How to select the best shape for a glass block shower wall
Updated March 16, 2019
Figuring out a glass block shower can be a pain in the rear! If you’re using a contractor they may be vaguely familiar with this type of wall system – or, if they are not, they will try to steer you to a “standard” shower enclosure since it’s what they know how to do. But, if you have your heart set on the benefits of a low maintenance, high privacy glass block shower and want to make it happen – no matter how difficult it is to figure out – you’ll want to read this article.
Well I’m here to tell you a glass block shower doesn’t require a brain surgeon to design and install (and my wife would agree I’m not a brain surgeon – or at least I don’t have the listening skills of one)! I’ve been working with this product since 1985 (wow- that makes me old) and have learned a few “tricks” along the way about glass block design. In this article, my goal is to help you identify the top 6 glass block wall shapes. Then we’ll look at each shape (I’ll give you some “out-there” names for them) and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each so you can wrap your arms around which is best for you. Just to let you know I’ve saved the most popular design for last (but don’t jump ahead because the other 5 designs may be better for your project) So let’s get ‘er done and figure this project out!
Glass block shower wall shape #1 – The “straight as an arrow”
If you’re looking for a minimalistic and simplistic glass block wall this is the choice for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of this design:
Advantages of a straight glass block shower wall
- Most cost effective – since this wall does not use any specialty curved, angled or 90-degree corner blocks the wall is cheaper to purchase.
- You can create a “step down” design – The step down (or scalloped design as some call it) is where the wall looks like a set of stairs and comes down in increments. This is a fun design to look at – but it must be designed in 8” increments with a straight wall. This wall costs less than using a cultured marble or solid surface finishing pieces on the top of the blocks.
- Create a finished “top” of the wall – As long as you design your straight wall in 8” height and width increments you can use gently curved finishing blocks on both the top and sides of this wall – creating a beautiful finished look.
- It’s simple to add a shower door– If you want to use a glass shower door it will be simplest to have a straight wall and tie the door into the stud wall on the opposite side of the glass block wall.
Disadvantages of a straight glass block shower wall
- Keeping the water inside the shower for a walk in – Unless you have a shower wider than 66” I would stay away from doing a walk-in design with the straight glass block wall (note – a curved design work better because the radius in the wall directs water back towards the drain).
Glass block shower wall shape #2 – The “Beyoncé” – the gently curved wall
If you’re a music fan (or love the gentle curves of a beautiful woman – some guys right now are saying, “now we’re talking!”) a gracefully curved glass block shower wall can be something to behold. Here’s some of the good and bad points of this type of design.
Advantages of a gently curved glass block shower wall
- You can create a curve over a large area – For extremely wide showers, glass blocks in a gently curved wall can be individually spaced out to create a beautiful bowed shape – like that of a bowed window.
- You can customize the radius – With “pre-curved” glass block sizes (see shape option #6 below) the shape of a curved glass block is pre-determined. With a gently curved wall you can choose your own shape, but also need to be careful to select the right sized block so the joint sizes won’t be too big.
Disadvantages of a gently curved glass block shower wall
- Hard to find someone to do the installation – To build this wall you need a skilled mason who is willing to install glass blocks (note – most masons don’t like glass blocks because they move around as you try to lay them). This type of person can be a needle in a haystack to find.
- It is expensive– Because the labor (and skill level) to do a curved glass block wall is expensive, you’ll need to have a bigger budget for this option.
- It will be hard to get a pre-shaped shower pan to match up with the glass block wall– Since you’re using a custom shape – you’ll also need a custom shower pan. If you do want a premade shower pan (I recommend a ready for tile or solid surface pan) you need to know the radius you will use up front.
Glass block shower wall shape #3 – “The snake” – the serpentine wall
Brick serpentine walls (like those at the University of Virginia) are architecturally elegant and immediately command our attention, but did you know you could make a serpentine glass block wall? Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of this wall.
Advantages of a serpentine glass block wall
- Completely unique style – Our company sells only one serpentine wall on average, per year. This makes this type of wall a highly unique shower feature.
- Not as costly to build as the “gently curved” wall– This may seem like a misprint, but since the serpentine glass block wall can be pre-built with pre-curved blocks it can be more cost effective than the gently curved block mentioned above which must be built at the job site block by block by a mason contractor.
Disadvantages of a serpentine glass block wall
- It must be engineered – You don’t want a rookie unfamiliar with glass blocks to design this type of wall for you. It’s best to use an experienced glass block designer who can create a template for your specific sized shower.
- You need a wider space – You need to have at least 62” of wall length for a serpentine glass block shower wall to work.
Glass block shower wall shape #4 – The “right” angle – the 90 degree “L shaped” wall
While not the most exciting of shapes – the L shaped glass block shower has its benefits (and some drawbacks).
Advantages of a 90-degree glass block shower wall
- A solution for your corner shower – An L shaped design works well for a corner shower. It is tight and compact.
- It’s simple to build – There are pre-shaped corner blocks to make a 90-degree turn allowing this efficient design to be possible without needing a post in the corner.
- It’s simple to lay – Since this shape is largely linear it is simple to lay by hand (although you’ll find the quality, strength and field installation times to be superior if you use a prefab wall system).
Disadvantages of a 90–degree glass block shower wall
- The look – A 90-degree glass block wall is not the most exciting– although you can spruce it up by adding some color glass blocks.
- It’s not the best design for a walk-in shower – Since the 90-degree wall comes straight back into the opening it is not as popular for a walk-in shower (a 45-degree angle or a straight wall with a tight radius at the end you’ll see in shape options #5 and #6 below are better).
Glass block shower wall shape #5 – The 45-degree angle – This isn’t just “a-cute” angle
Please forgive the bad geometry “humor” (talking about an acute angle, not “a-cute” angle) but don’t hold it against the benefits of the 45- degree angle wall listed below.
Advantages of a 45-degree glass block shower wall
- Can create a walk-in shower in a small space – Since this 45-degree block is small, it can angle back into a shower quickly to create a walk-in shower which reflects water back towards the drain.
- Ability to build a NEO angle corner shower – If the space you have is limited, a NEO angle corner shower design with 2 angled glass blocks is an excellent choice.
Disadvantages of a 45-degree glass block shower wall
- Product availability – The one manufacturer (Pittsburgh Corning) who made this block went out of business 6 months ago – but there are still 2 years’ worth of inventory available (note – another manufacturer is now looking to make a similar block which could be out within a year).
- It’s a sharp, angular design – Most people prefer the graceful look of a gently curved wall over a sharp angle.
Glass block shower wall shape #6 – The straight wall with a sharp radius at the end
I’ve saved the most popular shape for last. This would be a straight wall with a tight 12” inside radius at the end. Here’s the reasons it’s so popular.
Advantages of a straight glass block wall with a sharp radius at the end
- You can make a walk in shower in a 60” tub space – Tub to glass block walk in shower conversions are hot. Since this wall makes a tight turn at the end you can make a walk-in shower in a space as small as 60” wide x 32” deep (the size of a standard bathtub).
- Walls can be premade into easy to install sections – Unlike the gently curved (Beyoncé as I called it) wall in option 2, this glass block wall design can be premade into sections which are simply stacked on top of another for a simple installation – even by a DIY homeowner.
- You can make a complete 90 degree turn in a small space – Since these blocks are manufactured to turn a complete corner using 4 glass blocks with only a 12” inside radius, you can create a cool corner walk in shower in a compact area (we have done projects 6’ x 4’ and 5’ x 5’ for example).
- This wall is less expensive than curved and bent glass – The other way to make a curved walk in shower is to use custom curved and bent glass. This option will cost 2 to 3 more than the glass blocks.
Disadvantages of a straight glass block wall with a sharp radius at the end
- Curved blocks are more expensive than straight blocks – If you’re looking for the lowest cost glass block wall you’ll want to go with a completely straight wall vs. one with any curve (since the curved blocks are more expensive).
There are more glass block shape options than people realize, but this variety is key to make a project work for any standard or odd shaped shower remodel. I’m sure there is an option which will work for you.
Can I (or a member of my team) help you more?
Whether you’re looking for a local glass block installation in Cleveland or Columbus or nationwide supply of a glass block prefabricated shower kit (which can also include the shower pan) I – or a member of my team – would love to help. Call any of the telephone numbers below or ask your questions in the comment box.
- Nationwide supply – Innovate Building Solutions – 877-668-5888
- Columbus Glass Block – 614-252-5888
- Cleveland Glass Block – 216-531-6363.
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