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A glass-block wall divides a room without shutting out light. It can't be load-bearing, 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, as shown here, 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.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
Most glass blocks measure 7½ x 7½ x 3½ in (190 x 190 x 80 mm). They can't be cut to size, so base your calculations on how they best fit into the space. Half-blocks and corner blocks are available. Use wooden plates to fill any gaps left between blocks and a wall or ceiling. These will be inconspicuous when painted.
Designing a Partition
- Lay out a single row of blocks to judge a screen’s extent into the room. A full wall may need a doorway. Its position will depend on how blocks fit across your room. The opening will need suitable ties inserted through the door lining into the mortar. iii Building within a wooden frame gives clean edges, but the mortar method can be used without a frame, provided you consider your floor surface (see below).
The Floor Surface
- Mortar can be laid directly onto a concrete floor. i With a wooden floor, lay the first row of blocks on a wooden sole plate, even if you aren't building in a frame.
- Multiply the length of the wall by its height to find its surface area. Divide this by the area of one block for a rough idea of the number of blocks needed, not allowing for mortar joints. Buy 1 0 percent extra, in case any get broken. iii White mortar (ready-mixed) is available in 27½-lb (12.5-kg) bags—enough to construct a small shower enclosure. liii Spacers give even joints. Allow 1 /2 per glass block, and buy 10 percent extra. The spacer shape can be modified from X-shaped to T- or L shaped as required.
- Allow two reinforcing rods per row of blocks. Buy more if you wish to push rods into the vertical joints for extra rigidity.
Sealing the Partition
- Use white mortar and white grout. Use waterproof grout and silicone sealant in a humid room, such as a bathroom, and use silicone sealant on the joint between the glass-block wall and the existing wall.
- Some manufacturers supply expansion strips for the wall’s perimeter in a humid area or one with temperature change.
Lumber, expansion foam, spacers, white mortar, bricklaying trowel, spot board, plasterer’s hawk, metal reinforcing rods, wall ties, white grout, grout shaper, silicone sealant*, paint*, paintbrush*. * = optional.
1. CONSTRUCTING THE FRAME
2. LAYING THE FIRST BLOCKS
3. BUILDING UP ROWS
4. FINISHING THE PARTITION
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Saturday, May 10, 2008 10:18 PST