Bathroom Remodel - Eco Tour Version

I hated this bathroom from the moment I saw it. My husband once told me that this bathroom is what happens when the husband never says no to his wife’s silly ideas… a coworker retorted that this is what happens when the WIFE never says no as the hubby buys only what is on sale!  Aside from having damaged tile, it had mis-matched everything. Gray and maroon tile floors, mauve and maroon walls, pink and blue wallpaper, white vanity cabinets, and yellow faux marble countertops. Seriously, I doubt it could have been more mismatched had they tried. (I hope the previous owners aren’t reading this and feeling poorly about it)  It was such a crazy quilt of color and style that I did not even ATTEMPT to make anything match, and just moved my green bath gear into it from my previous abode.

Despite my horror at the aesthetics, this alone was not enough to make me remodel. But two years after we moved in the pier under the bathroom floor began to sink. And so we know we had to fix the pier, which meant we would have to fix the floor by removal and replacement. Since we already had to do all this, we decided to just do everything. And we did. Literally. Everything. Tore it down to nothing, built it back up from scratch, and replaced everything except the ceiling and the original wall cabinet, doing our best to keep it in the original 1950s flavor. My handyman uncle said we should learn to do the work ourselves, so we did. He taught us how, and did much of the more technical work such as the plumbing. It took us a year to go from sledge hammer to touch-up paint and caulking… and that is such a long grueling story that I will spare you, but I must add that it turned out to be a blessing we chose to tear down the walls because we found we had hidden plumbing leaks and termites that all of our inspectors had missed. The result is that the remodel was costlier than expected in the short run, but saved us a bundle long term.


After a year of sweating and learning, it is now the prettiest room in the house! Here is a tour of the eco-features.

1)      We used low-VOC white paint and primer, easy to find from Lowe’s.  The cost was slightly more than some traditional varieties, but the peace of mind is well worth it. 

2)      The black paint we got for FREE from the OKC Hazardous Waste disposal center (I may do a short post on them later). It was name-brand paint that someone else had discarded.

3)      This is our brand new WaterSense, low-flow dual-flush toilet! Silver button is for solids, blue button is for liquids. It amuses all our friends. 

4)      This is my low-flow WaterSense shower head. I had to do some bargaining to convince my husband to try one out, but we both love it. It feels nicer than our old water guzzler did.

5)      I found a recycled plastic curtain liner, but I am not sure if it’s really ecofriendly or just greenwashed… 

6)      This is our old bath tub. Instead of buying a new one, we had it resurfaced – one of the two things we contracted out. (The other thing we contracted? When we had almost finished grouting, we hired someone to come out and complete it, because we hated grouting just that much, and it was Christmas. It was SO worth it.)

7)      New double-paned Energy Star window! Gave us a small tax credit this spring, too. We also re-built this wall slightly to accommodate a smaller window than the original one, so that the window doesn’t encroach into the shower space (which is weird and creepy)

8)      We replaced our 80s uber light strip with a fixture that only requires two bulbs. There is NO REASON why our tiny, window-lit bathroom needed five light bulbs! 

9)      The medicine cabinet came from Habitat for Humanity’s Renovation Station, meaning it was either re-used or donated surplus. Either way, Habitat saved it from a dump and sold it to me. And it is huge, and awesome, and sleek. However, my uncle did have to rebuild part of the frame to make it stronger.  

10)   The countertop is made of recycled glass and came from River’s Edge Countertops, and is probably the most beautiful thing I own. 

11)   After a couple weeks of searching, I found the perfect buffet at Bad Granny’s Bazaar. It was antique, but it was worn enough that I didn’t feel bad about stripping it down and transforming it. A fantastic surprise was that when we got it home for closer inspection, it had a manufacture date on it: the furniture had been built in 1950, the same year as our house! We re-purposed it into this vanity simply by removing the shelves that sat on top, cutting a few holes, removing the center drawer (we just nailed the face of the drawer back on), and sanding/painting it.

If you have ever done a remodel, you know it produces a huge amount of waste. So what did we do? A bunch of the things I was able to sell for cheap on Craigslist. Even more went out for unsponsored curbside recycling (which means it goes on the curb with a sign that says FREE). Sponsored (city pick up) curbside recycling took care of plastic containers. A recycling bin at work took my cardboard boxes. Unused and empty paint cans went to the Hazardous Waste Facility. And a few things – like my old green bath d├ęcor - went to Goodwill.

 Original drywall had to be thrown away, as did our used tile. I had hoped to donate the tile for craft projects, but our tiled floors and walls turned out to be made of concrete. Even worse, we could not recycle the concrete because it was impossible to remove it from the tile and chicken wire reinforcement. I would be embarrassed to tell you how much concrete, tile, and chicken wire had to go to the landfill… but sometimes things must be tossed.

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