Fred Daues blames the recession for stunting what had been a growing demand for doorless glass block showers. Daues, the owner of Masonry & Glass Systems Inc. of St. Louis, says his company was doing anywhere from 10 TO 15 such projects per week prior to the 2008 start of the economic tsunami that drove the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse. The doorless shower phenomena that first began in Europe had quickly proven popular among upscale residents looking for aesthetically-pleasing designs for their bathrooms.
“Before the recession, it was a very, very strong trend,” Daues says. “It was tremendous, but the recession took a big bite out of the business. We’ll have to wait and see after the recession whether it remains that strong.”
The housing market is at last rebounding, with residential architects reporting households now placing more emphasis on kitchens and baths, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
But there is still a ways to go to get back to pre-recession levels, as Daues estimates that his company and its satellite offices in Houston and San Antonio combined now does just three to five doorless shower projects per week.
He’s hardly alone as a number of glass companies are reporting they also have seen little demand for such pleasures in the wake of a recession that ravaged the entire economy, but especially the housing industry.
Glass experts say the doorless showers are better fits for large homes with the kind of large space needed to really jazz up a room and make them more effective. Smaller bathrooms mean that water will be an issue.
“We’ve done a couple, but it’s not something I would consider a trend right now,” says Steven Burkhart, president of Atlanta-based MG Glass Inc. “I just don’t think it’s practical for most Americans. Water is going to splash everywhere.”
Mike Werner, the vice president of AC Glass Co. in Glen Allen, Va., offers a similar assessment, saying, “I don’t know if I would call it a trend. We’re definitely still doing more traditional showers with glass doors.”
Nathan Williams, the shower and door manager for Vienna Glass Co. Inc. in Manassas, Va., isn’t so sure that people always really know what they’re getting when they ask for doorless showers, so he has his field people take door measurements just in case during the “six or seven” times a year customers look to him with such thoughts.
He’s had to later go back and add doors on several occasions, he says.
“I just think people like to try something different,” Williams says. “I think they see it on the Internet or somebody tells them that they need to get it. It looks neat and it’s kind of trendy, but it will leak like a sieve. Like anything else, they only work in certain situations.”
But Daues continues to sing the praises for glass block doorless showers in particular, noting the added design flexibility and graceful curves they offer knowledgeable homeowners seeking to spice up the look of their bathrooms.
“There’s ways you can really customize this stuff and a lot of people like that,” Daues says.