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Should a Shower Door Swing In or Out (Pros and cons table)

After getting your dream shower, the next task is finding the perfect door for it. Maybe you are trying to save some space, so you are considering installing an inward swinging shower door. But is that a good idea?

If you started shaking your head in disappointment, keep reading. You may be thankful for this regulation by the end of this article. We are going to cover all advantages and disadvantages of an outward swinging door, plus we’ll look at some good alternatives for anyone who can’t get on board with outward opening showers.

The shower door should swing out for safety reasons. Using outward swinging doors is highly recommended in most countries, and it is stated in the residential code in the United States. You can forgo swinging doors and choose folding doors.

Shower Doors Must Open Outward

According to International Residential Code Section P2708.1, all hinged shower doors must open outward.

If you prefer an inward swinging door, they must either be accompanied by an outward swinging one or hang on a pivot hinge that allows them to swing both in and out.

Person trying to open a shower door, holding a case that says "emergency; .Shower doors must open outward

Australia has the same rule. Many other countries’ building codes, including the UK’s, state that the door needs to allow for unobstructed access to the person inside in case of a fall.

Reasons for This Regulation

Authorities mention one important reason behind this regulation, and that is your safety. There were cases when people couldn’t be reached in a medical emergency because they fell and blocked the shower door.

It is a very valid reason as there is little to do when a person falls against an inward opening door. Using force is not an option because it could injure them even more, so the only thing left to do is wait for firefighters.

I hope none of you will ever get into a similar situation, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

However, there are many more reasons why opening shower doors to the inside is simply impractical. Let’s look at a few day-to-day issues the inward swinging can cause you.

  • They make entering and exiting the shower very tricky unless you have a vast space in the shower stall. Have you ever been stuck in a tiny restroom or a changing room where the door is opening inward, and you need to basically kiss the wall to be able to open it and squeeze through? If so, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Surely we can all agree that is not an ideal way to exit a shower.
  • On a more serious note, inward opening would be very impractical for people with disabilities and potentially dangerous for everyone as it would increase the risk of slipping or accidentally hitting yourself with a door.
  • Another reason why the inward swinging door is not suitable for showers is the space issue. Not only do they require a larger shower to begin with (you need about 30” of clearance inside), but they could very well get blocked by a showerhead or any other equipment you have installed inside and not be able to get open at all.

Pros and Cons of Outward Swinging Shower Doors


  • It is simple to enter and exit the shower. The difficulties that occur with the use of inward swinging doors are irrelevant for the outward swinging ones. It is the exact opposite with them. They don’t take up any space in the shower, and there’s no need for stepping aside when trying to close them from the inside.
  • Ventilation is better because when you open the outward swinging door, there is nothing in the shower that would restrict the flow of fresh air. This is especially important for ventilation of fully enclosed shower spaces.
  • The door can open if someone falls. As we mentioned before, it is vital, for safety reasons, to be able to get into the shower during medical emergencies, and an outward swinging door is a way to make that possible.
  • Shower stall and the door dry quicker. This comes hand in hand with better ventilation. The seam is not trapped in the enclosure. Therefore the conditions for the door and stall to dry are better.
  • The maintenance is easier. If a door opens into the shower, it is a pain to clean it as you have to walk into the stall each time. Plus, the space is most likely too cramped, and cleaning inside the door, or the shower wall it opens into, would be a dire task. You don’t have any of these problems with the outward swinging door.


  • The floor could get wet from drips. Although this inconvenience is nothing compared to your safety, it can still be frustrating when your door drips on a clean bathroom floor. Plus, it can make the floor slippery and thus also dangerous. Even though shower drip rails (amazon link) are by no means a perfect solution, they still make life a little easier.
  • They take up space in a bathroom. If you have a small bathroom, it is very reasonable to dislike the idea of losing valuable space because of the shower door. My best advice to you is to consider getting one of the two alternative door systems that we cover below.
  • You are less likely to leave the door open as it interferes with the bathroom. You might be willing to suffer it right after a shower, but you will inevitably want to close the door. Doing so too soon would be bad for ventilation (especially if the shower is fully enclosed on top), and it could cause mold and mildew growth. Luckily, this can be fixed with a good bathroom exhaust fan.
  • The shower door can interfere with the bathroom door. Bathroom doors typically swing inward. If you have a small bathroom and the bathroom door swings in and the shower door swings out, you are losing a lot of valuable floor space. You could make the bathroom door swing out, but it is less likely to be left open and closing a bathroom door causes ventilation issues.

Table Summary

The outward swinging door makes entering and exiting the shower easierThe door could drip on a bathroom floor when it is open and make it slippery
A wide-open shower enclosure dries fasterIt interferes with bathroom space
If someone falls, the medical staff can easily get to themYou are less likely to leave the door open, which could cause problems if the shower lacks its own ventilation system
It is better for ventilation of the shower 
It is more reachable and easier to clean 

Alternatives to Swinging Shower Doors

Bypass/Sliding Doors

Instead of being fixed on hinges, the bypass door opens and closes by sliding in tracks that are attached to the shower enclosure.

There is always at least one moving glass panel and one fixed glass panel. When you open the door, the moving panel simply slides behind the fixed one and creates an entry to the shower stall.

WOODBRIDGE PLUMBING_FIXTURE MBSDC6076-BG Frameless Sliding Shower, 56"-60" Width, 76" Height, 3/8" (10 mm) Clear Tempered Glass, Finish, Designed for Smooth Door Closing, Brushed Gold

This type of door saves space, which makes it ideal for small areas. It is also perfect for corner showers that require a curved shower door.

As a bonus, this door doesn’t drip on the floor when opened. It keeps all the water inside the enclosure.

The main thing to look out for are issues with the tracks. They can quickly become stuck due to accumulated soap, hard water limescale, or dirt. Therefore bypass doors require proper maintenance.

Another downside is that the created entrance is usually not as large as with different types of doors.

Bi-Fold/Tri-Fold Doors

Folding doors are another great alternative presuming you get a model that opens outward at first and only then folds inwards (like this one (amazon link)). Otherwise, the door could easily get blocked from the inside, same as inward swinging doors.

first drawing is a shower with an inward opening door, next is a tri-fold shower door opening correctly

Foldable doors can be installed in the smallest areas. They create a spacious entrance and don’t drip on the floor once folded inside.

There’s a danger of mold and mildew growth if you regularly fold the door before they have had a chance to dry out.

Also, the glass is often thinner, so they are more fragile than other doors. You should keep this in mind, particularly if you have children.


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