7 Secrets about Glass Block Shower Walls Your Contractor Doesn’t Want You to Know
Updated March 24, 2019
You’ve finally gotten a hold of Pauly Path-Of-Least-Resistance, President of Krazy Cool Contracting Inc. You’ve set up a Free in-home estimate for next Thursday. Your goal of upgrading the bathroom for you and your husband Bill – now that your 3 kids are (almost) out of the house – is about to become a reality.
Pauly’s the hard to get contractor in your small town. Despite his funny name (and company name for that matter) he’s known for high quality bathroom remodeling work and stands by his warranties. Your neighbors and friends have told you to use him.
Since the 3 other companies you’ve called haven’t even sent you a quote (after meeting with them a month ago) you’re ready to rock n’ roll with Pauly. He’s a shoo-in to get your job. This is a fact you’re trying to keep on the Q-T, so his price won’t force you to get a 2nd job!
Everything’s going well during your initial appointment until you break the news to Pauly. You tell him you want a partially colored free-standing walk in curved glass block shower wall. You also mention you want grout free wall panels and an easy to clean shower pan. You want simplicity at all costs (OK – maybe not at all costs) but certainly simpler to maintain is high on your list.
Pauly starts ripping off all the reasons he CAN’T do this job based on your product choices. Here are some things he rants about:
- I don’t know how to do a glass block shower – and I don’t know any subcontractors who know their way around this material either.
- I’ve never installed a curved glass wall of any sort (glass or glass blocks for that matter) before.
- He asks, why do you want glass blocks? They’re out of style anyway.
- You know the block wall will fall if it’s not supported on all sides.
- Why do you want grout free wall panels? They look cheap and plasticky.
- You mentioned wanting colored glass blocks. I have no clue where to find them.
After he’s done ripping off all the reasons it CAN’T be done you’re tempted to chime in with the trite motivational statement, “Can is just can’t without a T.” You bite your tongue and think better of it (after all he’s the best contractor in town and you don’t want to piss him off).
However, you’re not ready to give up on your glass block shower dream– and you’re prepared for his objections. You’ve got a list of 7 secrets (I’ve given you the cheat-sheet below) your chosen ‘path-of-least-resistance’ contractor, Pauly, may not want to know, but you can share to get him over to your side.
Secret #1 – You can build a curved (or straight or angled) glass block with NO previous experience.
Building a curved glass block shower sounds like a crazy-complex project when you, or your contractor, haven’t done one before. And I’ll tell you if you ATTEMPT to install this project block by block (without a prefabricated system) you’re asking for it (note – in our company which specializes in glass blocks we only have two guys on staff who are skilled enough to lay them block by block).
So how – exactly can you build a curved glass block shower without previous experience?
The answer is simple. You buy a premade shower panel system.
With a premade system the blocks are built into modular sections (using the same principal as a modular home or manufactured trusses used in most ‘stick-built’ homes today). The premade sections simply stack on top one another, are anchored into the side walls and then grouted.
As a guy in my office would say, “it’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!”
Secret #2 – You can ditch a shower door by using a walk-in glass block shower
Pauly is used to calling his supplier – Guy’s Gorgeous Glass – and having Guy measure and install clear thick frameless glass enclosures. This is the type of system your friends and neighbors have, but they don’t rock your world.
You want a sleek walk in shower design. This will be helpful as you and your husband Bill get older and want to age in place (OK only Bill’s going to look older – you’re not!). Another positive of a walk-in shower is it not only saves on the cost of the door but cleaning it as well.
It’s not always in Pauly’s interest to use designs which have less product and save you money excluding a shower door – but in the market today, Pauly’s got more work than he can handle anyway.
Secret #3 – You can get a chic, hot look with glass blocks. It’s not an ‘old-school’ material any more.
Most people are used to seeing glass blocks in the traditional way. With one 8 x 8 x 4 wavy patterned block stacked on top one another. However, just like fashion has changed so have glass blocks. So, you start to educate Pauly on these 3 facts:
- Fact #1 – Glass block shower walls come in thinner varieties (3 1/8” thicknesses). With thinner blocks there is more room inside the shower, and the premade sections are lighter to work with.
- Fact #2 – Glass blocks have finishing pieces for stylish edges – In the ‘old days’ there was no effective way to finish the edges of the glass blocks – so you had to install them inside framed openings. This is no longer the case. Gracefully curved blocks can be put on the end or even the top of walls.
- Fact #3 – The new style blocks are now used in boutique hotels and fashion-forward Coach department stores. Glass blocks are back in style. And when it comes to fashion-forward designs, you should ask yourself how much does my contractor really know about style (have you ever looked at the inside of his truck to size up his or her ‘fashionable’ look?
Secret #4 – As Mom used to say, you can get the entire ‘kit and caboodle’ with a glass block shower (if only you could figure out what a caboodle is…)
(Note– a ‘caboodle’ is a term for a collection of things – I had to look this one up).
When Pauly tells you he’s not comfortable because he’s never installed a glass block shower before, that’s not a statement to be taken lightly.
Quality contractors want to do a quality job. It’s unnerving to them – as it is to you to have a failed job requiring warranty repair. Plus, on your contractor’s side if they have to come back to fix your job it’s obviously a drain on their wallet and time.
The key to getting over the fear of ‘I’ve never done this type of project before’ is to have a fool-proof system to give you (and your contractor) the confidence to tackle this job as a rookie.
The key is to get a glass block shower kit.
By glass block shower kit, I mean not only the prefabricated wall panels mentioned in secret #1, but also a shower pan designed specifically for the blocks. These shower pans can be made with 51 different colors in a durable solid surface material or an expanded polystyrene ready for tile pan.
Both will do the job. One big reason to choose the solid surface pan (even though its initial purchase price is higher) is you won’t need to go out and buy tiles, a shower curb cap and deal with the maintenance of a grouted tile shower floor ever! (note – this is especially important as you’re headed into your empty-nester years and you’d rather be out with your friends or golfing than on your hands and knees cleaning a shower floor pan!).
Secret #5 – It’s an ‘old-wives-tale’ that a glass block shower wall must be supported on all 4 sides
When you dig into the proper design and construction of a glass block shower wall you’ll learn support on all 4 sides is a pile of hooey.
Glass block showers do – absolutely – need to tie into one wall so they are properly anchored. However, anchoring into the floor is a complete no-no (you don’t want to cut a hole in the shower pan to worry about leaking through the base), and needing to anchor them inside a 4-sided structure is not only tougher to do, but completely unnecessary.
I’ve been in the glass block business for what seems like the time Moses was a boy (OK – I started in this biz in 1985 – but I lie and tell people I was 9 years old at the time). In those years I would estimate 98% of the showers we’ve installed or supplied have only been supported on one side – and ZERO of them have fallen.
So as the New-Yorkers would say – FUGGITABOUTIT – when your contractor tells you they need to be supported on all sides. They are flat-out wrong. If you want more information about anchoring a glass block wall read 5 Myths about Anchoring a Glass Block Shower Wall.
Secret #6 – You can add special designs and colors. Your glass block wall can be as funky and eclectic as you are!
There was a time (especially when you were a teenager) you wanted to ‘live inside the lines’ and be like everyone else. Especially if you had a weird first name as a teenager. You wished you could change it to Sally or Ann or Bob.
Now that you’re older you’ve gotten to the point you don’t give a hoot what others think. You’ve got your style – even if it’s a bit-off-beat and eclectic. You like what you like.
Glass block shower wall design can be purposely designed with your style in mind.
If you like a mixed-up stained-glass type look, then go for it.
If you want to add random colors inside the shower wall design, then have it your way.
If others in your family care too much about the resale of your home and want you to ‘live inside the lines’, then ask yourself why. You lived through some tough stages of life. It’s high time you live your life out a bit Burger King like (and have it your way!).
If you want fun glass block design ideas read, 5 ½ Amazing Glass Block Shower Designs with Personality.
Secret #7 – You can get a ‘tricked-out’ tile shower – which is actually a No-Tile, Tile Shower
Could you have imagined growing up you’d have a phone which could go anywhere with you? Could you have conceived your car would have a ‘navigation’ system and tell you where to go – or that a car could drive itself (OK – this invention still needs a bit of work, but you get what I mean).
Advancements in technology are mind-blowing. The rate of change is coming faster than ever.
So – if I tell you a secret that it’s actually possible to have a ‘tile shower’ with ZERO maintenance would you think I’m smoking something funny? It’s true with The No-Tile, Tile Shower.
When most people choose a glass block wall they want to combine it with the luxurious look of a tile shower, but they also want to get rid of maintenance as well. Now with laminated shower wall panels (i.e. these are panels which seal and click together like a floating wood floor) it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too. You’ll get an authentic looking tile shower wall look and a glass block shower wall –built with low maintenance in mind.
What’s also fun about these wall panels is they can fit seamlessly into a Modern Farmhouse, Transitional or even Modern Minimalist themed bathroom.
So, get your stylish glass block shower enclosure with small joints with the prefab panels and blow up the grout joints with a laminated shower panels and a solid surface shower pan. Let the new technologies make your life easier.
I hope you see from this article it IS POSSIBLE to turn your ‘path-of-least-resistance’ contractor around to build your glass block shower if you know these 7 secrets.
If you – and your contractor – still need some convincing (and if you’re being honest a bit of hand-holding) to make this project happen, I get it and our team would be happy to help you. Give us a call – or click on any of the links in this article. It would be our honor to help you!
How can I (or my team) help you with this project?
If you’d like assistance designing a glass block shower wall and/or getting prefab sections, a ready for tile or cultured granite shower pan or waterproof wall panels call me or my team at Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. For a local installation service and supply contact Columbus Glass Block at 614-252-5888 or Cleveland Glass Block at 216-531-6363.
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