Full wall mirrors: Doorways to self-image

Full wall mirrors, sometimes referred to as gym mirrors, can literally add a new dimension to your interiors. In homes, they are normally used for gym rooms. Commercially, they are used in professional gyms and dance studios. The primary function of full wall mirrors are to allow you to study human form and movement – usually your own. No space where people workout physically in some form would be complete without a full wall mirror. Narcissism aside, these mirrors can be valuable guides to progress, dynamic or static. As we explore these fascinating facets of full wall mirrors, keep in mind that a mirror can only reflect what it's given in the first place. Nothing will change about you until you bring on that change.

The body in stillness

Full wall mirrors in gymnasiums (too lazy to check if it should be gymnasia, but I doubt that it is) are an essential part of checking the visible areas of progress. For body toning or body building, it's a necessity more than a fringe benefit of going to the gym. A mirror must be able to provide an accurate picture of how your body changes with effort over time. Because of this, a mirror with even minor distortions is no good in a professional gym and for this reason alone, gyms spend hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, to buy the best mirrors available and keep them in good order. Naturally, regular cleaning with a non-corrosive glass cleaner that doesn't leave streaks that distort reflections is a part of the cost and effort required to keep customers happy and coming back.

The body in motion

Dance studios are almost synonymous with full wall mirrors. One doesn't have to be a dancer to know that good form doesn't come from being shown what to do – it comes from watching and doing it yourself and watching yourself doing it. Ballet dancers spend hours holding a position in front of the mirror to get that perfect pointe or pique. They may spend further hours perfecting a particular movement, or a turn, or a leap – all that effort so that it will look effortless on stage. Dancers of other forms might practice hundreds of head-spins or full-splits or hand positions or eye movements; because dance is an art form that is one half visual, it is vital for them to be able to see exactly what their body is doing at any given time.

The body of knowledge

Full wall mirrors are usually standard as far as size goes – typically they're available at a maximum of 84 X 130 inches. The thicknesses are standard as well – usually a quarter inch. They need to be installed professionally to make sure that they don't collapse or fall or undergo any of a number of things that happen to heavy mirrors. The supporting wall should be capable of handling the tremendous weight. Each individual piece of the mirror, if the wall is very big, needs to be glued on with mastic and supported below by either J or L clamps; safety backing needs to be applied to prevent shattering in case of breakage, and a whole lot of care precautions need to be followed to the letter.

Scoping the merchandise

Any deviation from instructions given by the manufacturer could be disastrous, and certainly not worth the trouble of buying such mirrors in the first place. Before buying, check for any obvious natural distortions in the glass that might resemble something from the house of mirrors at an amusement park. For subtle distortions, use a long rigid pole, holding it upright and horizontal all along the length of the mirror – any minor aberrations should show up in the image of the pole on the mirror. Once you're happy with the choice, mark the back or sides with permanent ink so when they're delivered you know it's the same batch. Once you're all set up, you can start to enjoy the loyalty of a friend for life.