Glass block windows today offer a vast selection of designs, patterns, and styles for any budget or purpose, but, before deciding to use this product there are more basic questions to be answered. First, why should you use blocks, where should you use them, and how can this product help to solve your problems or needs? The four steps to glass block design success will answer these questions and more.
Step 1 Ask, What are my goals, then Determine Your Patterns and Products. Begin with the end in mind. What problems do you want the block windows to solve? Do your existing windows seal poorly, are the frames rusted or rotted. Do you lack the privacy you desire, are you worried about the safety of your family or workers, or just looking for a hot look to add style to your property? Here are some block window recommendations to solve these specific problems:
oDrafty windows that dont seal properly Consider the thin line series (3 1/8 thick) series of blocks. They are more cost effective than the commercial series (3 7/8 thick), and come in a wide variety of sizes (generally 4 x 8, 6 x 6, 6 x 8, and 8 x 8) for proper sizing of any window opening.
oNeed More Privacy If youre concerned about someone looking into your windows especially in basement, bathroom, and garage windows consider the high privacy Ice and Pristal patterns from Mulia or Icescapes or Delphi from Pittsburgh Corning. You can do without blinds or shades (saving you money) with these patterns but you dont have to sacrifice light transmission (in fact, some say they get more light because the old frame is removed in many glass block installation projects).
oWant more security Since many of the glass block windows are mortared together breaking in through this type of window opening is very difficult and time consuming. These windows are also more cost effective than installing electronic security pads on windows and offer strong energy efficiency benefits as well.
oLooking for a cool, hot, contemporary look Why have boring windows when you can add style and uniqueness to your home or business? Colored glass blocks, block patterns with beveled edges, frosted blocks, and artistically designed blocks with the ability to create one of a kind designs are all available in todays block window.
Step 2 Ask, Do I have any special window needs? – Especially in the commercial, institutional, and architectural markets glass masonry units can solve some very specific design challenges. Here are some examples:
o60 or 90 minute fire ratings Blocks with thicker faces (often called Thickset) can (with the proper installation) provide 60 and 90 minute fire ratings in window assemblies. Standard blocks also provide an excellent 45 minute fire rating which is good for most residential applications.
oHigh Security or Vandalism Applications The Vistabrik pattern glass unit masonry block is a 3 solid piece of glass which resists bullets, fire, noise and graffiti. This product has been used extensively in transit authority projects in New York and New Jersey markets.
oReducing Solar Heat Gain Solar Reflective blocks, which use a metal oxide coating on the inside surface of the block, greatly reflects solar energy while reducing the passage of light. This helps property owners to cut their cooling costs and also to minimize fading of floor coverings as well.
Step 3 Ask, Where should I use glass block windows? The following outline may very well broaden your thinking on where blocks can be used to provide privacy, security, energy savings, light transmission, or just an interesting design element for your home or commercial property.
oUse blocks outside and inside Block windows are usually thought of as being used in an exterior window application like a basements, bathrooms, garages, and stairwells. Here are some new applications to consider:
Under kitchen or den cabinetry to let in light
Interior borrowed light window walls to move light through an inside wall while maintaining privacy (for example in small, dark water closets, or on the inside walls of basements to move light passively through the home).
In closets in homes to let in natural light to see your clothing and colors better while maintaining privacy.
Above one piece shower units in smaller bathroom to eliminate the need for costly skylights.
oUse glass blocks in new construction and remodeling projects Often thought of as a renovation project block windows are now frequently found in new construction as well. In new home and room additions glass block new construction windows with nailing make installations simple and painless. In remodeling projects pre-fabricated window panel assemblies are factory made and allow the window to slip into the opening vs. the difficult task of laying the blocks one by one (improves your quality and cuts your time to get the job done).
Step 4 Ask, Would I like this window to provide ventilation Glass block windows do not have to be solid glass. There are a variety of window block venting products to choose from. Here is a quick list of your choices:
oAir Vents to reduce heating and cooling costs and keep air flowing With double pane glass and slim line vinyl frames the new generation of air vents allow air to come in while being small enough to keep intruders out. Available in white and tan and sizes to match exterior colors and maintain the symmetry of the block window.
oPower Vents to get rid of musty smell and improve indoor air quality Power vents are vinyl framed ventilators with two powered fans that can move 145 cubic feet per minute of air to fight mold, power away smoke, circulate the air for healthier, thereby providing fresher living spaces. The Power Vent comes with an A/C adapter that plugs right into your wall.
oDryer Vent Blocks to move air out from a dryer in a glass block basement or utility room window Dryers are often located in basements and their venting is often directed through an inefficient single pane metal or wood framed basement window. Vinyl dryer vent blocks replace the space taken up by one block in a new glass window and allow you to get the benefits of the block without having to vent your dryer through the foundation (which can be considerably more expensive).
Now that youve got the 4 design steps youre ready to choose the right block window for your project. Be on the lookout for the next article in this series on the steps for glass block window installation success.