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What is a Bottle Wall?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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As the name suggests, a bottle wall is a type of wall made from glass bottles or glass jars, and a binder material. The bottles may be filled with a dark material, which can cause the bottle wall to act as a passive solar heater. Entire structures have been constructed using this method of building.

Before building a bottle wall, a masonry or rock wall may be set into the earth. This provides stability to the structure. Sometimes reinforcing bar, or rebar, is added in the foundation for added stability.

Glass bottles are obviously one of the main components of a bottle wall. Typically, beer and soda bottles are the most popular types, but any type of glass bottle can be used, including jelly or mason jars. These bottles are used like bricks, stacked on top of each other. Using different colored bottles will often lead to a bottle wall having a stained-glass effect.

Binder material is usually positioned around and between each bottle in a bottle wall. This material binds the bottles together and provides a space between each bottle. After the first layer of binder is added, a row of bottles is pressed into it. Another layer of binder material is spread thickly on top of and in between those bottles, and the next layer of bottles is added. This method continues until the desired height of the wall is reached.

A dark liquid or other material can be added inside each individual bottle, which will create a passive solar heater. By absorbing heat from the sun during the day, the bottle wall will then release a small amount of heat at night. An earthship, which is a home made from natural and recycled building materials, is a good example of this.

Throughout history, using old materials to build certain structures has not been all that uncommon. Ancient Romans, for example, used to use empty ceramic jugs when building the upper levels of their buildings. Not only did this reduce the amount of concrete used, but it also made the upper levels lighter and less likely to collapse. In areas where building materials like wood were scarce, bottle houses were also not uncommon.

Many historians believe the first bottle house in the United States was built by William F. Peck in 1902. Located in Nevada, this house was built from thousands of empty beer bottles from neighboring taverns. It has since been demolished. Since then, building a bottle wall or a bottle house has been more for artful reasons rather than practicality or necessity.

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