Glass Block Shower [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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06-02-2003, 07:55 PM
We want to build a glass block shower in one of out bathrooms. Has anybody ever done this? My plan is just to build a wide shower curb and lay the glass blocks on it.

The questions I have not be able to resolve are: 1) Where the the block meet the will, should the tile go behind the blocks. How can the edge treatment of the tile be done?

2) How can the the shower door be attached? Can anybody supply a link to a source of glass shower doors?

This is still in the planning stage right now. Any comments are welcome.


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06-02-2003, 08:27 PM
Although I haven't personally built one, I have seen several that were done with blocks ;

The allure of the glass block is that it does not have a door ( in most cases). The shower is designed so that a door is not needed. Kinda like this

-------shwr hd------------------------------- wall
0 0
0 0
0 0 tub area
0 0
0 00000000---------------------------
0 <-----entry

Could make for a problem with the liner. It would have to be done like the "curbless" showers often done for those with disabilities


Bill Vincent
06-02-2003, 08:44 PM
I've done 3 so far, and they've always had a tiled post where the doorway to the shower was, and in two of the showers, there was no door, but still had the tiled column at the doorway. I'm hoping to finish off a roll of film pretty soon on which I have pics of the last shower I did like that, and if this thread is still around, I'll post them.

06-02-2003, 09:00 PM
i'm interested in those pic's bill ... your work is very nice

i bid on a block shower with a door, and in the research i did to find out how the door was going to fasten and seal to the glass block bullnosing, i found somewhere within pittsburg corning literature that you would drill into the mortar joints to fasten.

it sounded kinda hoaky, but i guess it will work, but i put a bomb on it, and dint get the job

Art in Stone
06-02-2003, 11:07 PM
still using film? Gotta get you a Digital camera.:D

tile dale
06-02-2003, 11:53 PM
I, too, have done a few. Two had no door at all. They were deep showers with the shower head a good distance from the opening in the glass block. The most recent had the glass hinge on the tile wall and a sort of "sweep" that went up against the end blocks. The larger showers without the doors turned out much nicer.

tile dale
06-03-2003, 12:03 AM
Here's a pic of another where the shower head is not too far away. I had to trim these out with tile, they don't make end blocks.

06-03-2003, 11:48 AM
I am in the process of building a glass block shower. I found the plans in an issue of Handyman, I believe is was June 1999 or thereabouts (check the website). The issue broke the process down into two parts 1) construction of the pan from scratch and 2) laying the block. Although it was very imformative ang got me started, I was lucky enough to find this great website to fill in the holes left in the article and to give me additonal ideas.


Steven Hauser
06-03-2003, 01:23 PM
Hi we do the glass block pretty frequent;y.

Uuh! What was the question?


06-03-2003, 01:50 PM
Hey, Steve! Sun over the yard-arm already? :D

06-03-2003, 05:42 PM
All the ones I've done I tiled the curb and jamb first and set the block against it. On one shower we installed some threaded sleeves in the joints of the end blocks for the glass door. Seems like they were about 2 inches long.;)

06-03-2003, 06:53 PM
As always writing here produces amusing results.

I think both my questions got answered:

1) The tile should extend past the block wall and the block should butt up aginst the tile. I assume that this joint is done just like a joint between the blocks.

2) The door (if any) is attached by anchors placed in the morter between the blocks.


Tiling the curb and jam is an excellent suggestion.

I am sure I will be back with more once I get the project under way.

Thanks for the help.


06-03-2003, 06:56 PM
Originally posted by tile dale
Here's a pic of another where the shower head is not too far away. I had to trim these out with tile, they don't make end blocks.


That is a great looking shower. Can you tell me the dimensions? It looks very close to the size I am trying to build.

tile dale
06-04-2003, 12:24 AM
I can't remember the exact dimensions. I believe the pan was about 3ftx4ft. Between the tub and shower there was a step that was the depth of the shower(3ft.) by about 2ft. I have more pictures. If you'd like I can e-mail them to you.

The glass block needs to be anchored to the wall. I left a vertical channel out of the tiled wall to make this easier. You can't see it when finished because it's hidden behind the block.


06-04-2003, 06:20 AM

I would like to see more pictures. My email is

I would also like more information on anchoring the block to the wall. The way I picture what you describe is that you left a gap in the tile just as wide as the block, then set the block into the gap so that the block actually went below the surface of the tile. If that is right, could you accomplish the same thing by building the block wall and then tiling?

I assume the blocks are anchored to the tile underlayment. What type of anchors are used? Is there any issue with the underlayment being visible through the block or does the edge of the block obscure it enough that it does not matter?

Thanks for any info.


06-04-2003, 07:11 AM
Genel, I am getting ready to do something similar, but with just a column of single blocks to narrow the shower opening for a 48" door. I bought the glass blocks and accessories at Lowes (all Pittsburgh Corning). Inside the bag of spacers were detailed instructions on the whole process. They listed two options for installation, one with some kind of plastic framing, and one without. I'm doing the latter.

The anchors are 24" thin metal strips that fit between every 2nd layer, and wrap up the wall a few inches.

One thing I didn't see on your list was the expansion strips that fit between the glass blocks and the wall/jamb. Lowe's sells all the materials for the job - blocks, spacers, mortar, anchors, panel reinforcements, and vertical expansion strips, all in one area. It's all made specifically for this application. You could probably find additional information from Pittsburgh Corning's website.

John Bridge
06-04-2003, 03:08 PM
The problem of anchoring the glass block wall can be handled by installing the blocks and then tiling agaist them. This would mean that as soon as you get the walls and the curb roughed in, you set all the blocks.

The curb is roughed in as it would be for a regular shower with the liner coming up and over the top. Then lath. Then the bed for the blocks. I usually use radius bullnose (mud caps) to trim out the glass block installation.

They do make end blocks. They also make corner turns and neo-angle turns. These items are often special order.

A number of companies also make glass end caps for glass block installations. Interstyle in Vancouver, B.C. is one:

Here's a pic of the end caps.

06-04-2003, 05:15 PM
Below is a photo of my glass block & supplies. The long metal strip is the anchor and the white foam thing is the expansion strip. I was lucky and found everything at Lowe's, even the rounded "End Block". Because I'm only doing a single column, I didn't need any reinforcements.

John Bridge
06-04-2003, 05:29 PM
Oh, and I'll mention one other thing I've mentioned before concerning glass blocks. Those plastic spacers are almost indispensable as far as I'm concerned. They truly support the blocks as you go up with them.

If you strike back the mortar on both sides and clean the blocks well, you can later grout them with sanded tile grout. This not only allows you color options, but it also makes a smooth joint, much smoother than can be achieved in the masonry fashion.

06-04-2003, 05:56 PM
very good point john, makes for a great job when finished. i have seen some block work done with regulsr brick mortar, not even white.... ugly

another thing about block that i have learned is that there are also 12 x 12 blocks out there too. a bit different from the regular old hum-drum 8 x 8 that we've all seen and done for years and years

tile dale
06-04-2003, 06:41 PM
I wouldn't even think about doing any block without the spacers! I wouldn't set any without gloves either. That block mortar is a little rough on the hands!

06-04-2003, 08:04 PM
ya for sure dale. i think it's hevvy with lime

06-04-2003, 08:17 PM
Funny how everyone does things different. I never have liked the spacers, seems like the blocks vary in size enough to give me fits. Also never liked the glass block mortar, I make my own, 3 white sand ,1 white portland, 1 white masonry. Not so sticky. I like John's idea of using tile grout, I'll have to try that.:)

tile dale
06-04-2003, 08:22 PM
I've always grouted them. It looks great when they match the grout in the surrounding area.

Bill Vincent
06-04-2003, 08:29 PM
Ramon-- I DO have a digital camera, and took some digital pics at the same time, but my son went to the drag races with his friends the following sunday, and thought I didn't need the pics and deleted them!! I don't know whether to give him a whack, or buy him his own digital!!!!

06-05-2003, 07:04 AM
John, could you elaborate on what you mean by "strike back the mortar"? Is it actually being striked, as in hit or pounded, or is this just a term for scooping or scraping excess mortar out? If it's not too hard I may try it. Sounds like a good look!

John Bridge
06-05-2003, 09:07 AM
Hi Brant,

I used the term that is used by masons. Doesn't have anything to do with impact. :)

The spacers remain in the structure. When you lay the blocks up, mortar squeezes out of the joints. A mason would maybe add a little more mud and "strike" or tool the joints to get them as smooth as possible.

I take the mortar back about a quarter inch into the joint to make room for grout. I use a piece of the plastic spacer or a wood pencil. anything that will fit into the space. Then clean everything you can with a damp sponge.

Later, when the mud has partially set, you can break the tabs off the spacers (if you have that type) and clean everything again. Grout the next day or later.

If you scrutinize the joints, you can barely see where the mortar ends and the grout begins if you use a darker grout, but the overall effect is so pleasing that nobody ever pays attention to that.

Here's another shot of the grout joints. It's impossible to get joints that smooth by tooling them only.

06-05-2003, 09:41 AM
I never even thought about grouting the joints in the block, but now I am sure that is what I will do.

A hint about striking joints. I use a scrub brush to strike the joints in my rock work. Use a stiff bristle plastic brush. (The mason I learned from used a wire brush but I did not care for what that did to the rock.)

You have to get the mortar when it just has its first set. At that point its kind of like stiff sand. If you catch it right you can just scrub the joints with the brush. If you work across the joints it will cut the mortar back flush. If you work along the joint it will cut the mortar back below the surface. With a little pratice you can easily leave a flat joint a half inch below the surface.

Bill Vincent
06-05-2003, 05:32 PM
"With a little pratice you can easily leave a flat joint a half inch below the surface."

Here's where I show just how little I know about masonry-- I thought that's what the roller skate was for.

06-05-2003, 07:09 PM
My turn to be ignorant.

I learned to do mason work by reading books and then working with a Mexican Mason. Never heard of a "roller skate". (Other than foot wear.)

06-05-2003, 07:18 PM
Google is a wonderful service:

It appears that a "roller skate" is what I call a "striking iron". This is a metal tool about 10 inches long shaped like a streched out letter S with a finger nail profile.

These are used to strike a joint with a rounded contour (looks like a grouted joint). The brush leaves a flat bottomed clean sided joint. Kinda depends on the effect you are after.

I actually perfer the contoured joints, I just saw the brush thing a leaving the kind of joint you could grout.

Bill Vincent
06-05-2003, 09:13 PM
It's a tool with actual roller skate wheels and a nail sticking out of the bottom that can be adjusted for depth that's used to recess a brick joint throughout an entire wall and leave a uniform joint.

06-06-2003, 06:22 AM
Well it sounds like it might be useful. I have not seen one.

So far I only have done rock work; the glass block wall will be my first attempt at a wall made of regular units.

As always, it looks like there is a lot to learn.

John Bridge
06-06-2003, 10:17 AM
Just to be clear on this for the sake of newbies who might wander in here, the "roller skate" would NOT be used in glass block work. You can't recess the joints on glass blocks. They have to be fairly full.

06-08-2003, 11:25 AM
I'm joining this discussion a little late but I figured I should chime in as I just finished a shower with a glass block wall. It actually replaced a shower that had been done incorrectly (to put it mildly). See this thread for a better explanation.

Anyway, the bathroom project is almost done and I just put on the shower door last night. Iíll attach a few pics so you can see what it looks like. The shower door I put on was from Manhatten and was called the Opulence. Itís very similar to the door that was on the old shower. The only thing I had to do was drill new holes in the side frame to line up with the glass block mortar joints. Then I just drilled into the mortar and used the plastic screw inserts that where provided. I purchased the door at Home Depot (Canada), but you could also get it here

I ended up putting the glass block in before the wall tile. That way I could easily fasten the wall anchors without having to drill through the tile. I created a curb that was exactly the same width as the glass block. I didnít put expansion strips at the wall either. I wanted the block to be pretty tight against the wall so the tile would make a tight joint. The previous wall had stood for ten years with no problems (no expansion strips), so I figured the new one would be okay.

I opted for no special end blocks because they where SO expensive. So instead Iím facing the front with a cherry board. That way it will match the new cherry cabinets I built and it allows me to put in a couple of towel hooks.

Hope this helps!!

BTW - you can see another in progress pic here


06-08-2003, 11:27 AM

06-08-2003, 11:29 AM
Inside corner of glass block and tile.

06-08-2003, 11:31 AM
Curb... You can also see the side frame that is screwed into the morter.

John Bridge
06-08-2003, 02:10 PM
That's an excellent looking job, Adam. :) Did you see the glass end caps I posted the picture of a couple pages back? They're not quite as pricey as the end blocks, and you'd be keeping Canada strong. They're made in Vancouver. ;)

06-08-2003, 10:33 PM
Black and Decker's book The Complete Guide to Bathrooms has the exact directions on building a glass block shower.

06-08-2003, 11:55 PM
Who are Black and Decker? Are they tile guys? I am more familiar with Bridge and Byrne.


John Bridge
06-09-2003, 07:26 PM
Hi SL Wessing. Welcome aboard. :)

Usually, you don't really get the good stuff out of those booklets. Home Depot has Tiling 1-2-3, for example. I bought it just to keep informed. I would not recommend the book, though.

Michael Byrne's book, Setting Tile, I do recommend, and it's sold at Home Depot, too. If you want to do mud work, I recommend my own book, Ceramic Tile Setting. I recommend it mostly because Patti gets a kick out of spending the royalty money. :D

06-17-2003, 09:16 PM
An update on the glass block shower project.

I cut a quarter circle from paper and set it in the corner, the wife took one look and said: "what a dinky shower, two people will never fit. Make it bigger."

Well, it can't be bigger and quarter round, so the round is out and I am looking at the neoangle shape.

Since the glass block cannot be cut I went and bought a box to play with the layout. I was pleased that they were not too expensive. That is until I got to the special end blocks $16.25 each. That's over 4 times what the field blocks cost.

Anyway, playing with the layout I found that if I put the end block right next to the 45ļ blocks that the door is going to be too small. So, between the size and the price, it looks like I am going to forego the rounded end blocks. Right now I am thinking about the end pieces that John showed in his pictures, but I also like what Dale did at the end of his wall. So, I am still trying to decide.

This just an update on the topic, but if anyone has any input I will take it.

BTW: I have a max of 53 inches along each wall, If I use 3 blocks (8 inch) in each wall and then the 45ļ that will leave me about 32" for the door. (I hope that's clear.)

03-12-2004, 03:58 PM
I have just finished a large glass block shower. It is free standing, meaning only attached on a single side. The result is great and YES I feel that I also need to add a shower door to prevent the bathroom from flooding. I used the 4" wide and reinforced every row with a single vertical reinforcement at the opening. It is rock solid! Good luck with your project.

03-12-2004, 04:10 PM
See this is what happens when you don't follow the rules. The rules say: Keep your projects in one thread. Did I do that NOOOOO!!!. So, does anyone know how my project is going NOOOOO!!!.

If you go to this thread you can see the progress todate.

Rather than screw this up futher, I will update that thread.