Glass block floors add a unique accent to wood, tile, stone, and concrete floors. Consider them a dual purpose floor: Glass block panels enhance a living space by illuminating both the walking surface of a room, as well as the ceiling surface of the room below. While typically found in contemporary residential and commercial designs, properly planned they also add a modern touch to more traditional homes.
Glass block panels are bought either as a kit that includes hollow glass pavers and an aluminum or pre-cast concrete frame, or as prefabricated and ready-to-install panels. The framework for the panels is available in standard shapes (usually square or rectangular designs), or can be custom ordered in unique configurations. In general, glass panel kits are more appropriate for interior applications where weather and water will not be constantly encountered. Prefabricated panels are factory sealed against moisture, and are better suited for use in decks or other exterior-facing applications. The glass pavers (the glass block portion of the floor) must be specifically designed to serve as a flooring material. The glass block stocked in home centers for use in windows and walls does not have the proper strength for flooring applications.
To assemble a floor panel, the glass blocks are set into the concrete or aluminum framework and sealed against moisture (each manufacturer has its own assembly process). The panels are designed to act as load-bearing system, and properly installed can easily withstand the day-to-day rigors of family traffic. When used in an exterior facing application, glass block panels are thermally efficient, with an insulating R-value equal to that of double-pane glazing on high-performance windows.
The glass pavers are available in a range of sizes, usually from 6-inch to 12-inch squares. Many manufacturers suggest that glass block pavers be bought in a sandblasted finish. This improves slip resistance and diffuses light sources for a glare-free surface. Additionally, when used in private areas like bedrooms and bathrooms, sandblasting the glass blocks ensures privacy.
Glass block floor panels are manufactured by a handful of companies in the United States, including Circle Redmont and IBP Floor Systems. While the panels come with detailed installation instructions, proper assembly and mounting is a job best left to professionals. Because a glass block floor panel will not generally fit in between existing floor joists, the joists must be cut and a support frame built into the floor. Glass block panels are extremely heavy; a 4-foot-square panel can weigh up to 300 pounds, making installation at least a three-person job.