While You're Updating the Fixtures, Don't Forget about Water, Moisture, and Ventilation Issues
Choose durable green materials
Bathrooms are often among the smallest rooms in the house, but they are rich with opportunity in a green remodel. No matter what the design goals for the renovation, two practical essentials are managing water and steam and selecting durable materials that are made to handle what’s often a tough environment.
Updating the bathroom's ventilation can retard mold and mildew growth.
There are several reasons a client may decide to remodel a bathroom. The most common are a desire to upgrade the fixtures in the room, to fix leaks and water damage, and to increase or reconfigure the room's floorplan.
Active water leaks and a lack of mechanical ventilation should be among the top priorities for correction. When changes are more than skin deep, improving the building’s envelope with an effective air barrier, vapor retarder and adequate insulation all should be part of the plan. Because humidity levels tend to be very high in a bathroom, extra care should be taken to minimize the risk of moisture accumulation and condensation in wall cavities.
While addressing those issues it's important to open a discussion about bathroom ventilation and how a proper fan system can improve the air quality and the longevity of not just the bathroom but the whole house by exhausting moist warm air that can promote mold and mildew growth.
Are there mechanical, electrical or structural problems?
The project may require extensive rewiring and plumbing. If that’s the case, consider how changes in the bathroom might be integrated with other remodeling projects under consideration and plan accordingly.
Does someone in the house have health or mobility problems to consider?
Designing a new bathroom with the needs of less mobile people in mind can let older homeowners stay in the house longer. Taller toilets that meet ADA guidelines, sinks that are accessible to wheelchairs, framing that accommodates grab bars and curb-less showers all can be valuable features.
Is the bathroom big enough?
Using what space is available is the least expensive option. Enlarging the bathroom by expanding into an adjacent but underused closet or spare room would be a next step, and building a new addition an expensive last resort. The goals should be to minimize the amount of remodeling that’s required, saving money and materials.
More About Bathroom Remodeling
New fixtures should use as little water as possible. Choose low-flow showerheads, high-efficiency toilets and water-conserving aerators on sink faucets. If a water heater needs replacement, pick a high-efficiency model and consider a tankless heater or a hot-water circulation option if the main water heater is some distance away from the bathroom. Include a plumbing access door for shower valves.
Be sure your choice for tub and shower surroundings sheds water effectively and is easy to clean. Never use gypsum drywall (even the moisture-resistant variety) under tile in a shower or around the tub.
Install a quiet fan of appropriate capacity and vent it to the outside. Consider more than one fan if the bathroom is large, and timers or humidity-sensing switches to ensure that the fan runs long enough after a bath or shower.
Wall, ceiling and floor finishes
Use durable materials that are not unduly affected by moisture. Consider tile made from recycled materials,
and use paints, finishes, grout and caulk that are low in volatile organic compounds (low-VOC). Reuse existing subflooring and flooring where possible. Avoid carpeting.
Avoid cabinetry made of particleboard or medium-density fiberboard; these will not tolerate moisture. Install environmentally friendly countertops.
Image Credits: Julia Jandrisits/REGREEN, Debra Lynn Dadd/REGREEN