Confession: I'm kind of a simpleton when it comes to plumbing. Only in recent years has it occurred to me to ask questions like, where does toilet water go when I flush? And how is it suddenly replaced with clean water? And sinks, and washing machines, and showers for that matter- what happens to all my own waste water?
Is it magic?
Since that first realization of my ignorance regarding all things waste water, I've tried my best to learn a little more about plumbing. At times, it can be hard to remember how wasteful flush toilets and long showers are.
Enter off-grid water recycling systems! Designing a Tumbleweed that doesn't require regular hook-ups is a great opportunity to get to know your personal water usage. Here's a bit about how you can use greywater to minimize waste and take advantage of a great resource.
What is greywater?
Greywater refers to waste water that is relatively harmless and can thus be reused for a variety of purposes. It gets the name "grey" for being somewhere between fresh water and sewage water.
Usually, the term encompasses dishwater, laundry water and shower water. However, it is important that you don't put ANYTHING remotely toxic in your sink, shower or laundry machine if you're planning on reusing the water. It's pretty easy to avoid-just make sure you're using biodegradable soaps, laundry detergents, etc.
I got some great biodegradable soaps for Christmas, and am excited to eventually set up my own grey water irrigation system!
How is it reused?
Greywater is typically used for irrigation- most people direct their grey water into gardens or mulch pits. Grey water can also be recycled inside. Water from showers and dishes can be used in toilets, house plants, and greenhouses.
Greywater reuse in a garden (Source)
You can get pretty creative- there's no one way to use greywater!
Remember, of course that greywater is never safe to drink. Filtration processes can render it safe to use for toilet water and washing water.
What's the difference between greywater and blackwater?
Blackwater contains human waste, and cannot safely be used- generally, this refers to the water flushed in toilets. It contains pathogens that must decompose before they can be safely released into the environment. One way to avoid dealing with blackwater? Composting toilets!
Do you have a unique way of reusing greywater? Tell us about it!
Storage, Odds and Ends
Storage set in to the wall is a great option. Enclose the lower portion of the cabinet and leave the upper cabinet open to create the feel of a larger space. Using glass shelving helps keep the feeling of the room light.
Repurposing furniture is a great way to create more storage and allows you to find something that specifically meets your needs. We recommend using a marine varnish on wood furniture to protect it from moisture.
Keep your window treatments simple. If you can, avoid curtains completely. Frosted glass provides privacy without clutter. If you decide to use a window treatment choose a fabric that allows light to pass through and cover only the bottom half of the window.
Proper ventilation of a small bathroom is a must! To save energy and still remove moisture install a ventilation system with a timer. To remove the heat and moisture the vent may need to be on for as much as an hour. A timer allows you to leave it and not waste energy.
Create the illusion of more space by leading the eyes up. Vertical lines on the walls or simple molding at the ceiling draws the eye upward and creates the feeling of a larger space.
Fight clutter! Take your assessment of your storage needs seriously and plan accordingly. Avoid busy or large patterns in your space. Instead, accent a neutral pallet with bold color.Brittany did an amazing job designing her Fencl's bathroom
See more images of Brittany's Fencl
Design your lighting with your needs in mind. Florescent lighting is energy efficient but can completely wash out natural color. Invest in full spectrum florescent lighting to get the color and the environmental benefit. Install both ambient lighting and task specific lighting. That task might require a good strong light above the sink for shaving or applying make-up or it might require warm lights with a dimmer for long leisurely baths. Again, keep your needs in mind and design around them.
Pocket doors are incredibly handy in small spaces. The space saved where the door would normally swing can be used for storage or simply open space which is a luxury in itself.
Read our other bathroom design tips on siniks, showers, baths and toilets
Sinks and all the trimmings...
JT went with a Pedestal sink in his modified Walden
See more images of JT's modified Walden
Opinions on sinks are surprisingly strong among designers and there are so many variables to consider. For the sake of this discussion we are going to look at a bathroom that needs storage. Pedestal sinks are beautiful and keep a space open but when storage is an issue they do not provide a solution.
Sink and vanity sets are available that are narrower than the standard 21 inches. Some are as narrow as 16 inches. This allows you to open up your space a little and still provides a place to store your towels.
Another model to consider would be a sink and counter supported by four legs. This allows you to store baskets and towels while still keeping your space open. Many manufacturers offer a “best of both worlds” design with drawers below the counter top and open space below.
If space for the swing of doors in a below counter vanity is an issue fabric curtains require almost no space and still hide your unmentionables.
The countertop is a fun area to splurge if you can fit it in your budget and you get a lot of bang for your buck. A beautiful marble countertop can transform a room and it doesn’t care if it is mounted on a less expensive cabinet system.
The vanity mirror can do a lot to extend your space. It opens up your room and creates the illusion of a larger space. If possible, keep your mirror close to flush with the wall. If storage is a consideration the cabinet behind your vanity mirror can be built in to the wall.Read our other bathroom design tips on showers, baths and toilets
A popular small space shower design is an “open shower”. This design involves no shower walls or curtain – just the fixtures and a drain on the floor. It is a great space saver! Having used showers like these before, I feel it is important to note some serious drawbacks. Everything in the bathroom can now potentially get wet – your towel, your clothes and, my least favorite, the toilet seat. Safe, dry storage becomes nearly impossible. Successful open shower designs are possible, but most that avoid the above mentioned issues are in much larger spaces than those of our Cottage bathrooms.
If the goal is to keep the shower space from breaking up your already small space there are other solutions. Glass shower walls or curtains with ties that pull them back to the wall allow the eye to travel the full length of the room.
A glass shower wall inside a Tarleton
See more images of Will's Tarleton
Read our tips on baths and toilets