Maybe I’ve been in the glass block shower business for too long. I’ve been doing this since 1985 and started at the age of 11 (OK – I’m lying, but I’m going with it to protect my tender, not-so-young age).
When you’ve been doing something for a long time you hear a lot of misconceptions, assumptions – or I’ll call it what it is – crap.
If you’re kicking the tires on a glass block shower, I want to use this article to save you time. I want to use this article to help you dump bad information you get from your neighbor, your relative or contractor who has limited experience with this product.
In this article I’ll blow up 5 myths about glass block showers which IMHO seriously need to die.
At the end of the article post your comments and tell me either:
Mike, “I think you’re amazing. You really nailed it.”
Mike, “I think this advice is nuts!”
I need to add some stupid things about glass blocks to your list.
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.
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.
Home improvement projects can be sexy. Picture the laid-out Shaker-cabinet and granite countertop image you saw on Pinterest or in Better Homes and Gardens. Wouldn’t you just love entertaining in a kitchen like that?
Home improvement projects can be the source of laughter…. after the job is done. I think back to my purchase of 3 pieces of carpet to put down on one small bathroom floor when I was a 25-year-old first-time homeowner. I bought 3 pieces because I cut the first 2 wrong (wondering how that happened … don’t ask!). The entire topic of home improvement is so funny it was its own show (remember Tim the “Tool Man” Taylor and his sidekick Al?).
However, as Fall is now upon us (and we know Fall is here by the trite pictures of ‘the kids’ on Facebook at the front door headed off to the first day of school) the Top 5 projects I believe you should do this season are neither sexy or funny, but they are down-right important. You may be asking why they’re important. Here’s why:
These projects make your home more comfortable. They’ll keep you from putting 3 blankets on and cranking up the heat this Winter.
These Fall home improvement projects will make life less stressful (I’ll explain why in project #2 below).
The top Fall home improvement projects will make you less crabby on bill paying day. You won’t be seeing red and want to ‘go postal’ on anyone at your local, ‘friendly’ (sarcasm intended) utility company who sent you your outrageous bill.
The bottom line is – many fall home improvement projects aren’t sexy, but they are important.
In this article I’m going to identify 5 projects you need to put on your list. I don’t want to see your family crabby, cold and you hot under the collar paying utility bills this winter. Let’s check out these 5 ‘non-sexy,’ yet important projects (note – I saved the ‘slam dunk’ project for last, but don’t get caught peeking ahead).
Bathroom and shower windows are a blessing and a curse.
They’re a blessing because they make your bathroom safer, light-filled and when opened give fresh air to keep moisture and mold away.
They’re a curse because they ‘open you up’ (ready or not) to the world (or your neighbors in this case). If you don’t find a way to make your bath windows private, you’ll give neighbors an unwanted ‘show’ in your ‘birthday suit.’ As someone who won’t be mistaken for Matthew McConoughey without a shirt – I’m not sure my neighbors would be looking forward to my ‘show’ anyway!
Because of the desire for privacy I’ve seen homeowners completely cover up windows in the middle of their shower with shower panels. This not only eliminates natural light – creating a closed in feeling, it looks ‘butt-ugly’ from the outside. You’ll see a wall behind a window. How dumb is that? Doing this should be a bathroom remodeling crime punishable by 1 years in solitary bathroom confinement in a dark, moldy shower with a rusty shower head.
The challenge is this. How do you find a high privacy shower or bathroom window which adds style?
In this article I’m going to give you 7 practical and creative ideas, so you can maintain your dignity (and privacy) without sacrificing light (and to get fresh air as well). At the end let me know which idea(s) makes the most sense to you, or others you’ve used with success.
Does your bathroom only feel a tiny bit more spacious than the last time you had the ‘pleasure’ (sarcasm intended) of ‘taking care of business’ in an airplane bathroom? Instead of enjoying your shower you’re used to banging your elbows against the shower doors. Bumping into the sides of the vanity cabinet is also something you’re all too familiar with. And we’re not even talking about the lack of storage and the risky proposition of climbing over the tub rail to take a shower. This small bathroom and tub/shower combo unit is an accident waiting to happen.
Bottom-line – your small cramped bathroom is dangerous, not stylish and a place you’d rather not have to use.
Moaning about small bathroom frustrations is simple. Figuring out what you can do about it is tough.
The question becomes, how can you fix/reinvent a small bathroom to not only be functional, but fashionable? As crazy as this may sound I believe this is not only possible, but easier than you think.
In this article I’m going to dish up 11 proven ideas to fix what today you may think is un-fixable – your tiny bath and shower. Some of these changes will involve more extensive bathroom remodeling. Others are cosmetic and lower cost. Pick and choose the ideas which make sense for you, but whatever you do, don’t ‘settle’ for your current space which is only a tiny bit better than an airport bathroom (at least in the airplane you still get one free drink and a small bag of pretzels!).
Educators are creative. They’re industrious. They pursue knowledge with reckless abandon. They’ll encourage you. They’ll give you feedback (whether you like it or not). They’ll throw in a dash of their personality to make sure you’re awake (and learning).
Right now, you’re probably asking, “Mike – what does this description of an educator (or teacher) have to do with a glass block walk in shower in a bath remodeling project?” Good question.
When it comes to fun, creative and successful DIY bathroom remodeling projects, I’ll tell you they all begin with education and learning. You’re digging into products, installation methods and resources to get your arms around the unknown (especially if you’re doing a job for the first time).
These ‘resources’ could be your next-door neighbor. They could be a local contractor or supplier. They could be a company 2,006 miles away (in this project the distance from Las Vegas Nevada to Columbus Ohio – where the glass block shower system was built).
Here’s where our ‘research queen’ comes into the story. The queen in this ‘construction story’ is Geri David of Las Vegas, Nevada.
While Geri would describe herself as a ‘retired educator,’ I will tell you she is (and will always be) an educator. You see Geri ‘met’ me, long before I met her. Here’s how.
Geri had a vision.
Geri’s vision was an open walk in glass block shower. It wouldn’t look ugly like her current builders-grade obscure glass, framed sliding door with a dingy fiberglass base.
Geri’s shower would be doorless. She wouldn’t have to ‘fight’ cleaning hair and dirt out of a metal shower door frame. She wouldn’t be scouring the Net looking a shower curtain which wasn’t butt-ugly.
Geri would put in the time, energy and relentless keyboard-burning research to make her vision a reality, at a price she could afford. This is where I showed up in this story.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for Geri) her research on Houzz, Pinterest and Google kept leading her back to me. You see I’m a ‘construction educator’ (AKA a blogger on all-things bathroom remodeling- and in this case a glass block shower). I guess to Geri I ended up being the bad rash she just couldn’t get away from (my wife of 34 years – Rose – knows this feeling all too well – ha! Ha!).
If you’re like Geri and hate your framed shower doors, fiberglass shower walls and or shower curtains but are unsure if you have the space and ability to make a walk-in shower (or glass block doorless shower) work, you’ll want to read further.
In this article I’ll give you a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look showing how Geri took her creative vision, put in the ‘finger-grease’ (i.e. Internet research) and assembled a team to make a walk-in glass block shower work in her small bathroom. Along the way Geri (like an excellent educator) gave out praise – and wasn’t afraid to let others know where they need to improve their ‘grades’.
Let’s stroll through 5 steps of Geri’s journey to a successful glass block walk in shower.
(Example #1) You’ve got a growing family and your ‘cute home’ is bursting at the seams.
(Example #2) You’re an empty nester looking to add ‘fun spaces’ for hobbies and entertainment as you near retirement (you never thought you’d say the ‘r’ word). You could buy a home in one of those ‘active adult, 55+, retirement villages.’ However, who wants to ‘live life’ around a bunch of old people who complain about knee replacements and are bragging about the latest feature in their walkers?
In both examples the need for more space, better space – (and since you’re still waiting for Bill Gates to add to his Trust Fund list) cost-effective space is critical.
Here’s the challenge. Where are you going to find it? Let’s look behind the popular ‘door #1 and door #2’ options most people think of to gain more square footage:
Space option behind door #1 – Buy an existing home
The existing home market is crazy-nuts. According to the S & P CoreLogic Case Shiller Home Price Indices last year alone, nationwide homes prices increased by 6.3%. Add to that cost, fixing up your existing home to sell it and paying a realtor and you’ll see trading up to a larger home is gonna cost you – BIG TIME!
Space option behind door #2 – Buy a brand-spanking new home from a builder
A new construction home is no bargain either. Lumber prices are going through the roof. Land development costs are increasing. Builders are forced to pass these costs on to you. Lastly, don’t even ask builders about the challenge of finding qualified labor to build new homes!
Is there a better option behind door #3?
The question is, can you find a better option for cost-effective space which is neither door #1 or door #2 above? If so, what is this better idea?
I’ll make the argument for people who own a basement, finishing the lower level (i.e. the space right below your feet) can be a perfect area to ‘find’ cost-effective space. Whether you’re a growing family or soon-to-be empty nester couple looking to reinvigorate your home around hobbies and entertaining friends, basement remodeling can be a smart financial move.
Sure, I know today you may refer to your basement as a cellar, dungeon, or cave because it’s not exactly the sexiest space going. OK – if we’re being real – it’s butt ugly. But there are ‘cures’ for your lower level.
Goals for this article
In this article, I’m looking to do two things.
First, I’m going to offer 5 practical reasons basement remodeling makes more sense today than ever.
Second, I’m going to give you 5 practical steps to transform your basement into a place you’ll want to spend time (and will help save money vs. buying a new home or a larger existing home).
At the end of the article, I’d love to hear ideas you’ve used to improve your basement and your opinions on this type of type of remodeling project.
Since you’re reading this article you deserve a round of applause. Learning about shower pans is as sexy and ‘interesting’ as seeing your Mother in Law ‘attempting’ to imitate your teenage daughter’s hot new look. Not a pretty picture. Certainly not sexy.
Shower pans literally get walked on and ignored daily. They get no respect.
However, I’d argue they’re propping up the entire ‘show.’ The show is your fancy shower heads, niches, contemporary sleek wall panels, tile surrounds and body jets people do notice.
If your base fails, you’re in a heap of trouble. You can throw in the dumpster all the cool features above the base (and your dollars – literally – down the literal drain with it). Sure, you can ‘cheap-out’ buying a low-cost shower pan or ‘zone out’ with no thought put into the design of a shower base. However, if you take this route as they’d say in high school Latin class – caveat emptor (that’s a fancy term for ‘let the buyer beware.’).
There’s a huge (or hugely as Trump would say) price to pay for a shower pan which fails, is designed incorrectly or doesn’t work as a family member ages and their mobility goes in the wrong direction.
There are 2 pivotal questions in selecting a shower pan you need to get your arms around:
Question 1 – What are the biggest mistakes, blunders, pitfalls (insert your negative adjective here) when selecting shower pans? The more important question is this second one.
Question 2 – How can I avoid the problems posed in question 1 to save time, money and aggravation having to ‘re-remodel’ (not a word, but it happens in reality) or throw away a costly shower purchase?
The purpose of this article is simple. Answer questions 1 and outline the 7 biggest blunders I’ve seen in bad shower pan purchases through my years (when I started in the bathroom remodeling business I had more hair, and none of it was grey either!) Next, I’ll cover question 2 and give you tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to the mistakes in question 1.
Glass block shower walls can be a pain in the butt to install.
Here’s 3 facts I know to back up this statement:
Fact #1 – It’s not the type of job you (or your contractor) do every day – Most people doing a glass block shower wall are embarking (sounds like we’re boarding a plane), on this journey for the first time. So, you’re a newbie. Doing any home improvement for the first time (let alone a unique niche like glass blocks) can be unnerving, scary and can painfully eat up your time and pocketbook, if you’re not careful.
Fact #2 – You (or your general contractor) are desperately trying to find a needle in a haystack– If you’re lucky enough to find a mason contractor to lay up the glass blocks piece by piece you’ll likely get an old ‘grizzled veteran’ who will look like the guy below, not some hot strapping guy with no shirt like Matthew McConaughey. This old-time mason contractor will know he’s got you by the ‘you-know-what’s’ (who else are you going to get to do this job?) and will price you (and treat you) accordingly. He is “THE MAN” and will carry himself on your job as such. No “Nordstrom’s style” customer service here.
Here’s a question for you. What building material can do the following and still hold up?
Be subjected to water continuously without rotting or rusting?
Be set on fire, yet not burn up?
Provide a structure to walk on, yet you can see through it?
Gives the illusion of space, yet provides a barrier between spaces?
Is sustainable and fully recyclable?
I probably gave the answer away in the title of this blog post – it’s glass (I’m glad I didn’t bet you’d know the answer!).
I must admit I’m a ‘glass geek.’ I love light. I hate dark rooms. If I was an ‘architectural design God’ I would eliminate the North (i.e. the dark) side of all homes.
I love seeing light move through space, without losing privacy (that’s a paradox in itself).
I love how glass can create ‘pee-your-pants’ mind-blowing experiences (have you ever walked on the glass floors at the CN Tower in Toronto, the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon, or Willis Tower in Chicago?).
I love how glass can withstand water and fire and keeps on ticking. Name another material which can do that.
Despite these cool features many people aren’t aware how they can ramp up their outdoor patio, deck, staircase, outdoor table or garden using glass.
My goal with this article is simple. I want to expose you (OK, not through any clear glass or through any 60 Minutes expose to reveal your deep dark secrets), to the fun and distinctive ways to use glass. You’ll see specific examples to kick up your outdoor patio, decks and staircases this summer and wow friends and neighbors.
My goal is to not only make you a glass geek like me (this might be a tough job given this short article), but to show you fun projects to add style which are timeless and sustainable. Don’t settle for an outdoor space which is the same old, same old boring wood deck or concrete patio.
At the end of the article, I want you to add your 2 cents. Tell me which of these ideas are cool and which are wacky and too far out for you.