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.
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.
You know you’ve been ‘around the block’ a time or two when you’re on an appointment and the potential customer asks if the younger person with you on the call is your son. Yes – this really happened to me earlier this week. Of course, I joked and said I was going out to buy my hair coloring and get rid of that pesky gray color later that day!
You may ask, what does my embarrassing moment have to do with 7 deadly sins you shouldn’t commit when building a glass block shower? Here’s what.
In reality I’ve got a ‘few notches around my personal tree trunk’ (and maybe a few extra pounds as well) designing and working with glass block showers. To be exact I’ve been working with glass block walls and windows since 1985 (my standard line is I started working with this stuff since the age of 10. I’m lying, but I’m going with that line anyway!).
What this means is I’ve seen a LOT OF mistakes along the way. I’ve had homeowners and contractors waive their imaginary white flag trying to figure out a glass block shower and call saying, “Mike, can you help get our arms around this doggone mess?”
The problem with glass block showers is they aren’t the kind of thing you do every day, every week, every year or even every decade for that matter. Bathroom remodeling is something you hopefully (for your pocketbook’s sake) do every 10 to 30 years (as your needs, styles and home you live in changes).
My goal in this article is simple. I want to save you from taking an unnecessary beating (with expenses and frustration you don’t need to endure) while doing a glass block shower for the first time.
If I’m successful you won’t commit these 7 glass block shower sins and get burdened with the costs associated with them. I can’t promise you won’t commit other sins. Those you’ll have to take up with the ‘person upstairs!
George Vickroy said to me, “Mike this was the hardest DIY remodeling project I’ve ever done, but I’m getting so much more than I expected back from it!”
Doing a DIY bathroom remodeling project can be a pain. Plumbing, electrical, drywall, heating, heavy materials you’ve got to lug in and out of the home. The need to get constant input from the people leading you along the way. You have to have so many skills to – as Larry the Cable guy would say “get ‘er done” – it can be downright mind-boggling. The challenge becomes once you’ve decided to bite the bullet and tackle the job how do you pull yourself through it? How do you prevent from leaving a half-done trail of a “job-almost-well-done?” You don’t want your family asking, “So when are you going to finish the bathroom exactly?”
When I visited George and Tena Vickroy’s house to take pictures of their new bathroom (we worked together on the glass block walk in shower and solid surface shower pan in this job) it was amazing how George and I started reflecting on how our Dad’s advice was still ringing in our heads today (and in my case my Dad passed away 28 years ago!) – even while toiling through a bathroom remodel.
Maybe George and I got nostalgic about our Dads because we’re just a tad bit older (I’m 57, but think I can look 37 at any time after I use my magic $9.99 bottle of Miss Clairol for men hair coloring. I also think being “delusional and happy is a good thing- but I digress). Maybe it’s because as you get older you start to realize how much you don’t know. Maybe it’s because Dad had a lot of wisdom – but when we were young we sometimes blew him off and said to ourselves, “What does the old man know anyway?”
In the article below I’m going to show off the DIY bathroom remodeling project George did in conjunction with his wife Tena, his son Clayton, son in law Mike, friend Neil and even a former student KC Weber. We’ll look at this project through 6 thoughtful words of wisdom from our Dad’s. At the end of the article let me know if any of these “Dad-isms” (not sure that’s a word, but it should be) ring true with you. I know Dads can also be wacky (yes, I do resemble that remark – ask any of my 3 kids and they will back that statement up) – but sometimes the “old man” knows a thing or two, or six.
3 Steps to simplify your glass block shower wall project
Updated February 10, 2019
I have to tell you I hate when I get a call and the person on the line says, “We’ve got our shower pan completely done – now we’re ready to include the glass block wall.” While at first glance this sounds good because the project is ready to go, I know it can be a bad situation for this person. They might have wasted money, or got the design wrong, by installing a base which may not work well with the glass block wall.
When you’re designing a glass block shower wall it’s best to remember Stephen Covey’s saying to “begin with the end in mind.” Just like a new home you should design the plans for the foundation (a glass block shower’s “foundation” is the shower pan) before you start to frame the upper level walls (in this case the glass block shower walls). If you don’t design the shower pan first (especially in the case of an angled or curved wall) you can end up with a situation where the wall doesn’t fit correctly. This error can cause the joints to be too big and/or to have block sizes which aren’t symmetrical or the best choice.
My goal in this article is to help you eliminate the problem of your shower base not working with your glass block wall. Let’s take a look at 3 steps to design a glass block shower (a sound layout + the right shower pan + a prefab glass block wall) which can simplify and foolproof your project.
Who uses a small alcove tub space for bathing anymore? The answer – practically no one. It doesn’t fit our fast-paced lifestyles. Who loves framed sliding glass doors or shower curtains around their bathtubs….probably very few. They’re a hassle to clean. If you’re like most you’d like to ditch your tub for a walk in shower and assumed you didn’t have enough room….well think again. In this article learn how a tub can be converted into a curved glass block shower in 5 simple steps.