QUESTION: Are the new contemporary designer vented glass block windows still as burglar-proof and efficient as the old ones? My remodeling budget is limited. What are some low-cost do-it-yourself options?
ANSWER: Designer glass blocks, for windows and for interior and shower walls, are still very secure, even with vents. Extra-secure solid glass blocks, low-cost lightweight plastic blocks and entire front doors made of designer glass blocks are available.
Some designer glass blocks have ornate etched patterns in the glass and are available in color tints. Others use parallel fluted surfaces for privacy and curved fluted surfaces for continuous patterns. Optional fiber optics can be added for contemporary and varying colors.
Glass block windows are efficient year-round, but especially for blocking the summer heat from entering your home. They also provide privacy and reduce annoying glare and interior fading.
Standard and designer glass blocks are not solid glass. They are formed from two hollow half blocks made of one-quarter to three-quarter-inch glass. These halves are fused together under high temperature. As the air inside the fused block cools, an insulating partial vacuum is formed.
Since glass blocks are often set in mortar, they are airtight. This reduces drafts, dirt, allergens and noise. The many horizontal mortar joints between the blocks act as louvers to block the intense summer sun's heat near midday. The mortar also provides another barrier to burglars.
Simple do-it-yourself glass block installation kits are available to cut costs. Also, dealers will assemble complete glass block panels that just slip into an existing window opening. For ventilation, they install secure screened mini-windows designed to fit glass block spacing perfectly.
One simple installation method uses clear plastic spacers to align the blocks and clear silicone caulking to seal them. This is easy to install and provides nearly invisible joints.
If you prefer standard mortar joints, use special plastic strips and corner spacers to accurately align the glass blocks in the mortar. After the mortar is set, twist off the exposed spacer ends and re-point those spots. The spacers strips are totally hidden inside the mortar.
A very secure alternative to glass blocks is a clear double-walled polycarbonate (bulletproof glass) venting window by Tafco. It is 250 times more impact resistant than glass and blocks more of the sun's fading rays.
Write for (or instant download at http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 941, a list of manufacturers of standard and designer glass and plastic blocks and other security windows including sizes, features, prices and do-it-yourself kit instructions.
Please include $2 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Leaking Faucets Are Costing Big Bucks
Q: It seems I am always having to put new washers in my faucets to stop leaks. With all the leaks that I have, it is pushing up my water bills. How can I fix them permanently?
A: First, you should check with some of your neighbors to see if they are having similar problems. If they are, you probably have unusually high water pressure in your area and this will exacerbate tiny leaks.
If you have high water pressure, have a pressure-reducing valve installed. Sometimes, you will also have to install a small expansion tank if you notice vibrations when you open a faucet.
Letters and questions to Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244; or download to http://www.dulley.com