Watch the video above to find out how to:

  • Add a pressure-treated wood deck using hidden fasteners.
  • Install an entry door lockset with built-in alarm from Schlage.
  • Till up the yard and lay sod.
  • Layout planting beds around the house.
  • Plant shrubs and put down mulch.
  • Add a crushed limestone driveway.
  • Repair the stone curb using Quikrete mortar mix in a grout bag.


Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re tackling the landscaping in my daughter Chelsea’s newly renovated house. There’s plenty to be done before we can call our First Time Homeowner series complete. Glad you’re with us.

We’re finally nearing the end of our First Time Homeowner series. Almost a year ago my oldest daughter Chelsea decided to buy her first house, and we’ve been following her through the process ever since.

Once we made a few needed repairs and got her moved into the place, she started dreaming of ways to improve the 70-year-old cottage. With a little help from her dad, his construction company, and some of our good friends in the building industry, we’ve started making that happen.

First, the exterior of the house got a total makeover to add some badly needed character and reduce the need for maintenance, as well as we make it a lot more energy efficient. Then we renovated the lone, tiny little bathroom to make it more functional and attractive. And just last week you saw the transformation of the old dated kitchen, which is now the most modern, most beautiful space in the entire house, and the next place I expect to be invited for dinner.

Boy, we’re really getting a lot of attention from the neighbors on all of the work we’ve done on Chelsea’s house. The inside looks great. The outside looks great, minus one very important element—landscaping. It really needs some landscaping.

Now, a lot of thought’s gone into exactly how we’re going to create that curb appeal that the house really needs, and that process started a few months ago. Before we started the exterior facelift, Chelsea and I walked over the place and talked about what needed to stay and what needed to go.

The tree, what do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I think it needs to go.

Danny Lipford: Good.

Chelsea Lipford: I can only imagine a hurricane coming and ruining any work that we’ve done.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. I mean, it’s a great tree but it’s in the wrong place. And you can’t transplant it. The goal for the landscaping was to highlight the look of the house, not hide it away. I think planting something smaller because it’s so squatty-looking.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Danny Lipford: You know, the house…

Chelsea Lipford: Elongate the house a little.

Danny Lipford: If the front of the house was overgrown, the backyard was a jungle. And of course, all of these probably need to be cut back. All of this stuff is so overgrown.

Chelsea Lipford: I know.

Danny Lipford: But what do you think the deal is with this deck? Look how short the hand rails are.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, I don’t even know.

Danny Lipford: Well, a lot of people, you know, will say they want to keep hand rails low so that they could see out.

Chelsea Lipford: Right.

Danny Lipford: You know, like if you’re on some body of water or something like that. But this is dangerous here. So, we added a deck rehab to our list. After we thinned out the jungle and started adding new siding to the house we revisited the deck. We should get some tools here and go ahead and tear all the handrails off, deck boards. So we get an idea how that deck’s going to be.

Chelsea Lipford: I call the sledgehammer.

Danny Lipford: All right, let’s get the tools. But once we got into the project we discovered that the rails and the deck boards were just the beginning of the problems.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, okay.

Danny Lipford: So…

Chelsea Lipford: Well, this one isn’t even attached. Yeah.

Chelsea Lipford: That’s real safe. Can’t have a party on that.

Danny Lipford: And also, I think that that being offset like that kind of makes it look bad. I think we ought to come back and center it right on the door. Now, we can reuse some of this for some of your outdoor projects that you want to do.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay, you think so?

Danny Lipford: I say let’s just take it down.

And it was scary how easily it came down. While we were laying out the plans for the new deck, we also checked the grade of the yard to make sure it would drain properly.

I think all of this water is going to run back this way. So, I want you to go to different places and just measure up. I’ll shoot the grade, and we’ll see where all of this goes. And there’s no guess work, we’ll know what kind of dirt we need if we need any.

Okay, we’ve got 58. So see where we drop three quarters of an inch. All right. Sixty and three-quarters. So, see, it’s increased another inch and a half.

The new design called for a larger rectangular deck with one corner cut off at a 45-degree angle to add a little design and to keep from crowding the garage. We also wanted to raise it up so that it was level with the back door.

When the crew was happy with the position of the posts they mixed up some Quikrete concrete and locked them all in place. To install the deck boards we decided to try a new hidden fastener system called CAMO, which Allen found at a trade show last year. The tool clamps to each board directly over the joist and provides a guide to run the screws in at angles so that they disappear between the boards. The screws are designed so that they require no pilot holes, making it a snap to use.

In fact, it was so easy that Chelsea was able to pick it up herself in just a few minutes. And when it was done it made for a beautiful deck. Well, we talked about a lot of different types of deck design, but your idea of cutting this corner off for this 45 really turned out nice.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, I think it adds a lot without taking much of the space away.

Danny Lipford: Uh-huh. How do you plan on using it? Have you thought of that?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I’m hoping to get like a table and chairs over here and kind of have an outdoor eating, dining area.

Danny Lipford: Cool.

Chelsea Lipford: And then probably put a grill under the overhang.

Danny Lipford: Uh-huh. That’s sounds great. Real good.

Chelsea Lipford: And then I really like how the deck is level with the floor inside the sunroom and the kitchen, so it really makes it feel like it’s part of the living space.

Danny Lipford: Uh-huh. Even though Chelsea likes that access to the deck, as a young woman living alone she wants to make sure it’s secure when she’s inside. So she’s installing this new lock with a built-in alarm from Schlage on the back door. It will give an audible alert when the door is opened, tampered with or if there is forced entry. So Chelsea gets peace of mind without paying for an expensive alarm service. While we tie up a few more lose ends here, Joe has a great Simple Solution for your garage or workshop.

Joe Truini: I’m sure you recognize this. It’s an empty canister that once held blank CDs. I’ve been saving these and using them in the workshop for storage. Now, first thing you do is take a hacksaw and cut off the center post so it looks like this. And then I’m going to mount it to the underside of a shelf. I like mounting it up here because it’s not only at eye level, but it also keeps it off the work bench and out of the way. So, it’s just a couple of one inch drywall screws that go right into the shelf. And it’s important to use two screws, because if you only use one this will spin as you’re tightening the canister.

I like using it for storing safety glasses and dust masks. Anything like that that you want to keep clean. So you just twist it right on. There you go. And then again, because it’s clear, you can easily see what’s in there, and yet, it’s stored in a nice dust-free environment.

Danny Lipford: The icing on the cake for our First Time Homeowner project will be the landscaping. But before we start planting we’re wrapping up a few smaller projects. The guys from my crew have been busy building a fence around the backyard.

And Chelsea’s dealing with details like moving her mailbox from the driveway to sidewalk for easier use. She’s using a fast-setting concrete mix from Quikrete for this job because it will allow her to do the mixing in the post hole itself. Saving time and mess.

Hey, speaking of messes it’s time to make one. All right, this is going to be a lot of fun. What we’re going to do is just completely till everything up, rake the grass, and get it ready for…

Chelsea Lipford: So, you don’t have to clean the yard up first? Rake the grass up first?

Danny Lipford: You could. I mean, you could go and cut all the grass up. You know, and dig it up with a shovel or something. But we’re not going to do that.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: Just doing it this way. We churn it all up, put some fertilizer out here and that kind of thing. So, let’s see here. The purpose of the tilling is to loosen up the ground to prepare it for new sod and new plant. Look at that. It’s also a lot of fun. I think I’m ready to go to two. I don’t know about that.

Chelsea Lipford: That’s dangerous.

Danny Lipford: Once the ground is thoroughly loosened up with a tiller we begin raking out the debris so that the new plantings can go down.

All right, now let’s just rake away from the house like this, and that’ll be enough that we can mark those beds. Go around, do the same to the back.

Because I’m anxious to start laying that sod. That’s the fun part. A landscaper friend of mine worked out a plan for us and now it’s time to put it to work.

Front door, the first one. It looks like it starts right at the corner. Right at the corner, and then rolls round and really comes right back level even with this right here.

Boy, it sure is windy out here. Don’t get any paint on this. And you just want to stay consistent distance from that. All right, go ahead. All right.

Chelsea Lipford: Bam!

Danny Lipford: There you go. All right, good. Let’s go over here. Once the beds are laid out we can begin putting down the sod. I’ll let you put down the ceremonial first piece.

Chelsea Lipford: Ooh.

Danny Lipford: Man, I love this job because the gratification is so immediate. One, two, three, boom! First piece. In no time all of this dirt begins looking like a yard. When the time comes to plant the trees and bedding plants, my father-in-law, Rudy, who’s an avid gardener, drops by to offer a little advice.

Chelsea Lipford: Does that look centered in front of that window?

Rudy: It does to me.

Chelsea Lipford: Well, let’s check this one out.

Danny Lipford: Looks good to me.

Chelsea Lipford: Looks good from my house. Will it get taller? It’s not very big now.

Rudy: Yeah, it’ll get to a pretty good size. It’ll get…

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, wow.

Rudy: …five feet in diameter.

Chelsea Lipford: Is that far enough away from the driveway? Should I leave that japonica there?

Rudy: No, I’d put that in the corner.

Chelsea Lipford: Put that over there?

Rudy: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Little by little we get all of the planting done. Now, it’s time for the hardscape. Now, that we have all of the grass planted and all of the plants planted now it’s time to focus on one of the final parts of the exterior and that’s the driveway. Now, we’d love to go with the concrete driveway but pretty expensive. Asphalt, still fairly expensive.

But we did find a type of driveway that Chelsea really likes that we’re planning on putting down, and that’s a crushed limestone driveway.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, I’m really excited about that because it seems to be a little more maintenance-free than concrete. Because you don’t have to worry about the cracks or pressure-washing to keep it clean. And then the asphalt you don’t have to worry about sealing it. And this, also I read that should help absorb the water instead of shedding it. So help with the drainage.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, a lot better with the drainage. We want to make sure, because you got a lot of driveway here. We don’t want to put water anywhere it shouldn’t be. But one of the disadvantages of using a stone type driveway is the weeds will grow up through it, kind of hard to control unless you put down a landscape fabric. So we’re going to put this down before the rocks are delivered.

Here you go, honey, get you to help me with this.

The crushed limestone is dumped from the truck slowly. Starting from the back and moving to the front so that all that’s left to do by hand is a little raking and leveling. The next chore is repairing the stone curb out by the street. A little mortar mix and grout bags are all we need besides a lot of patience.

While Chelsea continues working on her landscaping, let’s check in with Jodi for a Best New Product you can use in yours.

Jodi Marks: Now, even if you’re not a lawn warrior, I’m going to show you how to get a green thumb in no time. Take a look at this. Scotts has come out with this great little system, it’s called their Snap Pac. And you get these little packs right here, whether you need an insect killer, fire ant killer, lawn fertilizer or even this weed and feed, and you click it right on here to the spreader. Now, it’s pretty easy.

See the bottom here? It corresponds nicely on the bottom of the bag with the spreader. And I’m going to set that on here, lock it into place here and then I’m going to lock it into place here and I am ready to go. Look there. I didn’t have to lift a heavy bag, I didn’t over-pour my feeder, I didn’t make a mess. And I didn’t even have to measure because Scotts has done all the measuring for me. I’m now ready to go.

So, if you’ve got an area also while you’re spreading that you don’t want to get any of the, you know, feed or the fertilizer, you just simply flip open the edge guard and this stops it from say getting on your driveway, your walkway, or in a particular flower bed that you want to protect. So see, you can have that green thumb in no time.

Danny Lipford: With our landscape complete we finally have the curb appeal that this house really needed. Before the work started, the house was hidden behind a wall of trees and shrubs. And while many of those were beautiful plants, they were all overgrown and unkempt. And their size made the house seem even smaller than it actually was. Plus, they also created maintenance problems by blocking drainage away from the house and holding moisture against the siding.

By removing the out of control shrubs and installing the low-maintenance siding trim and accessories from Exterior Portfolio, we addressed the maintenance issues for the house, made it more energy efficient and improved the appearance immensely.

The new deck out back is a lot safer now and a lot more useful than the old one. Plus, it’s a great addition to the house.

Though we never added any square footage to the home the front porch gable we built did give the house some scale that it badly needed. It gives the house a lot more height and creates a more obvious and welcoming entrance.

I think it looks pretty darn good but, hey, what do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, all the neighbors say that it doesn’t even look like the same house. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Danny Lipford: Were you imagining this kind of look when you bought that sad green house?

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, no, not at all. I was thinking I was going to be out here painting all that asbestos siding. And it looks better that I could ever imagine when I bought it. It’s perfect.

Danny Lipford: Inside, this house appeared even smaller than it really was, thanks to all the small rooms with limited access to each other. Plus, none of the surfaces were very attractive. Chelsea made a good start by uncovering and restoring the beadboard ceiling and the enclosed side boards and the hardwood floor in the living room. But the upgrade of the interior doors by the folks at Jeld-Wen helped cement the vintage character of this home and tie it all together. Even in that little enclosed porch turned home office where we added two small closets and new carpet.

But some areas, like the tiny bathroom, required a more wholesale approach. Besides being unattractive, it wasn’t very functional either. By gutting it and starting from scratch we could address the functionality issues as well as the aesthetics. We moved the poorly placed window and added some much-needed ventilation thanks to our friends at NuTone.

The new vanity and wall cabinet we installed from Merillat are not only beautiful, they also add tons of useful storage to this small space. It’s still a small bath, but certainly not one Chelsea will dread using now.

Speaking of dread, that was exactly my feeling about this kitchen before we started. It was cramped, dated, and dingy; the kind of kitchen that makes you want to order take-out a lot, even if you like to cook. By opening it up to the sunroom behind it we were able to make it feel a lot more open. And the new cased opening from the sunroom to the dining room allows access to the back of the house without a trip through the kitchen

Although with the new cabinets and the surfaces here now, a trip through the kitchen is nothing to dread anymore. The designers at Merillat helped Chelsea create a plan and style that suits her and the house perfectly. It’s bright and cheerful and the vintage-style is right at home in the 70-year-old house.

And I know Chelsea’s favorite part. I bet it’s your mug shelf.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, I love my mug shelf, to be able to see all my mugs at once. But I really like my spice rack, too, over here.

Danny Lipford: That’s cool.

Chelsea Lipford: I have access to my spices all at once. And then I like my cookie sheet rack over here. So, I can bake up a storm at any time.

Danny Lipford: That’s perfect. That’s perfect.

Chelsea Lipford: But I think my favorite part of the whole room is this whole wall. It kind of has three hidden doors for my laundry room and then my pantry over here. And it has the hinge light switch, which is awesome. You don’t have to worry about opening… I mean turning the light on or turning it back off again.

Danny Lipford: Well, I’ll tell you what, with a pantry like this, a kitchen like this, what’s for dinner?

Chelsea Lipford: I wouldn’t count on it tonight.

Jill Asks: We’re painting our house. Do we have to do anything special to paint the galvanized metal around the edge of the roof?

Danny Lipford: Almost every house has some type of galvanized metal. Now, it might be an eave strip running around the edge of your roof or valley metal, or you may even have some galvanized metal sawhorses like I have here in the shop. After a while this stuff can start looking bad, and if you’re wanting to paint it here’s what you need to do.

First, if it’s oxidized like this, use your wire brush just to knock a little bit of that oxidation off and then wipe it down. And then this is the key thing, use white vinegar. Wipe it down very thoroughly with the white vinegar. It’s an acid and it’ll etch it so the paint will stick.

You still want to prime it like you would any metal. After the primer is dried, then two coats of top coat paint, and the galvanized metal around your place is going to look a lot better.

Danny Lipford: After almost a year of planning and hard work all of the projects at Chelsea’s house are complete. For now, anyway. The 70-year-old house has been transformed from a wallflower into the belle of the ball. And this belle is certainly not high maintenance. But how does the new homeowner feel about the process? Well, we certainly did a lot of work to your little house here.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, we did. But it was fun because it was my house and it was very rewarding.

Danny Lipford: Well, you did a lot of the work yourself. I mean, we would leave here some days and there’d be things hanging, and come back the next day and they were all done. I heard you worked till midnight some nights.

Chelsea Lipford: I wouldn’t say I worked that long but it was a lot of fun because it was my house and so it didn’t really feel like work.

Danny Lipford: And what was your favorite part?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, the outside for sure. It has a big wow factor and kind of impresses the neighbors a little bit even though I didn’t do most of the work myself outside.

Danny Lipford: Mmm-hmm. Any advice for someone that’s buying their first new house?

Chelsea Lipford: Definitely take your time I would say. Yeah. Because you don’t want to get overwhelmed and then it takes all the fun out of it.

Danny Lipford: It can be a little overwhelming.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: All right, good job. Hey, I hope you enjoyed our First Time Homeowner series. It’s certainly been great to see Chelsea’s personality come out in the work that was done here. I’m Danny Lipford along with my daughter Chelsea and we’ll see you next week here on Today’s Homeowner.

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avatar for 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,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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