Tips for a sustainable bathroom renovation

Most water use in a typical home happens in the bathroom. If your dated bathroom is an eyesore, you might feel motivated to have it remodeled. More than just looks, an older bathroom may be wasting a lot more water, and energy than you think.

Faucets, fixtures, lighting, and other aspects of your bathroom will be significantly improved with new, innovative products and materials. Not only will they look better, but new fixtures and renovation materials will also make your bathroom more efficient and sustainable. It can also improve your indoor air quality. All of these things will improve home comfort, energy use, and reduce your monthly utility costs. They are also better for the planet, which is a win-win!

Here are some tips for a green and sustainable bathroom renovation:

Hire a bathroom renovation contractor who focuses on green renovations

If a green bathroom renovation is important to you, save yourself time, money, and headache by hiring a company that specializes in environmentally-friendly bathroom renovations in Vancouver. Having a contractor who is familiar with eco-friendly products and materials is essential. They will know what you need in your bathroom renovation to reduce water and electricity use, and your exposure to harmful chemicals. When you work with O’Brien Contracting, they will show you products and systems you might not have already considered. They are constantly on the lookout for sustainable alternatives to your conventional renovation materials. Its just one last thing you will have to worry about throughout the remodeling process.

Choose low-flow for all your fixtures and faucets

Older faucets and fixtures use a tremendous amount of water. If they are leaking or damaged, you could be losing even more water and money down the drain. Let’s look at a few items you could upgrade in your bathroom renovation.


Your older, dated toiler could be using between three to seven gallons of water every time you flush. Nowadays, a conventional toilet will use 1.6 gallons per flush, and even less for a specialized high-efficient toilet. If your old toilet is leaking, you could be losing gallons of water a day! Green toilet technology has come a long way.

You have likely seen the toilets with two buttons to flush, which provides two different volumes of water use per flush. Some toilets also have a vacuum feature that sucks minimal water through the flush. This uses even less water, without sacrificing effectiveness.


A standard flow faucet really shoots water out – much more water than you need to wash your hands. By investing in a low-flow faucet for your bathroom sink, you can reduce your water usage by about 30 percent every time you turn on the tap. You can also look at adding an aerator to your low flow tap, which will reduce your water flow even more.


Homeowners sometimes feel suspicious of a low-flow showerhead. They are worried they will lose water pressure, and everyone loves a shower with good water pressure! There are a few options on the market for a low-flow showerhead, and you won’t have to worry about sacrificing performance. You will find that the pressure is still good, and it will feel good too knowing you’re not wasting water. For example, an older standard showerhead can use 2.5 gallons of water per minute; whereas a high-end, efficient showerhead will reduce that use up to 90%.

Consider your greener lighting options

The most sustainable way to light your bathroom is with natural light. If possible, inquire about installing a skylight or solar tube light in the bathroom. Both these options will provide ambient lighting in the bathroom.

When installing a vanity light at the mirror, choose a light fixture that is recognized by ENERGY STAR. That is your best bet for getting an energy-efficient product. Instead of energy-burning incandescent light bulbs, fit your fixtures with certified LED bulbs. LED bulbs only use about 10% of the energy used by a conventional incandescent bulb, but they also last 25 years longer. They are certainly worth the investment.

Be mindful of chemicals that come in renovation materials

Unfortunately, many products typically used in bathroom renovations in Vancouver will have harmful chemicals in them. An eco-expert contractor like O’Brien Contracting can help you filter through the manufacturers and products you should avoid for harmful chemicals such as off-gasing.


Low-cost cabinets are often made up of plywood, particleboard, or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). All of these products are held together with glues that could contain formaldehyde. This carcinogen will off-gas into your air and could be harmful to your health. Instead, choose solid wood that comes from sustainable sources and that are labeled formaldehyde-free.


Like cabinets, laminate and vinyl-topped countertops are also made up of MDF or pressed woods. The adhesive that holds on the top surface, and the MDF beneath, could also have formaldehyde or other off-gassing compounds. Options like natural stone, wood, tile, steel, concrete, and countertops made of recycled materials are the better choice.

Paint and finishes

While most paints and finishes are non-toxic these days, you can still run into some types that have volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are chemicals that emit gasses into your home for years. You can find VOC in paints, varnishes, adhesives, and even some cleaners. They may make you nauseous or give you a headache, and some are considered harmful carcinogens. Before you buy anything, check the label for no VOCs.


Tile is an excellent eco-friendly option. Tiles often contain recycled content and can be recycled again if you choose to reno in the future. Not all tile is created equal, so make sure you understand the impact manufacturing has on the planet as well. Other green flooring options include cork, bamboo, and environmentally-friendly concrete.

Ask your contractor to recycle anything possible

The construction industry is responsible for an incredible amount of garbage in landfills. Perfectly good construction materials and home products get thrown out for convenience’s sake. If you are having your old fixtures replaced, consider donating them to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or similar organization. If they are in working order, you can reuse things like vanity cabinets, toilets, sinks, faucets, tubs, one-piece tub surrounds, mirrors, and countertops. Someone else might have use for them, and it is a better alternative than the landfill.

If you’re ready to start your green bathroom renovation, contact us today!