Curved glass block shower walls have become the rage - they look sleek, are easy to clean, eliminate the cost of a door and the need to clean around the tracks of the door and are less expensive than tempered bent glass. With that said the design of a rounded glass bathroom wall is not the easiest thing to do. To begin you've got to design an integrated shower system where the curvature of the base will work with the block units (note: the blocks cannot be cut). In this project it's critical to design first and let your construction process and products follow your goals for the finished look you desire.
Shower Wall Panels his article will provide 6 1/2 design steps for a successful radius shower wall:
Step 1 - Determine what you want your curved wall(2) to look like - First measure the total space (depth x width) you've got to work with. To have a radius bathroom wall you'll usually need a minimum of 34" of shower depth to have adequate room to get into the wet area of the shower. Consider if you want a corner or bench shower seat or leg ledge. Get our a tape measure and see if you want a tight or more gradual radius (the tightest radius with glass blocks is usually a 1' dimension measured from the inside of the wall) or even a serpentine (S-shaped) type wall.
Develop a rough drawing of your shower with the approximate size (depth and width), wall shape(s), and accessories desired (benches, leg ledges etc.).
Step 2 - Identify what material you'd like on the floor of the shower - More luxurious custom showers are usually done with tile, terrazzo, or granite floors. Less expensive shower bases are made of acrylic.
With a tile floor you can either construct a mortared mud-set pan base (which is time consuming and more prone to quality and leakage issues down the road) or get a prefabricated expanded polystyrene base which is 100% waterproof, ready for tile and specifically designed for the curvature of the glass block shower stall or enclosure.
An acrylic shower base for blocks is premade and available in two sizes - 72" x 51" and 60" x 34". The colors of these bases are white and biscuit and come in left hand and right hand entry designs.
Step 3 - Consider how tall you want your walls to be - Most completed block shower walls are 80" and after they are set on the curb of the base (which is usually 4" to 5") bring the finished height of the wall to 84" - which is equivalent to a standard shower head. For side block walls with corner seats and leg ledges the most common height is 64" (the benches and seats are 16" tall from the inside of the base and putting the block on a partial 16" high wall will allow the 80" rounded wall and the side 64" wall to match up).
Step 4 - Evaluate any special needs for a roll in barrier free shower base - Stepping over a curb (even one as small as 1") can be a major obstacle for some people. Barrier free and roll in shower bases can be designed to help those who have difficulty getting into a standard shower the opportunity to have a cool and functional shower. Although acrylic bases for blocks are usually not possible in roll in designs (they are premade with 4 - 5" curbs) the expanded polystyrene bases can be custom designed with any person's specific needs in mind.
Step 5 - Add the cool - the color, design, and patterns to make your project stand out - Why settle for a generic looking wall when you don't have to? Colored glass block, etched glass, and unique patterns, sizes and block shapes can bring a unique style to your finished project. Design in "the cool" so you don't have to limit yourself to the standard blocks you may have seen in your local market.
Step 6 - Purchasing the base and walls - It's best to buy the shower base and the wall(s) from the same supplier or contractor - this way you can require they guarantee the base and the walls will fit together. Since curved glass block shower base and wall products are a niche market make sure your supplier has actual pictures and projects they can show you with rounded walls (a comment like "I did a block shower project a few years ago" should not inspire the confidence you should demand for a specialty job like this).
The most common failure in radius glass block shower wall projects are poorly designed and constructed bases that don't match up with the block walls. This problem can cause a block installation contractor to make joints between the blocks that are either too big or too small, or have to use a strange grouping of blocks which don't look good together.
Premade glass block panels can be made in either straight, curved, or step down designs that make it possible for many contractors and handy homeowners to accomplish this project. Try not to do a rounded wall project using the old-fashioned block by block installation process (unless the design is very tricky) - the quality is often lacking with an inexperienced installer and may cause you to have to redo the wall.
Step 6 1/2- If the project is causing you sleepless nights - This project should not, and does not, have to cause you sleepless nights. If you're unsure of your design or your ability (or your potential contractor's ability) to complete the project get help. A glass block supply and installation specialist can help you through the details, supply you with pre-made base, wall, accessories and unique design blocks to turn your conceptual project into a stunning reality. Don't be stubborn, call or email for help before you get too far.
Now that you're equipped with these 6 1/2 steps you're ready to design and order your curved glass block shower wall and base.
Mike Foti is President of Columbus Glass Block, Cleveland Glass Block, Mid America Glass Block Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron & Vice President of Eastern Glass Block New York & New Jersey - nationwide factory direct suppliers & installers of curved and rounded glass block shower walls, bases, laser etched and frosted colored glass blocks.