If you call or walk in your local home center or building material supply store and ask someone a question about glass block window design, fabrication or dare I say it – installation – you’ll be lucky if they even know if they carry glass blocks in stock (by the way in most cases they don’t carry this material)! Maybe you’ve got a unique design or a tough installation question and you not only need basic advice you need a “masters-level” input (or the “untold story”) on how to work with this classic material.
If you’re looking for deeper input you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll take a look at 5 little known secrets about glass block windows which can help you get an improved design and quality of installation. Let’s dig in!
Wouldn’t it be cool to feel like you’re enjoying a “summer home” every day you step into your bathroom? While most of us love the idea of owning a summer home many things get into the way (kids, college expenses, health care costs etc.). But what if you get a summer home ambiance – even in your standard 5’ x 8’ bathroom you use every day?
This was the vision of a progressive Columbus Ohio couple when they bought a traditional ranch home about 2 years ago. In the short run this home would provide a place for their daughter, future son in law and grandchild to stay until their careers took them elsewhere. In the long run this home would not only be a comfortable place to retire, but also a place to relax and enjoy – just like being at a summer home (even during the cold Central Ohio winters!).
So how did they create a summer home ambiance in their 5’ x 8’ bathroom? Let’s take a look at the key design concepts and products used.
The process of building a glass block shower seems mysterious to many. How is this wall going to be built? Who is going to do it? How do we plan the glass block shower so it will fit onto the shower pan? In short how do we make this project happen so it doesn’t get screwed up?
As a result of lack of planning over the years I have been called (unfortunately after the fact) on many glass block showers which either look like a 10 year old (or some very inexperienced dude) built them or have failed as a result of using the wrong materials or improperly designed shower base. I really don’t want to see these blunders happen to you!
In the article below we’ll take a quick journey to explore the 5 biggest blunders I’ve seen in glass block shower walls – but way more important than that I’ll give you the solutions to avoid these costly mistakes. Let’s dig in!
If you have a 13 year old daughter and a 17 year old son (like Ben and Melodee Diss of Powell Ohio – and also me!) you know a shared Jack and Jill style bathroom has the potential to turn into a major battleground for a brother and sister (especially if they need to use the space at the same time!). So what’s a family to do to make this room work efficiently and maximize the style, personal space and privacy of the kids using it? Let’s first take a look back at the Jack and Jill bathroom and then step forward (using this project) as an example of how to make it better for today’s modern family.
In the 1970’s when the Brady Bunch was popular (I might be dating myself with this reference) a hot home design concept was the idea of the “Jack and Jill bathroom.” This popular 70’s show which featured a newly blended family with 3 boys and 3 girls had the ultimate in a shared bathroom. The kids used a common space known as a “Jack and Jill” bathroom. In it’s basic form the Jack and Jill bathroom is a shared space between two bedrooms and has a locked door on each side. When someone is taking a shower or using the toilet they can lock both inner doors for privacy. In addition when a family member does not need complete privacy (for example when using the vanity sinks) the space can be shared.
While the shared, functional and stripped down bathroom might have worked for the Brady Bunch in the 70’s most people (and their kids especially) don’t want to live this communally today. We are used to nicer and more luxurious bathrooms and if the Diss’ kids (Alex and Angie) are anything like my 17 and 13 year old son and daughter (Parker and Jade) the less space they have to share with their sibling the better (my 13 year old daughter doesn’t want her brother checking out her stuff in the bathroom and I’m sure my 17 year old son feels the same way!).
So while the efficient 1970’s concept of the Jack and Jill bathroom still makes sense – it does need some alterations to fit today’s family. Let’s take a look at 5 cool tips the Diss family used (in conjunction with their remodeling contractor Mike Cheeseman Builders) to modernize and privatize a Jack and Jill bathroom.
If I’ve been asked this question once I’ve been asked it a thousand times, “ Mike – how big should I make the opening for my new shower?” OK – I’ll give you my standard answer. It depends. Boy doesn’t that sound like a cop-out!
In all seriousness designing a shower opening is a bit like being a politician -you’re trading off competing interests. On one hand you want to have the biggest opening so it’s simple to get into and out of the shower whether you’re walking in, shuffling in or rolling in with a wheelchair. On the other hand you want the opening as small as possible so you don’t get water pooling on the bathroom floor which could lead to leakage in the floor below. Given these competing benefits of a smaller vs. larger shower opening where does that leave you? How can you find just the right sized shower opening for you and your family? Explore the answers to the following 5 questions and you’ll be assured to get the size and design of your shower opening correct.
Is the wooden window trim surrounding your shower window rotten and badly deteriorated? If you’re like many people you may be wondering why the heck did they even put wood trim around a sliding or double hung window which is smack dab in the middle of my tub/shower? Constant running water on wood is not a good thing – as is evident to you now!
Well – to step back a bit – when many older homes were built the usage of the tub/shower areas was different. In the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s people actually had time to take a bath! Now given our crazy schedules (I’m guessing your life is probably a lot like mine) nobody even thinks about taking a bath. So when you run the shower the water is constantly running off the wood trim of window. Over time the wood has deteriorated and here you are now.
So what options do you have to stop painting (a losing battle) deteriorated wood trim surrounding your shower window? Let’s dive in to take a look at a few proven choices to eliminate this maintenance hassle.
Boring. Mediocre. Run of the mill. In a nutshell that’s what most glass block shower designs are like. Get one standard 8” x 8” x 4” wavy glass block, stack it on top on the next block, lay them up in a straight line, stick a door on the other side and call it done. Now you have your plain Jane shower. Woo hoo!
When I was growing up my Dad Joe would say the word “mediocre” was a dirty word. He challenged me, my brother Frank and sister Venera to be the best we could be. He wanted us to become the best version of ourselves and do it with with “personopoloy.” You may ask what is “personopoly?” It was my Dad’s funny made up word to us to lead our lives with our own unique personality.
In the article below I’d like you to go on a trip with me to see 5 ½ incredible glass block shower designs (our company had the pleasure of working on) which certainly aren’t boring or mediocre. These designs are distinctive because their owners were not afraid to let their uniqueness and “personopoly” show. They used persistence to find the right suppliers and contractors to make their dream showers a reality and wouldn’t take no for an answer!
When you think of words to describe the most outstanding bridges in the United States (the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Brooklyn Bridge in New York or the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida) what words come to your mind? If I’m guessing right it might be exhilarating, breathtaking, fun, beautiful and maybe a bit scary. The word which is not in this list – boring. Now image a bridge which not only spans between 2 points but one you can see through – now that’s a wow! This describes a glass bridge. You many have heard or even walked on – if you were gutsy enough – some famous glass floors like the CN Tower in Toronto or the Tiananmen Mountain “walk of faith” (I have to say no thank you to this one!).
“Walk of faith” bridge
You may be thinking why should I care about a glass bridge since my home (or business) is not trying to span over the East River, the Pacific Ocean or even capture a breathtaking (top down) view of a famous city? When you look at the basic benefits of any bridge they look to connect 2 spaces. In the case of the glass and suspension bridges and floors mentioned above they make the connection between 2 places with a dramatic flair which cements an experience in your mind.
When you look at your custom home or business why should you settle for the same old same old design when you can add flair and drama to create a truly unique space? Imagine how people visiting your home will react while walking over a clear or colored glass bridge! If you’re a business who wants to wow potential clients or new recruits a space which stands out from the crowd is essential (isn’t this why you hired a professional architect or designer to plan your project?). Here are 3 unique advantages of glass bridges which make them one of the most distinctive features in a new home or commercial building:
1) Moving light through a glass floor – Perhaps you live in a row home in the city and the lower level of your home where you have your office is dark. A glass floor can help you move light into this space. Or perhaps you have a restaurant and want to get light into a lower level seating area – another distinctive advantage of structural glass.
2) Visually connecting two spaces – One of the most interesting factors of a glass floor or bridge is it can be designed to be see-through. If you have a lower level wine cellar you can see through the floor to this feature. Maybe you’re into sports memorabilia and you want other to see your favorite jerseys on display, or want to uniquely exhibit your company’s products by creating a horizontal “showcase.”
3) Creating wow factor – You want to add colored light through a horizontal space to create a kaleidoscope of colors below. Now this is a wow feature not to be missed!
In the article below I’d like to take you beyond the fun benefits of a glass bridge and dig into the design nuts and blots, safety, privacy and style considerations which make this product work in a luxury home or business.
Here’s two things you can count on. First, bathroom styles can and do change. Second, the design and products in your bathroom will need to change to keep pace with how you’ll want to use the space.
Both of these realities became apparent to Chris and Cindy McGovern after they moved into their Columbus Ohio home. While the size of the bathroom was large enough, the 1990’s look (it had a large Jacuzzi tub) and small stand up shower just wasn’t going to work. When I talked to Cindy about the Jacuzzi tub she said, “I used it one time. I felt like I was going to sink into the darn thing it was so big. Instead of this tub being something I would enjoy it looked like a lot of work to me!”
In addition the shower was a tiny 3’ x 3’ space which would be needed every day. As Chris said to me, “Mike – we wanted a finished bathroom which was cool yet functional and complimented our lifestyle. We did not want a finished space which was so slick that it would go out of style in a year. My wife Cindy wanted this place to feel like a spa. So we called in our A-team designer Marilyn Livingston -who really gets us – to help out.”
In the article below we’ll look at 3 ideas Marilyn, Cindy and Chris along with their builder Fred Ritchey of Ritchey Construction used to create a timeless, functional and spa-like master bathroom design.
Another American company (Pittsburgh Corning the only domestic manufacturer of glass blocks) decides to idle a 79 year old plant in Port Alleghany Pennsylvania and permanently lay off 75 workers. As someone who has bought Pittsburgh Corning (P.C) products, likes glass blocks as a building material or is a fan of U.S. made products here’s 3 questions you’ll want the answers to:
(Question 1) Why did Pittsburgh Corning close their United States manufacturing plant making glass blocks? Could this plant closing have been stopped?
(Question 2) I already have a window, shower wall or commercial project made with Pittsburgh Corning glass blocks (or was planning a future project with P.C. materials). What should I do now?
(Question 3) What is the future of the glass block industry? Can I still use this product for my home or commercial building? What do the product options look like without Pittsburgh Corning in the market? Is the future of this industry bright or bleak?