Designing a glass block half wall in a loft space has got to be done right to make sure it’s safe, provides the necessary amount of privacy, and offers a cool look. This article will provide 6 ½ simple steps to consider when designing this wall for a loft, home, or business space.
Step 1 – Determine how tall you would like your wall – The most common height for a half wall with blocks is 40″ high which is similar to a banister with spindles. This will make the wall high enough to ensure the safety of small children, but can still be looked over to see what’s happening in the space below. It’s usually best (and most cost effective) to design this wall in 8″ increments since the blocks that are used to finish the sides and tops come in 8″ x 8″ sizes. If the loft conversion space will be used for a den, office, homework station, or small media room a 40″ height should work well. If you’re looking to create a bedroom space you’ll either want to go up at least 72″ or use a full height wall.
Step 2 – Think through your need for privacy – Block patterns can be totally see-through, partially obscured (the wave pattern is the most common here), or completely private (the diamond and ice patterns are popular here). The most common pattern for this type of project is usually the partially obscured – which is good because it’s a cost-effective block design and comes in various sizes and shapes to finish off the sides and tops. Obviously if you’re using the room for a den or office you won’t need the amount of privacy you’ll require for a bedroom area.
Step 3 – Develop a construction game plan for building your loft wall and making sure it’s safe – It’s been said “the devil’s in the details” – and in the case of building a glass block half wall this statement could not be truer. A successful loft wall must begin with the right components between the glass masonry units and be anchored to the floor and any adjoining wall(s) properly to make sure it’s safe and will last. Use either a vinyl horizontal and vertical vinyl stack spacer system, or horizontal ladder type wire reinforcing which are specially made for the blocks. Also, make sure to get the right anchors to be able to tie in your wall to the sides and floor of the loft.
If you’ve got a carpeted or another type of finished floor you don’t want to rip up to install the block wall consider purchasing an aluminum U channel which is specifically made for the block panel sections. This channel can be anchored through the carpet to the subfloor (this item will most likely be found through a specialized block installation contractor). Then the finished panel sections can be seated into these channels.
You’ll always want to tie in to at least one side wall and the floor of the loft for safety. To increase the stability of the wall you could also consider a finished post at end of the wall which would provide two sides for anchoring, or consider making a 45 degree, 90 degree or curved glass block wall for improved structural design. The blocks can also be installed inside a drywall structure for a clean, modern appearance.
In most cases you should finish between the block joints with mortar or tile grout. This type of finishing material provides more rigidity than an outside joint finished with silicone.
Step 4 – Buy premade block panels to improve your finished quality – Consider purchasing pre-made block panel assemblies which will not only reduce your installation time and field labor costs, but will also make the project much easier to finish in the field (with panels you’ll have a limited need to have to lean over the loft wall to finish the other side when installing the project) and the quality should be better as well. The panels can be made with the horizontal and vertical spacers built in to them.
Step 5- Consider how you’d like to finish the top and side of the wall – There are now finished end blocks for both the end and top of a glass block half wall. The principal advantage these blocks provide is they have a finished bull-nose surface, are smooth to touch and retain an all glass look to the wall. Their disadvantage is they are not a flat smooth surface and are more expensive than the standard blocks. If you’re looking for a flat surface for the top you can complete your wall with any type of solid surface material (like wood, granite, Corian, cultured marble etc.) or even consider glass tiles which are specifically designed for the blocks.
Step 6 – Design in the cool factor- Why have a half wall in a loft conversion if you’re not looking to design in the cool factor? This wall is usually seen from a main living space below and is an intriguing space for visitors to check out. Consider putting in your blocks a one of kind etched wall design, or maybe add in frosted or colored glass block. There is no longer a need to have a generic clear glass wall anymore.
Step 6 ½ – If you’re wigged out figuring out this project get help – You don’t need to be alone designing and constructing this half wall. Consider calling a block specialty contractor early in the process to help you with the design, premade panels, and tips on how to install the project to get it done right the first time.
Designing and building a glass block half wall for a loft conversion no longer needs to be a mystery – but it does need to be done right the first time. Follow these basic steps or pick up the phone or email a block specialist and you’ll be on your way to getting a wall that looks cool and performs well in your home or business for years to come.
Mike Foti is President of Columbus Glass Block, Cleveland Window Company, Clear Choice Window & Door, Mid America Glass Block Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron & V.P. of Eastern Glass Block New Jersey & New York. These companies are nationwide suppliers and regional installers of glass block windows, showers, and glass block half walls.