Updating Guest Bathroom With Energy Efficient Options

Undergoing a renovation in search of energy efficiency would chill some people to the bone. Not us, we were ready to plan and enact some changes on an outdated bathroom. Follow along and let us hear some of your tips and renovation stories in the comments. 

Wether the implications are that of energy saving for the wealth of the planet, or like me, you're simply concerned with efficiency, then this bathroom remodel is for one to keep bookmarked for later. Over the course of my fiancée and I's transition from graduate students to finding a home of our own (and full-time jobs I might add) we lived with her parents. As a simple gesture of gratitude, we offered to redo the guest bathroom. The caveat being that the old bathroom was in dire need of energy efficiency upgrades, while the rest of the old house had been updated. 

This project would require far more than a simple aesthetic remodel. 

Keep in mind, that my primary interest is efficiency. Being the kind of person to save vegetable scraps for broth, or the last bit of coffee in the pot for the next day, this is the kind of project I'm keen to tackle. Although I can attest to the level of planning that went into making this project energy efficient, before we knew it, demo day had arrived. 

First, we needed to make sure that the materials we were going to be using would match the efficiency expectation of the project. Glass and ceramic tiles are a great choice for bathroom surfaces. You can reuse tiles from your existing bathroom or other projects, and it’s easy to find new tiles with high recycled materials. In addition, they are durable and easy to repair and clean. Wherever you use tile, choose tiles you can place a quarter-inch or less apart and can install using grout, which is more difficult for mold to take hold on. Efficiency doesn't just define energy use, it also applies to the health of those living there. In my time living in Oregon, mold became an increasing concern. Using a latex-modified grout and a water-based grout sealer will increase the grout’s life and make it easier to clean if you face the woes of mold and mildew in your area. Included here, are a few ideas of the difference a new tile and grout install can make. Not only is this more energy efficient in the long run, keeping in heat and increasing the life span of your now-protected drywall, but it certainly looks much better. 

Showers on the other hand are rife with acrylics and laminates that are certainly considered a common pollutant. For our means, we visited the local recycled building materials store and found a reclaimed shower stall, additionally we refit with a low-flow shower-head. You can save hundreds of gallons of water a year by making this switch. 

Reclaimed building supplies are your friend! 

For the bathroom floor we went with recycled tile, but cement or stone can be a great and effective alternative as well. 

A bathroom remodel can require a fair bit of caulk to seal around showers, sinks, and the like, however in terms of being energy efficient there some hesitancy to add it to the mix. For our means we searched for a low toxicity blend of VOC Caulk that can last longer than the usual tens years. 

Painting was an easy task, as not much isn't a step up from the past lead-based paints that troubled the bathroom here. My task was to step aside and let the homeowners pick the colors, and I followed suite not long after with the brushes and paint rollers. 

As the project winded down, we made sure to install a low flow toilet. Although this seemed a little outside the wheelhouse of this project, if you'd want to take the efficiency to a new level, consider adding stone pebbles to the tank itself to offset the water level. Seal the pebbles and add water to the tank one liter at a time, flushing occasionally to make sure that the water level is maintained by your stones, indicating that there is no leak present. 

With the project finished we were able to reflect on the accomplishment. Taking little under a month to plan, demo, and refurbish, this part time project is of novice level difficulty. The energy updates are sure to save a little cash over time and is much more aesthetically pleasing. 

All and all we spent very little, the only real splurge we had was on the vanity (which you can see pictured above). This left the bathroom less monotonous feeling, with dull colors remaining intact and clean, and the wood vanity keeping it's own space. 

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