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!

Energy Savings for the Summer Months

As the warmer months approach, there are many actions you can take around you home to maximize your energy savings, offsetting those already high utility bills while still maintaining a cool house. Below I’ll outline a few steps you should consider now before the mercury begins to climb!

Save Energy by using LED Lights

One of my personal favorite energy saving techniques is to replace those old incandescent lightbulbs with LED. LED lights consume MUCH less power than their predecessors all while producing super high quality light. Common LED lightbulbs use as little as 5 to 8 watts compared to incandescent bulbs that use between 40 and 75 watts. If you’re wonder exactly how that translates to the utility bill, or you want to learn about other benefits of LED lights, check out this awesome post! LED Lights for Energy Savings! If you don’t have time for the deep-dive, just know that investing in LED lights will instantly reduce your power bill.

Replace your HVAC Filters

No matter the type of air conditioner you have in your home, it has some sort of filter that needs to be replaced or cleaned on a regular basis to ensure efficient operation. In common central A/C systems, there is one and sometimes two or more filters on the return air (suction) side of the air handler. They may be located on the ceiling or on a wall in your home, behind a louvered door or hatch. These filters should be replaced regularly, as often as every 30 days to keep your A/C running efficiently.

As dust accumulates on the filter, the airflow back to the air handler is reduced, in turn reducing the amount of heat transfer that the system is capable of per unit of time. This means your A/C’s compressor will be working harder (using more energy) to provide the same amount of cooling. While filters may be easy to overlook, your power bill will be VERY noticeable when your A/C is consuming much more power. If you want to get a better understanding of exactly how much power your HVAC system uses and why these energy savings ideas are so important, take a look at Keeping Your House Cool in the Summer!

Replace Weather Stripping for Energy Savings

Lots of energy is wasted in the summer months due to leaky doors and windows. As I noted in the last section, losses related to your air conditioner will cost you dearly in the long run, this is no different. When you set your thermostat to 70° F in the summer time, your A/C is removing the heat in your home’s air via a vapor compression cycle.

Your A/C and Energy Savings

With all of this A/C talk, I’d like to explain exactly how it cools your home and why it costs money to do so.


In order to take the heat from within your home and move it outside, power must be added to the system (your A/C in this case) because heat wants to flow the other way. The second law of thermodynamics says that heat wants to move from the hot source to the cold source. We’re doing the opposite here so it takes extra power!

Refrigeration Cycle

The A/C’s compressor (which is the appliance we provide power to) compresses refrigerant in a sealed system. When the refrigerant gets to the compressor, it has already picked up heat from your air via the evaporator. After compression to vapor state, it releases that SAME heat to the outdoors through a state change (vapor to liquid) inside of the condensing coil. The now liquid refrigerant travels through an expansion valve and then back to the evaporator where it picks up MORE of the heat from your home’s air.  

This image describes the stages of the refrigeration cycle (vapor compression cycle)

Why this matters (and why you had to read about thermodynamics!)

Now, imagine this A/C has been working very hard to reduce your indoor temperature to 70°. It finally gets to that temperature and turns off – yay! No more power consumption! But then you open the front door and a bunch of warm air rushes in – A/C comes back on and runs until its 70° again.

The cost of ignoring science

Leaky doors and windows may not seam like a huge deal because you can barely notice the outdoor air seeping in. You may not notice at all! But in reality, many small leaks due to poor weather stripping can add up to the equivalent of leaving one door open all day. In a prior post I broke down the cost to run a 3 ton air conditioner for 1 month (roughly $100). If your leaky doors and windows add up to 10% energy loss, you can directly equate that to losing $10 per month!

Replace Doors and Windows

If new weather stripping just doesn’t get the job done, you may need to think about replacing doors and windows in your home. This is a daunting reality for many because of the high cost of windows and doors. What is even worse is thecost of having someone install them! Because of this, I take an approach based in the reality of my life – I do it myself! I know not everyone is in a position to DIY a front door or a window, but I’m willing to bet more there are many of you that have never given yourself a chance. I believe in you! Either way, replacing doors and windows will lead to an instant energy savings which translates to money in your pocket!

Attic Insulation for Energy Savings

Another super important energy saving feature of a home is insulation. Most homes have insulation in the exterior walls and in the attic (on top of your ceiling). The attic insulation plays a huge roll in keeping that nice cool air in your house from sapping the energy out of the warm outside air, and kicking your A/C on. Take a look at your attic insulation if you haven’t done so in the past. Over time it tends to compress under it’s own weight and in turn loses it’s ability to insulate. Many homes have blown in insulation in attic – you can hire a company to replace this or you can rent a machine and DIY! Either way, this is a crucial factor when it comes to saving energy.

All the Small Things

I can only dream about having a super energy-efficient home. The reality is, my home is aging and I’m constantly trying to keep up with it. As a homeowner, it can seem impossible to keep the house clean sometimes let alone finish projects and take on new ones. That’s why I keep it simple – set some overall goals and try and do one or two things a day, or a week, in support of those goals.

If your goal is to save energy (probably is since your reading this),  then caulk that window or fix the weather stripping when you realize it’s a problem. Buy a few extra filters for you A/C and put some dates on them with a marker to remind yourself when it should be replaced. Go buy a box of LED lights and replace your old ones as they burn out. Making your home more efficient and saving money doesn’t have to be hard, just take it one day at a time and if you have any questions or want to comment on how you save energy, let us know in the comments!

Best Way to Remove a Bush

When we moved into the house we live in now, my wife and I were overwhelmed by the number of overgrown bushes in the front of the house. They blocked the front windows, crept out into the walk way, and made the house look old and forgotten. We decided early on that we had to remove the bushes! What’s the best way to remove a bush?

Well, making that decision is the easy part – how were we going to get rid of them was the challenge. I’m pretty handy around the house, but these big bushes had been growing here for almost 30 years – they were going to be a challenge. Based on my experience, I will outline below the best way to remove bushes and shrubs from around your property.

Best Way to Remove a Bush – Preparation

I began the process of removing the bushes by cutting them back so I could get to the main trunk of each. You’ll need a large chain to wrap around the trunk – drag the other end straight out and attach to your truck or tractor.

Sometimes, if the bush is not too big, you can pull it straight out of the ground with a vehicle and chain. Other times, you’ll need another solution.

Full disclosure – my truck is 2-wheel drive. Maybe had it been 4-wheel drive this would have gone better. So, no. The setup I had was not enough to pull the bushes from the front of my house.

A-Frame Provides Leverage to Pull Bushes

I asked my dad, who had grown up on a potato farm in the 1960s and 70s, what he thought the best way to remove bushes was. His solution was to build an A-frame out of 4×4 lumber and use it for mechanical advantage. Dang – why didn’t I think of that, I mean, I’m an engineer! This simple apparatus saved us tons of time and energy and enabled me to remove large bushes from my front yard.

Best Way to Remove a Bush – With a Truck

Sketch of how the A-Frame is used to pull a bush out of the ground with a truck
Sketch of how the A-frame is used.

Without getting too technical – the above is a sketch of how this apparatus works. Why is this better than pulling the stump without the A-frame you ask? That’s easy – when you’re pulling without the A-frame, you’re really only knocking the stump over – rotating it toward the ground and at best breaking the roots on the opposite side

By using the A-frame, you’re pulling the stump up and out of the ground!

In the diagram below you can see there are two elements of force acting on the stump. One in the X and one in the Y direction.


Obviously, there are limits to how well this works. The first is the size of the bush or stump. You’re not going to be able to pull a large tree out of the ground – well maybe if you have a huge truck or a tractor. But then you take the risk of breaking the A-frame. Second is the chain you’re using. A larger chain is preferred for pulling bushes and shrubs – small chains may break. And third is the vehicle you’re pulling it with. Your truck may generate 300-foot pounds of torque, but that number is reduced by the angles the chain makes with the truck and the A-Frame. If you’re lucky, the stump may get pulled with 50% of the torque produced by your truck.

Even with these limitations, this works much better than trying to pull stumps or bushes without the A-frame.

The A-Frame

Below is a picture of the A-frame we built. We strengthened the main 4X4s with cross members. We attached the cross members with lag bolts for strength andeven went a little further and strengthened the top of the A-frame with plywood on the outside. The top section will receive lots of stress from the force of the chain pushing down on it.

Picture of the A-Frame used to remove bushes in the back of a truck

Below is a picture of the bushes and shrubs that were removed.

Picture of the bushes in front of the house before they were pulled
Removing Bushes from Front of House
Picture of the front of the house after bushes were removed
Removing Bushes from Front of House 2

I wish I would have taken some action shots – or at least more before an after pictures. The pictures here really don’t do this justice. Using this saved me so much time and physical labor.

Overall, I think we spent $20 because we had the 4X4s laying around. We had to buy lag bots and the chain. If you have to buy everything, I’m willing to bet this will come in under $100 – way less than paying someone to do it for you!

Have you used something like this before? Or do you plan on building one? Let us know if you have ideas to make it better!