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Green bathroom updates for under $500

Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | December 9, 2015

ideas for green bath updates

If you're considering a bathroom renovation, you know it's an expensive endeavor. While as a society we're becoming more environmentally conscious, you may be concerned that incorporating green products and ideas into your bathroom remodeling efforts is more than you can afford. Not so. There are lots of green remodeling ideas that are financially comparable, or even less expensive, than traditional ones. You can do any of these green bathroom updates for $500 or less.

1. Use water saving fixtures

Water is the earth's most precious resource. Only 2.5% of the water on Earth is freshwater -- the majority of which is trapped in glaciers and ice caps. The average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water a day. And though it flows freely from your tap, you pay for it. It's more important than ever to conserve it. So, when you're remodeling your bathroom, go green by installing a low flow shower head or faucet. Low flow fixtures run between $10 - $20, and will save you 25% - 60% in water usage. You'll earn your investment back, and be conserving precious resources in the process, which benefits everyone. You might also consider a dual flush toilet. Ranging in price from $100 - $400, a dual flush toilet is like a traditional toilet, only it has two buttons or handles for flushing instead of one. Each one flushes different levels of water: the partial flush being used for liquid waste, the full flush being used for solid waste. Did you know that 30% of household water usage is related to toilet flushing? You can make a difference to the earth, and to your water bill, here.

2. Use tile with recycled content

Recycled content is in more than newspapers and soda bottles. There are lots of companies incorporating recycled materials and green manufacturing practices into their tile products. All sorts of materials get recycled into tile, including glass, ceramics, granite, and even sandblasting dust. The results can be quite beautiful, and generally priced at what is considered mid-range for standard tile. It won't be hard for you to find a recycled content tile that suits your bathroom's design and style.

3. Use salvaged materials

Construction and demolition waste accounts for a large portion of the wood waste in landfills. You can keep some of that waste out of the landfill, and benefit yourself, by using salvaged molding, trim, windows, and doors throughout your green bathroom remodel. You'll likely find unique baseboard contours you can't find in modern millwork. And you might even get lucky with some treasured, but infrequently found, wood species. Solid wood doors are almost prohibitively expensive to buy new. Salvaged, they're much cheaper. It's worth a trip to the salvage yard. You'll save money, and gain design character. That's a win-win.

4. Reglaze a tub

The bathtub is a big ticket item in any bathroom remodeling project. Like, in the thousands of dollars big. Consider NOT buying a new tub. If you have an old-school cast iron tub that's seen better days, think about reglazing it for around $300, rather than replacing it. If you do need to replace your tub, you can purchase a new-to-you claw foot or cast iron model and get it reglazed for a fraction of the cost of a buying new tub. That's one less tub that goes to the landfill. You'll thank yourself, because newer fiberglass tubs don't hold heat nearly as well as the old cast iron ones do.

5. Use low or zero VOC paint

You can even make a green choice when it comes to painting your newly remodeled bathroom. Low and Zero VOC paints are widely available and sold by most major manufacturers. Why does that matter? VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are some of the most toxic chemicals found in paint. They're released at the highest levels while paint dries, but can continue permeating the air for years. Many are linked to cancer. Paint related products are second only to automobiles in emission of VOCs into the atmosphere. Using low or zero VOC paints is not just better for the Earth, it's better for you and your family's health. Some low and zero VOC paints are more expensive than traditional paints, but many are comparable in price. It's definitely an investment worth making.

It's easy to be green while remodeling your bathroom. If you get creative with materials, and steer toward utility saving fixtures, you'll being doing both the Earth and your wallet a favor.

About the Author

A confessed DIY junkie, Jennifer writes about home improvement, gardening, upcycling, and all things do-it-yourself. She lives in Delaware with her husband and daughters, where she is ardently teaching the next generation how to use power tools.