What is a glass brick?
Glass brick, also known as glass block, is an architectural element made from glass. The appearance of glass blocks can vary in colour, size, texture and form.
Glass bricks provide visual obscuration while admitting light. The modern glass block was developed from pre-existing prism lighting principles in the early 1900s to provide natural light in manufacturing plants and have over time, become coloured even. Today glass blocks are used in walls, skylights, and sidewalk lights.
Who created them?
In 1907, Deutsche Luxfer-Prismen-Gesellschaft (loosely translated: German Light Prism Company) patented a process to strengthen the material into glass block by fusing two sections of glass into a single unit, later popularising the installation and construction of its range of fire-rated blocks.
Where can you buy them?
You can buy them from:
Obeco glass blocks, DIY glass blocks, Glass Brick Company or you can even buy them on Alibaba.
Exterior window of glass bricks.
DIY or professional installation
DIY installation is implied as a realistic option as it helps with cost, with places like Obeco glass blocks providing a DIY kit for their glass blocks, with extensive information, an aluminium perimeter frame, PVC separating strips to lay between the blocks, silicone to glue it all together, and grout with a waterproofing additive for the surface of the joints.
Yet, upon review, glass block windows aren’t a fit for a beginner or for your average DIY project at all. They must be carefully planned and measured out, and the blocks must be cut to size if you're building a wall, a window in a bathroom consisting of glass bricks or even, (especially), a skylight.
The process is fairly similar to bricklaying, which is a learned skill best performed by a professional.
If the blocks are not laid and sealed properly, you’re looking at damage not only to the windows but to the rest of your house as well, thanks to potential water leakage.
It’s possible to find pre-laid sections of glass block, but they’re extremely heavy and will require at least one other person to help you lift them.
A large wall made of glass blocks.
Glass block prices range from $5 to $15 per piece. Custom made glass blocks are more expensive running as high as $50 per piece, and can vary in range depending on the suppliers price list.
The blocks are sold in batches like a dozen, half a dozen or five pieces depending on the manufacturer.
Glass block windows are heavy and the process used to create them is expensive, so they can be a costly addition to your home when compared with the standard alternatives, like regular windows.
Even for a tiny basement window constructed from glass block, it would cost at least $175. A single glass block would cost approximately $15, with specialty blocks such as frosted or coloured blocks can run up to $50.
Additionally, you’d need to secure help for installation and have them re-sealed every so often to prevent water from seeping through.
How and where can you use glass bricks?
Some people like to use them for bathroom walls and windows, as they let in light but nobody can see inside.
When built into “walls”, they are laid in a grid with steel-reinforced mortar in between each block. They are most often used for skylights and walls and they can be made to be durable against bullets and fire.
You can create a wall, but it’s not very cost effective. And what’s more, if glass bricks were an option to create privacy as an exterior wall, think again.
Many assume that the cloudy or frosted nature of a glass block is enough to block out the view for passers-by, only to find out after the costly and time-consuming installation that the neighbours have been getting a peep show.
An onlooker probably won’t be able to see every detail up close and personal, but some homeowners have complained of having to put up curtains in order to prevent others from seeing full outlines, skin coloration and other personal details they’d rather not show off.
The top 5 glass blocks on the market
- Mulia Glass Blocks — Contact for price
Mulia Glass Blocks offer a great range of traditional and modern patterns to suit any décor. They have the widest range of sizes from 115x115 to 300x300 as well as a series of corner blocks, end blocks and the double end block, available in Australia.
- La Rochere Glass Blocks — Contact for price
La Rocherè Glass Blocks are the highest quality French made glass blocks with a wide range of patterns and feature blocks offering a solution for every glass block project. From fire rated glass block walls to trafficable glass block pavers, there is no limit to what can be achieved using these blocks.
- Absolute Brilliance Glass Bricks — Contact for price
Absolute Brilliance Glass Bricks has a huge range of Glass Blocks, and Glass Pavers from all around the World. Servicing Australia, based in Melbourne, Victoria.
- Austral — Venetian Glass — $54.50
Venice – historic city of bridges and canals, art and artisans. For centuries, Venetians have been producing magnificent glass pieces of every description. Our new range has all the features you’d expect in coloured designer glass – brilliance, transparency, sophistication. Venice style available in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, and Sydney.
- Poesia — Contact for price
Our flagship glass bricks are available in a range of size formats, styles and finishes. Drawing on our experience and prove track record, we have developed long format glass bricks in the formats specific to each of the countries we work in. All can be customised in style and colour, thanks to our flexible approach, timescales and pricing.