Basement Window Installation Instructions for Glass Blocks


The value of natural light in a basement cannot be overstated. Builders back in the day understood this. Therefore, they installed hopper windows in basements. They were typically the size of four 16″ x 32″ cement blocks. The typical construction method for these windows was a steel framework and mortar. They might let in the chilly air and uninvited visitors. Installing prefabricated glass block windows is an attractive and secure alternative to inefficient hoppers and preserves natural light.

If you want to know if a basic pre-made glass block unit measuring 16″ x 32″ will fit, look carefully at the window in question. Find a cement block close to your working window and measure its dimensions. Cement blocks have typically been 7 3/4″ high and 15 3/4″ long, and these measurements have not changed in quite some time. The blocks are 8 inches by 16 inches because they were designed to take up a mortar bed of 1/2 inch. Find out how many bricks the window knocked over. If the hole is 16 inches wide and 32 inches long, you should be able to fit through it.

You can pick up a prefabricated 16″ x 32″ glass block unit from any hardware or home improvement store. Buying a prefabricated unit is preferable to constructing one from scratch because they are manufactured to be perfectly square and flush. Other considerations for the hardware store include:

Tools and materials: o Tape measure o Hammer o Cold chisel o Pry bar o Reciprocating saw with metal blade or hacksaw o Shims (composite) o Expansion foam o 1 Bag of mortar o 5-gallon bucket o Margin trowel o Access to water o Silicone o 4″ Glass block “C” channel (typically located in the glass block aisle) o 1 12″ screws o Screw gun

A single person can accomplish this renovation; however, having a helper is highly recommended.

A piece of plastic trimmed to fit beneath the window opening can prevent you from having to clean up spills as you work constantly. You might want to use more plastic to create a barrier containing the mortar dust and chips in one basement section. Take off the sash from the inside of the hopper window. The post on the sash needs a larger opening in the flat metal arms it hangs on to be pushed up and out of the window frame. Repeat on the opposite side, and then haul the old window out. Next, figure out where you’ll be most comfortable working (inside, outside) to cold-chisel the mortar off the steel skeleton. This may need heavy hammer swings and protective gear, such as goggles. Chisel in the center of the opening’s base and see if that helps. Get down below it, starting close to the metal. The purpose of this hole is to allow you to slide a pry bar under the metal frame and raise it. To remove the frame, first, pry it up and then use a reciprocating saw or hacksaw to cut it. Now that you’ve managed to pry up the bottom, you may go to the sides and, finally, the top. The glass block unit is 16″ x 32″; thus, the hole must be chiseled to accommodate it. Mind your measurements. Now is the time to smooth out any bumps that can cause future problems.

Now that you’ve gotten beyond the challenging stage, you can begin installing. A sill plate is a board that covers the top of the opening. The “C” channel is screwed in here. If it’s too broad, the “C” channel should be pruned now. The product is made of PVC and may be easily trimmed to size with a hacksaw. The proper placement of the channel requires attention. The “C” channel should be installed perpendicular to the outer wall and centered in the opening. Installation flush with the exterior wall is not always practicable. That’s fine; aim for the closest approximation. Shims can be stored in a convenient location while you cut the batt insulation to fit in the “C” channel and the width of the glass block (about 4″ X 32″). Installing a window in a “C” channel requires two workers to keep the insulation in place. If there is a window in the unit, flip it over so that the right side is showing. The locking hardware for a

window should be on the inside while the screen and weeps are placed outside. Shims are used to maintain a window securely in its channel when installed. Currently, the torpedo level is used for both leveling and plumbing purposes. After vacuuming out the opening, fill the space on the floor and walls with expansion foam. It’s important not to overdo it. You only need a small amount of foam to fill the space effectively. The “R” value of the foam increases as it expands, and it also aids in keeping the unit in place. Congratulations! You can finish cleaning up and let the expansion foam cure overnight now.

The following morning, trim the expanding foam to fit the window opening exactly. In the 5-gallon bucket, combine the mortar and water until the mixture has the consistency of peanut butter. The expansion foam is placed over the mortar, and the margin trowel is used to pack the mortar around the edge of the glass block on both sides of the window. This is the glue that keeps everything together. The sill must be slanted so that rainwater flows away from the unit from either side of the glass block and is not flush with the wall. To perfect the mortar, some practice is required. It will comply with your wishes more readily the less you fiddle with it. Leave it alone and check back after the mortar has set but still “green” if it “sags.” Use the trowel to shave off any surplus and level up the surface. Finally, use silicone inside and outside the “C” channel and the sill plate to create a watertight seal.

In a day, the mortar will have set and become hard. If any mortar gets on the glass, wipe it off with a damp sponge or rag. Now you can relax safely and style behind your new glass block window.

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