What to Do With a Window in the Shower

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A window in the shower can be a challenging bathroom design problem because of the obvious privacy issues. But it also can be a source of much needed natural light and fresh air. Luckily, there are lots of options to consider that will strike a good balance.

What Worked for Us

In a nutshell, this is what we did with our window during a recent home renovation project:

  • Installed obscured glass panes
  • Managed privacy issues with window film
  • Installed a dimmer switch for lights
  • Use a waterproof trim like Azek
obscured glass window in the shower area of a bathroom surrounded by white tile

Our First Window in the Shower Situation

Years ago, when I graduated from college, my first apartment had a window in the shower area.

It was the 90’s and the apartment was probably built in the 50’s.

The bathroom was small – and green. Neither my husband or I had ever had a window in the shower before and we thought it was kind of a weird placement.

But it was a small window that was high up on the wall and we also were on the second floor – so privacy wasn’t really a worry. And since we didn’t have air conditioning (or an exhaust fan for that matter), it was nice to be able to open that window for natural ventilation.

However, I was happy to move on to future showers without windows. 😊

So, fast forward to our “new to us” older home, where we recently went through a bathroom renovation and expanded the shower space.

Given the bathroom layout, the most cost effective and best option was to leave the window where it was – smack in the middle of the shower.

obscured glass window in shower
My obscured glass is shown here without any window film.

Why a Bathroom Shower Window Is Not Ideal

The biggest problem with having a window in the shower is the obvious lack of privacy.

If you can see people from the inside of the window looking out – people standing on the outside of the window will most likely be able to see you when they are looking in.

And hanging up some window treatments is not really an option because of the wet environment.

Looking back at it now, everything worked out. But at the time, I remember frantically searching for a practical solution to this problem.

Our Solution: Make the Window as Waterproof as Possible

The type of window that we ended up installing is a double-hung vinyl casement window with tempered obscured window glass panes and a window frame made from Azek (which is a well known PVC material).

This is how we landed on that solution.

As a total novice – my first suggestion to my contractor was to install some kind of frosted glass replacement panels into our existing window.

It seemed logical.

However, the glass guy put me straight on that one. He said that frosted glass is not a true privacy glass.

The Problem With Frosted Glass

The problem with frosted glass is if the frosted side gets wet – the glass magically becomes quite transparent.

You can see out and people can see in.

If the frosted side was inside – that would never work.

If the frosted side was outside, you might be ok except for when it rains!

I never tested his theory out but figured he would know best and took his word for it.

Why Obscured Glass is a Better Option

The better choice, I learned – is something called obscured glass.

Obscured glass has a kind of textured side that obscures the view.

Is it 100% opaque? No.

But it’s the best idea that I found. I have even read on some glass manufacturer websites that you can choose the degree of obscurity.

I was not offered that option on my order – but it might be something to look into.

Order Tempered Glass

The window installer also brought up an other good point.

It is important to order tempered glass panels for your window in the shower area.

God forbid the window breaks while someone is in the shower, at least they won’t be hurt by shards of sharp glass. Tempered glass still shatters but the edges of the pieces are smoother.

In fact, this is probably building codes in most areas.

Night Time Privacy Concerns

For me, the obscured glass was a great option for the shower but I still had concerns.

During the day – it was near impossible to see anything inside the bathroom from outside.

But at night, when the lights are blazing inside, someone on the outside can really see the silhouette of someone standing right in front of the shower window.

To solve this problem I turned to Amazon.

Here I discovered something called privacy film. It comes in many different brands, patterns, and obscurity levels. Think of it as a huge vinyl cling that covers your whole window.

Since the textured side of my window faced out and the smooth side in, applying a window film was an easy option.

I purchased a brand that is applied with only soap and water. No adhesives, nothing sticky. So, if it didn’t work out then it would be easy to remove.

To get a better idea of what I chose you can look here: Artscape Etched Leaf Decorative Window Film at Amazon.

It adds just another level of privacy on top of the window in the shower that is already obscured.

Another common sense tactic I used was to install a dimmer switch on the bathroom lights.

When you take a shower at night then you can dim the lights.

Not only will you get a little more ambiance – but you will gain some privacy too.

Vinyl Window Frame

Choosing a vinyl windows was pretty much an obvious choice, for us.

According to the ThompsonCreek Windows website – there are four general types of window frames:

  • Vinyl
  • Wood
  • Aluminum, and
  • Fiberglass

Obviously, wood windows would not be a great idea for a wet room. Aluminum is not very energy efficient, especially in the Northeast, and fiberglass windows can be a bit costly.

Consider a Water Resistant Window Frame

If you are renovating the shower area itself, the window frame causes a problem too.

Obviously a wood frame is out of the question and I really wasn’t sure what options were available.

I asked my contractor and he created what is hopefully a permanent solution by installing Azek trim around the entire inside of the window.

This composite trim should not rot from repeated exposure to moisture and humid conditions.

He installed the bottom window strip for the inside window sill at an angle, away from the window. This should eliminate the possibility of standing water and avoid any water damage in that area.

Finally, he caulked everything up nicely to make it water tight.

Some Other Great Options to Consider

This solution worked well for us because we were basically getting a new bathroom through a full remodel. But there are other things you can try.

Decorative Window Film

There is a huge variety of vinyl clings and glass films for windows – that you should find be able to find something to give you privacy and also fit with your home decor. These are easy to apply and usually removable – so you can change it out if you don’t like it.

Glass Spray Paint or Frosted Glass Paint

Believe it or not, there is glass spray paint that that you can apply to your current window to give it a frosted look. The description says that it is a ‘semi transparent’ finish – so I don’t know how much privacy you will get from it – but it can be an option.

Similarly, there is Frosted Glass Paint for Windows – but again, I do not know the level of privacy that you will get.

You should also research whether the product is permanent or not, in case you want to remove it later.

Install Glass Blocks

This solution does involve a bit of remodeling, but replacing your existing window with thick glass blocks can give you privacy and also let the light shine through.

They come in a few different patterns and although it might give you an 80’s vibe, ApartmentTherapy says this trend might be coming back.

The downside is that the blocks in a glass block window are fixed in place and you can’t open them to let those fresh breezes from outside flow in.

Create a Private Garden

Recently, especially in new construction, I have seen people purposely install a huge picture window in their shower.

To provide privacy, they create a private garden just outside this large window. They create a walled in area where they plant lush foliage.

So, when they shower, they feel they are bathing in a garden with lots of light streaming in – yet the wall prevents the world from watching too.

If you have enough space in your yard, you can use this solution no matter what size your bathroom window is, of course, it would not work if your bathroom is not on the ground floor of your home.

Install a Transom Window High Up

This solution is the most disruptive and probably most expensive. If your shower is on the only exterior wall in your bathroom and you want that natural light to come in but you don’t want a low window in your shower, you could close up your current window and install a transom window (a long rectangular window) higher up on the wall instead.

With this option, it should be installed high enough that no one can look in, and depending on the window you choose, you can still open it for ventilation.

However, you will likely need to get building permits, and have a contractor close the opening from the old window and cut one for the new window. In addition, this will affect your siding and possibly lead to other construction issues as well.

Do You Have a Window in Your Shower?

There are many options that you can incorporate to make an awkward situation work. You can replace the window with privacy glass and the frame with waterproof options, or you can add things window film, spray paint, or even build a garden.

What solutions did you use in your bathrom for privacy and moisture issues? Let us know in the comments below.

Other Bathroom Decor Ideas

More Home Renovation Ideas

Well, we are at it again.

This time we are doing a complete kitchen remodel.

If you would like to follow along with our kitchen renovation here are a few articles:

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  1. I’m struggling with the same problem in my 1900 victorian farmhouse. My window is very large low to the ground so basically is the full while smack dab in the middle of the shower. 3 options I am considering. 1) vinyl plantation shutters would be great to cover while you are showering and then open to let light in. 2) Opaque glass door that folds out (either 1 or 2 meeting in the center). 3). Custom stained glass window inside of tempered glass casing replacing the current window. These range in cost significantly but all are the best options Im considering.

  2. Resently did a shower with a window and contractor and home owner tile over window. Looks awesome!!

  3. Couldn’t you just use window film on the inside of the window and skip the obscured glass altogether, or is the film alone not effective enough for complete privacy?

  4. We are wanting to update our bathroom, we have an oval tub and want to put a shower attachment to our tub and put a curtain up. Our problem is we have a large frosted window by the tub almost the length of it. We know we need to replace the window and will probably go smaller. There is nowhere else to put a window in the bathroom except the wall where the bathroom tub is. Anyway, the other dilemma is that we live in Alaska where it could get -40- -50 in the winter. Hot water and glass does not go together so what do we do? How can we have light, natural ventilation in the summer, but not break it in the winter? Is there special windows that can handle it?

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Wow, the weather is really quite a challenge! I am not familiar with materials that would withstand such extreme conditions. But, I would think that contractors or home improvement stores in your area could give you some good advice.
      Best of luck with your project. 🙂

  5. Hi Neena – thank you for sharing your shower window experience! I wondered how your composite window trim is holding up a few years later? Has it stayed true to it’s original color? I see from the comments that this is a guest bath – could you estimate how frequently the shower is used? Once a week? Once a month? Less often than that? I am just beginning the estimate gathering process for my small bathroom remodel. In fact, the window might be the biggest thing in the room!

    1. Hi Kate,
      The trim is holding up well. We do not use this bath too often – probably once a month. However, we do have a similar Azek material outside on our deck and it is holding up fine out there.
      Good luck with your renovation!

  6. Hi. We are faced with the same dilemma. Old house with full size window. Have a claw foot tub that had a surround shower curtain. We are switching to a regular tub shower. This post has been most helpful. A few questions. Our options are to do what you did and keep the window or close off the window and just put in a tub/ shower surround. Did you consider this? Does your bathroom also have a dedicated ventilation system? Code here is if you have a window that can open you don’t have to have a separate vent. Does the film you used prevent you from opening it? Lastly did you do any of the work yourself? We are thinking for budget reasons doing the tiling as my wife is very good at meticulous things like that. ( not me lol) Thanks much

    1. Hi Keith,
      So –

      1. We did not want to close off the window because it is the only window in that bathroom and provides natural light which I love.
      2. That bathroom did already have a vent to the outside so that was not an issue for us.
      3. The film does not prevent the window from opening/closing. You use the window as you normally would.
      4. I was very involved in the design of the shower area and the selection of materials for the window in the shower – but I did not do any of the actual construction myself.

      I hope that helps. Good luck with your project! If you remember, drop back in when it is complete and let me know about your decisions and how it turned out.


    2. We have a fairly large window above our tub. We are going to be doing a remodel and the tub is going to converted to a shower. We live on acreage and the window looks out to woods. I love my window and would never think of getting rid of it. However, there are times when we have people walking in that area where they can see into that window. Our solution is to install a double hung window with built-in blonds. So we will have the ability to let light in, open the window if we want to let fresh air in or we can close the window and the blinds so no one can see in. Love it!

  7. Just bought a house that was built in the 70s and I’m running into this issue. Very large square shaped window in the shower. It is obscured glass that is textured on the inside, but at night you can definitely see the person showering. I like the idea of the window film but will it adhere to the glass if it is textured?

    1. Hi Olivia,
      Your shower window sounds like a tricky situation.

      Mine is smooth on the inside so I can’t really say whether the window film would work on a rough surface.

      Is your window on the first or second floor? If it is on the first floor, perhaps you could do something with the landscaping outside that could shelter the window. Just a thought.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

    2. No it won’t! I have the same problem. I plan on using tension ron with a cut down shower curtain. That’s all I can come up with.

    3. Hi Patty,

      Thanks for letting us know about your experience using window film on a textured window.
      I like your idea of the rod with the cut down curtain – it’s low tech but it does the job.
      You could talk to a glass person about replacing the panes in your existing window with obscured glass – which is the only other thing I can think of. We did this in our upstairs bathroom. I can’t remember how much it was, but it was less than what I thought it would be.
      My point is that if the estimate is free, then it is good to know all your options. 🙂

  8. Wondering if you know what type of window was used ? Manufacturer??
    Same situation for me and thinking maybe on 1/2 window privacy can the entire window not sure

  9. Same thing for me large window in tub shower area
    Planning on Harvey replacement window in vinyl with obscure glass and grids between the glass to match rest of house. Trying to decide if I should just use the obscure glass for just the lower window since it will be double hung . The bathroom is on the first floor and looks out to the backyard. I don’t want to lose a lot of natural light

    1. Hi Debbie,
      We also have grids on most of the windows in our home. However, I really don’t like them – I prefer without to let the maximum amount of light in. So, our shower window overlooks the backyard as well, and I did not get a window with grids.

  10. We are thinking about getting our windows re-done, and currently have a window in the shower with a shower curtain in front of it to keep moisture from it, and for privacy. I like the Azek/ privacy film option for the new window! Does water accumulate in the window tho, in the horizontal middle part where the lock is? I am wondering if it takes a lot of cleaning and will it get scummy? Thanks!

    1. Hi Amy,
      I don’t have a problem with water accumulating in the window – it is a vinyl window. Our bathroom is the guest bath so we don’t use the shower daily, but even if we did, I don’t think it would be a problem.

  11. This was very helpful but I’m still a little confused. I have a very large window in my bathroom that I am converting into a shower. My contractor suggested tiling around and inside the frame to make it waterproof, but I would still need something for privacy and love the product you used. I’m wondering if tile is a good idea vs the Azek Trim or is there a need for both…

    1. Hi Deborah,
      I would think that your contractor would have the best info for your particular situation. However, you might want to mention the Azek option to him. We don’t have a wide sill on our window, so the Azek worked well. Our contractor also angled the Azek trim slightly downward towards the inside shower, so water does not accumulate on the sill, which is a plus.

  12. Did you put the film on the inside of the shower or the outside of the window? I was thinking since eves cover the house, and we live in a place with little weather it might be less likely to come off outside verses all the steam/moisture on the inside. What is your opinion?

    1. Hi Renee,
      I put the window film on the inside of my window and I didn’t notice any trouble with moisture/steam. I suppose you could put it on the outside if the weather is mild but I imagine that it could get kind of dirty. Also, if the purpose of the window film is for privacy then if placed on the outside anybody could walk by and remove it, worst case scenario. While on the inside it is completely under your control. I guess my vote would be to put it inside, but every situation is different, so use your best judgment. Good luck, and let me know what you decide to do and how it works out.

  13. We are doing a remodel that will involve including a window in the shower. What brands of windows are best to use in the shower?

    1. Hi Lee,
      I really don’t have a recommendation as to brand. I believe mine was a generic brand. Just make sure that the glass itself is tempered for safety.
      Good luck with your remodel.

  14. I installed a window in my shower because there was no natural light in it. I chose a custom transom window. I set it about 4″ from the ceiling which put the bottom of the window approximately 6′ high. Privacy was no issue. It made all the difference with natural light. It’s a sliding window so it can be opened for fresh air or additional ventilation during a shower. A current standard window in a shower can usually be reconfigured easily to accommodate the privacy and natural light benefits.

  15. I hung a shower liner on a tension rod in front of the window but the same height as my shower curtain. When we shower we close the liner and open when finished. It takes care of both the privacy and moisture issue. I trimmed it to be about a foot below the window length. Hope this helps

  16. What is the surround/frame of the window made from (the white part that is holding the window glass in place, if that makes sense)? I think I understand that your contractor used Azek as the casing to frame out the window, but your window itself was not made with any wood?

  17. Hi there, I am having the same dilemma and note with interest the products you have used. I am located in Australia, so the product range may differ to what you have available….One question, has the obscure film in the internal window lasted over time with the moisture, or has it required replacement?
    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Hi Emma,
      A window in the shower is truly a dilemma – such a great way to describe it.
      I wish I could give you a little more insight but we used the window film for a little while and then decided that we were getting enough privacy from the obscured glass (the actual window glass) and that the film was not really necessary.
      My best guess is that the window film will last a long time. I am sure that environmental conditions will make a difference – like humidity, ventilation, how often the shower is used etc.)
      I know that everyone’s budget is different, but the beauty of the window film is that it is easy and relatively inexpensive to replace if necessary.
      I hope that helps – and maybe some others can chime in with their experience too.

    2. I have a window in my shower as well – which I love for the natural light!! However, privacy was an issue, but never having thought of replacing the window, duh (lol), we used the film. Not being terribly steady or exacting, there were bubbles in our final product, as well as very minute exposure at the edges. But it is still there. Years later. Even though I WISH it would peel so I could attempt a redo. 🙂

    3. Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for sharing your experience – and I am glad the window film lasted so many years. Sounds like it was definitely worth the investment for you. 🙂

  18. It’s interesting that this article mentions the moisture resistance of different frames. I’m considering getting new, decorative glass for the shower, and I want to make sure it does a good job of insulation. I’ll have to look into higher quality frames to ensure no moisture escapes, etc. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Tyler Meredith,

      I was very worried about water damage to the window frame. The window itself is vinyl but the sill is what I was most concerned with.

      I have been very happy with the Azek and my contractor angled it down, away from the window so there would be no puddles of standing water.

      Thanks for stopping in and for taking the time to comment!

  19. I actually love having a window in my shower. A little window film solves the privacy issue. Of course, you can’t see out either, but sun gets in. There is nothing more relaxing than taking a shower in the morning sunlight. It is also nice to open the window if a bath makes the room too steamy.

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