How To – Designing An Efficient And Environmentally Friendly Bathroom

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    Making over your bathroom can be expensive depending on whether you hire someone to perform the work,  have a professional perform some of the work or do it all yourself. Although the average initial cost can come in around $7,000 it is also important to think about how you may end up flushing money down the toilet for years if you don’t pick and choose your fixtures and materials correctly.

    Water use will be a primary concern in your bathroom and with modern toilets a single flush has been reduced from 3 gallons to 1.5 gallons or less. When selecting a water saving toilet you will have a variety of options from standard flush which uses 1.5 gallons to air assist flush which forces a lower amount of water through your toilet faster.

    You should always look for a fully glazed trap when selecting a toilet. This is the pipe area at the bottom of the bowl that attaches to your plumbing pipe in your floor. Some cheaper models may have unglazed traps but even more expensive models are known to forget this detail. In a recent survey of toilets at our local home center we found that the model that was second to the lowest in cost had a fully glazed trap. The cost difference will be realized the first time you don’t have to plunge your toilet clean at 3am and the thing is … you will never know when that happens.

    After your toilet your bathtub or shower is the largest user of water. To reduce water use you should take a shower over a bath and limit your run time to less then 5 minutes. This can be difficult in the winter when you are waiting for the water to get warm and the use of a point of use hot water heater that serves only your main bathroom may also save you money.  POU Water heaters are basically a necessity if you install a whirlpool tub because they can provide instant and unlimited hot water.

    Your sink can also be a water drinker and it is important to select fixtures that will allow for complete cutoff of the hotwater when you are not using it. Two handle fixtures are available and this will limit any crossover or partial hotwater drain when all you want is cold water.

    Remember to reduce the flow rate of your sink and tub by adjusting the valve in your wall. You do not want to allow young children use of full pressure because they won’t understand to only turn the faucet on half way. If you reduce the flow rate at your valve under the sink then they will be limited to a good flow for hand washing and not so much that they waste water or make messes.

    When selecting a floor material you should look at glazed porcelain tile. This will give you the longest lasting floor and the same material can be used for tub surrounds and accents. Stone will require continued maintenance that can be a little difficult to understand for the first time buyer. It may look amazing but expect to reseal it often and pay for that great look in cleaners and sealers for as long as you have it. .. not to mention half a day work or the need to hire a professional to make touchups.

    Venting is also important and you want to look for a low noise vent that pushes a lot of air. The store where you look for your items should have the fans listed with CFM which is Cubic Feet Per Minute of air flow and also Sones which is a standard for noise. Remember you may not want a fan that is completely quiet especially if the fan is in a publicly accessible bathroom where people need a little background noise while making use of the facilities.

    The better you vent your bathroom of shower moisture will reduce the need for repainting and also cleaning as condensation tends to attract dust.

    Room color is also important and you want to stay with a very light color or white. Children’s bathrooms should have a minimum of semi-gloss paint on the walls to reduce stains. Moldings, doors and other items should all be gloss. If you have wood use a polyurethane coating of semi-gloss or gloss depending on your taste.

    For extended life the use of solid woods is often better then veniers due to lifting of the thin wood layer in high humidity environments.  The small amount extra that you pay will mean not needing to perform in place reconstruction or ripping out that vanity a few years after your complete remodel.

    Florescent lighting is an option for bathrooms to reduce your cost of electricity but if you use the bathroom to apply makeup you may find that you need either a 5000 degree florescent light or a mixture of other lighting to get a natural sunlight hue. Then again if you work in the basement office with dingy lights you may want to ask your boss what they use at work so you can look good at work… heheh.. LED lighting is also a new option but it is too expensive at this point. I would suggest waiting until prices come down about 75% in the next few years before you invest heavily in LED Lighting.

    Remember never overspend on your fixtures or addons.  The items you pick need to have the correct specifications for long use and good quality. Often you can find these features in lower cost models that also look attractive.  If you can save $50 that is a good chunk of your utility bill for the month.

    When selecting plated metal fixtures ask about how thick the plating is… and understand that a chrome item is first copper plated then nickle plated then chromed.. so if you buy nickle you are getting a product that may not last as long as the same model in chrome.





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