Walk-in Showers vs Shower Enclosures: Key Differences Explained

Walk-in Showers vs. Shower Enclosures: 2023 Ultimate Guide

Learn the pros and cons of walk-in showers compared to shower enclosures to decide which design works best for your bathroom remodel.

When remodeling a bathroom, one of the biggest decisions is choosing between a walk-in shower or a shower enclosure. Both have their pros and cons and work better in certain bathroom layouts. Today's post provides a new in-depth look at the differences between walk-in showers vs. shower enclosures to help you make the right choice for your home.

Comparison Walk-in Shower Shower Enclosure
Size Can be as large as an entire wall or portion of the bathroom, allowing multiple people to fit. Maxes out at about 36-48 inches and works best in smaller bathrooms.
Accessibility Minimal or no threshold allows wheelchairs to easily enter. Higher lip and tight space make maneuvering difficult.
Maintenance Tile surfaces resist soap scum buildup and require less frequent cleaning. Glass doors need frequent cleaning and become foggy over time.
Cost More expensive due to extensive tile work, waterproofing, niche accents and labor. More affordable since it is simply installed over existing footprint.
Visual Appeal Feels spacious, bright and seamless when well-designed. Boxes you into a smaller, more utilitarian space.
Steam Humidity spreads rapidly throughout bathroom. Contains steam within the enclosure.
Style Sleek, modern, tropical, or spa-like design options. Limited to framed or frameless door styles.

What is a Walk-in Shower?


Walk In Shower Screens


A walk-in shower is a shower design that eliminates the need for a door or curtain by featuring a wide opening, typically with a continuous floor level, allowing users to walk in and out with ease. Often characterized by its streamlined appearance and absence of a bathtub or significant threshold, it provides a modern and accessible bathing solution suitable for various bathroom sizes and styles.

What is a Shower Enclosure?


Shower Enclosures


A shower enclosure is a shower that is closed off by glass doors or curtains. The shower head, controls, and floor are contained within a framed in space versus being open to the rest of the bathroom. Shower enclosures usually consist of three walls and a sliding glass door or curtain.

What Are Differences Between Walk-in Showers and Shower Enclosures?

  • Size-Walk-in showers can be as large as an entire wall or portion of the bathroom, allowing for multiple people to fit comfortably inside. Shower enclosures max out at about 36 to 48 inches in size and work best in smaller bathrooms.
  • Accessibility-The threshold for a walk-in shower is either nonexistent or very low compared to shower enclosures that often have a higher lip to step over. Walk-in showers also accommodate wheelchairs easily without difficult maneuvering.
  • Maintenance-Walk-in showers with tile surfaces resist soap scum and hard water build-up better than glass doors, which require frequent cleaning and eventually become etched and foggy from mineral deposits. The grout lines of tile also provide less surface area for mildew and mold to cling to.
  • Cost-Custom tiled walk-in showers involve building a mortar base, waterproofing, extensive tile work, and niche accents, which drive up labor and material costs. Shower enclosures can simply be ordered and installed over an existing footprint.
  • Visual Appeal-Walk-in showers feel spacious, bright, and seamless when well designed. Shower enclosures tend to box you into a smaller utilitarian space that obstructs natural light.
  • Steam-The moisture and humidity from an open walk-in shower permeate the entire bathroom rapidly. A quality exhaust fan is a must. Shower enclosures allow steam to dissipate within the enclosure itself.
  • Style-Walk-in showers can emulate sleek modern spas with linear drains and minimalist tile, or go for an exotic tropical feel with accents like bamboo or pebble stone floors. Shower enclosure options are limited to framed or frameless doors.

How to Decide Between Walk-in Showers and Shower Enclosures?

Here are a few of the best applications for walk-in showers:

  • Master Bathrooms-Walk-in showers are ideal for large master baths. There is ample room for a luxurious custom shower without eating up too much space.
  • Contemporary Styles-The clean, open look of a walk-in shower fits well in modern and contemporary bathrooms. Streamlined design can enhance the minimalist vibe.
  • High-End Remodels-Upscale home renovation projects often incorporate walk-in showers as spa-like sanctuaries. Premium features like body sprays, rain showerheads, and heated floors turn the shower into an oasis.
  • Aging in Place-For older adults or those with mobility issues, a walk-in shower is safer and more accessible. No doors or steps to navigate. Just walk right in and enjoy your shower.

Shower enclosures tend to work best in these bathroom scenarios:

  • Small Bathrooms - The compact footprint of a shower enclosure maximizes every inch, making it a great option for kids' baths, powder rooms, or tight spaces.
  • Budget-Friendly Remodel - Affordable shower enclosures start around $250. Quick upgrade from a builder basic tub/shower combo.
  • Fast Installation - Shower enclosures come ready for quick and easy DIY or pro installation. Minimal tiling and plumbing changes are needed.
  • Classic Style - Shower doors maintain a traditional vibe. Framed enclosures fit well in transitional or neo-traditional bathrooms.
  • Containing Water - Shower doors keep water and humidity from spreading throughout the bathroom, which is helpful if the shower isn't vented well.

The choice between a walk-in shower vs. a shower enclosure depends on your bathroom space and style. Get the sleek, spa-like appeal of a walk-in or the classic look and smaller footprint of a shower enclosure. With smart planning and design, you can enjoy a beautiful new shower that turns your daily routine into a rejuvenating escape.

Read More