Using LED Christmas Lights to Accent Glass Block

July 7, 2010

We have had several customer’s contact us about using our LED Christmas lights in glass block structures, to illuminate the glass block. A recent customer we worked with provided this information about her project using our blue wide angle LED Christmas lights.

Project Objective and Description

To use light in a “wall washing” effect between a free standing curved kitchen sink island, with cabinets, and a wall of glass block about 3″ from the cabinet backs. The island measures 10′ long, and 40″ tall, with one end wrapped in block, and a one block column at the other end. There is a concrete countertop which overhangs the space between. Since all construction was done by the homeowners, we had control over insuring that things were constructed in proper sequencing. We added an electric outlet behind the block wall.

Project Challenge: Finding a Suitable Lighting Solution

Finding lights that would perform the function we wanted, and were also low maintenance and affordable.

Before we began this project we looked at a lot of different potential lighting solutions including fiber optic cable, side glow cable, neon, and commercial LED fixtures. We thought about going for side glow cable and neon lighting and even looked at a site similar to Neon Mama to find the right lighting, but decided against it.

While the side glow cable was interesting, it required an expensive transformer, and the lighted pattern behind the glass block did not create the “wall washing” effect we desired.

The neon lighting produced too much heat to be installed in an enclosed area, and also did not created the desired “wall washing” effect.

The commercial LED fixtures we considered were simply too expensive–over $1200 just for the lights.

After ruling out the fiber optic cable, neon, and commercial LEDs, we decided to consider LED Christmas lights and found LED Christmas lights turned out to be a great solution. The light sets were relatively inexpensive, the LEDs produced very little heat, the string lights were flexible, and no expensive hardware such as transformers were needed. For our project we choose the blue wide angle LEDs.

The Installation Process

Once we selected a suitable lighting product we moved on to the construction phase. After some experimenting, we learned quickly that glass block does not illuminate well from the top, bottom, or sides. This is especially true if the blocks are set with mortar. However, the glass block lights up very well if illuminated from behind. Be sure that you find a way to construct your glass block structure in such a manner, so that you can illuminate the blocks from behind.

Now that we determined the best way to illuminate the block we began construction. First, with the cabinet and countertop in place, we cut widths of “white board” material in 6″ wide strips just slightly taller than the underside of the counter top so that it would stay tucked in place with friction. (Our glass block columns would be 6″ wide.)

Next, we drilled 25 holes slightly less than 6″ apart in columns up & down the white board. The holes were sized to accommodate the LED Christmas light bulbs, which we pushed in through the white board, so that only the wide angle LED lens protruded through to the reflecting white surface. Once we had them just right, we used a hot glue gun to secure them to the white board.

With careful consideration of our layout and plug end location, we continued in this fashion down the curved wall and around the end to the front of our island and plugged the strands together.

When we were finished we ended up with 14 strands of blue LED Christmas lights in the glass block wall and backsplash. To insure we had access if a bulb did go bad in the future, we cut access panels in the floor underneath the block wall which are reachable from our crawl space below.

The blue LED Christmas lights we chose create a beautiful cobalt blue wall wash effect. Switched off, the glass block looks great, turned on, it is stunning!

Special thanks to – They were wonderful to work with.