glass; and even though there are techniques and resources that can help make this process easier and safer, the high risk of damaging the glass is still present.
So, you’ve installed your shower – you measured everything just right, and managed to install the glass without so much as a single chip. You are almost done and at this point, you begin to think that all the warnings about installing a frameless shower enclosure were just a bunch of myths. Then, you try applying silicone and you discover that this seemingly simple task can be a nightmare. First, you need a caulking gun that maintains even pressure. Second, if you have the previous experience of applying caulking and are accustomed to using a wet sponge to remove excess, SURPRISE! it doesn’t work with silicone. There are several techniques available for sealing glass panels, but all of them require experience. It can be really discouraging to have a beautiful and expensive bathroom remodel job done, and to have gone through all the difficult steps of the glass installation process just to discover what an eyesore a poor silicone job can be. Above all other difficulties and challenges that must be overcome when installing a frameless shower enclosure, the proper application of silicone truly defines the mark of an experienced installer.
The cost to ship the glass is another variable to consider. Even if a company that sells shower doors online offers a manufacturer’s price, the price of shipping can raise the overall cost significantly. Remember that 3/8” glass weighs 5 pounds per square foot, so a 60” x 72” in line shower will weigh roughly 170 pounds in addition to packaging. After factoring in the distance the product must be shipped from the manufacturer’s location, the shipping alone could cost at least a couple hundred bucks. And even then, the glass may arrive broken, and you will have to wait for the manufacturer to ship the replacement glass.
If, even after reading all this, you decide to go ahead and try to perform your own glass installation, we applaud you for your courage and self-confidence. In that case, we recommend that you buy locally to save on shipping. During your research, you may even come across a few local companies that keep discounted doors and fixed panels in good shape that were unable to be installed for one reason or another. There are even companies that have an entire department dedicated to the sale of these discounted pieces, similar to an outlet store. Sometimes these companies will give you installation advice and answer technical questions.
In these instances, you might be able to find one or two pieces that could fit your bathroom shape and size, and you might be surprised to find how inexpensive these discounted pieces can be. Even if you can only find a door at half its regular price or less, and you have to order a side panel at regular price, and you complete your own installation, you could potentially save a good amount of money, specially because you are not going to be charged for shipping, handling and labor.
However, if you are thinking about going this route, look for a company that tells you the truth! If a company tells you that by watching their videos you will be able to make a good installation, and they don’t mention all the risks involved in the process, you can know right away that they are only focused on getting your money without caring about the final outcome for you and all your potential losses. If a company succeeds with convincing you through low prices without providing any warnings, just remember the old adage: “Cheap is Expensive”
Other Glass products that don’t need installation like table tops, shelves or mirrors are good to purchase them online if their price beat local suppliers but, frameless shower enclosures are one of the most challenging of glass installations.
Because of all that was mentioned previously, we highly recommend that if you do not have experience with this type of installation, leave the challenge to an expert. Not only is it stressful, but it is dangerous to handle glass if you are unfamiliar with the material. You do not want to know what it’s like to be under the rain of glass particles when a glass panel shatters, and you don’t want to have to pay twice or even more times for such a panel and its shipment. You also don’t want to be in the situation of having completed an expensive bathroom remodel, only for it to be ruined by a poor shower installation, simply due to lack of experience. Videos and written directions can’t automatically give you the ability to move glass; your muscles have to repeat the movement many times to develop the ability to hold, push or pull at the right time. To apply the right angle and exact pressure and speed to a caulking gun, you have to practice and practice. Videos can only go so far. You may be able to play Mary had a Little Lamb on the piano after watching a 5 minute YouTube tutorial, but if you want to get a standing ovation for your rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, it’s going to take some time. Just ask yourself this question: would you rather be the one sweating it out on stage, or would you rather be sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the show? The choice is yours.