Instructables

How to make a Bottle Building

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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.

 
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Step 1: Materials

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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.

 

Staples.

 

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)

 

String

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Find bottles!

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

http://www.biytoday.com/slabpour.htm

 

http://www.raftertales.com/home-improvement/how-to-build-a-concrete-foundation/

 

 

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Artifactor2 months ago

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!!

rgwarren2 months ago

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!

kbearvulcan3 months ago

Artlife I have some other building questions can you email me at kbearkreation@gmail.com

kbearvulcan3 months ago

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

artlife (author)  kbearvulcan3 months ago
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.
artlife (author)  kbearvulcan3 months ago
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.
http://www.familyhandyman.com/masonry/pouring-concrete/how-to-choose-and-use-concrete-fasteners/view-all

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.
artlife (author) 3 months ago

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".

kbearvulcan3 months ago

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. kbearkreation@mail.com

vsharp13 months ago
awesome.
agabbur5 months ago

How it will provide strength??

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

artlife (author)  agabbur5 months ago
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.
VirginiaLEE8 months ago
Thanks for the great post! This answered my questions! Now to convince the husband that we should build one!
VirginiaLEE8 months ago
I am curious about the roof! Are those old CDs and Christmas lights? Pretty neat looking. :)
JustNate111 months ago
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 (author)  JustNate111 months ago
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.
JJ43761 year ago
You have that many bottles?
artlife (author)  JJ43761 year ago
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 (author) 1 year ago
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, http://www.michaelkluckner.com/bciw4glasshouse.html You may want to use the glass beads seen below , depending on your weather. Good luck. Please feel free to ask for advice anytime.
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.
Fabulous
sunshiine1 year ago
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!
sunshiine
artlife (author)  sunshiine1 year ago
I am currently visiting Mexico. I am definitely having a summer!
Thanks,
Artlife
Awesome! This would be a great project in Mexico!
Alex881 year ago
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 (author)  Alex881 year ago
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.
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artlife (author)  Alex881 year ago
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.
What part of the Pacific Northwest is it in?
artlife (author)  foobear1 year ago
Midway between Portland and Olympia.
That looks really hard to make.....WOW nice job though
artlife (author)  natalia lamp1 year ago
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.
Drakekay1 year ago
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 (author)  Drakekay1 year ago
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.
Badetise1 year ago
huh. interesting.. * casually adds to bucket list*
artlife (author)  Badetise1 year ago
GREAT! I think of a bucket list as a do it today list, there are no guarantees. ;-))
do you have any idea why the glass bottles are so strong? just thinking about it it amazes me
artlife (author)  Jessica316 1 year ago
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 1 year ago
I wish I could build this, it is truly amazing I voted for you to win and I hope you do win goodluck
artlife (author)  7rory768 1 year ago
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
ella8681 year ago
This is super impressive
artlife (author)  ella8681 year ago
Thank you. We had lots of help building it.
lmnopeas1 year ago
Your user name says it all! This is truly an amazing project! Can't wait to see your future Instructables! Please post soon!
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