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Old 11-06-2017, 03:04 PM   #1
Lovegasoline
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Advice for Restoring Vintage Aluminum Shower Door: Caulking, Cleaning, Sealing?

Howdy Folks,
I have a vintage shower door that needs a little attention regarding resealing the door frame-to-glass area and I'd also like to clean up the actual frame surface.
Any tips on how to proceed to clean out the gunk, prepare the area, and apply the caulk? Any suggestions on how to clean the metal surface of the door frame?

My place was built in the late 1920s and one bathroom has the original shower door. The shower door frame is made from a non-ferous metal (aluminum?) and has a slight gold patina/haze on it (remnants of anodizing?). A few years ago the entire bathroom was renovated, new walls, floor, electric, plumbing, tiles, etc. I retained the original shower door, medicine cabinet, and sink because I liked their character.

I've cleaned up the shower door frame in the past but delayed resealing the glass: I'd like to get it fixed this week and would appreciate some advice on how to go about it. I'm posting here because I've read some excellent threads on caulking in the past and respect the deep experience of the forum members.

Cleaning and Prep:
Any tips on how to clean out the door frame-to-glass channel? Techniques? Chemicals? How to best prep it for resealing? Should I treat the area with anything first (like some sort of disinfectant or mold/mildew killer?).

A roommate has been using the bathroom and frankly he's pretty dirty, lol. When I inspected it a couple days ago, the bottom of the door frame was holding water as there's no effective door frame-to-glass seal and what's left in there is basically crud, soap scum, and perhaps residue of the original seal, (plus maybe mold and/or mildew?). I used a bunch of paper towels to wick out the excess water lying inside the bottom of the door frame and used a putty knife to scrape out some of the crud. I have some artist's palette knives that are offset and will fit flush against the glass to better reach down into the frame to scrape the old crud out. I've instructed my roommate not to use the shower and the door frame has been drying now for a couple days.

Sealant:
I went shopping for silicone at Home Depot. I figured grey or black colored silicone would look best and settled on black. The only black silicone they had was GE Silicone II, which I bought. I'm not sure if it's the best product recommended for this application. Should I go forward with it or is there a better product for this application? Oh BTW I have the really good Home Depot caulking gun.


Shower Door Frame Surface:
As mentioned the frame is nonferrous. I have no idea how poorly it was maintained over the last 90 years. I've used cleaning agents on it and also recall using some scotchbrite pads (?) a time or two in some tough areas. Tenants before, me, myself, and Time have likely worn away a good deal of whatever protective surface the frame originally had. It's got some green sort of tarnish on it in areas, and other areas are looking dull. The outside has some staining which is acceptable and perhaps adds character, however part of the inside of the door has turned green and I'd like to remove that.

For now, I'd like to seal the glass and clean up the frame.
Perhaps at a later date (next year) I can refinish it with a coat of lacquer.

Thanks a bunch for any ideas and guidance!

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Old 11-06-2017, 03:07 PM   #2
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Another pic showing the inside of the shower door:
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Old 11-07-2017, 03:25 PM   #3
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Bump ..

Can anyone offer some advice? Particularly regarding cleaning and resealing the frame-to-glass connection?
My shower is decommissioned and everything is on hold until I get a clear plan.
Thanks a bunch.
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Old 11-07-2017, 04:43 PM   #4
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You might consider showing those pictures to a glass company. They may be able to refurb it better and cheaper than you can. I seriously doubt that door is from the 1920's.

If you buff it, you could put a shine back on it, but that would likely take off most of the anodizing, and without adding a new treatment, it wouldn't stay nice looking anywhere near as long.
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Old 11-07-2017, 07:37 PM   #5
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Taking the door to have it refurbished will be too costly. I'd like to do it myself. At this point all I want to do is clean out the gunk from the frame-to-glass mating surfaces,(disinfect the area?), and reseal it with silicone.
Unless anyone has some tips on how to clean out the old gunk from the channels and which silicone to use, I'll just go forward with the GE II.

You're right about buffing it. However, I'd like to get the green grunge off. It may not be possible to salvage whatever scant finish coat is still left after all these years. As I stated, when I have more time next year I'll likely strip and spray varnish the door frame (I have access to a great spray setup). But for now I'm looking for tips for cleaning the grunge out of the frame slots that holds the glass, and what to use to clean the area before applying silicone to the frame to seal the glass.



PS: I've no doubt whatsoever that the door is from the 1920s, what makes you think otherwise?
It has the patent number stamped at the top of the door: #1496525. The patent is for 1924 and from OZONE PARK, NEW YORK.

http://www.google.com.pg/patents/US1496525

I've lived in this NYC apt. for several decades. The previous owner was incredibly cheap and never replaced anything. In the 1980s there were still plenty of the original fixtures in the apartments: the medicine cabinet and knob in the top pic as well as the sink is original (I stripped the medicine cabinet). No room had more than two electrical recepts, no circuit breaker box in the apartments (very low wattage fuses), non functioning dumb waiters, old style toilets, cast iron bathtubs and cast iron double farmer sinks in the kitchens. We got a breaker box upgrade some years back but everything else is still here (including the disconnected fuse box). Kitchen cabinets are original. This scenario is actual fairly common in NYC and plenty of buildings much older than mine still have original hardware.
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Old 11-07-2017, 09:34 PM   #6
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Like Jim, I wouldn't have guessed the shower door was that old, either. If it really is that old, the manufacturer was way ahead of its time.

For cleaning the gunk, I'd use a high alkaline cleaner sprayed into the crack. Allow it to dwell 5 minutes and clean it out with a toothbrush or folded paper towels. Then rinse with water and allow to thoroughly dry before using the silicone. But realize the high alkaline cleaner may strip away sealer you may have applied to the grout joints.

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Old 11-07-2017, 10:33 PM   #7
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I think you'll probably find that removing the screws on the bottom near the end will allow the whole thing to come apart. It should then be a lot easier to clean up. You'd probably want to spray them with something like PBlaster and let it sit overnight before you try, and then, make sure you get a screw driver that fits the screws VERY well so you don't damage them if it cams out.
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Old 11-07-2017, 11:30 PM   #8
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"I think you'll probably find that removing the screws on the bottom near the end will allow the whole thing to come apart. It should then be a lot easier to clean up."

In studying the patent drawing (see pic below) it does appear that a plate on the frame (19) unscrews to permit removal of the glass (21):

"A plate 19 is secured by screws 20 to the frame 16. The door panel 21 is secured in the channel between the plate 20 and the flange 18. Suitable packing 22 being interposed in order to secure a tight joint, and if the panel 21 be of glass, to avoid undue strains."

'Suitable packing' or what's left of it 88 year later is what needs to be cleaned out. Is silicone caulk the recommended replacement to seat the glass into the frame? If so, is there any particular silicone that would be better for this application?
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Old 11-07-2017, 11:33 PM   #9
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Tool Guy - Kg wrote:
"For cleaning the gunk, I'd use a high alkaline cleaner sprayed into the crack. Allow it to dwell 5 minutes and clean it out with a toothbrush or folded paper towels. Then rinse with water and allow to thoroughly dry before using the silicone. But realize the high alkaline cleaner may strip away sealer you may have applied to the grout joints."

Would a cleaner such as this react negatively to the aluminum(?) or whatever material the frame is made from?
I didn't do the tile work and I'm not sure if any sealer was used on the grout (my guess is no sealer).
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Old 11-07-2017, 11:42 PM   #10
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jadnashua, that's a valuable observation regarding disassembly. However, I've only got a couple days available find time to do this, so I may just have to do a quick & dirty, clean & silicone seal job then return to it next year and do a full disassembly when I'll have the time to deal with any unforeseen snafus in disassembly/reassembly. The glass also has some slight staining to it ... a haze, which isn't easy to clean ... I've tried ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, (even razor blades) but it remains.
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Old 11-07-2017, 11:52 PM   #11
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Tool Guy - Kg wrote:
"Like Jim, I wouldn't have guessed the shower door was that old, either. If it really is that old, the manufacturer was way ahead of its time."

I'm a long term tenant and the bathrooms on this apartment line all had to be demolished in order to do some structural work, then rebuilt. All the other apartments got cheap replacement shower doors but I requested they keep the door and they honored the request. I was actually surprised that this particular contractor was able to get things together and to mate up.
It's informative reading the patent document as it shows the adjustability of the door jamb and how to fine tune it. That's good info to know ... I actually recall another apartment that was having problems with the shower door not closing properly due to a too wide gap ... the repair solution was a sloppy and ugly latch to keep it closed (!) whereas in retrospect it could likely have been resolved by turning a few screws on the adjustable jamb to bring things into perfect alignment, which is the point of the patent!
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Old 11-08-2017, 01:35 AM   #12
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No, a high alkaline cleaner won't hurt the aluminum or its finish.

Depending on exactly the gap, a rubber molding may be the very best possible material. But nobody, short of you taking it apart and running to a glass company, is going to be able to get specific.

The plan to use 100% silicone is just fine. I don't think I'd disassemble the door unless I was fully committed to restoring the door for fear of running into problems that would prevent its relative quick re-assembly.

I'd clean everything the best I could and proceed. But once you caulk, don't think it will be easy to remove it later. Silicone *can* be removed. But removing it from a gap without disassembly would be very difficult. I'd advise against caulking before you've had ample opportunity to clean it out to your complete satisfaction. I'd remove that thought from your head thinking you'll do a quick job now and return later.


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Old 11-08-2017, 11:50 AM   #13
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Tool Guy - KG wrote:
"No, a high alkaline cleaner won't hurt the aluminum or its finish.

Depending on exactly the gap, a rubber molding may be the very best possible material. But nobody, short of you taking it apart and running to a glass company, is going to be able to get specific.

The plan to use 100% silicone is just fine. I don't think I'd disassemble the door unless I was fully committed to restoring the door for fear of running into problems that would prevent its relative quick re-assembly.

I'd clean everything the best I could and proceed. But once you caulk, don't think it will be easy to remove it later. Silicone *can* be removed. But removing it from a gap without disassembly would be very difficult. I'd advise against caulking before you've had ample opportunity to clean it out to your complete satisfaction. I'd remove that thought from your head thinking you'll do a quick job now and return later."

I value your input and based on the patent drawing and although I know next to nothing about glass linings, I was thinking along similar lines that a material lining insert like a rubber gasket of some sort may offer the best protection and support for the glass. Of course at present I haven't the means or time to undertake a rebuild of that scope. If I did eventually disassemble the door, I'd probably want to purchase new glass made to measure and mount it properly, then clean up and seal the door frame with a durable clear coat or lacquer.

My three choices at present are: 1.) to do an acceptable repair: clean out the channel as bestsellers I can without disassembly then silicone seal it (unless anyone has a better idea of how to seal it that might make an eventual rebuild a year or two down the road easier), 2.) do a complete disassembly and rebuild (new glass, clear coat the frame, etc.), or 3.) do nothing whatsoever and leave it as it is, with the glass unsealed and looking somewhat shoddy.

If I clean it out now without any disassembly and silicone it, I realize it will make future disassembly more problematic (is there another option other than silicone which would be easier to deal with down the road upon disassembly?).

But my choice at present is either commit and go all the way (money and time) which I'm not in a position to do, or do a stop gap repair until I have the time and commitment to perhaps do a full disassembly and rebuild. Further I don't own the building, I rent. But if this door is to be kept and lovingly cared for, I'm the one that will have to do it.

I'm not a complete n00b when dealing with silicone, but I'm definitely a beginner. The only thing I've ever disassembled that was sealed with silicone was a fish tank. It was a pretty burly undertaking to disassemble all the (thick) glass even with the complete access that a fish tank permits. I've resealed a couple fishtanks and they were pretty involved projects, more than I'd anticipated. A year or so back after the silicone around a bathtub was removed I resealed it. I used the tape method and was unhappy with the result, I either didn't move fast enough, didn't wipe enough silicone off with my finger, and/or the angle of pull when removing the tape all conspired to leave a noticeable raised edge vs. the desired seamless blend onto the tile.

Any opinions on silicone color (clear, grey, black?) for this application?
Should I be looking into a different brand silicone with strong mildewcide?
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Old 11-08-2017, 02:19 PM   #14
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That patent is for an adjustable door jamb with the original intended use being tile showers. If you study it, you might have some insight on possible disassembly.
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Old 11-08-2017, 03:41 PM   #15
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Does anyone have a suggestion for what 'high alkaline cleaner spray' that's readily available to use on the door frame that would dissolve the old soap scum and grunge but not attack the aluminum? I've looked online but it's a bewildering product area and chemistry inset my forte.
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