Glass Block windows

plan_rMarch 30, 2010

I live in a 1936 colonial revival. The partial basement (concrete floor, used as workshop) has windows that look into the back yard. I believe that the original windows were replaced at some point -- current windows are just panes of glass installed with quarter round moulding, which is now rotting out.

I want to replace them, and I was considering using glass block. I did some searching, and google shows me that glass block is a no-no in houses that are actually historic.

But this house was built in the 30s. As best as I can tell, glass block was just starting to be used in residential basements -- it was relatively new building material at that point. Glass block would probably not have been used in my house at this point in time -- but I think it would look cool. My idea is to create a little tension between the period the house was actually built and the colonial revival style. (For example, when I redo the kitchen, I would love to have it look like the original owners decided to install the most modern, streamlined white and chrome kitchen in the 1930s. Sort of a back to the future effect.)

Does this make sense? Functionally, the glass block would be good -- inexpensive, allow lots of light, energy efficient. But would it look completely out of place?

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IMHO, I do not have a problem with the glass block for the basement and especially since it is on the back side of the house. I would not try that on the street side though.

There is a difference in "a little tension" and a big faux pas if you have a truly historic home.

If you are looking for ideas related to a modern period kitchen, visit the KITCHEN FORUM, and look for the thread discussing advertising illustrations of period kitchens. One must assume that these antique photos and drawings were the cat's meow back in those days.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 10:18PM
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Personally, I'm not a fan of glass block in general. However, I can see how they would work for your purpose. I think part of the reason I don't like them is that they don't open. If I were to do this I would do the kind they do in bathrooms here, the blocks around a small opening window. Just my opinion of course :) Good luck with both projects!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 12:07PM
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We put glass block in 9 windows in our basement. While not historically correct, we are very happy with them. You don't really see them from the street. They actually let more light into the basement (since there is not window framing, the windows are bigger), they provide better insulation and are safer with respect to break ins. You can have vents put in them to let air flow in. If you have a finished basement with a bedroom, you would need to have at least one regular window to allow for an emergency exit in case of fire, since these are tough to break (though obviously could be if needed).

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 1:30PM
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There are several old houses where I grew up that were built in the late 20s or 30s that have glass block in some windows as a part of the original design--basement and first floor full bath. (However they are bungalow style)

However, its not out of the question that your house may have used whatever the technology was at the moment, so glass block could be ok in the basement.

As for the kitchen it is *more likely than not, that it *was a streamline modern kitchen with the latest technology of the day. Historic revival kitchens are a child of the last decades of the 20th c.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:42PM
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I am considering installing glass block in place of the rusted out metal basement windows in my 1930 brick bungalow. I, too, am concerned about whether they will look really out of place as most glass block I've seen from the time frame were in modern houses/buildings. I'm curious about the posting by palimpsest as to where the houses mentioned are located and of what style they are. I am in Virginia.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 6:29PM
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I grew up in Western Pennsylvania. The house I am most familiar with was bungalow style, but in an overscaled size: The front door was 6 feet wide, the dormers held queen sized beds, and the LR and DR were both about 25 feet long.

The bathrooms and kitchen were deco modern, with large architectural glass tile and leatherette wall covering. The tub was backed by a large glass block window, and there were glass block windows in part of the raised basement.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 7:02PM
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Pittsburgh Corning started producing glass block as the two pieces pressed together in 1937-38. So, the bungalow style house I described was either a latecomer to the bungalow style (but the inside was rather deco), or it underwent some renovation. Glass block was used for walls earlier in Europe, although it was set in a grid, and glass blocks or prisms were set in metal frames and placed in the sidewalk to allow light into basements in the 19th C.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 7:11PM
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