Watching a beautiful vase smash into a thousand pieces is a trauma untold, but fortunately, that doesn’t have to spell the fateful end to your favorite glass pieces. With some tough glass glue and maybe some grout, you can turn those broken remnants into backyard splendor. But first, a quick word of caution. It should go without saying, but broken glass is sharp.
Always handle glass pieces with care, and use rubber coated gloves when picking up broken shards, especially when you’re first cleaning up. Additionally, if you’ll be breaking your pieces down, you’ll need to be careful when you do it. Always wear safety glasses. Throw the shards into a box draped with cloth to keep them in place, and beat with a hammer. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s jump in!
1. Mosaic Stepping Stones
Dress up a boring paver or plain stepping stone with a unique, sun-sparkling mosaic, and give your garden some eclectic charm. To begin, spread a thin layer of all-purpose epoxy (make sure it’s graded for concrete and glass), and lay your pieces in your desired design. Once the glue is dry, mix together sanded tile grout as indicated on the instructions and spread over the piece using a trowel. Wipe away excess grout using a damp sponge, and allow the grout to dry. Give it another quick wipe with a cloth, and it’s ready to lay in the ground!
2. Customized Planters
This uses the same idea as the mosaic stone, only on a terracotta pot instead. As a bonus, since the planter is ceramic, you can use mortar instead of epoxy, which is a little easier to work with. In fact, if you want to really get creative, you can even use this method to decorate a tree stump, a patio border, or any area that could use a little pop of color.
3. Ground-level Bird Bath
Birds don’t really need a high surface to enjoy a quick bath. A ground-level pool is more naturalistic and helps you reuse leftover glass. To start, dig a shallow 15x6 inch bowl-shaped hole in the ground. Cover the area with a layer of coarse sand and pat it down. If it’s dry, you can moisten it to make sure it sits smoothly.
In a large container, mix up about 40 pounds of quick-setting concrete—make sure to wear a dust mask while you do this to avoid breathing in fumes. Working quickly and wearing gloves, pile the concrete into the sand-covered hole. Continue to pat the concrete until it shapes to the bowl—about a 2-inch layer is good. Gently press broken glass bits into the wet concrete and allow it to set. In a few days, you’ll have the perfect bird paradise.
4. DIY Sea Glass
If you have a concrete mixer or large rock tumbler, then what you actually have is your own sea glass factory. Throw the glass bits in with coarse sand and water, and set it to tumble for a few hours. Sift the glass pieces through a screen and wash them off. Use them in vases, along pathways, or as wedding decor—the possibilities are nearly endless with this one.
5. Broken Glass Votives
This is a very simple way to repurpose crushed glass into something luminous and beautiful. Using the hammer method discussed above, break the glass into very small pieces. Pile it into a tall lidded glass container until it’s nearly full. Nestle a small glass votive holder into the glass, making sure you can still close the lid. Inside the votive holder, place a battery-operated LED votive candle, and put the lid on top. Now turn off the lights and watch how shimmery and beautiful your home grows.
6. Unique Jewelry
If you’ve been able to make your own sea glass, you can take things a step further by making a unique pendant necklace to match. This maneuver is a bit tricky, so if you’re a novice with a drill, you might want to get some practice first. Only use very strong drill bits when attempting this, or even a special bit made for going through glass or tile.
Wet the piece of glass and the drill bit and hold the piece of glass very firmly. Drill enough to make a small divot in the glass—this will keep the drill from slipping. Continually mist the glass and drill bit with water to prevent overheating, and continue drilling slowly through the glass. Clean the cut piece with olive oil and then string it along a ribbon, hemp rope, or leather cord. Lastly, congratulate yourself on your resourcefulness and your DIY prowess.
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener, and aspiring homeowner, whose work can be read on Modernize.com. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she writes full-time.