Your contractor has never done a glass block shower before either.
Your local suppliers are clueless about the product.
You’re not really a lazy person, but you only have so much time left in your crazy-busy day to figure out this part of the project. It’s just one (although important) element in your bathroom remodel.
How do you get this shower built without blowing a hole in your budget or pulling out your already-too-thin head of hair?
As crazy as this may sound, when you strive to get lazy (AKA being more efficient), this job will go smoother for you and look nicer at the end. In this article my job (and I’m perfectly cool with accepting it) is to give you practical ideas to get this project done efficiently and effectively. I’ll look to cut your research time and installation frustration (hey- that rhythms). My job is to keep you within budget and eliminate unnecessary errors which can come with being a “first-timer.” At the end (in the comments section) let me know how I’ve done and or any other “blanks” you need me to fill in. Now, let’s get to the tips.
Finding a general bathroom remodeling contractor is becoming a needle in a haystack process in cities, suburbs and rural areas across the United States. You may be wondering why are contractors such a pain in the butt to find today? Think about these trends and political factors impacting housing and remodeling:
You and I aren’t encouraging our sons and daughters to get into the skilled trades – the push is towards sexier fields like high-tech and health care.
The new home market is growing fast – but home building starts have been slowed by the ability to find installation crews.
Tighter borders are making it difficult for skilled contractors to enter the United States.
The repeal of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program could result in more qualified young skilled workers being forced out.
Recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida will put further strain on an already thin construction labor pool. While funding will be made available – getting these regions back up to speed will be delayed by people qualified to do the work.
Unemployment is at historically low levels and existing home prices are going up so more people are staying put and remodeling.
While I’m not an economist (and certainly don’t play one on TV) IMHO (in my humble opinion) this contractor problem is only going to get worse over the next few years. The question is, if you can’t find a contractor (or have a tight remodeling budget) does it make sense to go down the scary path of redoing the bathroom yourself? To help you get your arms around this question I’m going to dig into two subjects:
Do you have the 3 T’s it takes to DIY a bathroom remodeling project?
How should you go about a DIY bathroom remodeling project to maximize success and minimize pulling your hair out?
Do you get an idea in your head and are determined to do it despite the naysayers all around you? When you came up with the idea for the glass block walk in shower the doubters came out in force. Here’s some of the “input” from the doubters you’re already had to put up with:
Why do you even want this shower – didn’t they go out of style?
Who are we going to get to install this wall? Finding a mason in our town is like finding a needle in a haystack!
A curved glass block shower wall – that’s gotta cost a ton of money. There’s no way we can afford that!
I don’t see how we have enough room for a glass block shower in our tiny 5’ x 8’ bathroom.
As the Rolling Stones once said Honey, “You can’t always get what you want – but you can get what you need – and in this case, that’s a basic shower we’ll pick up at the big box store.”
Sometimes life should be about getting what you want (not just what you need)– even in a bathroom remodeling project. However, it’s impossible to get ‘er done without the drive to figure out what you need (having a plan) and then locating the right products, systems and installation approach to make it happen.
Since glass block showers are not a “run of the mill” home improvement project (they are a specialty shower wall system) you need to do your homework so you don’t have the “nightmare on Elm Street” remodeling project you wish you never started (if that happens those naysayers will have a field day with you).
If you really want a glass block shower, you’ll need to know how to navigate the landmines which can derail your project. Below I’ll give you the straight-scoop about mistakes (and myths) I’ve seen in my 32 years in the glass block industry (wow – this really makes me sound like an old dude!) with this type of installation. This project is completely do-able – but you don’t want to fall into any of these 5 traps below.
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.
Controversy and debate seems to follow glass blocks and glass bricks like a bad rash. Some people give them an enthusiastic Siskel and Ebert inspired two thumbs up. Others say – yuck – I wouldn’t put those 80’s glass blocks in my home if you gave them to me! As someone whose been in the glass block biz since 1985 (yes – I’m dating myself here but I like to tell people I started at the age of 11 – a BIT of an exaggeration but I’m going with it) it’s easy to see that building material trends are changing constantly and that has impacted how people feel about glass blocks.
You see some stuff which was hot in the 80’s not being used any more. With glass blocks there are styles, product and installation systems which are popular today most people don’t even know exist. Most people think of glass blocks as one wavy 8” x 8” unit stacked on top of another.
So, before you say whether glass blocks or hot, or not, read on to see what k options others are finding to be inspired ….and also what products and systems are just “old-school.” At the end of the article I’d love to know whether this post has changed your opinion or not.
Herb called earlier this week and said “I love the open look and feel of a walk in shower but I only have a 4’ wide space. Is there a way to make a walk in shower in a space this small?”
The short answer I gave to Herb is yes it’s possible…..the longer answer is it takes careful planning and access to the right products. The article below will present 3 strategies to make a walk in shower in a 4’ wide space.
Sure – man-caves are cool – but why limit lower level living space to guys? For Sarah and Joe Chaulk of Alexandria Ohio (a rural area outside Columbus) two factors contributed to their transformational basement remodeling project. First and foremost was to have a place for their adult daughter to sleep (beyond a air mattress) when she visits from Cincinnati. Second – they needed to fix their wet basement (which had recently flooded) to provide a fun space which could be enjoyed by the whole family. In the article below learn how Sarah and Joe (along with their expert craftsman and contractors Randy and Mike) started literally from the ground up to transform a musty basement into a contemporary, fun and functional lower level living space.
Mary was practically in tears when she called me. She had seen all the pretty pictures on Pinterest and the Internet of glass block walk in showers and now after talking to her friends and her bathroom remodeling contractor she was encountering one fear after another. Intellectually she understood the acronym about fear (which is False Evidence Appearing Real), but she had no good answers to the following concerns which were coming up:
“I think glass blocks will be too heavy for the floor” her husband Bob said.
“Don’t you worry about a glass block wall tipping over?” (Joan – her best friend).
“I’ve never installed a glass block wall before.” (her favorite remodeling contractor Rico).
“Isn’t water going to come out of that shower if it doesn’t have a door?” (Joan).
“I’m really not sure how to make a curved glass block wall work with the shower pans I normally create.” (Rico)
The article below details the facts I was able to share with Mary and her contractor Rico to turn her vision of a glass block walk in shower into reality.
Straight and curved colored glass block walls with blue acrylic shower wall panels
Fun colors are not just for dresses and sports cars anymore! The bathroom – which for many people is the bastion of blandness and functionality – can now be transformed into a vibrant and easy to maintain space with the use of colored wall panels and color glass blocks. Learn more about the benefits, options and installation of these products below.
Larger completed bathroom remodel with walk in glass block shower and acrylic pedestal tub
While the house Rick and Lenore Seymour purchased in New Harbor Maine had a nice open 30’ x 30’ room above a garage which could serve as a “mini apartment” (it had a small kitchen, a small bathroom and a bedroom) – the space simply did not fit the needs and vision for their home. Rick and Lenore had a vision of a larger, contemporary bathroom and a spacious master bedroom.
Area over the garage was re-purposed in this remodel
Learn below how Rick and Lenore re-purposed the space and used contemporary bathroom product selections (like a large glass block walk in shower and a stand-alone acrylic tub) to rejuvenate this space.