We're remodeling our bathroom due to faulty construction. Can you offer some green pointers?

Asked by Jennifer Teufel, Atlanta, GA

After a few months in our new home, we discovered the bathroom was built very poorly (regular drywall instead of concrete backer board in the shower, improper shower pan installation causing all the grout lines to leak, etc.). With all the problems we figure we should make lemonade out of lemons now, rather than waiting until we have the money for the bathroom of our dreams. What advice would you give to make our bathroom greener? The room is only 8x9.


Matthew Bremer

Answered by Matthew Bremer

New York, NY

Architecture in Formation

July 17, 2007

Your 8x9 bathroom is by no means small. Perhaps it seems so by today's oversized standards, but you can certainly achieve an appropriate sense of luxury in those confines. Meanwhile by avoiding the "McMansion" mentality you are saving energy and resources.

If standard sheetrock was used rather than cement or greenboard, chances are that the contractor took liberties with other aspects of the construction.

  • First, it sounds like it’s worth investing in a forensic investigation of the infrastructure of your existing bathroom.
  • Green design begins with sensible planning, and that means righting other potential wrongs with the bathroom’s plumbing and venting systems. Myriad issues may come up once those systems are opened up during demolition.
  • From what you’ve said, it would be worth setting a contingency of 15 percent of your budget for upgrading plumbing supply and waste lines, installing proper shut-off valves, and making sure the hot-water system is efficient.

There are plenty of bathroom features that will go a little easier on the earth—you should be able to find options within your budget.  These items you will see and feel daily in your new bathroom; they make the experience.

You certainly want to consider:

  • Water-saving fixtures like a low flow toilet are a must, and I highly recommend dual-flush toilets.
  • There are a variety of recycled tile products for floors and walls that are sensible, inventive, and visually rich. Same for the counter, though I’m a fan of natural concrete.
  • And be sure to use nontoxic grout and caulk!  I recommend you check out products from Laticrete.


For more information:

For more on bathroom options, stroll through GreenHomeGuide's Bathroom Know-How articles.

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