If you have been wanting to learn more about installing a glass block shower in your home, then this article is for you. Glass block shower installation has become standardized in many ways over the years. There are a plentitude of layouts and designs available in glass block shower kits. These seem to be the norm rather than the exception when it comes to glass block shower installations.
Many companies have glass block shower systems that include everything you need to do the job including detailed installation instructions and warrantees. One of the most popular companies that has many versatile systems to choose from is Pittsburg Corning. Their products and installation systems are readily available on the internet at pittsburghcorning.com. There are also many other companies with glass block shower systems making the number of systems and designs to choose from nearly infinite.
Because of the complexity of the job, most glass block manufacturer’s have come up with these systems to simplify the process. With all of the pieces and parts, including detailed instructions, available in one package, glass block shower systems are probably the best direction to take for most do it yourself people out there. However, there are always those of you that like to design your glass block shower installations totally from scratch.
We recommend that you at least check into some of the pre packaged systems available before deciding to do it 100% on your own. The systems have been developed to save consumers all the hassle involved in designing them from scratch.
Building a Glass Block Shower from Scratch
If you still want to design you glass block shower totally on your own, we will provide you with the basic steps involved here. We do want to caution you however that this may be a job better left to a pro. The skill level of installing a glass block shower without a kit is most likely higher than that of the average do it yourself person without professional training has.
You should consult the retail outlet where you purchase your block for additional information and basic tips that apply to the type of glass block that you purchase for the project.
What you Will Need
• Glass block (4 inch and 6 inch for this example)
• Mortar or silicone
• Shower pan
• 80 grit sand paper
• Topcoat solution
• Panel anchors
• Drill and bits
• 2 inch screws
• 3-inch foam expansion strip
• Reinforcing wire
• Plastic screw anchors
• Clear silicone sealant
• Grout sealer
1. Sand off the gloss from the shower pan where you are going to lay your blocks.
2. Measure out your project very carefully as glass block is not easily cut. You can get half blocks for your project as well. Be sure to include ¾ inch spaces for your mortar joints and spacers.
3. Prepare your mortar according to instructions and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Mortar for glass blocks should be just a little thicker than it would be for regular bricks.
4. Spread your topcoat solution on the top of the shower tub with a brush. This is used to help the mortar bond to the tub.
5. Install your panel anchors. Bend them in an L shape 8 inches from the ends. The first strip should be placed 10 inches from the wall and then every 18 inches after that. Drill two holes for each strip and fasten them parallel to the top of the tub with two inch screws.
6. Use your trowel to spread a ¾ inch layer of mortar on top of the tub, covering the part of the metal anchor on the tub.
7. Place a 3-inch foam expansion strip on the wall before laying your first 4 inch block.
8. Place one of your spacers against the side of the block and tap the block into the mortar.
9. Now prepare one of the six inch blocks by spreading mortar on both sides. Place the block in between the spacer and the first anchor. Continue laying 6 inch blocks until the first course(layer) is complete. Be sure to completely cover your anchors with mortar and make sure that everything is level regularly.
10. Spread a layer of mortar on top of the first coarse of block and lay the block, making sure to use the spacers.
11. Before laying the third layer, bend reinforcing wire like the shape of the wall and press it into the mortar.
12. If the anchor continues to run up over this layer of block, trim it to the edge of the block and start a new anchor. Set the long leg of the anchor into the mortar next to the wall and screw the shorter leg to the wall. If you can’t get a bite, use plastic screw anchors instead.
13. Put a new foam strip on the shower wall over the short side of the anchor and lay your third coarse.
14. Continue installing reinforcing wire, wall attached panel anchors and new expansion strips every 2 layers.
15. Every fourth course take an hour or two break for the mortar to set. Check to make sure all blocks are level often.
16. Continue these steps until finished. Do not put mortar on top of the last course.
17. Scrape off all the excess mortar with a trowel and wipe clean with a wet sponge.
18. Twist off all the tabs from the spacers and fill the holes with mortar.
19. Fill the joints between the wall and the glass blocks with clear silicone sealant.
20. Allow the mortar to cure for a minimum of 7 days and then use the grout sealer on all the mortar joints.
There you have it. You are done. Those are the basic steps. If it sounds too complicated, try one of the prefab systems available. They come with more detailed instructions and all of the necessary supplies.
Photo by tanakawho, Creative Commons Attribution License