A prospective customer recently asked, “How can I get a cool looking glass block shower without breaking the bank?”
Fortunately, doing a glass shower project doesn’t have to be a magical mystery tour that drains your wallet. It’s all about finding the right people to take you through the right processes and design, while not forgetting to give you style and value. Here are 6 ½ cost saving ideas to help you get the best looking and hottest glass block shower for your money.
The Right People
Cost Saving Idea 1 – Go Skilled – A recent project in Columbus, Ohio looked terrible. The joints were uneven, metal reinforcing had rusted on the inside of the shower, and the wall was not level. The customer wanted the wall down NOW! When asked who installed the shower the homeowner said, “It was our tile guy – he said doing a block shower was no problem, but after 4 weeks of delays and poor quality you can see we found out otherwise!”
The reality is many tile contractors and even skilled masons install block showers on a limited basis. Since glass blocks take longer to lay than brick, block, or tile there can be a tendency to rush and sacrifice quality. If possible, find a skilled glass block specialty contractor. Ask about their experience with shower walls (some block companies focus on windows only and don’t have the higher skills for shower walls) and ask for references. If you can’t find a skilled block contractor go to Cost Saving Idea 5 and consider buying glass block panels you can stack up.
The Right Process
Cost Saving Idea 2 – Get Coordinated – There is a famous saying – measure twice, cut once. In a glass block shower project you can’t even cut once because the blocks cannot be cut like tile or flat glass. The key is to get coordinated first to save money, time and aggravation later. Get the right people to the site in the beginning (your tile or shower base contractor, the block contractor, and the person who will be using the new shower). At this meeting determine the size, shape, and height of the shower walls before the base is created (note: ask your block contractor if they have layout cards to assist in this design and construction planning process).
The Right Design and Wall Fabrication Approach
Keeping your prices and costs down is often a matter of pre-planning the design ad fabricating the walls in the most cost effective manner. The design and fabrication approach below will help.
Cost Saving Idea 3 – Go Straight – A block wall can be built in either radius design or straight wall. Straight walls are easier and less costly to build because the skill level of the contractor does not need to be as high (radius walls are often set block by block with different inside mortar joints vs. outside joints – a very difficulty installation for a novice block layer). Spacers and prefabricated wall sections can make the project easier as well.
Cost Saving Idea 4 – Get Skinny – Glass block shower walls are built in either 3 1/8″ or 3 7/8″ thicknesses. Most block walls are built with 3 7/8″ blocks due to the product range (the full range of shaped corners, ends, angles, radius and double ended blocks come in this thickness) and it is easier to install thicker blocks than thinner blocks. For some straight walls using the 3 1/8″ block can be a nice cost savings. One manufacturer (Mulla Inc.) even makes a 3 1/8″ finished end block to complete the end of your block wall. The thinner materials are priced less and can sometimes be exactly what’s needed if you want to put a block wall on an existing base that is not wide enough for the thicker blocks.
Cost Saving Idea 5 – Stack it Up – Why do a project block by block when you can often save time, money, and improve quality with pre-fabricated glass block wall panels? An installation system called Vinyl Stack can be used to join the blocks to make stacking pre-made sections easier than a unit by unit installation. These wall sections are shipped nationwide – from as far away as Oregon, Florida, Maine and Iowa. Panels are designed in sections that aren’t too large to be handled and are simply stacked, anchored, and finished grouted at the project site.
Cost Saving Idea 6 – Go Doorless – The glass block walk in shower without a door is becoming one of the hottest design trends for two reasons, (1) it saves on maintenance and the aggravation of cleaning around the door frames and (2) it cuts out the cost of the shower door. Hot style and lower prices are a great combination.
The Right Products for Your Style
Cost Saving Idea 6 ½ – Use Colors and Shapes – Why is this called cost saving Idea 6 ½ and not idea 7? This tip might not save you money but it will provide the style, interest, and “cool factor” homeowners usually want when they’re installing a block shower. Shaped blocks are used to turn corners, step down a wall in 8″ increments, create rounded corners, and finish the end of a wall. They add an upscale look and in many cases save money by not having to use a dissimilar material (like tile, granite or wood) to finish off the end of a wall. Colored glass blocks can be made in either vibrant reds, oranges, purples, blues, yellows (or any custom color) or muted satin color finishes for a more understated hint of color. Custom artistically designed block murals are also available if you want a one of a kind look.
Now that you’re equipped with these 6 ½ price and labor saving shower ideas, you should be ready to start your project!