Remodeling your bathroom is a huge task, going green can make the task seem even bigger. VOCs, off-gassing and all the terms that may only add to more confusion, as well as and new products to consider, it can be hard to know where to start. Below are some outline you can follow to help you plan to ensure that you get the green bathroom you want. There are a host of other options for making your bathroom greener. While these will add additional cost, they promise a significant return on investment.
Cabinetry and Vanity Tops
Use cabinets made from wheatboard or other low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compount) materials. Standard cabinets are made with urea-formaldehyde, which can off-gas potentially harmful VOCs for up to 15 years. Use recycled tiles for your vanity top.
Fluorescent lighting paired with electronic ballasts for efficiency and performance. Or you can opt for halogen lightings. Adding window or skylight lets more natural light into the bathroom and reduces the need to use additional lighting. Any natural light, even from a tubular skylight, will lessen your dependence on electric light.
Use a timer for your ventilation fan, as it is recommended that the vent be left on for 20 minutes after a shower. A vent fan is a must to remove odors, airborne irritants and moisture that can lead to mold problems.
Tubs and Showers
Choose recycled glass, ceramic or porcelain tile for shower surrounds. Thinner grout lines with unsanded, lightly colored (not white) epoxy grouts are easier to clean and less prone to mold and mildew. Acrylic and fiberglass are easier to maintain, but are less durable and less eco-friendly from a manufacturing standpoint.
Low and No VOC Products
Caulks, adhesives and sealants made for the bathroom include some mildewcide or other mold-inhibiting compounds. Although these make it easier to keep your bathroom clean, reducing the need to use potentially irritating cleaning agents, many include harmful VOCs. Look for the ones labeled Low VOCs or No VOCs.
Tankless hot water heaters
While costing more initially, tankless water heaters use 20 percent less energy than traditional water heaters, paying for the extra up-front cost in just a few years.
Recycled Glass Tiles
Recycled glass tiles are a great way to liven up your bathroom while keeping the costs down and reducing waste and environmental damage as well. Made from used glass that has been molted and reshaped, they come in almost any color and design, and are highly customizable. Recycled glass tiles are also durable, versatile, and long-lasting. They are naturally water-resistant, which makes them ideal for countertops, bathroom walls, and showers. The higher quality tiles are also resistant to extreme heat and cold, so you can also use them for outdoor pools. They can also be re-sized to the right weight for vertical applications, such as on walls and countertop splash guards. Their bright, translucent colors also make great accents for plain white walls.
Because recycled glass tiles have smooth, non-absorbent surface it makes them highly resistant to stains and spotting. Paint, mud, and other common stains will stay on the surface and will not discolor the tile, which is a common problem with ceramic, wood, and other more porous tiles. All you have to do is wipe it with a glass cleaner. Be aware that the grout lines do stain. Minimize this by using larger tiles to create fewer grout lines, or using colored grout to match your tile’s colors. Glass tiles, are fully recyclable. If you break a tile, it can be remolded and reinstalled. If this is not an option you can still get a matching tile by having one custom-blended. Glass tiles naturally reflect light, so a small glass-tiled surface can multiply available light enough to illuminate a room. This (like mirrors and openings) allows you to save energy costs by minimizing use of light bulbs or lamps.