Find out how to tackle these five home improvement projects:

  • Installing recessed light fixtures
  • Removing a textured popcorn ceiling
  • Removing wallpaper
  • Replacing kitchen countertops
  • Installing a tile floor

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we are tackling five great updates to bring this room into the 21st century. You’ll see the tools and techniques to use, as well as the pitfalls and problems to avoid. This is one full half-hour!

These days people are staying in their homes longer than ever before. And looking for ways to update what they have. This week, we’ll look at five very desirable updates, including how to remove texture from a popcorn ceiling as it is commonly called. And what you have to do to prepare that ceiling so that it can be painted. Also we hear from a lot of homeowners that are really challenged with how to successfully remove wallpaper from the wall, and again, what you have to do to that wall in order to paint it. Hey, tell me this doesn’t look out-of-date, over 35-year-old floor. We’re going to change that. And again, answer another question that we get all the time from viewers is, “Can I install ceramic tile over existing ceramic?” We’ll show you how you can. Also, laminate tops. Removing plastic laminate and replacing it with granite. And the update that we’re going to start out with is how to install recess lighting.

Our first update isn’t one that’s too do-it-yourself friendly. Electrical work usually calls for a pro. So our electrician, Mike, is laying out lines along which he’ll install the recess cans. Besides creating a symmetrical layout, the size of the fixtures and the size of the room will also influence their spacing. Mike’s cutting the fixture holes with a hole saw designed specifically for this task. So, it collects the drywall dust instead of it raining down on his head. Since there’s a second floor above this room, they’ll have to trench in the ceiling to route wiring to each of these locations from the existing electrical box in the center of the room. His layout has insured that each hole lands between ceiling joists so that there is room for the fixtures.

After he pulls the wire to each location he can connect each fixture and mount it in place. These are called re-modeler cans. So every bit of the installation can be done from underneath, while still delivering a clean finished look. Hey, we just finished up our first update. That’s installing the recess lights. The guys will come back and put the trim rings around it and everything a little bit later.

So, our second update is removing all of the texture from a popcorn-textured ceiling like this. And like I said earlier, this is something we get so many e-mails about. And we are going to show you a few tricks that will make it a little bit easier. Number one, cover everything up. That’s really important. And then, what Mike did is he took a pump up sprayer, filled it up with really hot water and just a little bit of fabric softener, which keeps the water from evaporating so much, so that it can really help to release all of the texture from the ceiling. But the number one thing in removing texture is getting it as wet as possible. So take off, Mike.

Mike: Here we go.

Danny Lipford: Ceiling texture is basically drywall joint compound with bits of Styrofoam mixed into it. So you want to soak it well enough to make the compound release from the ceiling, but not so much that we damage the drywall above it.  This usually means spraying each area at least twice. After it soaked a bit, give it a test. And you can tell, Mike, this hasn’t been painted because it’s coming off too darn easy.

For thicker texture, more water and more time will be necessary. See, that is the problem with using just a regular dry-wall knife. You end up with that mess everywhere all over your feet. Now this is supposed to address that concern. Here, hold that. What this is, is it’s a frame that is supposed to hold that bag. And then this is the scraper, so as you are scraping, it falls right into the bag, what do you think?

Mike: Well, let’s give it a try.

Danny Lipford: It works. It works. It makes this whole process a lot easier.

Mike: I’m all for that.

Danny Lipford: All right. Let’s see what it looks like. I guess that’s a right angle. Uh, come on.

Mike: That ain’t bad.

Danny Lipford: Not too bad. You just sit down and watch the master. I think we got something here. That’s pretty cool.

Mike:  It’s doing a pretty good job.

Danny Lipford: You can probably go ahead and dump it out without even taking… ‘Cause that’s the most aggravating part, is putting that on there. It’s that easy. Even I can do it.

Mike: Nothing to it, huh?

Danny Lipford: Nothing to it, just muscle.

Mike: This thing works pretty good, Danny.

Danny Lipford: I know. I know. It is pretty neat. A lot of those little things, just great ideas but not… They just don’t work that well.

Mike: This one works good.

Danny Lipford: To work around the edges you’ll need a standard dry-wall knife so that you can scrape right up to the crown molding and clean the texture out of the caulk between the crown and the ceiling. I’ll tell you what, Mike, that really wasn’t that bad. Only took, what, about an hour to do it all.

Mike: Yeah. That’s right. That new scraper really helped out a lot. It’s going to save on the clean-up.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, absolutely. ‘Cause usually it’s just like a mess when you get through with this kind of thing. ‘Course you got a little bit of clean-up around the edges there to do, where they caulked the crown molding to the ceiling. But that shouldn’t take long.

Mike: Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and jump on that right now.

Danny Lipford: Alright. Great, great. And the next update we’re going to share with you is a little bit to do with more removing something that’s here, and that’s wall paper. If you ever wanted to remove wall paper, ever tried it, it can be quite a challenge. But Allen’s going to drop by with a great tip that’ll allow you to remove any wall paper you have very easily. But first, let’s check in with Joe Truini for this week’s Simple Solutions.

Joe Truini: Once you’ve gone through the trouble of picking out the perfect light fixtures for your home, you want to make sure they present you in the best light. And here’s a trick, especially for fixtures that you install in a bathroom above a vanity or a mirror.

If the fixture has frosted shades, like this one, you should install clear glass bulbs. And if it has clear shades, then you can install frosted bulbs, like they do here. But in this case, we’re going to replace, because we have frosted shades, we’re going to replace the bulb with clear glass ones. What you’ll find is you get a nice, clean bright light, because you don’t need the bulbs to be frosted any longer because the shades are. So we’ll flip that on, I’ll show you what that looks like. There you go. A nice, clean light.

Now, the other trick with fixtures that are made for the bathroom is they can often be installed upside down. Probably the only fixture in the world that you’ll install upside down. Well, this one can be pointed up. So, when you go to buy a light fixture for your bathroom ask if it can be installed inverted because sometimes you’re better off bouncing the light off the ceiling.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re tackling five great updates for your home. And we are doing them all in one kitchen. Older homes, particularly kitchens, are notorious for having inadequate lighting. So our first update was adding recess lighting to improve the beauty and the function of this room. Because there was no attic access above the room we had to make a bit of a mess to pull wires and set the cans. But our second update was even messier as we removed the textured-popcorn ceiling surrounding these lights. Allen is about to wade in to update number three, removing wallpaper. And this kitchen has plenty of it.

Allen Lyle: As Danny mentioned we are removing wallpaper, and I got to tell you it’s probably in the top 20 questions that he and I get on our radio show Homefront. Now, Danny and I also have a mutual friend by the name of Brian Santos. They call him “The Wall Wizard.” Well, Brian shared a formula with us and I’m going to share that with you that’s going to make removing wallpaper so easy. Let me tell you how we got to this step right here.

First of all, take a five-gallon bucket and put about three gallons of hot water in it. Then you’re going to mix in there 22 ounces of concentrate wallpaper remover, a cup of white vinegar, about two tablespoons of baking soda and a quarter cup of fabric softener. Then you’re going to take a Paper Tiger and perforate the wall. Just make sure you cover it from top to bottom and then saturate it with that spray. I’m talking saturated. You only got about 15 minutes to make this work. Then we are going to take very thin plastic, 7 mil, push it in place, let the water hold it by way of a wallpaper brush.

At this point we are actually ready to remove some because it’s been about three hours. Paul, you ready for this? Why don’t you grab that corner? Pull it down. Did you notice… I don’t know if you noticed this, Paul, but do you see the way this is put on? This is like… This isn’t big rolls, it’s strips of it.

Paul: That’s right.

Allen Lyle: Oh, look at this. That’s not even taking a… Not even going to take a scraper to this. Isn’t that something? I don’t think I have ever stripped a wall this easily.

Danny Lipford: Obviously, this is much easier because the paper was applied in small overlapping pieces.

Allen Lyle: I have not picked up a scraper yet.

Danny Lipford: And all those extra edges allowed the solution to get behind the paper and work on the glue. But as is often the case, this isn’t going to be as easy as it seems. Allen Lyle: Alright, real often the case, here, we’ve got wallpaper under wallpaper. And this was, rather than taken down, it was painted over. A very thick layer of paint, by the way. But you can just barely make out a seam.

We could come back again, take the Paper Tiger, score this again. It’s going to make it a little tougher to score because it is painted wallpaper. But you can score it again. Use the formula, and again, let it do the work for you. Cover it back up with plastic for at least three. Probably because it’s painted, I would say at least four to six hours. And then take that paper down as well.

Danny Lipford: Since we promised the homeowner we would remove the wallpaper, that’s what we are going to do. But this time we are letting it set overnight. When Mike pulls the plastic back on day two, the results aren’t what Allen and Paul had the day before. Now, he needs the scraper. And when the paper does come off, it’s taking the top layer of the drywall with it. The solution isn’t getting through the paper very well. And apparently, the drywall was never sized or prepped for wallpaper. So the wallpaper glue has soaked into the drywall paper. And now it’s all coming off the wall together leaving behind a rough uneven mess.

Since, we have to repair the trench in the ceiling we already have a call into our drywall finisher, Hayward. But it looks like now he’ll have more than just a little work to do. Besides patching the holes in the ceiling, he’s also putting a thin coat of joint compound over every square-inch of wall surface. Oh, these walls are nice and smooth. You would have never thought they would look like that a few days ago. I don’t think Hayward knew what he was getting into when he came out to finish the walls. They were in pretty bad shape after we removed all of that wallpaper. But that’s when you really got to call in a pro like Hayward to do all that he’s done here.

The ceiling looks great. The walls look great. You may notice there’s something wrong here. Well, nothing wrong, really. That was left off so that we can install these glass tiles for the backsplash a little bit later. And we’ll be doing that about the same time we do the ceramic on the floor. But before we do any of that, we have to get rid of this laminate countertop and install some granite countertops. We’ll be doing that right after this Best New Products.

Jodi Marks: Installing a ceiling fan with a light kit is another great lighting option for your home. And if you are going to go to the time and expense of installing a ceiling fan, think about this. This is a neat little addition to it. This is a handheld wireless remote for your ceiling fan by Hampton Bay.

Now, you don’t have to have a Hampton Bay ceiling fan for this to operate, because it operates a variety of brands. The nice thing about this is you can be 30 feet away from your ceiling fan and still operate it. Because, think about it, usually your electrician will wire your overhead fixture in your room to have two switches, one for the fan and one for the light. Or if you weren’t as fortunate, you had an electrician that maybe just had one switch at the door, and it would control the light and the fan at the same time.

But with this remote control, it doesn’t matter how it was wired at the wall. You can control it with just a click of a button. Now, you can dim incandescent lights, and there’s a setting for that. Or if you don’t want to dim your lights, say you’re using LED or fluorescent, all you do is you use another setting. And you can just turn the light on and off. Either way, you’ve got master control right here. And who doesn’t need another remote control right there at their disposal!

Danny Lipford: This week we’re putting together five great updates in one dated room. We started with the addition of recess light fixtures to improve the look and the lighting. Then we removed the popcorn texture from the ceiling, which turned out to be a breeze. So we moved on to removing the wallpaper, which also started out easy but didn’t exactly end up that way. Now it’s time for the next big change. Replacing the old laminate countertops with granite. Before the old tops can be pulled, the sink and cook-top have to be disconnected and removed. The owners are getting a new sink, but some of the plumbing components will be reused.

Wiley Bullock: We’re reusing the garbage disposal so we will just set that aside and get it out of our way.

Danny Lipford: Obviously, before disconnecting something like this cook-top, you have to be sure the power is off at the breaker. Typically, laminate tops are just secured from underneath with screws. So they come out pretty easily. But larger pieces may require a little surgery.

Mike: You want to cut it right there?

Wiley Bullock: Let’s cut it.

Danny Lipford: After a little power tool persuasion, the cabinets are clear. Mike’s adding some horizontal supports to the cabinets before the granite arrives. When it does, each piece is dry-fit in place. Tony, our granite contractor, is also adding his own support under an area where two pieces will be seamed together. We can’t afford any movement here.

Once everything is leveled, the adhesive is applied to hold each piece in place. The two pieces being seamed are pulled together with a vacuum clamp and sealed with an epoxy adhesive.

The beauty of a surface like granite is that it allows you to mount the sink from beneath the counter so there’s no rim on the surface. It’s a convenient feature but it also creates a really clean look in the kitchen. Where the counters meet side walls, we’re adding a four-inch granite side splash so the glass tile, that’s coming later, won’t overpower the room.

You know, I’ve installed a lot of different types of granite in a lot of different kitchens but I don’t believe I have ever installed one that looks just like this. It actually has kind of a unique name, Saint Cecilia, but it looks great and it ties in well with the color that the homeowners have picked out.

And Michael’s in the process of working hard to get a coat of paint on everything ’cause tomorrow morning, the fifth great update gets started. And that is the installation of the ceramic over the existing ceramic. Now, that’s a question we get all the time. Like I mentioned earlier in the show, can I install ceramic over existing ceramic? Well, this is one of the best-case scenarios because it’s nice and smooth, not a lot of rolls on the floor, none of the tiles seem to be cracked or no loose grout anywhere. And also the tile being installed on top of this will still have a nice, smooth transition into the adjacent rooms.

But what will really change the look of this room and really update it, is that instead of the old 8×8 tiles that were so popular for so many years, we are going back with a 20×20.

After lots of measuring and re-measuring, Joe, our tile setter, opts to center the tiles on the area between the two rows of cabinets. He’s starting on that end, so that he lays out all of the cuts first, especially the complex ones, to make sure everything fits before they begin mixing the thinset.

This stuff is the key to laying tile over tile. Joe’s using a high-quality thinset mix that’s modified with latex to give it extra bonding power. As the 20×20 tiles cover up the old 8x8s, it’s obvious that this update will improve the look of this room immensely. ‘Cause the old tile had several dips and valleys in it, Joe adds extra thin set to the back of the tiles here and there to compensate and level the new floor. Once the grout is applied and cleaned the floor’s complete and the tile-setters move on to finish off the counters with that glass tile backsplash we saw earlier. Because these small pieces are pre-patterned in inter-connecting 12×12 mats, the backsplash goes quickly. And in no time this room is thoroughly updated.

Jesse asks: Are compact fluorescent bulbs really worthwhile? I heard they have mercury in them. Are there any other options?

Danny Lipford: Yes, I definitely think CFLs are worthwhile, especially if you compare it to a traditional incandescent bulb. Now, a 60-watt bulb, like this, is expected to last around 1,200 hours but a CFL—8,000 hours. And for the same amount of light you are getting out of this 60-watt bulb, you can get it here for about 13 to 15 watts. Now, CFLs do contain a little bit of mercury. But if it breaks or if it goes bad, you need to handle it carefully, put it in a resealable plastic bag, and dispose of it properly.

Now another option—and you’re hearing a lot about—LEDs, because they last 50,000 hours. And for the same light you would get out of this 60-watt bulb, you’re getting it here for only 6 to 8 watts.

Danny Lipford: This room was functional enough, but the surfaces gave away its age. So we gave it five great updates. On the ceiling, we added recessed light fixtures and removed the popcorn texture. On the walls, we removed the wallpaper, both the layer that co-operated and the one that didn’t, so that we could roll on a cool new color. The old laminate counters gave way to new slabs of granite, and the tiny old tile floors were covered up with a large porcelain tile that look a lot like travertine marble.

Whether you do one or all five of the updates we’ve covered in this show, it’s sure to make a big improvement in your home. But here’s what you need to do. Look at what you have and look at what you need and then measure that against your budget, the time you have to spend on it and the skill level that you have. But jump in there and take on one of these projects, it’s so gratifying once it’s all complete.

And we have more information on our website. We want to help you out with projects like these and a lot of other projects you can do yourself at And each week, right here on Today’s Homeowner. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you soon.

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

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