Updated January 27, 2019
Isn’t the window in your shower a pain in the butt? I bet you’ve asked yourself on more than one occasion, “why the heck did a builder put a see-through window smack dab in the middle of our shower? Was the guy who built this home an exhibitionist? Didn’t he also know water would be hitting on the wood trim surrounding this shower window sill each and every day and eventually the wood will rot out?”
Now, you’ve got a problem. Everyone in your family is after you to do something about this deteriorated window trim. The challenge is where to start? What’s the right solution to fix this trim?
The other day I was talking to Jeff Spurio, a Shower and Window Design Consultant, and we were discussing how frustrating shower windows are for homeowners. While it may be tempting to rip down the old and put up some new trim (something certainly more waterproof than wood!), simply retrimming the window may not be the best solution to get your shower (or combined tub/shower unit) problems behind you.
As Jeff told me, “Mike – as in life – I guess we need to step back and see things in a wider perspective. See what’s going on not only with the window trim, but to think about questions like do we even have the right window and are the shower walls built to last?” As the old saying goes, “it doesn’t make sense to put lipstick on a pig.” It certainly doesn’t make sense to put new trim around a shower on its last leg or a window which doesn’t open or provides no privacy.
In this article, I’m going to give you some inside tips Jeff shared with me explaining how he helps people to not only think through selecting the right trim to use around shower windows, but most importantly to develop a solution to make sure their entire showering system (walls, window and trim) will perform well (and look nice) over the long run. Let’s take a peak at 5 ½ tips (yes – the ½ tip is important as well) Jeff shared with me to help you get the right window trim AND the right showering system.
Tip #1 – Step back and evaluate your window first. As Johnnie Cochran would say, “If it don’t fit, you must acquit.”
Installing new waterproof trim around a window which provides you with zero privacy (forcing you to put blinds up in your shower) and is falling apart makes no sense. Jeff recommended you ask these questions about your existing window before jumping out to change out your trim:
- Does the window offer me enough privacy?
- Is the window too far in towards the shower or too far out (i.e. the window ledge is poorly designed and collects water)?
- Is the window made of the right material? Wood windows will eventually rot, and metal window will – over time – rust (you may be saying right now – been there, done that!).
If your existing window is not making the grade based on your answers to the questions above, you need to read tip 2. If your window is good go directly to tip 3.
Tip #2 – What is the best type of shower window
The question becomes what window(s) are best in a wet showering environment. From Jeff’s experience, there are 4 wise choices:
- A vinyl replacement window with obscure glass. Usually double hung windows and sliders with obscure glass are the most popular since they give you air flow and privacy. If you have an exhaust fan and don’t need or want air (although more air is better to fight against mold problems) you could use a fixed window.
- An operable vinyl framed acrylic block casement or awning window – An acrylic block window can provide a full-sized opening and you have the modern look of a block-style grid window. This style fits well with the Mid-century modern bathrooms which are popular now.
- A high privacy glass block window. Glass blocks have the advantage of being more cost-effective than the acrylic block window and can also include small air vents for air flow. The 3 1/8” thick glass is super-durable.
- Shower window with integral blinds – Although it’s usually a bad idea to have blinds to protect your privacy in a shower window – there is a case where this is not true. That’s where the blinds are built inside the window so you can make it completely private or not (depending on what state of dress/undress you are).
Tip #3 – Are your shower walls ready for prime-time (or at least shower time)?
If your tile walls feel spongy (or look nasty), or your fiberglass tub/shower surround is yellowed and the one-piece shower pan can’t be cleaned, putting new trim around the window is like putting a band aid over a gaping wound. Don’t waste money replacing trim when your shower walls are a mess. If you don’t have the money to re-do the shower now tell your family they’ll have to suck it up and deal with the nasty window trim until you can do the entire project right.
If you do need new wall surrounds and have the money, you can either choose a tile shower (certainly a very popular option) or a grout free shower surround system. These wall panel systems (as you can see below) have gone far beyond the “old-days” of cheap white acrylic liners which look more fitting for a bad-section-of-town cheap motel. New styles include durable solid surface wall panels as well as sleek high gloss shower panels.
No matter what shower wall system you choose (if you need one) you’ll want to read tip 4 to make sure it lasts.
Tip #4 – Have an excellent quality “back up” plan for your shower walls
Just like your Mom used to tell you, “beauty is only skin deep, it’s what’s on the inside which counts.” Boy isn’t that the truth (any of us who have had the benefit of long-term loving relationships really understand this– but I digress). In a shower, it’s often what you don’t see which really matters. What’s behind a tile wall can make the different between a shower which looks excellent 20 years later and one which must be replaced. With a tile shower spend a few extra bucks and use a waterproof wall backer board system so even if you get water penetration through the tile joints you will not have to deal with rotting behind the walls – or heaven forbid – underneath the pan.
In the case of grout free shower surrounds most systems only require a moisture resistance green board since the panels themselves are already waterproof.
Tip #5 – Choosing the right trim if you’re keeping the existing window and shower walls. Consider eliminating the trim in you’re doing a full shower remodel
So, we’re finally getting to the meat of this article dealing with the question of trimming the shower window and now we’re coming at you about not trimming at all? You may be saying to yourselves, “what???” Here’s what Jeff explained to me.
The case of the full shower remodel and possibly killing the trim – If you’re doing a complete shower remodel (i.e. you’ve decided to replace the window and the shower walls above) you have the option of placing the window further into the shower and eliminating the trim altogether. In this situation, you’ll install the window flush with the wall panels or tile wall and you can say good-bye to trim once and for all. If, on the other hand, you’re not replacing the walls and/or don’t want to move the window (maybe it won’t look good on the outside of your home if you do this) read below.
Choosing the trim when you’re going to keep the window in the same place – In most shower remodeling projects people aren’t planning on putting the window in a new place so you’ll need to figure out the right trim. The most important choice in selecting a material is to get one which is waterproof (and easy to work with). Here are the ones our Cleveland Design and Remodeling division likes the best:
- Solid surface or cultured marble – These stone materials are available in 51 different colors, simple to cut and completely waterproof.
- PVC composite faux granite style trims – If you like the idea of kicking your shower or bathtub up a notch – but don’t have a big budget – you can get trim materials which are made with a PVC backing and are digitally printed to look like natural stone.
- Acrylic trim kits – acrylic is cost effective and warm to the touch but not super-exciting to look at.
- Custom-cut tile returns – If you love the look of a tile shower d you can tile back to your window so you get an all tile look (just make sure to slop the sill and to use the waterproof wall backer materials discussed in tip 3).
Tip #5 1/2 – Shower trim options – do you want it simple or knock it out of the park fancy?
You can have a shower…. or you can have an elaborate, knock-it-out-of-the-park shower! Often the laid-out shower has the “gingerbread” features the basic one does not. If your goal is improved function and making sure it’s waterproof, simple flat trim around the window will do the trick just fine. In addition, if you’re hiring a contractor to do your job and you’re not sure about their skill level – the simple approach is the best approach.
If you want it fancy you can get some elaborate window trim kits to create a waterproof window sill with style. If you choose an intricate design, make sure you hire a highly skilled remodeler or buy a pre-made window kit which makes it simple to be fancy!
To do yourself (and your budget) justice before you tackle (or hire a contractor) your bad shower window trim, it’s critical to first step back and look at what’s around the trim and ask, “Is my window and shower walls surrounding this trim in good penny wise and pound foolish (replacing the trim when the window and walls are as nasty as can be). That’s just a waste of your time and hard-earned money.
If you need any help with choosing (or buying) the right shower window trim – or need to find a professional bathroom remodeling contractor to lead you through these decisions comment or call us at the numbers below.
For a shower remodeling project in Cleveland you can talk to Jeff at Cleveland Design and Remodeling (216-658-1270) or for nationwide supply shower systems and shower window trim contact Innovate Building at 877-668-5888
If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, industry trends, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), start reading my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog.
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