7 Convincing Reasons Why Your Basement Needs Glass Block Windows

7 Convincing Reasons Why Your Basement Needs Glass Block Windows

Most of our adult life has been spent in NYC apartments – we didn’t know much about glass block windows until we moved to the mid-west.

They always reminded me of the 80’s.

And turns out I’m not alone. Once again, the 80s took something and ran….faaaaaar.

But we did our research and decided to up our basement window game in our Columbus, OH fourplex. This is what we learned about glass block windows along the way.

3 Types of Construction for Manufactured Glass Block Windows

  1. The least expensive glass block window is when the glass blocks are just stacked on top and next to each other with nothing in-between.
  2. The most popular option is when the blocks are stacked with a layer of mortar and sand between them. This provides great security. The only downside we’ve found is the mortar could crumble if the foundation settles.
  3. The fanciest of glass block windows are the ones with vinyl spacers. Obviously, these ones are the most expensive option, but they are said to be 20% more energy efficient and more waterproof than the other options.

1. Ultimate Privacy

Glass block windows are usually installed in basements, garages, and bathrooms. We often store valuables in garages and basements – and I don’t think I need to go into detail as to why we need privacy in bathrooms…

Because glass blocks are thick and wavy – although those “waves” come in a variety of designs – it’s impossible to make out anything on the other side. Even if you get right up to the glass block to look inside, you’ll only see fragments of images.

If you have regular windows in your basement you most likely also have blinds or curtains. Our goal is to have our fourplex be as low maintenance as possible. I don’t want to worry about needing to clean curtains or blinds in the basement of our multifamily down the road. We offer on-site storage in our fourplex basement. Now that we have glass block windows, our residents can rest easy that potential intruders can’t see what they’re storing.

Glass block windows in the basement

2. Let There Be Light

Because we now have glass block windows and there is no need for blinds or curtains to protect the privacy of the space there is so much more light in the basement! I mean – so much more!

Additionally, when we removed our old regular windows we also removed the old sill and side jambs. Without the vinyl frame and window jambs, our window space is noticeably larger – which means even more light.

3. Safe and Secure

It isn’t impossible to break into glass block windows, but it sure is a hell of a lot harder to break into glass block windows than regular windows.

Breaking into regular windows is fairly easy and if the burglar is a professional, it can be done with little to no noise.

Breaking thick glass blocks would be pretty loud. Additionally, even if the intruder broke down one of the glass blocks, that wouldn’t be enough space for an adult to squeeze through.

4. Rain, Rain, Go Away

Because glass block windows are comprised of glass and mortar or glass and vinyl, depending on your window, they are essentially waterproof – especially with the latter. If you’re in an area that is prone to flooding, glass block windows are a great option and investment.

5. Energy Efficient – Need We Say More

shallow focus photo of window with glass block tiles, exterior view

Well, yes, we should say more, because you’re probably wondering how they’re energy efficient.

Inside each glass block is an air gap – I’ve read that this air gap is somewhere around 3″. The blocks are created under heat by infusing two halves together. When the blocks and the air inside the gap cool an insulating space is created inside the block. When you have a whole window full of these insulating spaces you’ve got one mighty energy efficient window!

Some glass block windows are Energy Star compliant. Most glass block windows have about the same efficiency as thermal-pane windows, double the efficiency of single-pane windows, and are airtight, especially if you opt for the most expensive vinyl spaced glass block windows.

No more drafty basements!

6. Ok – So They Have Great Function – But What About Their Beauty? Are Glass Block Windows a Design No-No?

The intense wavy glass block windows of the 80s are probably still available for purchase, but you’re not limited to this dated look!

Now glass block windows not only come in a variety of textures and colors but also sizes! Think about all the great designs you can make with tile and pavers – the same can be done with glass block windows.

I know, I know, I was skeptical. But as a relatively young investor, I thought I would give function over form a try. I’m super pleased because I think they not only have great function but they look really pretty as well.

Our basement windows are now bigger and the texture bounces light around on the outside. Our curb appeal definitely hasn’t suffered. And what a selling point to potential tenants: your storage cages will be filled with light and will be very secure.

As with most things, use glass block windows in moderation. I’m not sure I’d be in to a glass block wall inside my house or a giant glass block living room window, but they totally have their place in residential and multifamily homes!

white and black wall with glass block windows

7. Ok! I’m convinced! It’s On the ‘To-Do Home Improvement List” -but how much will this set me back?

Not too much! I called around in the Columbus, OH area and the average price to have the mortar glass block windows installed would be approximately $189 each. Nick negotiated with one sales guy and got it down to $164 installed.

The money you’ll save on energy bills and the peace of mind you’ll gain – I think it’s well worth it.

Oh! One last tip: you can add vents to your glass block windows and, in fact, some building codes require it for certain areas of the basement. So check your local building codes. To add a vent to a window will set you back about $50.

Well, thoughts? Do you still only see Miami Vice reruns in your head when you think of glass block windows? Or do you see their value and think, in modest amounts, these little glass blocks deserve a little more credit?

  • Millie Hue
    Posted at 02:16h, 08 August Reply

    Thanks for sharing that glass block windows are 20% more energy efficient and are waterproof. With that in mind, I will be having one installed in our basement since it has been broken due to the game that my husband and son played this afternoon. You did a great job of explaining the benefits of using this kind of glass.

    • Sarah
      Posted at 19:00h, 08 September Reply

      I love hearing that you enjoyed the post…but not the fact that you have a broken window! Hopefully, the new one is hubby/son proof! 🙂

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