The shower consists of a stainless steel sheet wall out of which the shower head protrudes. A plastered straw bale walls covered with a sheet of glass forms the second wall and a curbed track with a fabric shower curtain completes our airy shower. The sinks, as well as our original cast iron bathtub, were all found salvaged. The sinks were in good condition so we were able to use them as is. The bathtub however, was in horrible condition and needed to be refinished. Unfortunately, the refinishing process is quite toxic, and wasn’t very effective. We had the tub refinished twice in the first 5 years and we were still having problems with it- we eventually replaced it with a new cast iron tub. A few years later we replaced our bathroom sink with a new larger sink and as part of our 2008-2009 building project we plan to replace the sink in our second bathroom. Our advice: salvaged items are great when you are short on funds and not quite sure what you want- rarely will you find the perfect item when using salvaged (although we still love our salvaged kitchen sink). Replacing salvaged items 10 years down the road with something that works better for you is perfectly acceptable, particularly if you can find new homes for your old items. The one thing you should not do is buy or install salvaged items which are in poor condition. As with our salvaged cast iron tub, you will spend a lot of time and money trying to fix them and in the long run it will not be worth it. Spend more money to buy something in good condition (second hand or new); even if you do buy new, at least the toxic finishing process will be done only once and will last for a long, long time.
Because we wanted to conserve water, we opted for a new toilet that uses only 1.6 gallons per flush. To further conserve water, we installed low-flow devices on the sink faucets and shower heads. Note that in hard water areas these low flow aerators can become blocked with mineral deposits- remember to take them off and clean them periodically. Depending on the hardness of your water, there are different cleaning methods- we use vinegar and other similar products.
Both the floors and the interior walls of our bathrooms are unfinished local pine. We have seen no evidence of moisture problems in either bathroom, and measurements of moisture levels have indicated that both bathrooms are very dry. We suspect that the raw unfinished wood regulates the moisture level by absorbing excess moisture and releasing it over time. We use wood countertops in our bathroom, as we did in our kitchen. We are so happy with the performance of our unfinished wood master bath and half bath, that we are using unfinished wood paneling and counters in our new building’s bathrooms also. As the new building is somewhat tighter, we will have one vent fan in the full bathroom, but we hope that the unfinished wood walls (this time we are using local Ash wood) will continue to regulate indoor moisture levels. Apparently this is the “technology” used in Scandinavian bathing facilities and with a similar climate here in Vermont, we think this natural system is one worth pursuing- we love the warmth of wood and would never want a cold stone or tiled bathroom. While it is true that wood deteriorates over time, living in a wood rich area means that we can easily re-finish or replace a wood countertop that after 15 or so years shows signs of severe water damage. We don’t see this as wasteful when we live in an area that produces so much wood; in fact, it’s just another way of supporting the local economy. For the price of one fancy non-local stone countertop, we can have a lifetime of locally made, locally grown wood countertops.