Whether you are building your dream house or remodeling an existing bathroom, here are some tips on how to be ecologically smart and have a smart-looking result as well. Since bathrooms can be one of the most expensive rooms to renovate, being up to date can have a real impact on a home’s resale value. These days, people are generally looking for double sinks, walk-in showers, and plenty of storage space.
A first step might be visiting model homes in the area or prowling the Internet for ideas and photos. Settle on the permanent features first, such as tile and countertops, so you can coordinate later components such as wall coverings and the general color scheme. This would also be a good time to ensure good ventilation through a wall or ceiling fan.
Ceramic or glass tile comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Both can be found with recycled content and both are durable. Natural stone, in tiles or as small pieces of tumbled stone is both durable and distinctive.
Sinks and tubs come in designs from classic to dramatic. If existing fixtures are in good shape but just the wrong hue, consider refinishing in almost any color you like. Although there are do-it-yourself kits available, a professional will have the materials and tools for reliable results. Refinishing a tub might run about $500, but you save time shopping as well as saving on delivery and installation costs.
Be water smart
The American Water Works Association points out that nearly one-third of an average home’s indoor water usage is from flushing standard toilets. Eco-savvy consumers are learning that while older models use up to six gallons per flush (gpf), newer low-flow models, at 1.6 gpf, cut this by more than half and HET fixtures (High Efficiency Toilet) the use even less at 1.3 gpf.
A number of models are dual-flush meaning they have two levels of water consumption one for solid waste and one for liquid waste only. Niagara Stealth has a patented dual-flush system with hydraulic technology for an ultra-high-efficiency (UHET) toilet using just .8 gpf.
A WaterSense label on a toilet shows it has been independently certified for efficiency for the Environmental Protection Agency and consumes less than 1.28 gpf. This can make a real impact on water consumption. WaterSense labeled models come in a variety of styles, frequently including the dual-flush feature.
Many local water suppliers will reimburse homeowners who replace old toilets with more efficient fixtures. For example, both the City of Charlottesville and the Albemarle County Service Authority offer rebates of up to $100 each toward the purchase of low-flow toilets. Other area water agencies have varied programs, so check with your provider.
Low-flow showerheads offer additional savings. While standard showerheads use as much as 5.5 gallons per minutes (gpm), newer ones have flow rates of 2.5 gpm or less, yet are designed to feel forceful. For existing fixtures, aerators—basically screw-on faucet tips— restrict flow rates while still making the flow reasonably strong. Aerators are inexpensive, easy to install, and can be an extremely effective water conservation step.
Converting existing light bulbs to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can make an immediate impact on power consumption. Today’s CFL bulbs are significantly better than the first ones on the market and come in a variety of shapes. They have also become available in different shades from warm white to cool white to daylight. A CFL’s color can make a difference in a room’s “mood” from energetic to peaceful.
The finishing touches
Be sure to include as much storage as possible. For example, stylish pegs can substitute for towel bars that take up wall space. Narrow shelves can be hung behind the door. Shelving or shallow cabinets can be installed above the toilet or on other walls and attractive narrow shelves can frame a window.
In a small room like a bathroom, color makes a definite impact. Paint, coordinated with tile and countertops, can make a real statement from relaxing pastels to vibrant primary-colored stripes. Lighter colors make rooms seem larger while darker colors can lend intimacy or coziness.
Always check for a mildew-resistant label on any paint for a bathroom. If you are repainting, wash the walls thoroughly with a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water even if you can’t see any mildew. Rinse thoroughly with plain water, then let the walls dry completely.
After applying fresh mildew-resistant paint, be sure to wait 24-36 hours to let the paint cure (even if the can says it’s dry in six hours) before introducing moisture by using the shower or bathtub.
Finally, treat the bathroom to some plump new towels and slip-proof throw rugs in great colors, up-to-the-minute light fixtures, and at least one living plant in an eye-catching container.
By Marilyn Pribus