Step 1) Where do you want to use your glass block wall or bar? How big do you want to make the wall?
These specialized glass walls can be used on the inside, within the exterior structure of the home or building, or even on the outside. Most common uses include partition walls to separate rooms, shower walls, and bars for the kitchen and recreation rooms. When you are designing and determining the materials needed for this project the size and shape of the wall are critical.
o glass block bar sizes & shapes - Most bars are built 40" high (5 courses of 8" blocks stacked on top of each other). The countertop is installed after the block work is finished. For extra stability and cool design consider making your bar with either an "L shaped" or angled shape design or rounded (radius) look. The bars should be anchored into one wall for added support.
o glass block wall sizes & shapes - block walls can be built virtually any size, however the maximum dimensions of each wall section (or panel) will vary based on the thickness of the block (3 1/8" or 3 7/8" thick) and if the wall will be on the inside or exterior of the home or building. Since most walls are built using the 3 7/8" thick size, here's a quick reference for how big you can make your wall without the need for some type of engineered steel or aluminum support structure between your glass panels:
1. Maximum inside wall panel dimensions (3 7/8" thick block)
- Total square footage of the wall - 250 sq. feet.
- Maximum height - 20 feet
- Maximum width - 25 feet
2. Maximum outside wall panel dimensions (3 7/8" thick block)
- Total square footage of the wall - 144 sq. feet.
- Maximum height - 20 feet
- Maximum width - 25 feet
Step 2) What type of floor, partial wall or base will the block wall be placed on? What is the smallest width of the base for the block wall?
block walls or bars can be placed virtually on any surface as long as it is structurally sound and approximately 3" to 4" wide. Most block walls weigh about 12 pounds per square foot of wall area. Shower pans made of acrylic, fiberglass, and tile with concrete work well. Interior walls with wood joists are usually fine as well as long as the floor is level. Placing the block on knee walls (also called half walls) with metal stud and drywall supports underneath works as well.
Step 3) What do you need to put your glass block wall or bars together? Can panel sections be manufactured to make the project easier?
The installation of block walls can be made much easier with the use of spacers, installation systems, or purchasing pre-made sections of block. Here's a quick overview of each type of approach:
o glass block Spacers - In the old days block had to be laid piece by piece by a skilled mason contractor - these skilled craftsmen can be expensive and difficult to find. With the use of all plastic spacers the blocks can be laid uniformly and the spacers even help to keep the wall or bar flush and in place as you're building it. Spacers are available for either straight or radius walls.
o Installation systems - The new vinyl stack installation system uses vinyl horizontal and vertical spacers between the blocks to align and hold the blocks in place for easy assembly. Silicone is used to bond the blocks to the vinyl spacers on the inside of the block wall. This system can be used for interior and exterior applications. Special tile grout or silicone can be used to finish off the joints.
o Prefabricated or pre-made block sections - With the vinyl stack installation system sections of block can be pre-assembled and installed in the field. glass block panel manufacturers can build these sections for you, often saving time and money to complete the job. These sections should be designed considering who(m) will be installing the wall and where it is physically located on the project site.
Step 4) Choosing the right sizes, shapes, and colors to make your glass block wall and bars cool and unique.
o There are a wide selection of block sizes, patterns, shapes, colors, artistically designed murals, and lighting options available for your wall or bar. Here's a overview of your options:
o Sizes and thicknesses of glass blocks for walls or bars - glass masonry units are made is both metric and American sizes. Most of the blocks available in the United States are American sized. The American sized blocks are available in 4" x 8", 6" x 6", 6" x 8", 8" x 8", and 12" x 12". Specialty shapes can help you turn corners, make 45 degree angles, create rounded or radius walls if you're looking to make a walk in or roll in shower, or finish off the end of the wall or bar with a smooth bullnose look. The blocks have nominal sizes meaning the actual size of the block units is ¼" smaller allowing for a mortar joint to adhere the block to one another (an 8" x 8" block actually measures 7 ¾" x 7 ¾"). The blocks for walls and bars are 3" and 4" thick. Thinner block (3 1/8" thick) are more cost effective, but design options are more limited in this thickness of block.
o Patterns, designs and color glass blocks - blocks come in a multitude of patterns providing different levels of privacy, style, and design options. The block are now available in standard and custom colors, tints, and artistically decorated murals to match any interior design style. Check out a comprehensive block web site to see the possibilities.
o Lighting your blocks - Putting lights behind a glass wall has increased in popularity. Consider a fiber optic system (where the colors of the block wall can change as the system is running) or standard rope lighting behind a clear wall for extra impact.
Step 5) Don't worry about any of the first 4 steps and call a glass block supplier, wall panel manufacturer and installation professional - If you really don't want to figure out what size, shape, and design layout is best call a block specialty company who offers design, supply, wall fabrication and installation services. This type of company will usually come to your home or business (without a charge), measure your shower space, figure out the possible designs for you, and install it with a guarantee.
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