What Are Glass Block Windows and Do I Need Them?
In the market for a new window? Home improvement shows would have you think pretty much anything will look good once it’s all in place. And with all your time researching different window options, you can end up with decision fatigue. Make one choice about your reno easier. We’ll tell you why you don’t want glass block windows – and what to get instead.
What Are Glass Block Windows Good For?
Glass block windows are semi-opaque glass laid in a grid. It figures that they’re quite heavy, as they’re essentially pure rock. You often see them in basements or as an interior window for a room where you want things discreet. They were a feature of Eighties bathrooms for just this reason.
How Does Glass Block Compare Price Wise?
You might expect them to cost less because of their crude design and lack of operable features. However, these windows actually cost more per unit. In fact, a single block can cost up to fifty dollars.
What’s the Installation Process Like?
Glass windows are held together with mortar and caulk and further secured with metal bands. They’re typically installed as one panel that sits on the wall. For this reason glass block only really makes sense if you’re building a new wall or addition.
A replacement window is retrofitted to your window frame, whereas glass block is considered masonry that’s integral to the wall. To replace existing windows with this style you’d need to remove the old frame.
Do Glass Block Windows Increase Curb Appeal?
Glass block windows can be divisive in terms of style. You might recognize them from mid-aughts yearbook pictures – a wall of frosted cubes with bright lights shining through. While some may like their retro vibe, they harken to a specific time and place.
It’s certainly a way to make a statement, but one that could hinder resale value. Not everyone wants their house to look like an old-fashioned diner.
Are Glass Block Windows Practical?
How many times have you painted your nails without opening the window and told yourself “Just this once”? The truth is we always need to allow fresh air in when cleaning, painting, or using any sort of harsh chemicals. The fact that these windows don’t open or close poses a risk to health and safety.
Glass block windows have earned the reputation for unique constructions. You might have a room you might want to give light to or a strangely-placed wall. But there are better ways to achieve this effect for your dollar. What they offer in opacity and thickness, they lack in style and intentionality. So what should you get instead?
Alternatives to Glass Block Windows
- For Energy Efficiency: As we mentioned above, you can’t open or close glass block windows. This is a double-edged sword. Since they’re air-tight, they don’t risk the insulation issues of operable windows. But this severely limits your options for venting or replacement later on. If you want something you can’t open, basement window or a picture window is a better option.
- For Style: Picture windows lend a dramatic flair to your interior. They achieve the same effect as a glass block without limiting you to one style. Outfit your house in a variety of shapes from circles to pentagons to arcs. If you’re committed to the grid look, you can simply add mullions to the classic square.
- For Security: If you’re trying to light a basement without leaving it exposed, awning windows can be used instead of glass block. They open down and outward so you have full control. (Hopper windows are the same idea but open up and inward.) Because these styles are narrow and high up, they deter attempts to access the basement while staying out of reach of little hands.
- For Privacy: One thing about glass block windows is that, while popular for bathrooms, they don’t actually hide very much. They’re more like a real-life censor blur. And in order to ventilate glass block windows, the standard solution is to convert one of the blocks into a small hopper. But this defeats the purpose of putting them in the shower or bath. If you’re going for privacy, you can request any style of our vinyl windows in frosted or opaque glass.
- For Correcting Weird Architecture: Maybe your previous homeowners built a random wall in the middle of your den, or maybe you’re stumped on how to bring light into the room. You might think glass block is the answer because it doesn’t feel entirely like a window. Don’t go half-in on your home decor.
The Bottom Line on Glass Block Windows
Like anything in life, there are positives and negatives to glass block windows. For starters, these types of windows are not practical since they don’t open or close. This means that you won’t air out your basement.
On top of that, these windows will not add any curb appeal because most of these windows lack the modern appearance that we are accustomed to seeing. The construction process is a one way stop because once you get these types of windows then it will be hard to get a replacement since you need to replace the entire frame.
Saving money on windows does not come with glass block since they are estimated to cost more than popular choices like hopper or basement windows. Overall, this type of window isn’t ideal for homes and you’ll quickly find out that these types of windows are no longer on the market. Choose windows that will offer you all the benefits and advantages instead of going with something that is outdated.