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.
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!
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?
“This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile” the commercial in the 1980’s proclaimed. What General Motors was trying to tell consumers (although this commercial might have backfired on them more than helped) is times had changed and the designs of their cars had to change with it. When I think of effective shower design which fits today’s family I think the same phrase could apply, “This isn’t your fathers shower!”
So – you may be asking, “Mike – what has changed that Dad or Grandpa’s shower no longer works?” Consider these 3 things:
(1) Pace of life – Like it or not we live in a 24/7 world. There is more to do with less time to do it (even though we have the same 24 hours our Dad or Grandfather has). This faster pace means we have less time (and desire) to spend maintaining our homes. We need less maintenance and more thoughtful design.
(2) We’re living longer – That’s good – but it has repercussions. While medicine is keeping us upright longer, it’s not keeping all of our body parts from wearing down (bummer). As we get older it’s just not as easy to step over a tub rail or shower curb. Shower design needs to be safer.
(3) Homes are getting smaller – Homes have grown steadily from 1973 to 2014 but for the first times in over 40 years homes actually started shrinking in 2015 according to Realtor.com. People have become enamored with tiny homes, container homes and a more sustainable lifestyle. Given these trends shower design needs to be more thoughtful than in Dad’s days of increasingly bloated square footage.
As a result of these 3 factors you and I need showers which require less maintenance, improved safety and better design. Let’s check out 7 shower design tricks to help your shower evolve from your fathers’ old shower.
Warning – This article may be controversial to some.
I have to admit with many designers, decorators and architects I hear the following comments:
Glass blocks are dated.
Glass blocks are an old school material.
Aren’t those blocks just for basement and factory windows?
While the use of glass blocks for functional (not too sexy) projects like basement, bathroom or factory windows makes sense for security and improved energy efficiency, the material has evolved dramatically with some cool designer products no one seems to know about. Why are glass blocks seen as dead or dated? Why is this product the “Rodney Dangerfield” of building materials (i.e. it gets no – or minimal – respect)?
I would contend the marketing of these cool products has been woefully under-promoted. With this lack of promotion a common refrain of designers is often, “glass blocks are dead.” They aren’t dead – the problem is no one really knows what’s cool and hot with them.
In this article I’m going to take you on a journey to see how this classic material has evolved into a contemporary element which can fit into a home or business with a modern design aesthetic. Let’s take a look at 5 specific ways glass blocks are being resurrected right now “from the dead” into a new modern design-forward building material.
Basements can be scary places! I remember when I was 5 years old and my Mom would send me downstairs to throw out the garbage in our incinerator (anyone else remember having an incinerator for garbage?) and that dark dingy basement would scare the heck out of me. I would run down and back up as fast as I could!
This article isn’t about my scary basement as a kid, it’s about Bridget and Tim O’Callahan’s former cellar (the name some people call their spooky basement). You probably know the type of basement I’m talking about. It had the old, dark paneling and a moldy, musty “basement smell” you just can’t rid of no matter how many air fresheners you jam into the space. Old clay tile walls, a nasty deep window well and outdated plumbing and electrical systems all screamed – yuck! As Tim said when they would get the courage to go into the basement to do laundry all they could think about was, “Get me out of here!”
When the existing old knob and tube wiring shorted out it left not so lovely burn marks on the wall. This was the final straw with putting up with the pariah of a basement. Something had to be done. As Tim said, “If we were to go to sell the home down the road there would be no way we could do it with this musty room with burn marks on the wall.” The decision was made to get a basement remodel underway. As the remodeling process unfolded the O’Callahans’ not only made their basement recreation/exercise room/laundry zones functional – they transformed the basement into an area they actually want to entertain in.
Let’s see how Tim and Bridget (with the help of the design and construction team at Cleveland Design and Remodeling) used a three step process to (1) get rid of structural and mechanical problems (2) ramp up the laundry (or business side of the basement) to make it an inviting space and (3) made it special with finishing touches which rival the upper levels of most homes.
You might have heard the saying “when life throws you lemons, make lemonade.” Sometimes a challenge can happen in our lives which not only affects us physically, but also emotionally. The key is to fight through life’s “lemons” (challenges) and to make some “lemonade” (personal victories).
An excellent example of making some “lemonade” is the story of Karen Lee Gast who suffered a stroke in November 2014. Not only was her physical mobility reduced (she now uses the assistance of a wheelchair) but she endured the mental challenge of seeing her independence reduced as a result of the stroke. Simple daily tasks (like showering on her own) – were no longer simple….and required the assistance of her daughter Julie (Morgan) who is of constant support to Karen.
While Karen is grateful for her daughter’s help (although Karen says she can be a wee-bit overprotective at times!) she wanted to regain more independence in her home and control over her life. This desire for independence led Karen to do an extensive bathroom remodeling in her home in Akron Ohio. Let’s take a look at why this remodel was necessary.
The old bathroom
After Karen’s stroke the existing master bathroom just didn’t work. Here were some of the problems with the old space:
The doorway was too small to comfortably roll the wheelchair in.
There were no grab bars to safely transfer from the chair into the shower.
The old stand up 3’ x 3’ fiberglass shower with a framed metal pivoting door was way too small and difficult to get into.
With these challenges Karen was not only not able to use the master bathroom (which is conveniently located right off her bedroom). She had to use a smaller bathroom in the home and could only shower on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when her daughter Julie could come over to help her. This showering process in this old bathroom took one hour of each of their time. The bottom line was there was no way to make the convenient master bathroom an accessible space without extensive modifications and a full remodel.
In the article below learn 3 critical steps which transformed Karen’s bathroom into an accessible, low maintenance, safe and stylish room she can use without being dependent on others. This now allows her and Julie to do other things (or just spend quality Mom and daughter time together).