We’re brightening up a dark, dated den from the 1980s to give it a bright, new look.

Den Remodeling Projects Included:

    • Remove Wallpaper: We started by scoring the grasscloth wallpaper with a wallpaper scoring tool. Next, we applied wallpaper remover, covered the walls with thin plastic sheeting, then allowed the remover to soak for several hours before peeling off the wallpaper.
    • Repair Drywall: Drywall joint compound was used to patch any cracks, dings, and holes in the drywall. Joint compound was also used to fill the grooves in the plywood paneling below the chair rail. After the joint compound had dried, it was sanded smooth, and a second coat applied.
    • Paint Walls: The walls were primed and painted gray, with a darker shade of gray used below the chair rail.
    • Paint Ceiling: The first step in painting the textured ceiling sealing the water stains using a spray can of stain blocking ceiling paint. The ceiling was rolled, going over it as little as possible to keep the texture from flaking off.
  • Replace Window Glass: The fogged panes of insulated glass on the windows were removed and replaced with new glass.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: Older homes have lots of character, but sometimes they’re just old. So this week we’re taking on a dated den do-over, and I think you’ll like the change.

Mark Scott: This is just really beautiful and spectacular.

Danny Lipford: Fifteen years ago, Mark and Sharon Scott fell in love with this home and bought it.

Mark Scott: We’ve had a real love affair with this house, though. We keep thinking, well, maybe it’s time to downsize, maybe it’s time to move to something smaller. And every time we go out and look, we just say, “but we just really love this house.”

Sharon Scott: It’s a great place for entertaining. All the summer holidays we celebrate here at our house, out by the pool, so…

Mark Scott: This seems to be the gathering point.

Sharon Scott: It is.

Mark Scott: And we like it that way, but the house was built in 1985, and so there’s obviously a lot of 1980s stuff that’s still in the house.

Danny Lipford: While they’ve updated and made improvements over the years, the dark, dated den that overlooks the pool and patio has been mostly untouched, complete with grasscloth wallpaper and dark wood paneling.

strong>Mark Scott: Fifteen years ago, we kind of liked the grasscloth, kind of liked the wood and how it was, but it’s just dated. And back in the eighties, again, that was a great look.

Sharon Scott: It’s way past time for it to go. I’m very anxious to get rid of it.

Danny Lipford: So we’re about to help them tackle a dated den do-over.

Well, a lot of time, when people have paneling and that type of thing, they get a little tired of it being a little dark. Is that really what’s motivating the whole idea?

Sharon Scott: Yes, it’s very, very dark—need to lighten it up some.

Mark Scott: And then I don’t know if there’s anything you can do with paneling or not.

Danny Lipford: There are a lot of ways that you can approach it, different steps; certainly, removing all of it, that type of thing.

But the first thing we’ll need to do is get the grasscloth off, the wallpaper off, and really see what that surface is, then we can go through a few options like that.

Mark Scott: Sure.

Sharon Scott: Another thing we had in mind was wondering if you could possibly do something with these clouded windows.

Danny Lipford: Oh, the old fogged-up windows. A lot of times, you can change the whole entire sash out, but normally, the best thing to do—so that you don’t have to worry about matching all of the stain and the finish—is simply to cut that panel out of there and get a replacement piece.

Takes a week or two to be able to do that, but, not that hard. Luckily, you only have a couple of them in here.

Sharon Scott: Good.

Mark Scott: So we had a situation where we had a drain pan from one of the air conditioning units…

Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah.

Mark Scott: That—it got blocked up and it—and it overflowed. And when it did, it put some stain on these ceilings. And I didn’t know if there was anything we could do about that or not?

Danny Lipford: Well, fortunately, it looks like it didn’t damage the drywall, so that’s probably a matter of just stain-blocking it. Is that part of it there?

Mark Scott: Well, we had a very special Christmas tree incident.

Danny Lipford: Oh, Christmas tree damage.

Mark Scott: Yeah, that’s Christmas tree damage, and that also happened to be the Christmas tree that I went into the pool with.

Danny Lipford: You fell in the pool with the Christmas tree?

Mark Scott: Carrying the Christmas tree up here, I fell in the pool.

Danny Lipford: Oh, that was a rough Christmas.

Mark Scott: It was. And when that happened, Sharon was very concerned about the tree.

Danny Lipford: Is that right?

Mark Scott: Yeah, she asked very quickly—she didn’t ask about me; she wanted to make sure the tree was OK.

Danny Lipford: They say it’s important to water the tree regularly.

Mark Scott: Well, was. It was well hydrated.

Sharon Scott: So very fresh that year.

Danny Lipford: Were you thinking of, any paint on these cabinets or the mantel, or what was your thought there?

Mark Scott: We kind of like the wood…

Danny Lipford: Sure.

Mark Scott: And the way it is. But if there—but if you had some ideas about maybe ways of making it pop more or maybe there’s different things we could do with it, we would certainly be open to that.

Danny Lipford: OK. I would leave the crown molding, the chair rail, and the base.

Mark Scott: OK.

Danny Lipford: Again, dress those up a little bit and then look at, lightening up the areas in between. So I have to ask a question. How handy is he?

Sharon Scott: He’s great.

Danny Lipford: He’s good? Good, good. You?

Sharon Scott: Just give him a little bit of guidance. He’s great.

Danny Lipford: How about her? She’s…

Mark Scott: She doesn’t paint so well.

Danny Lipford: She doesn’t paint so well?

Mark Scott: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: All right.

Mark Scott: There’s other things she does really, really well; but painting is not one of her strengths.

Danny Lipford: All right. Well, we’ll just have to figure out who does what. You know what? This is only about two or three days’ worth of work. If you guys can work with me and Chelsea and Allen, we could put this thing together.

Mark Scott: We would love to do that.

Sharon Scott: Sure, we’d love to.

Danny Lipford: All right. That sounds perfect. That sounds great.

Give me a week, and I’ll get the glass guy out here. He’ll make some measurements so he can order the glass.

Mark Scott: Yep.

Danny Lipford: It’s paneling.

Mark Scott: I’ll be darned.

Danny Lipford: Nope, it’s drywall. There we go.

Mark Scott: OK.

Danny Lipford: I thought—I saw that, and I thought it was—OK, good, good. Yeah, well, that’s good news because if it was paneling up here…

Mark Scott: Oh, yeah.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, we’d have a lot of work to do.

While I get ready to cover this hole with drywall, Mark begins prepping the walls with a wallpaper scoring tool, and Allen begins mixing up the wallpaper removal solution. This starts with hot water and concentrated wallpaper stripper.

Then we add fabric softener, baking soda, and vinegar. This mixture can be applied with a pump-up garden sprayer, but we’re also using a roller, because the grasscloth absorbs it so quickly.

The next step is covering it with lightweight plastic.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, there’s a lump in the wall.

Danny Lipford: I told you, you’re not funny.

Once this is done the right way, it will keep the removal solution from evaporating. So it can work on the wallpaper glue while we get ready for the next project.

Joe Truini: One of the best ways to store long, narrow pieces of wood and small diameter pipe is to store them overhead so you’re not tripping over them all the time.

The problem is this is what you typically see—the pieces are slipped on top of this ceiling joist where they’re out of the way, but they’re almost impossible to get when you need them.

So here’s a better solution. I took a section of plastic downspout, and I cut two five-inch long sections. And then I screwed them to the underside of the joist. I just used two one-inch long screws to attach them to the ceiling joist.

And now you just take the pieces and slip them into one, slide it all the way down, and then into the second one. Slide it right in. There you go, just like that.

Now, you see, these are spaced about four feet apart, so there’s plenty of support. The pieces don’t sag, and now they’re up, out of the way, but readily accessible.

Danny Lipford: We’re helping Mark and Sharon update their dark, dated den, which includes removing the old grasscloth wallpaper along the upper half of the walls.

Sharon Scott: It’s way past time for it to go. I’m very anxious to get rid of it.

Danny Lipford: We’ve coated the paper with stripping solution, covered it with plastic, and now we’re waiting for it to work its magic.

All right, we’ve tried this trick before and it worked really, really well. But that needs to stay up there at least a couple hours.

Mark Scott: OK.

Danny Lipford: Hopefully, everything will peel right off.

Mark Scott: It’ll peel down.

Danny Lipford: OK, and we know this is drywall up here, so we know what we’re going to have to do with this. So it’ll be a little bit of, you know, repair up there.

But the big decision on what do you guys want to do here. You know this groove really isn’t that deep, like a lot of them.

Mark Scott: Pretty shallow, isn’t it?

Danny Lipford: Yeah. So if you want to, we can take some sandpaper and sand it and take some, some joint compounds and drywall compound and float all of those things out.

Mark Scott: Yeah, because then it doesn’t look like painted paneling.

Danny Lipford: Right, right.

Mark Scott: It just looks like we’ve painted a wall. I like that a lot.

Danny Lipford: OK, so, you’re good with the drywall knife?

Mark Scott: I’ll find out if I am or not.

Danny Lipford: So once we mix up the joint compound, Mark is ready for his first lesson.

OK, you want just about this amount, and then the back side of it clean like that. That way, it’ll keep—minimize it. Then start at the bottom, and then you just want to rest it like that and then just…

Mark Scott: Go up those lines.

Danny Lipford: Just real easy. You’re basically just filling up the gap, and then you want to kind of get the excess off.

Mark Scott: OK.

Danny Lipford: Because the more you leave on there, the more sanding that Sharon’s going to have to do.

Mark Scott: Oh, good.

Mark Scott: Man, it must be tough to work with amateurs every week.

Danny Lipford: I’m just glad you’re a proficient painter because y’all have a lot of painting to do.

Mark Scott: Painting to do.

Danny Lipford: That’s the second shift. While we’re at home watching TV, you can, you and Sharon will be…

Mark Scott: We’re painting.

Danny Lipford: Stroking away on the painting over here, so… But we’ll be available by cell phone if needed.

Mark Scott: Just for encouragement?

Danny Lipford: Yeah, just for encouragement, or to settle any domestic squabbles.

Mark Scott: Domestic difficulties. OK, I understand that.

Danny Lipford: Meanwhile, Chelsea and Sharon are finalizing her color selections for the paint that will cover these walls.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: We can always do, like, this on top and this on bottom.

Sharon Scott: OK, let’s go with that.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Danny Lipford: While we complete filling the paneling grooves, Allen is priming those water stains on the ceiling. Finally, we’re ready to see how well the wallpaper stripper is working.

Look here, Mark, this is what we want right there. We want that to happen right there. All right? Oh, yeah. This shouldn’t take more than four more days.

Allen Lyle: I don’t know why y’all are so slow.

Danny Lipford: There you go. There you go.

Mark Scott: Hey, we like this.

Danny Lipford: All right.

strong>Mark Scott: That is just spectacular. Well, I have to say, it’s coming off easier than I was afraid it was going to come off.

Danny Lipford: With all of these hands, it goes pretty quickly. With the paper gone, I can finish filling the void left by that ’80s intercom system, and soon we’re ready for the next chore.

All right. We got everything we need here to tackle this ceiling. You know, when we put the stain blocker on it, and that blocked it out; but, of course, it doesn’t quite blend in. So painting a textured or popcorn ceiling—a little tricky.

So you want to roll this way and only in one direction. You don’t want to keep going back over. You’ll start losing a little of the popcorn, you don’t want to do that.

So one of you guys needs to roll, one of you needs to cut in. You all decide on what you want to do. Which one?

Sharon Scott: I’ll roll.

Danny Lipford: You’ll roll. OK, we got a roller—

Mark Scott: I think she decided.

Danny Lipford: I think she decided, too. You got that. Of course, I strongly recommend that to keep it out of your hair. There you go, Mark, wasn’t going to leave you out on that.

Mark, if you’ll get ahead of her in cutting in, just about, you know, two or three inches out from the blue tape and around the lights.

Hey, look at him, man.

Sharon Scott: The last time we painted, I was relegated to closets.

Danny Lipford: Is that right?

Sharon Scott: And after the interior of one closet, I was assigned another job.

Mark Scott: I assigned her to other things.

Danny Lipford: Well, you must have—you must have did a pretty good job, though, because you’ve elevated up to ceiling roller.

OK, Sharon, you see where he’s cut in. Not much of a difference in color, but what you want to do is just real even, just like this, and that’s done. You don’t want to go back over that.

After a little demonstration, Sharon takes over the roller while I begin touching up the nicks and cuts left in the drywall after we removed the paper.

In no time, the ceiling is complete, and we’re ready to set these guys up for the evening shift.

OK, I think we have you all set up with the oil primer and a brush and a roller to get a coat of primer on all of the woodwork. And just a little bit of sanding, and you’ll be ready to go and have some fun tonight.

Mark Scott: Well, we’ll look forward to seeing you in the morning.

Danny Lipford: Absolutely. We’ll be here in the morning.

Sharon Scott: We’ll be here.

Danny Lipford: OK. Hey, today was really a good day. I mean, we got the ceiling completely finished. We got the drywall in pretty good shape—might be a little bit more drywall compound we have to put on and sanding. But by the end of tomorrow, we’ll be almost complete with this project.

Jodi Marks: One of the things I like most about doing the Best New Products segment is that I get to see really cool tools. And, Shea, you’ve got something here that’s pretty innovative. I like it.

Shea Pettaway: Yes, it’s called the Hart 7-piece Combo Kit Quick-Tatch.

Jodi Marks: I like this. Take a look at this. The reason why it’s called Quick-Tatch is you release the handle and it slides off. So you can exchange it for other blades. But I also like the fact that you can adjust it as well.

Shea Pettaway: And not just that, but you have another cool feature about this. It’s rust-free, and it has holes at the bottom so the water can drain out of it as you clean them.

Jodi: OK, so the tools don’t rust. Now, I do like the fact that this kit comes with different size notches. So depending upon the size of your flooring, you’ve got a V-notch in there, you also have a float.

So I like all of this. It’s all put together nicely. And once you store everything in its place, you simply just slide this down, and now you can use it as a carrying case with a handle.

This is awesome.

Shea Pettaway: Awesome.

Danny Lipford: We’re transforming the dark, dated ’80s den in Mark and Sharon’s house into a space that’s brighter and more reflective of this century than the one in which their home was built.

The wallpaper is gone, and we’ve hidden the seams in the wood paneling. Overnight, Mark and Sharon coated the paneling with primer to prepare it for paint. And early this morning, the guys from the glass company returned to replace the fogged-out windows.

After carefully removing the trim around the panel, they can remove it, clean the opening, and replace it with a new panel. The seals in these new panels won’t let moisture in to fog up the view from the updated den.

Hey, good morning, good morning. How you doing?

Sharon Scott: Good morning!

Danny Lipford: How did everything work last night?

Sharon Scott: Great. I was really expecting several hours of work, after you left us last night. It actually only took about an hour and 15 minutes.

Danny Lipford: Perfect.

Sharon Scott: So that was great.

Danny Lipford: That’s great.

Allen Lyle: Walls look fantastic. You’ve got to be happy with that. I mean even the patches, despite who the drywall man was.

Danny Lipford: Come on, now, come on, come on. That looks pretty good. Well, I’ll tell you what, with, the ceiling looking so good and, at this point, you know, walls looking good.

We’re really ready to go ahead and remove all of the masking tape around where we have it on the crown molding. Do a little bit of extra taping, and with the five of us ganging up on this upper wall, we should be able to get a coat on that pretty quick.

Sharon Scott: Great.

Danny Lipford: All right, perfect.

Even though we masked the crown molding before painting the ceiling, we had a little bleed through. That’s inevitable, so Allen’s using an old painter’s trick to clean up the edges.

By wrapping a damp rag around a putty knife, or a 5-in-1 painter’s tool, he can carefully scrape the fresh paint off of the crown molding without marring the ceiling.

After a little more masking on the underside of the crown, we’re ready to begin applying Sharon’s new color to the upper walls, and she seems pleased.

Sharon Scott: I like it. I think it’s going to really brighten things up a lot, so

Mark Scott: Looks better than grasscloth.

Sharon Scott: It definitely does. It’s kind of interesting. last night I came down after we were finished and walked through the kitchen, and all the paneling had the white on it…

Danny Lipford: Yeah.

Sharon Scott: And it was just kind of shocking. It caught my eye to look back in here…

Danny Lipford: Because you’re used to seeing that—

Sharon Scott: Because I’m so used to it being so dark all the time.

Danny Lipford: Dark.

Sharon Scott: And I’ll be honest. I would have never undertaken painting outside of this project before.

Danny Lipford: That’s easier than doing the ceiling, too, isn’t it?

Sharon Scott: Yes. Much easier.

Sharon Scott: The hands over your head the whole time is very difficult.

Danny Lipford: With this crowd of painters, it takes almost no time to finish coating the upper walls.

You know, overall, the walls look really, really good. And it’s not unusual, when you’re removing grasscloth or any wallpaper, you end up with a few dings and dents in the wall. And we had a few that we repaired.

But now, once you get this first coat on, you see a few other things there that need to be addressed. So what we’ll do is we’ll finish sanding the lower part of the wall, then I’ll take some joint compound. Once everything’s dry, touch up the last few little dings and dents, then it’ll be ready for that second coat.

When the sanding is done on the lower walls, we began applying a slightly darker shade. We’re using a three-quarter-inch nap roller here to create a little more texture, since we’re covering paneling rather than drywall.

By the time that’s done, the upper walls are dry, so I can inspect them for any dings and dents. Using a bright light shining across the surface is one of the best ways to find these small flaws.

Then I mark them with a pencil, so that when I come back with the joint compound, they’re easy to spot and cover up. This last coat of mud is really thin, so it dries quickly. And once it’s sanded, we’re ready for the final coat of paint.

Well, Mark, what do you think about the old, dark paneling that used to be down there?

Mark Scott: I tell you what, anybody that would believe that there had been paneling under there— I would have never thought you could have made paneling look like you were painting over drywall. I mean, it’s—

Danny Lipford: Well, we were lucky that the grooves were not the old, deep, deep grooves. You can still do it, you just take about three coats instead of just like a coat and a half that we’ve done.

Mark Scott: It is amazing how that looks.

Danny Lipford: You think Sharon’s going to be happy?

Mark Scott: I think Sharon’s going to be very happy…

Danny Lipford: Awesome.

Mark Scott: Which is what’s most important anyway.

Danny Lipford: Obviously a very wise man. And once the painting is done, we follow his lead to make sure we put the room back together the way Sharon wants it.

Point, Sharon, point.

Danny Lipford: One question I hear a lot is how do you cure a squeaky floor?

If there’s carpet over the floor, it can be a pretty simple fix. Begin by pulling the carpet up from the tack strip along the nearest wall, so that you can roll it back. Now, it may be necessary to separate seams at doorways to allow this rolling. If you do this, be careful not to tear the carpet fibers.

Once the carpet and pad are clear, check again for squeaks and mark the location on the wood subfloor, then look for nails in the area. Several nails in a row indicate where the floor joists are located. Connect these points with a line, and you’ll know where to drive screws.

Two- or three-inch long screws with countersink heads should solve the problem because they won’t pull out like nails do over time. The flexing plywood rubbing on loose nails is what produces most squeaks.

Sometimes seams squeak when the two sheets of plywood rub against each other. Screws on either side of the seam—along with a healthy dose of wood glue in between them—should cure the problem right on the scene.

When all is quiet, have a flooring pro restretch and reseam the carpet as necessary.

Danny Lipford: Mark and Sharon have a beautiful house, but their den was a casualty of ’80s decor. The combination of grasscloth wallpaper and wood paneling left the room dark and dated. Plus, the years had added a few stains and marks to the ceiling. And the fogged windows weren’t letting in all the light they could.

Sealing those stains and repainting the ceiling was a simple trick. We had to call in a pro to replace the fogged glass, but the result is fabulous.

Removing the grasscloth and disguising the paneling was a little bigger undertaking. But we managed to pull it off, and the change is pretty impressive. The complementary tones that Sharon selected give the walls character without weighting them down.

The whole room is much lighter and brighter, and that’s exactly what these optimistic homeowners wanted.

Mark Scott: Danny, I would have never believed, in two days, that this room would have transformed like this. This is just really beautiful and spectacular.

Danny Lipford: Well, some projects work like this, some don’t. You guys worked hard. That helped out a lot, and we had a lot of good luck that helped us with this one.

Allen Lyle: Now, while I’ve got your attention, though, I collect plates. Could I ask y’all some questions about…

Mark Scott: Sure.

Sharon Scott: Sure, sure.

Danny Lipford: And, you know, that’s exactly the way home improvement projects are. Sometimes they go a little smoother than others.

If the wallpaper had caused us more problems, it could have been that we’re just now getting to the painting. And you need to think about that. Anytime you’re doing any type of home improvement project, go into it with a positive attitude, and realize it may take a little longer. But hopefully your next project will end up just like this one.

And we hope we’ve been able to give you a little inspiration if you have one of those dark, dated dens.

Hey, thanks so much for being with us here on Today’s Homeowner. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week.

Allen Lyle: Looks like the brush.

Mark Scott: Yeah. That’s so pretty. You would look that good if you had all that stuff on your face.

Allen Lyle: Oh, I have gray hair.

Mark Scott: Yeah.

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

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.

Learn More