Even though the Today’s Homeowner television show has just entered its 20th season, Danny Lipford has been empowering homeowners to make their dreams come true for nearly twice as long. In fact, his remodeling company, Lipford Construction, is now in its 40th year. Danny started that Mobile, Alabama-based company when he was just 21 years old.

    About 10 years later, Danny began hosting a local cable-access call-in show, Better Living. That would evolve into the national Today’s Homeowner show we all know and love.

    As the years rolled by and Danny became more widely recognized as America’s home improvement expert, the questions started rolling in. In airports, restaurants – even at gas stations in places like Olympia, Washington, and Beaufort, South Carolina – folks across the nation wanted to know more about the man from Marianna, Florida, and Today’s Homeowner Media.

    It’s well known Danny enjoys chatting with, and showing appreciation to, the people who make everything he does possible as members of the Today’s Homeowner audience. But there are only so many hours in the day, and the endless stream of questions has increased tenfold in the social media era. And Danny is a hard man to corral once he’s buckled his tool belt and started work on a project.

    But in honor of the landmark 20th Season, we took some of the most popular questions the audience has asked over the years and sat down with him to get some answers, which we’ll be revealing here over the next several months. We’re calling it “20 Questions with Danny Lipford.” Thank you for your curiosity, and for joining us for this exclusive chat!

    Remodeler to Local TV Star

    There aren’t many 21-year-olds who own their own companies, especially those in the field of construction or remodeling, like Lipford Construction. How did you make sure yours was a top-tier company from the start?

    I immersed myself in trade magazines and trade shows. You have to remember this was way before websites. And I always looked at what others were doing in other parts of the country so I could keep up. I felt another thing to give me an advantage was to educate myself on exactly what I was doing.

    I wanted to go to every single seminar I could find. And I’ve been to, and paid for, hundreds of them. These days, when I go to a show like the International Builders’ Show, I’m on the exhibit floor all day long. When I was first getting started, I never went down to the floor. I was at the 8:00 and 9:30 seminars and the Lunch and Learn, and I got something out of every single seminar I went to.

    Plus I talked to people from all over the place, who were good enough to give me advice. When you’re going to a convention, these really aren’t your competitors, they’re your colleagues.

    I immersed myself in what it takes to not only have that level of professional quality but how to run a professionally managed company. It was the management part of those seminars I really got a lot out of. I wanted my name to be synonymous with quality remodeling, and that’s the best way I knew to do it.

    To commemorate Lipford Construction’s 40th year, Danny Lipford stopped by the office to share a few memories. Check out the video below.

    The very first show you hosted was called Better Living, and came on Mondays at 8 p.m. How does a remodeler with a company in Mobile, Ala., become a national TV star?

    The intention was never to be a national TV star. It all started as a marketing vehicle for my construction company. When a TV opportunity came up on a local show, that seemed like a perfect way of separating myself from the pack – being the only person in town that was a remodeler and on television.

    Cable access stations were very popular during that time. They made it possible for almost anybody who wanted to have a TV show to have a TV show. I was going to be a guest on Better Living, but the host backed out at the last minute, and they asked me to host it a week before it was supposed to premiere. Originally it was supposed to have a female host and was going to be more about decorating and interior décor.

    The management at the station thought that Monday Night Football was so big, all the guys would be watching football and all the girls would be watching this show at 8 o’clock. But with me doing it, it gravitated back toward remodeling the home and remodeling ideas. And I had lots of experts joining me to answer questions.

    So you went from the job site to the studio. Was it a culture shock to host your own show?

    It really never was that hard because once someone knows you’re in the construction business, they’re going to have questions. You’re going to be answering questions and making homeowners feel comfortable from day one, regardless of whether you’re in someone’s home or on their TV. You know where they’re coming from. And immediately, I started being recognized. And also, the mindset seemed to be, “That guy’s on TV, he must be an expert, and he must be good.” So my business tripled overnight. It was a very big success, you could not beat it. Better Living in the studio

    Danny as host of Better Living
    Better Living in the studio

    Taking the Show on the Road

    Once you started Better Living, you were off and running, taping for 81 weeks in a row. And then you made a big leap, taking the show out of the studio and onto the job site. What prompted the move?

    After a while, you just run out of people to talk to, and I had all these remodeling projects going on all over town; so I thought that instead of sitting there talking about them and showing pictures, we’d start going out on location. There was just one other person other than me doing all the editing and taping of the show. I didn’t know anything about what it took to take cameras to the location. Back then, cameras were gigantic, and you had a big tape deck on a sling over your shoulder.

    Logistically it was very taxing and limiting on what you could do. Now, we have drones and GoPro cameras, and you can show so many interesting angles. Then, it was just a giant studio camera kit. The show leaped forward on the quality and the audience because all of a sudden it was like a real home improvement show, but it was from Mobile, Ala.I was writing, producing, everything. The camera guy would show up at 9:00 in the morning, and we’d shoot what was going on during the project at that time. We did it every week, and we did the entire show in about two hours.

    With you on the job site, instead of in the studio, the show really started gaining popularity. What feedback did you get from the audience about the content of the episodes?

    Any time we did the common projects, the projects most people would want to do in their homes, that’s what got the most response. Not the big-budget jobs. They liked the way we updated the shower or how we installed the backsplash. That’s one of the early signs of the direction we needed to go in, and it’s still true today. People love it when we’re in kitchens and bathrooms.

    What was the next step in evolving Better Living?

    As I was asking more and more about what can we do, the answers to all those questions were, “We can do all of that if we have more money and more people.” So I started buying air time myself. That prompted me to go out and find three sponsors a week to help me break even. At one time I had 17 sponsors in one 30-minute show; it was great. Sponsorship opened up a world of possibilities, which made me start thinking about bigger possibilities.

    Speaking of bigger possibilities, the end of the 1980s brought an increased focus and complete change of your brand. What was it like saying goodbye to the title Better Living?

    In 1990 I shifted the gears a bit and started going toward really producing and launching Remodeling Today. I was spending a set fee to have someone produce the show, shoot it, and edit it and it became more and more evident we were too big for local, but too small for national. And even though I still didn’t have aspirations of going national with it, I wanted to grow my footprint a little bit bigger. So we started sending off tapes and calling stations to see if they wanted to carry the show.

    You’ve said that whether those first stations were in rural Alabama or hundreds of miles away in Missouri, each one was crucial in the growth of Remodeling Today.

    People think things in TV happen overnight, but they really don’t. You just have to keep marching on. And not long after we started getting serious with it, we realized our goal was too low. So I decided to take the show to the NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) trade show.

    Growing the Television Audience

    You’ve said that things involving Remodeling Today got “real, real serious” the first year you went to the NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) trade show. And you’ve gone every year since, spanning more than 20 years. What was it like being the upstart, going for the first time?

    I had a very modest booth. We hauled it, built it, and set it up ourselves. It was in New Orleans, and we were just down there to get a feel for things, to see if we could do some business in growing the show’s audience. There was a bit of a buzz about home improvement television, and it seemed to be good timing. It had already been tried and true, and other shows were starting to surface at that point. In fact, HGTV was just launching.

    Were you encouraged by the reception you got?

    I felt like the smallest tiny fish in the big giant sea. I wasn’t really sure we would be able to hang in there with them. Then I picked up 15 stations that weekend. And getting that support – people walking up, talking, and thinking about it, that was the tipping point. I’m thinking, this is just a tiny bit of this country; maybe I can make a go of this thing. That was the most challenging and encouraging three days, let me tell you.

    Who was the first homeowner for Remodeling Today, and how did you choose them?

    We had a Lipford Construction client who was so into her home that we felt like she would be very expressive for an episode. She was a very smart lady, so it just seemed like she would be a very good example of a passionate homeowner. We walked from room to room as we filmed and suddenly, I was not the contractor she was dealing with. Suddenly I was this TV guy, asking her questions to help her decide what she wanted. And she responded to that.

    What did you learn from the early episodes that helped the show evolve?

    The first show was a large addition, architecturally designed and one of the most high-end projects I’ve ever done, and the homeowner was very polished. As time went on, we found that any time we did the common projects, the projects most people would want to do to their home, that’s what got the most response. Projects involving bathrooms and kitchens were the most popular and still are. They liked the way we did the showers and backsplashes, which was one of the early signs of the direction we needed.

    As Remodeling Today grew, it included more of the homeowner’s participation, where they used to be more of a project spectator. Did that happen organically?

    Not at first. It was, and still is, all about the project. But what makes presenting the idea a lot more fun is having the homeowner assist us. And the more simplistic the idea, the better. So we really started encouraging the homeowners to join us in the projects each week.

    You’ve credited “great homeowners” for a lot of the success of each episode. In the early days, how tough was it to find folks that come across as accessible to the audience?

    It’s true, great homeowners make for great TV. But it’s funny how being on a TV show can change people. We realized that early on. What happened so often is we would have a genuine, cool homeowner who was really into what they were doing. But when we were getting ready to put them on TV, they would show up in cocktail dresses and start talking in a different way. And that became the rule more than the exception that shocked us more than once.

    Is that how you ended up filming an episode at your own home, with you as both host and homeowner?

    That actually came about a few years later when we were searching for a location to install a hot tub. We never could find the right situation, and we sure didn’t just want to just drop a hot tub on a concrete slab. And I thought, wait, we could do that at our house. So we did, and it made for a great show.

    In the late ’90s, Remodeling Today was starting to take off, and you were getting national attention. And that’s when you started thinking about taking over production yourself. What prompted that expansion?

    The company that I was working with kept messing up the shows and didn’t have the talent for editing. And I thought, I just want to do this all on my own; how do I do that? So we bought the first camera, and that was a big, big deal because we had to borrow the money. At first, we had a camera, two microphones, and light. That was it. I had to run the cord down my leg and tape it to my ankle, and people thought I had limp for a long time.

    So you went from being financially successful on a local level to incurring a lot of debt to improve the quality and editing of the show to be more nationally relevant. Did you ever doubt that decision?

    Since we were doing fairly well locally, people wondered why I wouldn’t just stay right there. But that’s just not me. You keep going until you see how far you can go and I’m still on that path.

    Editorial Contributors
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    Danny Lipford


    Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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