Bathtub Bottle Wall

Backlit Bathtub Bottle Wall

We’ve been working on our second most complicated wall, after the bathroom-bedroom partition. This one too is in the bathroom and it also serves many functions. Folding a lot of things into a small space makes it complicated, hand crafted and slow to build. It is worth it though because the wall will do what we need, beyond holding up the ceiling, and it will be there for a long time. Holly assures me that it is worth the effort when I have occasional doubts and wonder if I’m slowing things down too much with my complicated design features.

Boxes and Boxes of Bottles

The lower area of the wall is made of the bottoms of glass bottles. Originally I had wanted to use glass blocks, then I found out how much they cost. Nix that. At the local pub I saw they were throwing out, to the recycler, large numbers of beautifully colored glass wine and liquor bottles. Upon inquiring I found these were available so we’ve been collecting crates and crates of bottles.

I wasn’t clear on how I would use them but it seemed there should be a good way to make an elegant wall with all this colorful glass. For our first tests I made the bottle wall in the dog house. The results, while simple, were pleasing. So onward ho! The first bottle wall in the tiny cottage is shown at the top of this post with the western sun streaming through the glass as viewed from the bathtub to be.

The first problem was removing the labels. Many of them came off easily by soaking in water but some use a waterproof adhesive. For those we found citrus cleaner concentrate, made from orange peels, to be excellent. In both cases a steel spatula helped.

Bottle Cutting

To cut the bottles we used an Ephrem’s bottle cutter which uses a scoring wheel. The instructions said to use a candle to stress the score and then an ice cube to restress it causing it to crack on the score line. This was rather slow.

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My son Will figured out a much better way. We batch scored the bottles and then use a blow torch to heat the bottles along the scores. After heating each bottle all the way around the score we dipped it in a five gallon plastic bucket of water up to just above the score. The bottle cracked neatly and safely inside the bucket each time.

Bottle Bottom Grinding

The resulting edges of the cut bottle are quite sharp, glass sharp in fact. At first we took off the edge using the emory paper that came with the bottle cutter but again, there was a better way. An angle grinder with an abrasive pad very quickly smoothed down the bottles and took off any odd break nubs caused by the scoring not being perfect. Then a quick rub with the emory paper and a dip in a bucket of water finished each bottle bottom.

Do where safety equipment. I would suggest not just earphones and glasses but a full face shield and long pants & a long sleeved shirt. The grinder shoots slivers of glass all over the place. Also work in a place that it won’t matter if there are some glass slivers or use a wide tarp. Gloves would be a good idea too although Holly, above, did fine without them.

Building the wall was easy, like mortaring up a brick wall but with really big mortar joints. I started by laying down a bed of mortar on the base granite stone. Into the soft mortar I laid each of the glass bottle bottoms. I mortared between them. I did just two layers at a time and then pressed a piece of pink foam against one side so I could adjust all the bottles to the same plane. After letting that cured a little I progressed onto the next two layers. Above the top layer of mortar I’ll place another sheet of granite which will become the base of the bathroom planter.

After completing the wall I raked between the bottles to reduce the width of the mortar and clean up the glass. This step is very important as the whole mortaring process was quite messy. Start at the top and work downward. As I learned tomorrow, Muric Acid (HCL) does a wonderful job of final cleanup.

In the back is a PVC pipe. This is a vent pipe from the bottom and top of the toilet stall area that leads up, through the utility room and then eventually it will go out to a stack to ventilate the bathroom. Using stack effect (but with a backup fan) this pipe will draw air out of the toilet stall which thus draws air out of the bathroom which thus draws air out of the kitchen, et-cetera. The goal is to move the stalest, most odorous air away from people and out of the house.

Beautiful Bathroom Bottle Wall

Later, when we do the final interior parge of the house walls, we’ll parge between the glass bottles to create a smooth white cement wall up to the marble pillar in the middle. Everything in the bathroom, and the entire house for that matter, is designed for ease of cleaning. I even got most of the bottles tilted properly so they’ll self-drain.

This wall divides the toilet stall from the bathtub and shower area. Having a divider like this means that the one bathroom will better serve our whole family. One person can be taking a shower and another using the toilet or sink yet each person has some sense of privacy in the small space due to the angles and partitions.

The odd angles of the room seem odd if you’re looking at it as a floor plan from above but they have a purpose – they give a visual perspective that make the spaces seem larger than they really are. A bit Escherian. If you study the cottage carefully you’ll find I’ve done that sort of thing over and over, making things seem closer or further away to lend depth to what is in reality a fairly small house at just 252 sq-ft.

Outdoors: 76°F/48°F Sunny, glorious fall foliage
Farm House: 72°F/60°F
Tiny Cottage: 71°F/65°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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17 Responses to Bathtub Bottle Wall

  1. Maria says:

    Looks wonderful!
    Thanks for the tips on scoring and breaking the bottles. We are just about to start this step with our cordwood house.

  2. Mia says:

    I wish I needed this technique on such a grand scale! My question is, would the cut bottles be okay to use for drinking glass and such? Once they are cut can they be smoothed enough to be safe?

  3. Mia, I would think so. We joked about doing that. I would angle grind with a course disk to get the shape, then a finer disk, then an emory disk and finally emory paper by hand to round it. You might even buff with rouge. Have fun!

  4. karl says:

    fun stuff, the torch and water bucket idea was brilliant. we had that bottle cutter as a kid. the bottles do make nice glasses but don’t seem to last long. something about that cut and sanded lip seemed to chip and crack easily.

  5. Wow. I step away from reading your blog for two seconds and you come up with amazing stuff! I love the idea as well as the execution.

  6. clare says:

    I’m just curious what do you do with the cut side of the bottles once they are in the wall. I would love to make a glass wall in my house but can’t get the image in my head.

  7. Clare, the open ends of the bottle bottoms make for great little shelves to put soap in. When placing them set them level or slightly tipped out to drain.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You are a very adventuous family! I love you website. Just discovered it. I am going to start building a glass bottle gazebo for my garden in a sunny spot .I prefer not to use too much mortar and more glass to make more of a stained glass efect. Do you have suggestions on mortar? what do you add to your portland cement – sand, lime, do you have a favorite recipe? I would really appreciate your expereinced input and advice thanks for sharing your projects online man
    Jan

  9. Jan,

    See this list of articles for some mixes we've used.

    I went for more mortar since it is a bathtub wall and I want it to be rock solid – no crashing down on someone in the bath if they fall against it. For a more window like view I would use less mortar and more glass. I've also thought of doing it overhead in a dome. On my list to try.

    See these posts for more bottle wall pictures including the dog house.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  10. Janine says:

    Beautiful job on that. So how about a total house tour?

  11. Dan says:

    I love what you did with the old bottles. Very creative. I have seen this sort of thing before and always wanted to do one but never had the right place to do it.

  12. Catriona russell says:

    Thank you for your inspiration. I live in Australia and have wanted to make an outside shower stall for many years. I want to leave my home as a cultural hub where each year an artist in residence could live and share their art practice with our rural community. My life expectancy is short.
    At first I thought I,d use all different colours but have since decided that two colours would be better. I purchased a window made by hand using multi patterned plain glass which I carried round the USA on my back. I,d love to incorporate that.
    Good luck with your projects.

  13. Al says:

    Hi there… I apologize if I missed it, but can you tell me what mix of portland cement to sand you have found works best? I am contemplating using a 5 (sand) to 1 (portland) mix. I have also read that substituting one shovel of sand for one shovel of crushed glass (lots of crushed glass left over from the bottle necks etc) will make your mix up to 20 percent stronger…

    Regards.

  14. Al says:

    i just finished the bottle wall in our greenhouse. i used a portland cement and sand mix. i am wondering how long should a person let it cure before brushing the mortar with a sealer? (a 1 to 5 mix of weldbond glue to water ) thanks.

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