Glass is difficult and expensive to recycle, so many vividly colored glass beer and wine bottles are thrown into landfills. These bottles are strong enough to make an unusual building material. Glass bottles can be set in concrete to make sturdy, long-lasting walls for a garden or even a small shed.
Clean the Bottles
If you would like to have the colorful stained-glass effect that the EcoFriend website says glass bottles can produce when light hits them, you will need to remove the labels and clean the glass well. Glass bottles feature a smooth surface that the concrete does not adhere to easily. Leaving the paper label and glue on the bottle can cause the bottles to slip out of the concrete when water breaks down this layer naturally. Cleaning any residue inside the bottles will prevent bacterial growth or unwanted odors.
Find a Balance Between Concrete and Glass
While walls composed mainly of glass bottles with very little concrete between them may be the most visually attractive, they are also more likely to break. The Green Home Building website recommends more concrete between the bottles for tall or weight-bearing walls than for smaller, mostly decorative structures. The bottles should be arranged so that the openings face to the inside of the wall if it is part of a room. A freestanding wall will have greater strength and stability if the bottles are alternated so that the first row has the openings facing one side, and the next row has them facing the opposite side.
Streamline the Glass-Cutting Process
Cutting the glass bottles, if you prefer to only use half of each bottle or the very bottom for a thinner wall, is the most time-consuming part of building a glass and concrete wall. An Ephrem's bottle cutter uses a sharp wheel to create an even score around the bottle, says Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm, but this alone won't be enough to cut the glass. The trick is to heat the score line with a propane torch or similar heat source, then dunk the bottle in cold water or run the score line over a block of ice. The stress of the rapid cooling will snap the glass safely and create a very sharp edge. Use an angle grinder or a piece of high-grit sandpaper to take the edge off so no one is cut by touching the glass in your wall.
Add Concrete Blocks for Support
Freestanding walls should have appropriate-sized footers poured first, according to Green Home Building. Adding columns of poured concrete or stacked and mortared cinder blocks at regular intervals will also help support the wall. Rebar can be run from the footing up through the columns for the strongest wall supports possible. Strengthening your concrete-and-bottle wall this way will lengthen its lifespan and allow it to bear heavier weight, which is important if the wall will be part of a house or shed.
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