New Bathroom is Green in More Ways Than One

When it became clear there would be enough people coming through Better Farm to warrant a third bathroom, imaginings began as to how we could create a state-of-the-art space with as small a carbon footprint as humanly possible. I opted to retool what used to be Skyler's room on the second floor; which meant a lot of new pipes, some extremely creative spirits on the part of the workers who would do the dirty work, and a ton of patience.

I did extensive research on how to "green" a bathroom, and came up with a few key points to pay attention to from my handy-dandy "Green Remodeling" book. Here are some options to consider when renovating an existing bathroom or putting in a new one:
  • High-performance, low-flow shower head with chlorine filter
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Lighting controls
  • Windows that open
  • Landscaping for shade
  • Greater natural daylight
  • Upgraded single pane windows
  • Water filters
  • Low-flow faucets
  • Insulated plumbing and pipes
  • Solvent-free adhesives
  • Low-flow or greywater flushing toilet
With these ideas in mind, I made a few sketches of the perceived space:


From there, Fred Ciliberti got to work gutting the room and laying out the pipework. Bobby Rockerman showed up for a while to help get the piping from the basement to the soon-to-be bathroom. In the meantime, I scooped up several eco-friendly components:
  • Dual-flush toilet    Kohler makes a dual-flush toilet that can save the average homeowner more than 6,000 gallons of water annually by utilizing 20% less water-per-flush than your average toilet. In addition, there are two flush buttons instead of one so you can control how much water you need to wash away waste.
  • Reclaimed claw-footed tub    The United Methodist Church in Alexandria Bay held a tag-sale fundraiser for which people in the area donated items. Among them was a claw-footed tub, in pristine shape—we were even able to use most of the original hardware, including wonderful old stainless steel faucets. All we did to update the tub was slap a fresh coat of primer and paint on the outside, soak the hardward in CLR, buff them up with some Bar Keepers Friend, and call in carpenter extraordinaire Gary Stevenson to hook it up.
  • Evolve showerhead    The Evolve showerhead utilizes ShowerStart technology, which stops water flow to a trickle when it reaches 95 degrees. When you're ready to hop in the shower, simply pull the cord next to the showerhead and the water pressure is restored. So what does it save? A whopping 2,700 gallons of water annually, all the fossil-fueled energy it requires to heat that much water, and up to $75 off our annual utility bill.
  • Reclaimed bathroom sink pedestal    Vessel sinks are all the rage in bathroom design these days, but we wanted to revisit some old-fashioned roots with this modern-day fad. Armed with a white vessel sink from Lowe's, we tracked down a pre-Civil War washing table at Liberated Sole Shoe Repair & Antique Shop in Watertown that once held—you guessed it—a wash basin. Using some minor wizardry by the wonderful Gary Scholes, the sink hooked into and through the table.
  • American Olean tiles    American Olean spearheaded a Greenworks initiative, which offers information and support on LEED-certification, eco-friendly construction, and sustainability issues as they relate to construction. And by their very nature, ceramic tiles last far longer than other surface types. Less replacing means less waste and wear and tear on the environment. 
  • Controlled lighting     There are three sets of lights in the bathroom, all utilizing high-efficiency bulbs. This way, during the day you can use no lights (east-facing window means plenty of natural sun rays), or if you're getting dolled up for a night on the town you can flip on the vanity lights above and to either side of the mirror. There's also a three-way fan in the ceiling, which has a hot air blower, regular room fan, and soft light when you just need a little glow to guide your way. 
  • Eco-friendly insulation     Nowadays there's no excuse for toxic fiberglass insulation. All insulation-related updates at Better Farm have utilized cotton insulation that's so safe you can rub your hands and face in it.
With these elements in place, Gary Scholes came in to complete the carpentry and plumbing.  Gary Stevenson finished the project off by creating a small oak stage for the tub (he found a pile of beautiful, aged oak out in our barn and planed some of it for this project—stay tuned for future uses we put the rest to!) and hooking it into the pipework Fred and Bobby laid.

Photos from the process:

And for the finished product...

Many thanks to the following people for their support and expertise:
Kristen Caldwell's generous donation
Hunter Ciliberti, demolition
Fred Ciliberti, demolition, plumbing, and carpentry
Bob Rockerman, plumbing
David Garlock, consulting
Gary Scholes & crew, plumbing, tiling, and carpentry
Laura Caldwell, vintage towel rack
Scott Mueller, fish painting
Kate Garlock, bathtub refinishing and painting
Gary Stevenson, plumbing
Chris Menne, Brian Hines, and Sarah Herold, painting and staining