Update 90s Bathroom on a Budget

A full bathroom remodel is not always accessible or necessary to update your old or boring bathroom. If your house was built in the 90’s like mine, a full remodels can cost thousands of dollars, and lets be honest, bathrooms are not always on the priority list! Below are some ideas to update your 90s bathroom on a budget.

Photo by R ARCHITECTURE on Unsplash

Bathroom Style

Before you start painting or replacing things in your bathroom, have an ideas of what you’d like it to look like when you’re done. Just because this refresh isn’t a full remodel doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on the details. Plus, anything is better than that tarnished brass color that was so popular in the 90s.

Some things to think about include –

  • Wall color
  • Color of fixtures (faucets, lights, door knobs, door hinges, towel bar, etc.)
  • Floor color

While the floor may or may not be part of your bathroom refresh, changing the color of your fixtures or walls very well may be part of the plan. Again, as you read through these ideas, consider your options – maybe settle on a theme. Now is the perfect time to brainstorm those bathroom ideas before actually starting the work.

Is everything in your bathroom that 90’s brass color? Maybe you want to replace it with oil rubbed bronze or black? Remember, this is 100% possible on a budget and you don’t need to hire a contractor to get the results you’ve been dreaming of.

Establish the Bathroom Theme

After you’ve made some decisions and are ready to start on your DIY bathroom remodel, start with the small details. If you’ve decided to replace that old brass look, start with door knobs and hinges. This is low hanging fruit when it comes to updating your bathroom. The big box hardware stores have tons of options (style and price) for door accessories. Personally, I like the cheapest brand of door knobs at Lowes – they make them in many different colors and they look just as good as the top brands. After all, it’s a door knob – as long as you think it looks nice and it operates as advertised, its good! These small details really tie the finished product together in the end.

Bathroom Paint

First things first –  if you planned on painting, get this done first. Spoiler alert – scroll down to read about bathroom light fixtures – you should probably go ahead and remove these while your at it so you can paint behind them. Remove you towel racks, toilet paper holders, etc as well – this is good because if you’re going to replace them, you’re halfway done! Get that fresh paint on the walls first and the rest is easy – if you’ve never painted a room before, take a look at Painless Painting – DIY Painting Best Practices.

Bathroom Light Fixtures

A light fixture can be a cheap and easy way to bring some style to your outdated bathroom. Depending on the size of your room, you may have multiple light fixtures – the most noticeable though is the one (or two or more) above your vanity. Again, choose vanity lighting that matches, or at least compliments the theme you’re working toward (color, style). You can find an abundance of bathroom light fixture options on Amazon, at hardware stores, or even specialty lighting stores (you can actually find decent deals at specialty stores).

As with most of the things I talk about on my blog, you can install light fixtures yourself (unless your local government prohibits such a thing, and provided your own your home). If you rent your home, I’d suggest getting permission from the lessor before making any changes.

I’m working on a HOW TO for installing light fixtures – I’ll provide a link when its ready to go.

Bathroom Faucet Updates

In this article, I’m not going to consider replacing your bathroom vanity and countertop – this is a bathroom refresh on a budget. That’s ok though, because replacing your faucets are fairly cheap and go a long way when it comes to updating your bathroom. Again, you can find faucets that are in line with your theme – whether that’s bronze, black, silver, brass, etc. The 90s are not really known for their exquisite home style…

Pay close attention to your old sink faucet – are there two handles and a spout? Or does is there one handle built into the back of the spout? You’ll want to make sure you buy the same type of faucet – The independent handle style requires 3 holes in your vanity top, the other requires only 1.

Replacing a faucet has a small list of requirements –

  1. Turn your water off – your bathroom sink may have on/off valves underneath. If these are old and break when you try to use them, or if you do not have any, turn the water off to your house at the main water valve (wherever that may be). If you cannot find it, or if you don’t have one like my house, you’ll need to use a curb key to turn the water off at the road.
  2. A couple small adjustable wrenches to remove the water lines from the bottom of the faucet.
  3. Towels to clean up the mess you will inevitably make.

Shower Tub Hardware

While you’re replacing faucets, you may want to replace your shower or tub hardware as well. Same as above, you can find handles and faucets at any hardware store or Amazon and in many different styles.

Replace Toilet

A new toilet may seem like something that is only part of a complete bathroom remodel – but let me tell you, you can replace that bad boy any time you want (to spend $100+). There are some great low-end toilets on the market. Just because it’s only $100, does not mean its not a good toilet. Personally, I’ve never spent more than $150 on a toilet, and I’m a toilet snob (I’m all about comfort and accessibility). So don’t be afraid to replace that tiny toilet from the 90s. Not to mention, new toilet bowls use much less water and will save you on the utility bill!

Replace your Toilet Seat

Maybe you like your toilet – or at least there is no reason to change it? What about the seat? There have been some serious gains made in the world of toilet seat technology over the last 20 years. You don’t need to replace it with an electronic seat that uploads data to the internet (THEY EXIST), but at the very least get one with the assisted lid close so you don’t slam the lid at night and wake up the whole house.

Towel Bars and Other Miscellaneous Fixtures

Towel bars, toilet paper holder, and towel hooks are cheap and easy replacements. Be extra careful when removing the old ones as not to damage the drywall. There are usually small set screws underneath the posts that will loosen and allow you to remove the bar from the base. Most new bars come in standard sizes so you can just change out the hardware on the wall in the same location.

I’m also working on a drywall repair how-to. I’ll link it when its ready – this will come in handy when moving the location of your hardware.

Bathroom Vent Cover

This is another one of those things that you very rarely notice, but you’re embarrassed when you do. Over the years these plastic covers tend to yellow and collect lots of dust. I’ve tried cleaning an old one and ended up just breaking it because the plastic was so brittle.

Take a picture of the type of cover you have and head on down to Lowes or Home Depot – they have replacements over in the bath section. You’ll thank me after you replace it!

Curved Shower Rod

This is one of my favorite upgrades for those of you that have a standard bathtub. Replace that old, straight shower bar with a curved one. You may have already beat me to this one because these things are amazing. The curved shower rod not only looks modern and cool, but it gives you tons of more elbow room in the shower!

Bathroom Update Ideas Finishing Touches

I’ve covered most of the things you’ll want to do if you are looking to refresh your bathroom but not perform a complete bathroom remodel. I may be missing something, but that’s what this catch-all section is for! Take inventory of your bathroom – everyone’s is different. Is there yellowing caulk along the bathtub or sink? Caulk is cheap and easy to replace – add it to your list. Are the edges of your mirror flaking off? Add some trim fancy trim around it and pretend you bought it from a boutique for $1k – nobody will know the difference.

The main point to be made in this post is that by paying attention to the details, you can give your bathroom a facelift without completely annihilating your bank account. Take a look at the parts list below for an example of what this will cost you!

Update 90s Bathroom on a Budget – BUDGET

Door Knob$11.442$22.88
Door Hinges$3.986$23.88
Vanity Light Fixture$54.981$54.98
Sink Faucet$49.981$49.98
Tub Hardware$1291$129
Toilet Seat$19.981$19.98
Towel Rod$22.481$22.48
TP Holder$12.491$12.49
Vent Cover$11.051$11.05
Shower Rod$42.231$42.23
Silicone Caulk$7.981$7.98
Total – $563.91

This parts list table just gives you an idea that, for roughly 10% of a complete bathroom remodel done by a contractor, you can give your old bathroom some life!