Each of the bedrooms has an adjacent bathroom.In the plumbing section we talked about bathrooms and kitchens being the two most remodeled rooms in a house and our dilemma in designing something that could or would last for 200 years.We chose our cast iron tubs and sinks which we have detailed under plumbing.Trends in bathroom design have gravitated to very large escape spas but in keeping with a modest size house we wanted the benefits of a spa experience along with the durability, green materials and reasonable size.
Quest for Granite
We did not use wood on the floors in the bathroom because of the conflict between wood, water and durability so we first wanted to go with granite since we live in the Granite State of New Hampshire we certainly have an abundance of this natural stone.Off we went to different tile stores in the area asking to see local granite flooring.The stores had dozens upon dozens of different types of granite from places all over the world but when we started asking for NH granite we were looked at like we were from Mars or Venus.We will not be deterred, there are many operating quarries nearby and Barre Vermont had some of the largest active quarries in the North East.We did the tour at Barre Rock of Ages Quarry and got quite an education on granite, how it was mined, it’s history, how it is finished and then we toured their huge inventory of granite slabs from India, Russia, Vermont and other parts of the world.Onward I say we are on a quest to find local granite. Ok, to make a long story shorter than Don Quixote’s novel, we became extremely frustrated with the vast majority of granite in stores in the Granite State of New Hampshire that was from thousands of miles away.
Finally after passing on the hundreds of samples we really liked we found a couple that were at least quarried within a 500 mile radius of the Barn House.Being the computer guy I am I continued to ask questions about how the granite tiles were made and how they were going to be installed, the sales guy rambled on until he said “and then we seal the granite and you cannot be in the house while we do that”.Show me the chemicals you use to “seal the granite” I said to this very knowledgeable sales guy.He walked over and handed me a metal can of liquid and as I was reading the can and attempting to open the lid at the same time the sales guy promptly told me please do not open that in the store we have to wear gas masks whenever we use that stuff.Ok I may be dense at times but I guess granite is not as dense as I thought and is actually quite porous.Granite tile needs to be sealed so mold does not get into the holes and create an unhealthy environment.
By this time my better half Sandy had just about had enough of my imitation of Don Quixote and my quest for healthy local granite.I have seen that look before and have learned to get out of her way and just say “yes dear”.She is from Oklahoma and really didn’t care for granite that much but now she was going to figure out a way to get local granite that was healthy to put into the Yellow Birch bathroom and the mudroom period.Off Sandy went back to Green Woodlands and proceeded to find 10 large granite boulders, large meaning 48,000 pounds of large, got them put into a logging truck and brought them to a quarry that had a saw that was able to slice them just like loafs of bread.Since some of these slices of granite bread were being put into a bathroom the surface needed to be rough so it was not slippery she had them do what is called an antique treatment which is essentially just making the stone rough.The point of this story is the construction industry in some areas has gotten so far removed from healthy green building materials that extraordinary measures some times need to be taken to go back to plain raw natural material.As far as a sealer she did find one that did not have to be applied with a gas mask but I am going to wait a bit longer before I ask her what it is.
Quest for Ceramic Tile
The saga continues, with one bathroom down we still had two more to go.By now I was a bit tired from my granite floor quest so I figured I would play it safe and just look for plain ordinary ceramic or porcelain tile for the other two bathrooms.Since I was taking a trip to Chicago I figured I would venture out to a couple of the mammoth tile stores in the area.After wandering isle after isle I finally asked one of the sales people if they had tile that was made in the United States (yes my 500 mile principle was getting eroded a tad).The sales person brought me to the store manager and again I made my request and he said “Oh no we only carry the finest quality of tiles from Italy” and with a tilt of the head and nose pointing up said you might want to check the discount tile chain down the street.So be it, off I charged to the discount tile place that had a gazillion different brands and realized again how much trouble I was in.Luckily I finally got to talk to a sales guy who had been selling tile for 20 years and he took me around and showed me two US tile companies and then proceeded to tell me how he personally went to their manufacturing plant in Mexico.This guy must have taken pity on me with the rejected look on my face and proceeded to write a name down on a piece of paper looked around to make sure nobody was looking and said here is a name of a US company that still makes it’s tile in the United States of America and he kind of gave me a nod.
Finally my quest looked like it was solved there was still a company in the United States that made tile and they were making it in a very green way!!!With a few keystrokes I got to the websitewww.crossvilleinc.com.This was it, they had bunches of neat tile and not only did they know what LEED was but they had certificates on their product verifying recycled content, a local LEED map detailing the local areas around their manufacturing facilities and their people knew exactly what I was talking about in reference to green products!!!!Sancho, I mean Sandy is going to be so excited that I finally found green tile.The people at Crossville where terrific, they sent us bunches of samples and a whole display rack of their products to a local tile company that we wanted to use.Tennessee is a bit farther than 500 miles from New Hampshire but at least that southern accent from the very helpful customer sales person in Tennessee was English.Sandy wanted to check one more place and took off on her own quest to visit a quarry on the Vermont, New York line.I guess the actual quarries don’t get retail customers very often and when she pointed to a slab of slate the company owner just nodded and said “How would you like that sliced”.She went one better than me again, the other two bathrooms floors, around the tubs and the vanities are now natural slate from New York, satisfying our 500 mile criteria for local products.
Cherry Bathroom with NY Slate
Maple Bathroom with NY Slate
Quest for a Craftsmen to Install the Tile
Ok now we have natural New York Slate hand picked right from the quarry so we know its origin and each step it took to get to Green Woodlands.Now we need to install the slate tile.Timber Frame houses do pose a challenge in construction in that the timbers are not manufactured to exact proportions and therefore variations in dimensions are the norm instead of the exception. This variation with rough sawn wood makes installing stone tile a challenge that our tile craftsman was definately up to. With this much effort put for on selecting the product we sure wanted a craftsman to do a great job at installing it.We had Jay Firbeiner, travel from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and stay in a cabin on the property while he and at times his assistant Connie installed the tile.Jay has far exceeded our expectations as far as quality of work goes with an obsessive compulsive perfectionism side that is also mindful of ROI of time and expense. Jay's assistant Connie has been a tremendous asset as well. They too have taken the green building to heart and researched each and every component they have used in the tile process.
Bathroom Vanity Furniture
The bathroom vanity furniture pieces for the Yellow Birch, Maple and Cherry Bathrooms were crafted by Peter and Caleb Wood of Cater Woodworking.The goal of these pieces was of course to use solid wood from the property but make them more like furniture pieces so if any time in the future someone wanted to change the bathrooms these pieces would be able to be removed and used as furniture pieces in a different life.The quality of these pieces is superb and since they are made of solid wood without veneers or particle board they could be sanded down and refinished many times in the future.
Foam Flush Composting Toilet
Foam Flush Composting Toilet
Some habits are just hard to break and the general perception about composting toilets get some people like me just a tad how would you say... reserved. This toilet is a great compromise; it has a flush handle or button for that old habit and fills the toilet bowl with soap suds. Hey, this is the best of all worlds; no habit to break and the smell is an environmentally pleasant soap that adds to the cleanliness of the "experience”.The soap also adds enzymes to the composter below.The toilet uses only 3 ounces of water which is the equivalent of two shot glasses versus low flow toilets which take a gallon and a half of water. The only challenge I see is that guests tend to congregate in the bathroom in groups flushing the toilet to see the soap suds.No it is not just my friends who exhibit this strange behavior.
Low Flow Faucets that were not quite made that way
Perrin & Rowe is one of the finest manufacturers of bath and shower fixtures as far as style and quality but their fixtures are not quite designed for 1.25gpm (gallon per minute) flow rates.With a little ingenuity and replacement shower head and restrictors installed they can look good and be good at the same time.We used a Bricor 1.25gpm shower head on the Perrin & Rowe Shower system we then installed an $8 line restrictor in the hand shower fixture to reduce it to 1.25gpm.
Heat in the bathrooms
We have multiple heating systems in the Barn House as detailed in the Heating section.The bathrooms can get radiant heat from the Masonry Heater if we are using it or the radiant floor if we are using that.To supplement the heat in the bathrooms we also have these hot water radiant heaters that use the same lines as the radiant floor but work a lot faster in delivering radiant heat.These look like your old fashion radiators but they are very popular in Europe with many different modern designs.This Myson radiator heater can also double as a towel warmer to spoil yourself on a cold day.