In this episode we take a look at both large remodeling projects and simple home upgrades to give you ideas to help you improve your home – regardless of your budget.

Danny Lipford in front of house with remodeled porch.

Project #1: Open House Remodel

The homeowners started with a dark gloomy foyer and an unused formal living room. We removed the wall leading into the formal living room, enlarged the cased opening between the formal living room and dining room and created a 13-foot cased opening between the formal living room and den to create a nice, big open floor plan for the homeowners. We also discuss and work through the challenges of finding unexpected plumbing in the walls.

Project #2: Exterior Porch Addition

This homeowner had always wanted a front porch she could really enjoy and the existing stoop porch just wasn’t what she had in mind. Instead we built a 7’wide x 22’long porch with gable roof. Along the way we also discussed the importance blending the old or existing exterior with the new via roofing material, siding, etc. Even the porch handrails were planned to match the character of the architecture of the older home. We also painted the entire exterior to really clean up the home and give it a new face.

Project #3: Curb Appeal

The screening and wrought iron on this front porch were really unattractive and didn’t fit the character of the home. We made quite an improvement by getting rid of both the screening and the wrought iron and in their place added porch rails and handrails for the concrete steps. With a new paint job the exterior looks brand new. What had been a liability quickly became the biggest asset to this home’s curb appeal.

Project #4: Interior Enhancements

This small dining room was attractive but the homeowner wanted an updated look without spending a fortune. To dress up the space we installed crown molding, a ceiling medallion for the light fixture and wainscoting. We dramatically improved the look of the room and added value to the home.

Producer's Notes from Allen Lyle

Hidden Surprises

It’s not uncommon to start a remodeling project and, once demolition begins, discover some hidden damage or a surprise, as we did with the cast iron pipe running through the wall we removed. This is a really good time to drive home the fact that with ANY remodeling project you should figure some extra cash in your budget for those unexpected surprises. Good communication before a project begins is vital to a successful relationship between homeowner and contractor.

All changes to the original contract should be in writing with the extra cost clearly spelled out. These revisions are known as Change Orders, and don’t get caught off guard when they pop up. I think one of the most common changes I’ve dealt with on a job site is hidden rot or, sometimes, termite damage that you simply don’t know about until a wall or other sheathing is removed. It happens. Being ready for it beforehand can help save you a lot of aggravation and grief.

Porch Paint

Whenever you’re painting a surface that you walk on, such as the porch the homeowner painted in this episode, make sure you are using a paint specific for your surface. Almost every paint manufacturer makes porch paint, but some are made for wood porches and not concrete or vice versa.

The nice thing about porch paint is that, unlike other paint, you don’t have to apply a primer coat. However, if the paint is going to be applied to a surface that is susceptible to wet weather, especially if you’re applying it to steps, then you can add a non-skid material to the paint before applying. It’s like pouring sand into the bucket of paint and stirring it up.

This allows you to have the same look of the enamel paint, but creates grittiness, similar to sandpaper, to the surface so you won’t slip and fall in case the area is wet or icy due to Mother Nature.

Urethane Molding

They say that money doesn’t grow on trees, well; it seems that neither does the new generation of moldings. The crown molding installed in the dining room is a manmade urethane product, and definitely worth the extra cost. These molded polymer products are comparable to the density of white pine with the advantage they are virtually maintenance free, do not crack, warp, deteriorate, or become the target of insect infestations.

They may be specified for either interior or exterior use. They also tolerate a wide range of temperatures from freezing cold to desert heat. The one drawback is really more of an education issue for the carpenter or homeowner who has never installed any.

The most common mistake I have seen is from a carpenter who is accustomed to wood molding trying to install the urethane product with a nail gun. Yes, it can be done, but because this product is so much softer, a nail gun that is set to drive the nail down can actually go all the way through and even damage the urethane molding.

If you insist on using an air gun, you need to set the depth gauge to a lighter pressure and experiment by nailing a scrap piece onto a 2×4. Otherwise you may wind up with an awful lot of unnecessary holes to putty.

Other Tips From This Episode

Screwing right angle bracket to bookcase and wall.

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Secure Tippy Furniture

Every year, several thousand kids are injured by falling furniture. The solution is to fasten tip-prone furniture to the wall. You can simply drive screws through the back of the chest or bookcase into studs or use L brackets to secure the furniture to the wall. (Watch This Video)

NuTone Bath Fan Upgrade Kit

Best New Products with Danny Lipford:
NuTone Bath Fan Upgrade Kit

In the past, upgrading to a new quiet bath fan meant replacing the existing housing and sometimes even the ductwork, causing more work and money than many homeowners wanted to deal with. The new bath fan upgrade kit from NuTone comes with everything you need to transform your old fan into a quiet modern fan. Because there’s no replacing the housing or ductwork it can be done in about ten minutes. The NuTone bath fan upgrade kit is available at The Home Depot for less than $30.

Mulch in garden.

Around the Yard, Tricia Craven Worley:
Choosing Mulch for Your Garden

There are many different types of mulch for your yard and garden from fine mulches, like shredded leaves, to coarse mulch, such as pine bark and ground wood. For flower beds use a fine mulch that will decompose. For paths or around trees and shrubs, use a coarser mulch.

Watch this video to see how we tackled four different home improvement projects:

    • Remove Walls: To open up this house, we removed several walls to really open up the space. In addition, we replaced the flooring with glued down, engineered hardwood. The project also included some unexpected plumbing problems when pipes were found in the wall.
    • Replace Front Porch: We replaced the cramped front stoop on this house with a more expansive porch to enhance the appearance and functionality of the home. The floor was scored diagonally to add interest to the concrete slab.
    • Remodel Existing Porch: The screening and wrought iron railings on the porch on our next house were removed to improve curb appeal. A wood hand rail was also added to enhance the appearance.
  • Add Interior Moldings: To dress up a dining room, we installed urethane crown molding with miterless corner blocks, a ceiling medallion on the light fixture, and beadboard wainscoting on the walls.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at not one, but four very simple projects to improve your home inside and out.

I just love the character of an older home. Now, this week we’re packing in four different projects, two for the outside and two for the inside. Now, we’ll move inside on a project where we’re removing a number of walls to really open up a floor plan. Then on another project we’re enhancing the look of an older dining room by installing crown molding and some nice looking wood wainscoting. And on that same house, we’re drastically improving the look of the front of the house by modifying an existing front porch. Then on another project we’ll add a front porch and entry way that makes such a difference on the curb appeal of a home. Get ready it’s going to be a busy show.

This week we’re looking at a number of remodeling projects that were designed to update the look of an older existing home. Now the first one we’ll look at in this 40-year-old made such a difference in the flow of traffic and just the general feel of the interior by removing a number of interior walls.

The first wall we removed right here that created this dark kind of a gloomy foyer, not a very inviting feeling when you came over to visit, so that wall being removed made such a difference in opening it up to the rest of the house. Another wall we removed, which was fairly difficult, was this interior center wall that was a load bearing wall. So we had a lot to deal with there, but look what a difference it made here by opening this space up between the den and the more formal living area.

I know a lot of homeowners realize that you just simply don’t use these more formal areas but by incorporating it in with the rest of the floor plan you tend to use it a lot more while still keeping it kind of separate with the different furniture groupings that you have.

Now removing any wall is a little tricky, but removing this one proved to be quite a challenge. At the outset, things were going pretty much according to plan. We measured and marked the locations for the cased opening on the existing wall and then went ahead and removed all of the trim so we could start drawing out the exact locations where the walls would be cut.

With that done we were pretty much ready to start tearing out drywall which is usually the fun part. It’s dusty and noisy but it’s a great way to unload your frustrations. Except this time we discovered a surprise inside the wall. Right in the middle of the space we wanted to open up was a cast iron pipe. It turned out to be the sewer drain line for an upstairs bathroom. I had to make some pretty quick phone calls, first to the plumber for a little help and then to the homeowner to explain that the project just got a little more complicated.

Meanwhile the guys moved their focus to the other walls that were coming out, the one between the formal living room and dining room and the one between the living room and the foyer. Because the foyer wall wasn’t supporting a load overhead or concealing any pipes thankfully, it came out quickly. We also removed the doorway between the foyer and the den since it wouldn’t be needed any longer.

Things were looking a lot better but we still needed a plan for that sewer line and Artie our plumber had one.

Artie McGowan: Well we’re going to take this sanitary line here, roll it back down into the slab as well as the water lines where we reconnect and join those underneath the slab. Bring them underneath here back over to this chase. As we go up this chase here we’ll get into the joists and cross the line back over and come back to this existing bathroom and reconnect it and get the sewer running again.

Danny Lipford: Before Artie can do his magic we had to break up the slab around the pipe with a jack hammer. This extra work plus Artie’s creative pipe routing added about $2000 to the budget but once the trench was filled with new concrete and our beam was in place over the opening we were back on track.

There were a few odds and ends to take care of like cleaning up the ceiling joists in the foyer, putting in another beam to replace the dining room wall and removing the old paneling that had covered the walls of the den before our drywall hangers arrived to cover up the voids with brand new wall boards. As the drywall was being finished the place really began to take on a new feel. More open, more bright, the owners were really going to love this place.

Adding the new trimwork started to unify these different spaces but the real thing that tied it all together was the addition of the hardwood floors. Because this house was built on a slab, we used an engineered wood floor that could be glued down directly to the concrete. The glue holds the boards down and the tongue and groove joinery holds them together.

This type of flooring is very often installed prefinished so that there’s no sanding once it’s all in place. But the owners of this house chose unfinished oak so that they could get exactly the shade of stain they wanted. The wider six-inch planks help to make the newly opened space seem even larger than it actually was.

Now, although there’s no hard and fast rule, the most common way to orient wood floors is this way, with the boards running parallel to the longest walls to enhance the feeling of space. These wood floors were a great addition to this house, but the removal of all those walls really made a terrific change to this home.

I tell homeowners all the time we remove more wall these days than we actually build, but you can see why it’s so popular because it’s such a positive result. Now, another wall we removed was the wall between the dining room and the formal living room and I kind of question why you would ever need a wall here anyway. It just has a much better feeling just to have it open like it is now. And the furniture placement, as well as the area rugs, kind of define the use of the room. And the homeowners have done a great job with all of the decorating and their personal touches.

Now, let’s go to another location where we have an outside project that completely changed the look of the front of the home.

Joe Truini: Tall pieces of furniture, like this bookcase, have become extremely popular because they take up very little floor space and yet they provide plenty of storage. The problem is they tend to be a bit top heavy and they can topple over and hurt someone. When my kids were younger they were like monkeys and they climbed on everything and a piece like this could be a danger.

So your first instinct might be to screw it to the wall by going through the back, but cabinets like this typically have a quarter-inch plywood back, which is not sufficient enough. You could still just pull it over and rip the back right off.

So what I suggest is you get a couple of metal angle irons, these little brackets, and tip the piece forward and screw it down into the top of cabinet and then simply use a nice long screw and drive it through the top of the bracket and right into the wall. Now you want to try to catch a wall stud for the strongest hold but if you don’t then use a toggle type fastener. And we can put one more in and then add another bracket on the other side, you have no fear of a piece like this toppling over and injuring someone.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at a number of fairly modest projects that can make a big difference on the look of your home, both inside and out. Now you hear real estate agents talking all the time about the importance of curb appeal when you’re trying to sell your home, and certainly that’s a very important consideration. But basically any home improvement project that you do, you want it to add value to your home and certainly add to the attractiveness of the home.

Well Patsy Smith, a homeowner here, always wanted a front porch on her house but she was concerned that building a front porch might really detract from the overall look of the home. So she worked with a draftsman on a couple different designs and she chose one that fits very nicely into the character and the architectural style of the home and it made a big difference on the look of this home.

What we started with here was a nice neat little house but the tiny little stoop of a porch didn’t give it that welcoming feeling that Patsy wanted it to have. So the first step was to clear out the area that the new porch would occupy. That space included the old porch so it had to go but removing even that small section of roof would’ve left the house vulnerable to the weather for quite a while.

So we braced up the old roof to keep it in place as long as possible while we began removing the columns and the brick steps beneath it. The new porch would also be brick but it would begin with footings for the block walls that concrete would be poured into. Around the slabs the brick masons laid new brick which matched the brick already on the house and then we used the same bricks to create a nice, wide, inviting set of stairs.

To give the concrete floor of the porch a little character we laid out a diagonal pattern on it and then cut shallow grooves into the surface to imitate the look of a tile floor. Then we covered it up to protect our work while the framing got underway. With a few days of good weather predicted we felt safe to go ahead and begin removing the old porch roof and the roof overhang on the front of the house so we could tie in the new structure into the existing one.

The old porch went out with a bang and the new one began as the outer beams of the porch were established, they were supported by temporary braces and secured to the front wall of the house.

Next the ceiling joists were added. As the name implies, these joists are intended to support the ceiling of the porch but at this stage they also kept the outer beam from bowing in or out over its 22-foot length. The joists were spaced every 16 inches and tapered down on the house side to minimize the demolition that would be necessary there.

The first two rafters and the ridge board went up next and they establish the basic height, size, and shape of the new roof. As part of our effort to blend in the new porch in with the older house, we left the bottom end of the rafters, or the rafter tails, exposed and cut them at the same angle as the ones on the house.

We also used one-by-eights to deck the roof around the perimeter for the same reason. Where the decking would be concealed above the porch ceiling, we used less expensive sheets of oriented strand board. To complete the deception we re-roofed all of the adjoining sections of the home’s roof with the same shingles we were using on the porch roof.

Trim is another detail that often gives away additions so we were careful to match the size and thickness of our new materials to those already on the house. Even new elements like the porch handrails were planned to match the character of the architecture on this older home. Next all of this new wood had to be primed before the whole house was cleaned and it got a brand new paint job. The new colors alone would’ve really helped this house out but combined with this new porch, what an improvement.

Since we finished this project a couple months ago, Patsy planted some great looking plant out from and I love the statue right in the middle of it all. Now landscaping is something that will always add value to your home and certainly make the front of a home like this a lot more attractive.

Now, she also purchased some very comfortable wicker furniture and she said she uses the porch all of the time, and the neighbors are starting to drop by almost every afternoon. Hey, coming up we’ve got a couple of very simple projects that either one of the projects could be done in just one weekend.

If you have an old exhaust fan in your bathroom, it’s probably not only noisy but maybe even a little unattractive. In the past, upgrading to a new quieter bath fan meant replacing the entire housing and sometimes the ductwork causing more work and money than many homeowners wanted to deal with.

This new fan upgrade kit from NuTone comes with everything you need to transform that loud unattractive fan into a quiet modern fan, and because there’s no replacing the housing or ductwork it can be done in about 10 minutes. The kit replaces specific fan models and in just 4 easy steps you’re on your way to a new fan.

Just remove the old grill, remove the old fan assembly, attach the new fan and motor assembly to the new motor plate, and lastly install the new motor assembly and new grill. For less than $30, it’s money well spent.

So far we’ve looked at a couple projects that would require the involvement of a contractor and would take several weeks to complete, and of course a little bit of money along the way. I realize not everybody has a budget to spend a lot of money on their home, but there’s still some very simple things you can do that’ll just make you like your house a lot more.

That’s the case with this home that’s about the same age as Patsy Smiths home that we looked at earlier, and we recently helped these homeowners with a couple projects that didn’t cost a lot of money and didn’t take a lot of time.

The first one was a rehab of the front porch which detracted from the home’s curb appeal instead of adding to it. The screening and the rod iron were so unattractive and just didn’t fit the character of the house at all.

We began by removing all of this stuff and the rod iron was the first thing to go. It was obviously difficult to keep it painted because it was so rusty. The screen walls were made from two-by-twos and were a little flimsy from the age and the weather, as we removed more and more of the screen the benefits of this project became more and more evident. What had been a very dark little porch was going to be much brighter and more open without all of the screens.

We also removed the two columns in the middle, since their primary purpose was just to support the screen door. We reset them at the width of the stairs to support our new handrails. The rails were a simple combination of two-by-fours and two-by-twos, which we assembled in sections and then nailed in place between the posts.

This design was great for the simple clean look we wanted the porch to have but it was also important that the spacing of everything be consistent to pull that off. Gauged blocks between spindles and beneath the rails make that pretty easy but we also had to check a few of the existing elements, like the columns, to be sure that everything was level and square.

We also added a set of matching handrails to the concrete steps for safety and to add a little interest to the front side of the porch. When the carpentry work was done the homeowner got involved by completing the painting of the rails and the porch floor to finish the project, mission accomplished. What had been a liability to this home was quickly becoming the biggest asset to its curb appeal and a pretty cool place to hang out.

The modifications of this front porch cost about $300 in materials and took about a day and a half, but it’s far more inviting now than it was with all of the screen and rod iron that was here.

Now, one other area that the homeowners wanted to improve is their dining room, and we suggested adding some crown molding and some wood wainscoting. The small room wasn’t unattractive to start with but we wanted to give it a little more formal feel. So first we cleared out all of the decorations and furniture so we could get to work. The hardwood floors look great so we covered them all up to keep them looking that way.

The crown molding we used here was made from urethane and it came with a miterless corner block system. This system is a great one for do it yourselfers because it doesn’t demand a lot of tools or skill. You just apply a little glue to the back of the corner block; pack it in place tight to the walls and ceiling. Then we measured between the corner blocks, so we could cut the crown molding to fit the space.

To allow for expansion and contraction of the urethane molding we had to add an eighth inch for every five feet of length. This meant that after we put the glue on the backside of the molding, we had to bow it out and in to place between the blocks. Then we nailed it down working from the ends of the molding towards the middle. We also added a ceiling medallion made from the same urethane material to dress up the existing light fixture in the room.

Next, we moved on to the wainscoting. In this case we used a beadboard paneling, which we positioned beneath the existing chair rail. We primed the paneling outside before we started to minimize the mess. Then we simply measured and cut out all the pieces we needed for each area of the wall. We used an adhesive designed especially for paneling to help secure the pieces to the wall. This was especially important in areas where we couldn’t be sure if the edges would land on studs. Some of the areas around the windows and corners required us to a little extra cutting and trimming here and there but soon it was all up and we were ready to putty nail holes and paint.

The results were beautiful. The crown molding with the corner blocks raised the level of the finish in the room and the ceiling medallion helped to add that little touch of formality we were looking for. The bright white bead board not only added another texture to the room but it also brightened up the space, making it seem larger and definitely more comfortable. The work that was completed in the dining room cost about $200 in material and took 2 full days so it really filled up a weekend but it really looks a whole lot better.

Now some of the other things you can do to the outside of your home that won’t cost you a lot of money: maybe adding some shutters to a house like this, painting them a dark color would really enhance the look of the house. Flowerboxes, always a great addition, and even pressure washing sidewalks and driveways can make a big difference in the overall appearance, and as I mentioned earlier a little landscaping can go a long ways.

Now speaking of landscaping, check out this week’s Around the Yard.

Tricia Craven Worley: Choosing the right mulch for your garden is a lot like choosing the right garden tool for a job. Now, when I think about mulches, I think about all the varieties there are. There are fine mulches like shredded leaves all the way to really heavy ones like wood bark.

When I’m thinking about mulching around my flower beds or roses, I really go to something that can decompose like a shredded leaf, because after it decomposes I can just till it into the soil. Now, if I want to put something around my trees or shrubs, I’m going to go closer to a heavier bark also that would well on paths. This way after a season I can clear it away and then replenish it.

Now, also keep in mind how much area you have to cover because the larger the area maybe you want to go to a heavier bark. Also think about what you’re mulching. In this instance we have pine needles around camellias and azaleas that love acid. Depending on your area you’re going to have certain mulches available, so you want to look into it and see what’s best for you.

Danny Lipford: I really enjoyed this week’s show and I hope you did as well. You know I’ve got a pretty neat job here: helping homeowners with ideas to improve their homes, then involving them in the process, to either the concept and design or doing some or all of the work themselves allows them to really appreciate the results of their hard work.

Hey, thanks for being with and I hope you’ll join us next week as we bring you more ideas to help you around your home.

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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