Budget Exterior Home Improvement Project

We’re helping homeowners Howard and Cam Johnson repair and improve the exterior of their small, 1950s starter home to get it ready to sell. Watch this video to find out more.

Budget Outdoor Improvement Projects:

    • Landscaping: To improve the curb appeal of the yard, we cut the grass, edged the walk and drive, pruned the shrubs, planted flowers and added mulch to the flower bed.
    • Clean Siding: A PivotPro Water Wand from Hyde Tools was used to clean the aluminum siding on the house.
    • Driveway Repair: We started by using a Generac OneWash power washer to clean the asphalt driveway. Next, we filled any holes in the driveway with cold mix asphalt repair patch and filled cracks with asphalt crack filler. The final step was to use a squeegee to apply a coat of asphalt sealer to the entire driveway.
    • Gable Siding: Vinyl siding shakes from Royal Building Products and a vinyl gable vent was installed on the gable on the front of the house.
    • Replace Shutters: Raised panel vinyl shutters from Royal Building Products were screwed to the wall next to the windows on the front of the house.
    • Block Foundation: To improve the look of the concrete block foundation, soffit vents were installed over the vent holes in the blocks, and the block foundation was painted brown to match the siding.
    • Entry Door: To add some pizzazz, the entry door on the house was painted Crimson Tide red.
    • Wrought Iron: The wrought iron porch railings and column were painted dark brown to match the shutters, foundation, and gable siding.
  • Light Fixture: The final touches were to replace the rusted light fixture on the porch ceiling, and add a metal wall hanging to the front porch wall.

Read episode article and check out our First Time Homeowner Series to find out more.

Small house with white siding and brown trim.
House after budget exterior home improvement makeover.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This little house is in need of some curb appeal to help it sell, so we’re helping the owners give it a facelift on a very modest budget.

You’re not worried about what you like, it’s what that perspective buyer would like.

Cam Johnson: Right.

Danny Lipford: This little house was Howard and Cam Johnson’s first home together as a family.

Cam Johnson: If you look at it now in the front, it’s just like bland. It’s very boring.

Howard Johnson: The house was built in the 1950s, and when we bought it there were no updates done whatsoever.

Cam Johnson: Well, it doesn’t have a pantry. We broke away the back porch.

Howard Johnson: The electrical need to be updated.

Cam Johnson: The driveway is—it’s just really crumbly and old.

Howard Johnson: All the wood floors were damaged.

Cam Johnson: it didn’t have a washer and dryer.

Howard Johnson: Yeah, the sun bleached out the red on the shutters.

Cam Johnson: When we moved in, it was window units. The sewer used to be original concrete.

Danny Lipford: This young couple has invested a lot in this house.

Cam Johnson: We had to do a whole brand-new AC…

Howard Johnson: central air, heat pump.

Cam Johnson: …ductwork, central air, heat pump, and everything. So that’s why we added an extra room. We added a pantry, too. We had to add a back porch. We even added a garage door.

Howard Johnson: Yeah, you should’ve seen it. It’s—

Cam Johnson: It’s like a wooden panel. It was hideous.

Howard Johnson: Yeah, it was falling apart.

Danny Lipford: So they moved to a larger place across town. But now they really need to sell this one.

Cam Johnson: everything about it looks old.

Howard Johnson: Very drab.

Cam Johnson: Yeah. Like old style, oldie.

Howard Johnson: Yeah, if that exterior looked a little better—yeah, it would improve the chances of selling the house.

Danny Lipford: So that’s our challenge—find some exterior enhancements we can do on a budget.

Now, I know you guys have, you know, moved out a little bit, trying to sell the house. Looking for some ways to kind of make the front pop a little bit more. What kind of ideas did you have?

Howard Johnson: The color obviously.

Danny Lipford: I wasn’t going to say anything about the color.

Howard Johnson: Yeah, a lot of my friends are like, “Oh, the pink house.” The pink house on the corner.

Danny Lipford: Well, there’s definitely some improvements there that can be made to make it—because at this point you’re not worried about what you like. It’s what that prospective buyer would like.

Cam Johnson: Right.

Danny Lipford: So something a little neutral, something rich, something a little more modern looking can help on that. What about the wrought iron? What do you think about the wrought iron?

Howard Johnson: I feel that it’s a little dated.

Cam Johnson: it’s just really old.

Danny Lipford: surprisingly, people really still like wrought iron but in more traditional colors, darker colors.

You got a nice bush there. You got a great established shrubs here. We might want to do a little trimming of that. That’ll be easy.

But the shutters, and especially, like the gable areas like that, so popular back in the fifties or whatever, not so much now. And also people think about the maintenance on this. And—oh, that’s actually aluminum siding, isn’t it?

Howard Johnson: Yes.

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s good. That’s a good thing. We can—we don’t want to touch it. You don’t see aluminum very much. It’s mostly vinyl siding these days. But we can use some other vinyl components to enhance the look of it.

Maybe choose some color. Maybe try to get some of this monotone look out of it, you know, where you have everything is white. Maybe throw in some other colors. We can do this pretty easy. I can also think about the driveway. Sealing that’s pretty easy.

Cam Johnson: Yeah, it has a lot of cracks and holes everywhere. And also that light fixture right there. I don’t know you noticed.

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s original, isn’t it?

Cam Johnson: Yeah, probably been there since the house was built.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. That—all of that can help that. I tell you what—you know—a very simple plan can make a big, big difference when you’re talking about—you know—a house like this. It’s not very big. That’s good.

We can do a little pressure washing, a little sealing, a few little exterior enhancements on the overall part of it. And I think even we can work with this with the right color. I think we can make a big difference here in just two or three days.

Cam Johnson: Wow, very excited.

Danny Lipford: Can you—you going to help us?

Cam Johnson: Yeah.

Howard Johnson: Absolutely.

Danny Lipford: To update the appearance and keep it low maintenance, we’re looking at vinyl materials from Royal Building Products. Their online design tool HomePlay allows you to experiment with different style and color options.

We settled on the Portsmouth shake style for Howard and Cam’s place in a slightly more neutral color than what’s there now. But before it goes up, there’s some cleanup to be done.

The first thing we want to do is to tackle the driveway. So if you guys can use a pressure washer to clean that—have you ever used a pressure washer before?

Cam Johnson: No, sir.

Danny Lipford: Oh, perfect. She’ll show you all about it, and you guys can work on that. Now, Howard, are you familiar with this particular tool?

Howard Johnson: Yeah, I think I am.

Danny Lipford: Perfect. We’ll let you knock down the grass. And I’m going to show Allen all about how to trim hedges. Allen, come here. Let me show you how to—

Allen Lyle: You’re going to show me.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I want to show you how. Come over here. We got some good tools here for you.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: All right, Cam. The first thing to power washing is you have to hook up the water supply first. That’s the most important part, so we’ll hook it up here. And then we have to turn it on before we crank up the power washer.

All right, so you might want to bring it, like, bring the green tip like that far away from the asphalt.

Danny Lipford: While the guys are hard at the mowing and trimming, Allen makes a little discovery.

Allen Lyle: Oh, look at there. That’s a sure sign that spring has sprung. Isn’t that a beautiful sight?

Danny Lipford: Our pressure washing crew must be making progress, though, because my daughter appears to be wearing most of the driveway dirt.

Just trimming these hedges already made a big difference in the look of this place.

Allen Lyle: Great, and I tell you what, we’ve got some enthusiastic homeowners over here.

Danny Lipford: Oh, I think so. I mean, they jumped right on it. They were ready to get a few things done here.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: No doubt. She’s picking up that power washing pretty well.

Allen Lyle: I think she actually likes it.

Danny Lipford: Getting that a lot cleaner.

Danny Lipford: Uh-oh. Oh, no.

Allen Lyle: That’s wrong, that’s wrong.

Danny Lipford: Hey, this is going to be fun. This is going to be fun.

Joe Truini: Every homeowner’s toolbox should have at least a couple of chisels used for rough construction work and demolition work. The problem is, because of that kind of rough handling, the chisels dull really quickly.

Here’s a quick way to sharpen them without using a bench grinder or whetstone or anything like that. All you need is a sheet of sandpaper. This is just typical 100-grit sandpaper you can get at any home center or hardware store.

And we’re going to use it to sharpen the chisel and put an edge on it. And what the first thing you notice is that there’s a bevel on the front of the chisel, and you want to maintain that bevel.

So you just set the chisel bevel down, tip it up until you feel it’s resting flat on the bevel, then just stroke it back and forth across the sandpaper. It won’t take long just to put that edge back on there.

And then feel the back of it with your thumbnail. If you feel it’s catching on an edge, that’s a burr from metal rolling over. To eliminate that, just hold the chisel flat down with the bevel up and go back and forth a couple of times until it’s gone.

There you go. Razor sharp and as good as new.

Danny Lipford: We’re helping Howard and Cam make over the front of their home so they can sell it more quickly. Howard is mowing the lawn, and the ladies are still cleaning the driveway. But the hedges are done, so it’s time to start removing some of the home’s more dated details.

Allen Lyle: Goodbye, 1950. Came around the corner, Cam says, “It just broke my heart taking those shutters down.” I said, “Really?” She said, “No.”

Danny Lipford: Before we can install the new siding over the gable, we need a platform to reach it—if we can decide on how to put it together.

So, two stages up.

Allen Lyle: I think two stages.

Danny Lipford: But single— I mean, with three?

Allen Lyle: Yeah, three.

Danny Lipford: You don’t have three. Talking about three on each course.

Allen Lyle: Oh, three boards?

Danny Lipford: No, three of these—three on the bottom, three on the top. You’ve only got four.

Allen Lyle: Right.

Danny Lipford: Do you know what you’re doing?

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: All right, what are you doing?

Allen Lyle: I’m putting scaffolding up.

Danny Lipford: So you’re going to put two—

Allen Lyle: Two and two.

Danny Lipford: All right, let’s do that first. Let’s do two first.

Allen Lyle: All right.

Danny Lipford: Eventually, we get it figured out. So Howard and Allen can remove the old wood gable vent and begin attaching the mounting and trim strips that will secure the new vinyl siding.

In a gable like this, there are a lot of angled cuts to be made, so finding and marking that angle is key.

Allen Lyle: All right, now, we want to put this piece running this way. There we go. And what we’re going to do is mark our angle.

Danny Lipford: This angle will be repeated each time the siding meets the roof line. The interlocking design of these panels makes them extremely sturdy. In fact, they can withstand winds up to 160 miles an hour.

Oddly enough, the roofing nails that secure them are not driven all the way down. This allows the panels to move slightly as they expand and contract without bowing or warping.

Since the driveway is dry now, we can start making our repairs to it.

I tell you what, now that we have it all clean, it’s really in a lot worse shape than I thought it was in. There’s a lot of cracks in here. We might not get it perfect, but it’s definitely going to look a lot better.

So this is for the big holes, we’ll put that in first. Then the smaller holes we’ll use some of the vinyl patch for. And then this is just to fill in as many cracks as we can with a gallon of this.

So, of course, everybody needs their tools. So, this looks like it fits you well. And, Cam, you’ve probably have never used a tamp.

Cam Johnson: No, sir.

Danny Lipford: So you will absolutely love that. Come here, let me show you how to use it.

For the larger repairs, we dig out the crumbling pieces of asphalt around the edges and smooth off the soil beneath.

The material in this bag contains pieces of aggregate or rocks, so it’s much like laying new asphalt without the heat.

Cam Johnson: Eww. It does look alive.

Danny Lipford: We overfill the hole so when we pack the repair down with the tamp, it will be level with the surrounding asphalt.

Cam Johnson: Wow, so that’s how you tamp.

Danny Lipford: For the medium-size repairs, we simply trowel on a compound that, for a lack of a better term, is like spackling for asphalt. In the smallest cracks we pour a liquid sealer that levels itself within the space available.

Meanwhile, Howard and Allen have made quick progress on the siding, attaching panel after panel, until the gable was covered and the new vent could be snapped into place.

Now they’ve moved on to replacing the shutters. But Allen’s communication issues seem to have resurfaced.

Danny Lipford: What Allen’s trying to say is that this shutter system from Royal is pretty cool as well. The screws that secure the shutters include washers with an attached cap, so once you drive the screw, you simply snap down the cap to cover the screw head.

Allen Lyle: Howard, you think these are a little better than those old ones?

Howard Johnson: Absolutely.

Danny Lipford: So at the end of day one, the yard is clean, the driveway is patched—

Cam Johnson: Yeah, and I can’t wait for the sealer to get on here. It’ll look awesome.

Danny Lipford: And we’ve already replaced the dated gable and shutters.

Cam Johnson: I think my favorite thing is the gable and those beautiful shutters.

Danny Lipford: So day two starts with plenty of optimism.

Cam Johnson: It looks like a whole new little house.

Jodi Marks: Having a wheelbarrow to help you around in the yard is no new concept; but, I’ll tell you what, this AeroCart by Worx has got some new concepts going on. Let’s talk about the wheelbarrow first.

Shea Pettaway: Yes. Actually, it has limitless features to offer the homeowner. One that we’re actually looking at now is the wheelbarrow.

Jodi Marks: This is great. What’s the weight capacity of this?

Shea Pettaway: It’s actually 300 pounds.

Jodi Marks: Wow. This is sturdy construction. I love the wheels. It’s got a flat-free wheel design, so you don’t have to worry about that. Let me show you what it now can do.

Watch this. As I stand up, I’m going to take this up with me. We’re going to lock the stand and the wheels in place down here, and now my wheelbarrow has been converted to a hand truck.

Shea Pettaway: A hand truck. Now, we can actually haul off our appliances.

Jodi Marks: This is fantastic, or move big pots around the patio. This is also great for working out in the yard, too, because we’ve got this little attachment.

Pop that into place, and now you’ve got a holder for your leaf bags so you can rake your leaves all by yourself. I tell you what, shay, this is pretty impressive.

Shea Pettaway: Yes, and this is just a few features that this cart has to offer.

Jodi Marks: It’s awesome.

Danny Lipford: We’re adding some curb appeal to this 50s-era home for owners Cam and Howard, who are trying desperately to sell it. Now it’s time to wake up the entryway.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: What color paint did you pick out?

Cam Johnson: Well, it’s like a crimson red. Originally these rails were supposed to be.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: That’s a bold choice, then.

Cam Johnson: Yeah. I think it will just, you know, stand out and it will make the home really inviting.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Yeah, so we’ll lightly sand it.

Cam Johnson: That sound is excruciating.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, now.

Cam Johnson: You know how it sounds like chalkboard fingernaily, and I hate that sound. And that’s why I’m—ugh. It’s just creepy.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So is that for real or is she just making that up to get out of work?

Danny Lipford: She’s not shirking because once the sanding is done, she’s back at work cleaning to prepare for paint.

Now, I mean, I know it’s a soffit vent, but you got to admit, that looks a heck of a lot better than that. What do you think?

Allen Lyle: Oh, I think so, too.

Danny Lipford: All right, good. I’ll get the construction adhesive.

So we use a few screws to hold the vent in place until the adhesive dries, and this inexpensive fix is complete.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: That is red paint.

Cam Johnson: Thank you for putting that thing underneath there. My wood floor would have been crazy nasty.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: You’ve got a lot of paint on that brush.

Danny Lipford: So while the ladies finish the first coat on the door…

Cam Johnson: So do we have to let it dry before we paint on the second one?

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: …we’re prepping the handrails for paint.

You know, usually when we’re preparing wrought iron to paint, it can be quite a chore because usually people just don’t sand it down properly. But whoever painted this nice delightful color here did a great job on the prep.

So it won’t take us long to do just a little bit of sanding, wiping it down. And it’s going to look a lot better with two coats of brown paint instead of whatever color this is.

For the most part, a light sanding will do the job, but occasionally we use a wire brush attachment on a drill to smooth out any stubborn spots. When it’s all smooth and clean, we begin masking off the adjacent areas.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: You need help?

Allen Lyle: No, no, you enjoy yourself there.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, I wasn’t going to help you. I was going to find you some help.

Allen Lyle: Oh, you would find me some help. OK, gotcha.

Danny Lipford: For detailed metal work, like this, spray paint is the way to go because it allows you to cover all the grooves and crevices with a smooth, even coat of paint. And everyone is glad to see the last of the Pepto pink.

Man, that squeegee looks good in your hands right there. Have you ever tried using one of those?

Howard Johnson: Not for this application.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I know. I’ve cleaned windows a lot, but I really haven’t used it on a driveway very much. But we’ll pour it out and then just a good thin layer over everything.

The driveway’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to look and work a whole lot better. So you go first. There you go.

The squeegee takes some getting used to, but it does a great job spreading the thick sealer evenly over the surface. Well, that works pretty good. Going to take a lot of it, though, isn’t it?

When Chelsea and Cam finish the foundation paint, the front door is ready for a second coat.

While Chelsea does that, Cam is giving the rest of the house a good cleaning. She’s using a new tool we discovered recently from Hyde Tools. It’s called the PivotPro Water Wand, and it conveniently combines the application of water, liquid detergent, and scrubbing power in one package.

Once you dial in the appropriate amount of detergent, you can direct it, or rinsing water, exactly where you want it by sliding the pivot handle back and forth. For scrubbing, there are a variety of attachments which can be locked into eight different positions, depending on the job at hand. In fact, there’s even a microfiber pad that’s ideal for washing windows, cars, or boats.

Meanwhile, Allen’s replacing that ancient light fixture on the porch with something a little newer, and hanging an accent piece on the front wall with a little help from Cam.

Cam Johnson: I think you should scoot over because I think you should be vertical. Up, and stop. That looks swell. A little bit lower. A little bit lower. Move it over a tiny bit to the left, 94 degrees—perfect, awesome. I changed my mind, I think it—

Allen Lyle: No! It’s done.

Cam Johnson: should be a little bit lower.

Danny Lipford: So the house is finished. Now with the help of Howard and Cam’s children—give me five—we’re going to dress up the landscaping with a few flowers so this house is ready to show off and sell.

When people need to replace their driveway, they often ask which type of surface is best. The answer depends on your budget, your lifestyle, and the amount of maintenance you’re willing to do.

A gravel driveway is probably the least expensive option. It reduces rainwater runoff because the water drains through it. But on the downside, it’s not very smooth, weeds can grow through it, and eventually the gravel will end up in the lawn.

Asphalt is more expensive but creates a smooth, solid surface that stays put without the need to build any forms. The downside is that, as you’ve seen here, asphalt requires sealing every few years to prevent the surface from cracking, chipping, and coming apart.

Concrete is the most expensive of the three because the material costs more, and the additional labor of forming and pouring it. However, if it’s done correctly, the only maintenance it should require is an occasional cleaning.

Howard and Cam had done a lot to improve their home while they lived there, but most of that wasn’t visible from the street. So when they put it up for sale, there wasn’t a lot of interest.

The house looked every bit of its age and wasn’t terribly inviting. So we made over the big picture by changing some little things.

We started with the gable siding and shutters, which were dated in style and with a little less than lovable color. The cedar shake siding and the raised panel shutters are both vinyl, so they’re low maintenance. And the neutral brown color should appeal to a much larger group of people.

The driveway was also showing its years, so repairing and sealing didn’t just make it look better—it will last a lot longer as well.

Smoothing the lines of the foundation with vents and painting it to mirror the gable give the house some scale. And the coordinating color on the rails and the bright red door invite prospective buyers to come in and take a closer look.

All in all, a pretty impressive transformation for two days of hard work.

Talking about two hard working homeowners, they’ve been very busy over the last couple hours to prepare an outstanding crawfish feast. Wish you were here to join in.

Man, this smells and looks so good. But before I dig in, what do you think of the house?

Cam Johnson: Oh, we love it. It’s so beautiful now.

Howard Johnson: It looks sharp.

Danny Lipford: Now, what about selling? You think you’ll be able to sell it a little quicker?

Howard Johnson: Absolutely. I’ve already received phone calls from folks that want to have a look at the house.

Danny Lipford: Perfect. That’s what we want.

Hey, it’s been a lot of fun seeing, you know, some of the work that we put into this really paying off pretty good. Now I got some work to do right here, so…

Cam Johnson: Thank you so much.

Danny Lipford: Oh, absolutely, sure.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Try and catch up.

Allen Lyle: Not a chance.


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