Introduction: How to Make a Bottle Building

Hi Everyone this is my first instructable. Please be gentle.

I f you like it, please vote for me. Thanks.





We have built two bottle buildings.



One is a small storage building made with a variety of different bottles. The other is a larger building made primarily of wine bottles, with design accents made of old ashtrays, glass floats, candy dishes, glass blocks and Japanese floats, this building was originally built as a small concert space that will seat 50 people plus a small stage. We have also hosted art shows in the space.

This instructable will focus on the building of the walls of bottles. You will be able to incorporate bottles into your own structures or make garden walls with bottles. I will post other instructables that will take you through the building process from start to finish.

Step 1: Materials




Materials needed:


Bottles, lots of bottles, in assorted shapes and colors if you would like.


Optional: Heavy weight glass candy dishes and ashtrays, glass block, Japanese floats and other interesting found glass objects.


Type S mortar mix.


Ivory dish detergent


Wood posts, sizes vary depending on your project I used 6X 8 treated posts.


Roofing felt.


Bolts to connect the treated post size depends on the size of your posts.




Rubber gloves

Lots of sponges



Tools needed:


A mixing bucket or wheelbarrow to mix mortar.


A hoe or shovel for mixing mortar


Medium sized trowels (one for each person laying bottles)


Staple gun.


A level (standard or a string level)







Step 2: Find Bottles!



This step is not as easy as it as it sounds. We don't drink so we didn't have a lot of empties sitting around. We asked all the bars and restaurants in our town plus some in neighboring towns to save their bottles for us. We ended up with 25-30 cases of bottles a week. and that just wasn't enough. The large building has approximately 10,000 bottles!


After several months of collecting bottles we were a long way from our goal. We ended up going to Oregon to get wine bottles. Oregon was the first state in the country to pass a bottle recycling bill back in 1971. But 12 years ago when we started this project most used bottles from wineries were going to the landfill. We rented a BIG truck and went to Oregon after the annual May winery open houses. We had called ahead and arranged to pick up thousands of bottles.


When we got to the wineries, they either forgot to save them or they threw them in dumpsters where many were broken. It was a terrible trip, we ended up getting lost because a bridge was closed and we pulled over for directions and the guy we asked owned a winery. He gave us directions to his loading dock and his crew used forklifts to load our truck to the roof with used wine bottles. Yahoo!!!


If you rent a truck for bottles, be sure to check the maximum load weight. Bottles are heavy! You may end up stopping every 5-10 miles to put more air in the tires. ; )


When you are choosing bottles, you may want to consider the relative strength of the bottles. Wine bottles are thicker than most liquor bottles. Beer and soda bottles fall somewhere between wine and liquor bottles.


We have not had problems with the bottle strength during the 10+ years these buildings have been up.


If you are going to try to get a building permit for your structure, I would recommend wine bottles to meet building codes. I believe our large bottle building was the first one in the US with a building permit.



Step 3: Clean Bottles

Oh Boy! This is fun! The easiest way to do this is to soak the bottles in water. in large plastic boxes or buckets adding a little bit of chlorine to the water helps prevent mosquito larva and scum. It seems to help the labels slide off the bottles.

This step is mandatory. Do not even think about leaving labels on the bottles. Many years ago a woman built a house in Nevada out of bottles and she did not remove the labels when summer came the mortar contracted and the labels stayed with the mortar and her house ended up looking like Swiss cheese. It had to be destroyed.

Step 4: Sort Bottles and Glass

After you clean your bottles, they need to be sorted by size and color. This will give you a palette for your wall design.

Step 5: Framing the Walls




This instructable is focusing on the bottle walls which are great for yards gardens and gazebos.


The large structure has a 5 inch foundation with 20 inch footers. Which exceeds the state and county building codes in my area. The small building has concrete footings and a dirt floor.


There is lots of information online on diy foundations and footings i.e.




Sink your posts into the footings or into ground if you are doing a garden wall without footers. I would not recommend skipping the footers except on low garden walls.




Use the level to make sure your posts are straight and level.

You can use post brackets to put the posts up. We used the brackets in the large building, but we sunk the post directly in the concrete in the small building. I plan to stick with the brackets for my next bottle building.


The beams can be laid across the posts and hammer them in with large nails. Or you can use post and beam brackets, L brackets or large bolts to attach the beams.


We nail the beams down to the posts in the large building then reinforce them with roof brackets.


I can add drawings if anyone needs them.





I will post instructables that cover the foundation later.



Step 6: Plan Your Wall Design

You can build your walls with a single  type and color bottle. But why? Glass makes a great medium. You can rough out designs on paper or in sketchbook.

We did not plan out designs on our small building but the large building has a different design on each of the twelve walls.

Most of the forty other bottle buildings I have seen have the tops facing in. But, we chose not to do that because we wanted to hear the bottles whistle in the wind, they do. Also we had concerns about dust and creepy crawlies inside the bottles.

Step 7: Build the Walls

Mix the mortar according to the package instructions and add a ¼ cup of Ivory dish detergent and 1 cup of lime to the mix.  The texture of the mortar should be about the same as organic peanut butter.




Tack a level string up between the posts at the height of a bottle on it’s side  plus ½”.

There will be a ½ “ gap between the bottles. So you need to figure out the spacing of the bottles, so that the bottles end up centered between the posts. If you have large gaps on the ends you can make the gap between the bottles a little bit wider. The gaps on the edges can be up to 2” wide if needed (but, smaller is better).

The first layer of mortar should be about ¾ “ thick . Slather  some mortar on the side of a bottle place the bottle in the mortar and press bottle down firmly. Use the trowel to form  a curve for the next bottle. (see the sketchbook image)

The mortar should not go past the shoulder of the bottles. It will block out light. It also increases the cost of building significantly. The mortar on these buildings ended up at about 4 ½ -5” from the base of the bottle. The small building was started first as a test project and the mortar was 6” this was major overkill and wasted a lot of mortar.(see the sketchbook image)




After you have a couple of rows of bottles, stop and clean up your work use sponges and clear water to wipe down the bottle bottoms and leave a smooth surface on the mortar. It is easiest to do this with lots of sponges just use one for the initial wipe down then switch to a fresh clean sponge and wipe it down again, repeat until the bottles are clean. Clean off the tops of the bottles the same way. When you think the bottles are clean, wipe them down again. Seriously, do it or you will end up with mortar streaks on the glass. Be sure to wear rubber gloves while you clean the bottles.

Don’t lay more than four rows of bottles at a time. GIve the mortar some time to set between layers so that it does not sag.





Laying the bottles is actually very easy to do, we had people aged 5 to 80+ laying bottles in our buildings.

Keep going until you get to the beams. You are Done!








Step 8: Repairs

Okay, So now we have a building made out of glass bottles. They are going to break right? Well, Noooo, In the last eleven years we have experienced flooding, winter storms, minor earthquakes, vandals and a lightning strike in the large tree hanging over the buildings.


The roof did end up with some damage but not a single bottle broke.      

I did remove a bottle several years ago to replace it with a different color. I used a hammer to break the bottle and I chiseled the remaining glass out the I put a thin coat of silicone adhesive inside the hole and slid a new bottle in place and it worked great




Step 9: Missed a Step

I forgot to mention that we put a window in the building across from the double doors for cross ventilation. We found a window at the re-store. The installation was very simple. We built the wall three feet high and placed a window frame on the bottles and built around it.

Step 10: PLANS

Here are some of the drawings that were submitted for our building permits for the large bottle building. You are welcome to use them to build, but they are not to be sold. They are copyrighted. If you decide to build a bottle building. Please let me know, I would be happy to offer assistance.


The small building is less than 120 square feet in size, so, it did not require a permit or drawings. We actually ended up just constructing without plans. The small building was supposed to be our practice building but it ended up being somewhat harder to build because we were making it up as we went.


abreach made it! (author)2016-12-04


What a wonderful tutorial! I am going to build a small bottle house/wall to house a composting toilet and shower for a yurt. Very excited that I came upon your posting.

Cheers, Alison (Melbourne, Australia)

Saicardi made it! (author)2016-07-21

Hope someone can help. I have been collecting wine bottles from work friends for over a year hoping to show off a finished wine bottle wall next weekend at a planned party. I have attempted to build twice and both times the suggested mortar products have crumbled. Once over the cold VA winter and the second time after only a few weeks. I will try using the type S mortar you suggested although lowes and HD don't sell the exact same brand. Also can't find anyone to tell me where I can purchase the lime. Must construct this weekend and would prefer to make this my last attempt. Any suggestions on the bonding products? Thanks

panvsliloet made it! (author)2016-01-04

How much was it total to complete the smaller building? How much mortar did you end up using?

kapple made it! (author)2015-11-13

Suggestions on how to work around cross beams in pole barn structures?

Most larger pole barns/post and frame construction have some kind of diagonal cross bracing between wood beams/posts. I am trying to find a 30 wide x 40 long pole barn without post or modify it so that it is still structurally sound. I would like to first build a structurally sound post and beam building with roof and "fill in" with no load bearing bottle wall - discussed here: Will the glass bottles if tied into the post provide structure? or thought on how to modify pole barn so it does not have the cross-beams?

jacobmarley made it! (author)2015-10-01

I'm currently in the process of constructing a wine bottle building here in Michigan. I've never built a building before and have lots of questions. Mostly about the foundation. Can I email you?

artlife made it! (author)artlife2015-10-01


Alex88 made it! (author)2013-06-08

This is an awesome idea! I just have one question, do the bottles on the wall tend to hold water? We have a mosquito problem where I live and I would hate to give those little blood suckers another place to breed.

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-08

These are in the pacific Northwest and despite all of our rain the bottles are dry inside. I think it is mainly because of the overhang. I am currently scouting a location for several bottle buildings in Mexico. Here It is very dry, but Dengue fever is rampant and we can not have mosquito condos. Also, the bottles also seem like a perfect place for scorpions to hide.

My plan for this climate is to glue glass pieces to the bottles. We were considering it on these buildings to increase the insulation factor of the bottles.

I will post a photo of the glass on the bottles later this weekend.

prosend made it! (author)prosend2015-07-22

Just make bottle bricks. Easiest.

foobear made it! (author)foobear2013-06-08

What part of the Pacific Northwest is it in?

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-08

Midway between Portland and Olympia.

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-14

Glass drops can be added to the bottles to keep stuff out. Just dip a bead in silicone and place it on the bottle opening. I would leave a tiny gap to allow for expansion/contraction. It would be easiest to apply the glass bead before the wall is built. the gap should face down when it is placed in the wall. This will also improve the insulation factor of the bottles.

bottle top4.jpgbottle top5.jpgbottle top1.jpg
kbearvulcan made it! (author)2014-04-18

I would like to know how well this would hold up to cold weather. I live in Montana and would like to build one of these as an art room/craft shed. I am not sure how to make the foundation. I also wanted to make one for a storage building for my gardening equipment. In the bigger building did you put in power if so how? I have all kinds of questions but right now these are my main ones so that I could try to get started. I would really appreciate any feed back you could give me.

prosend made it! (author)prosend2015-07-22

You would want to use bottle bricks rater than full bottles for better insulation.

kapple made it! (author)2015-07-14

Could you use a metal frame rather than wood?

Did you do anything to tie-in the mortar to the wood posts? - in theory the bottle wall could move separate from the wood post and fall forward or backwards.

I noticed in this glass block wall they put a metal rod that is drilled into the post to reinforce for this. Do you think that is need or possible since the bottles are stacked in a way that you could not run a straight metal post.

prosend made it! (author)prosend2015-07-22

That is called porcupining and you do it so the winter shrink does not cause the panel to come out of the frame.

author made it! (author)2015-04-15

cool will give a small garden wall a go first. thank you.

kbearvulcan made it! (author)2014-04-19

What would be a good way to make a wall that I can hang things up with on a bottle wall?

artlife made it! (author)artlife2014-04-20

What do you want to hang on the wall?

I typically hang items from the beam at the top of the wall or on the posts.

It is easy to use a concrete bit and insert a plastic anchor or check out this page for some other options.

If you are simply looking for a way to hang your coat, you can make a permanent coat hook by turning a bottle with the neck in. That is best done with stronger bottles like wine bottles or soda bottles, liquor bottles may be too susceptible to accidental damage.

evarigab017 made it! (author)evarigab0172015-01-16

How much does it cost to make

artlife made it! (author)artlife2014-04-20

Another option would be to make a grid or some other design within your basic frame before laying the bottles. This gives you more wood to hang things on and it may also give you more interesting design opportunities.

Artifactor made it! (author)2014-05-24

This is very inspiring!! I have also been looking at Earthship houses. I'm interested in creating an interior bottle wall between a small sunny room and a hallway that gets no natural light in an existing building. Wondering how to go about it, how to find out what's inside the wall, like wiring, etc. Also, if I cut the bottles in half and join 2 halves together with silicone and maybe some type of impermeable tape, will the seams be strong enough to support the wall? Any suggestions? Thanks for posting these instructions!!

rgwarren made it! (author)2014-05-01

Hi! I'm trying to generate a wall section and create a presentation on glass bottle construction for my Architectural Detailing course. I was wondering what size posts you used in your framing and what the R-value of your walls happened to be. This is an amazing application of recyclable materials and I am excited to share this with the rest of my class!

kbearvulcan made it! (author)2014-04-21

Artlife I have some other building questions can you email me at

artlife made it! (author)2014-04-19

This type of building would definitely stand up to the cold weather. I know of at least two in Canada, one in upstate New York, and one in Norway that have worked out just fine.

I can not find my other photos of the build, but, I am going to visit a friend that had copies of all the photos, so hopefully I will be able to post more info on the finer details and the slab.

The first step for you is to check your local building codes. If you are making a small storage building a slab may not be required. We got the state and local building codes and then exceeded them.

As far as power to the building was concerned. We had some issues because the previous owner of the property built a two story shop/garage from scrap and did not get it approved. The power had to come off the box in that building but because of local rules that beautiful 50+ year old building would have to be pulled down to approve a permanent power system in the bottle building. So we had to resort to a "temporary power system".

vsharp1 made it! (author)2014-04-02


agabbur made it! (author)2014-02-16

How it will provide strength??

How it will protect from natural calamities like earthquake,floods and other things??

artlife made it! (author)artlife2014-02-16

This building has been up over ten years and it has been exposed to many small earth quakes along with some flooding,snow wind and ice.

The only problem encountered was when the large mulberry tree that is right next to the building was hit by lightning and a large branch came crashing down on the building. I expected a lot of damage to bottles as well as the supports. It didn't happen. The roof caved in on one of the pie pieces. It was an easy fix, other than lifting the heavy wood of the building. Surprisingly, not one bottle broke.

I have seen bottle buildings that have been standing for over a century. These things are not as delicate as they look. That is not to say that they are all sturdy, it depends on how they were built. The methods I used, came about by examining problems in older structures.

VirginiaLEE made it! (author)2013-10-28

Thanks for the great post! This answered my questions! Now to convince the husband that we should build one!

VirginiaLEE made it! (author)2013-10-28

I am curious about the roof! Are those old CDs and Christmas lights? Pretty neat looking. :)

JustNate1 made it! (author)2013-08-17

Thanks so much for sharing this! Just wanted to double check - what's the ratio of mortar mix to that 1/4 cup of Ivory and 1 cup of lime? Or do you just mix up some mortar per the package instructions and add enough to the 1/4 c Ivory and 1 cup lime to get the peanut butter consistency? Thanks again!

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-08-17

You mix an 80 pound sack of mortar according to package directions and throw in the 1/4 cup of ivory soap and the cup of lime and mix it in completely, then you are good to go.
Good luck and I would love to see photos.

JJ4376 made it! (author)2013-06-27

You have that many bottles?

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-27

No, we don't drink we got the bottles from wineries after they had open houses. Also, after we started building we received lots of gifts of wine. Including many left in the middle of the night by unknown givers.

artlife made it! (author)2013-06-22

We don't get many hard freezes in this area. But we do have some. I have seen a couple of bottle buildings in British Columbia, one north of Spokane where they have lot's of snow and cold. In fact the road to the bottle building is closed in the winter. Brrrrrr. I would recommend wine bottles or at the minimum soda or beer bottles that are thicker than typical liquor bottles. I wouldn't use formaldehyde bottles : see here, You may want to use the glass beads seen below , depending on your weather. Good luck. Please feel free to ask for advice anytime.

eternaloptimist made it! (author)2013-06-22

I love your building!! I have planning to build one in my yard as a pool bar. We live in Southern Ontario and I am worried how well it will hold up in our cold winters. Do you have any advice on this?
Thanks again for sharing your instructions.

sunshiine made it! (author)2013-06-18

The Pacific Northwest is an awesome place! this is truly a great idea! I am sure it will be a winner! Thanks for sharing and do have a summer!

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-18

I am currently visiting Mexico. I am definitely having a summer!

sunshiine made it! (author)sunshiine2013-06-18

Awesome! This would be a great project in Mexico!

artlife made it! (author)2013-06-14

Thanks. It looks hard, but it is truly super easy to build, it is not heavy labor and it can be worked on in short easy time blocks, even as little as thirty minutes at a time.

Drakekay made it! (author)2013-06-11

Oh wow, Would love to see an Impact video where a wall of this is struck with various objects. Slow motion captures would be awesome!!!

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-12

That sounds great! I think you should do it. Just build at least one wall for your video. ;-))

I am way too emotionally attached to these particular buildings to throw anything at them.

Badetise made it! (author)2013-06-08

huh. interesting.. * casually adds to bucket list*

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-11

GREAT! I think of a bucket list as a do it today list, there are no guarantees. ;-))

Jessica316 made it! (author)2013-06-08

do you have any idea why the glass bottles are so strong? just thinking about it it amazes me

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-11

Sorry, I thought I posted a response on the 8th. The wine bottles are strong because the glass is thick. There strength is rated in the same range as glass blocks that are more traditionally used for construction. The liquor bottles are thinner and more fragile, but they are holding up.

7rory768 made it! (author)2013-06-10

I wish I could build this, it is truly amazing I voted for you to win and I hope you do win goodluck

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-10

You can build one. I think one of the most amazing things about bottle buildings is the fact the fact that the vast majority were built by elderly women. Elderly women with no background in construction.

This may seem strange but, bottles are much easier to work with than most traditional materials. They are lighter weight and less cumbersome. Also it is much less expensive.

If you don't have property ask around, you might find someone that would love to put up a cool garden wall or storage shed.

If you (or anyone else) would like to build even a small wall, I would be happy to encourage you and answer any questions you might have

ella868 made it! (author)2013-06-08

This is super impressive

artlife made it! (author)artlife2013-06-08

Thank you. We had lots of help building it.