Retrospective: Bathroom

Editor’s note: This is an early posting of tomorrow’s article in the Wanganui Chronicle. I won’t have time to post tomorrow. 
Many renovations are heavy on kitchens and bathrooms and light on everything else. It appears that there is a belief that these improvements will increase the resale value of a home while also improving functionality and/or style for the current occupants. That thinking is hard to argue with, except that new kitchens and bathrooms can cost tens of thousands of dollars each, and that the housing market appears to be stalled in Wanganui, and it could take quite a while for dwellings to appreciate enough to ‘pay’ for the renovations when ultimately sold. (Wow, that was a long sentence.)
Old kitchen before conversion to bathroom.  
Large expenditures on new kitchens and bathrooms may exhaust a homeowner’s funds available for renovation, and preclude them from investing in strategies that will definitely pay for themselves in a matter of years, such as insulation and solar hot water. But let’s face it: insulation is not sexy. A new bathroom or kitchen is.
Old kitchen before conversion to bathroom.   
Eco-thrifty renovation is about finding the middle ground between serving the needs of a home’s occupants, keeping expenses reasonable, and putting less pressure on the planet. Instead of, say, spending $10,000 on a flash new bathroom and another $10,000 on a flash new kitchen, we were able to get functional and attractive versions of each, plus insulate our home and install solar hot water for under $20,000.
Terry Lobb wrote a guest column here on our kitchen a couple of months ago, highlighting some of the unique design elements made possible by shopping for second-hand, quality items, such as our antique leadlight cabinet doors purchased at Hayward’s Auctions and our Shacklock 501 coal range purchased on TradeMe. We used both of these sources, along with Wanganui’s Renovator’s Centre, when outfitting our $2,000 bathroom. Purchases included a claw foot bathtub, a toilet, a pedestal sink, a laundry tub, and a wall cabinet.
Temporary shower.  
Temporary shower.  
But quality, second-hand goods are just part of eco-thrifty renovation, which also includes efforts to improve thermal comfort and energy efficiency. Our bathroom has a large, northwest-facing window that receives a lot of winter afternoon sun that could potentially raise the temperature of the room to the high twenties, unless heat-tempering strategies were used.
We ‘capture’ some of the sun’s heat in thermal mass that takes the forms of a heavy, iron tub, and two layers of plasterboard on the wall opposite the window. Thermal mass absorbs excess heat in the afternoon, ‘stores’ it, and then releases it when the temperature of the room drops overnight. In order to slow the cooling of the room, we insulated the ceiling and the two external walls. We also installed a pelmet over the window, and use thermal curtains and window blankets during cold weather.
Extra layer to plaster board going being installed. 
This combination of materials and design strategies has provided us with an attractive bathroom (color choice made by the wife) in which we can take an evening shower in the middle of winter using free solar hot water, and then step into a 23 degree room also heated free of charge by the sun.
Fully installed tub and vanity.
All this was done in a tired, old villa. Imagine what one could accomplish if starting from scratch.
Peace, Estwing

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