How to Build a Glass Block Partition or Wall

A glass-block wall divides a room without shutting out light. Learn to install a glass-block wall or partition.
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Related To:

  1. Walls
  2. Glass

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Building a Glass-Block Wall

A glass-block wall divides a room without shutting out light. It cannot be loadbearing, but it will be a sturdy structure, thanks to metal reinforcing rods that are positioned in the mortar. Blocks sit with the mortar joints aligned and, because the blocks form the wall’s decorative finish, white mortar is normally used to give a neat result. Glass blocks can also be used to build a screen across part of a room, or (with no lumber frame) as a shower cubicle. Do not build any higher than six courses without stopping to let mortar dry overnight, otherwise the wall may collapse.

Constructing the Frame

Make a wooden frame to fit your chosen wall dimensions. Use lumber struts of 4 x 2 inches (100 x 50 mm) or 3 x 2 inches (75 x 50 mm), with the same width as the blocks.

Fix the Frame

Fix the frame in place at your chosen location for the wall.

Laying the First Blocks

Nail white expansion foam to the inside of the wooden frame. This foam is a spongy material that allows the wall a small amount of movement without any danger of damage—for instance, if materials expand slightly when the temperature changes. Make sure the foam sits centrally on each length of wood.

Add Spacers for Blocks

Position spacers inside the floor of the wooden frame, ready to hold the glass blocks. Check that they are level and accurately spaced to fit the dimensions of the blocks.

Apply Mortar to Blocks

Trowel white mortar onto the frame’s floor, between the spacers. Spread mortar onto one side of a glass block. Try not to get any on the block’s face.

Place Blocks

Place the first block onto the spacers, pressing the mortared side firmly into position against the frame and bedding the block into the mortar along the floor.

Complete the First Row

Lay more blocks and spacers to finish the row, checking that they are level. Wipe off any excess mortar with a damp sponge; dried mortar is hard to remove from glass.

Build Up Rows

Apply mortar along the top of the first row. Drill holes in the wall plate and fit the reinforcing rods. Press them down into the mortar. Continue laying blocks on top.

Prepare for a Wall Tie

After every two rows, cut through the foam on the wall plate, just above the top edge of the course. Apply mortar to the end block, ready to bed in a wall tie.

Install a Wall Tie

Screw the wall tie to the wall plate, behind the foam, and bed the tie into the mortar. Then lay mortar and reinforcing rods, and continue laying blocks.

Check for Level

As you build up the height, keep checking that blocks are level and plumb (vertically aligned). If you are going higher than six courses, let mortar dry overnight before finishing.

Finish the Wall or Partition

Once all the glass blocks are in place, twist the spacers’ faceplates to remove them.

Grout the Joints

Allow the mortar to dry, and then grout the joints. Wipe off excess grout from the glass-block faces as you go, because grout is difficult to remove once it has dried.

Finish the Glass-Block Wall or Partition

Smooth the grout using a grout shaper, or brick jointer as shown here. Apply silicone sealant around its perimeter if required to make the seams waterproof, and wipe down the wall to give it a polished look. Paint the wooden frame if you wish.

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