We’re helping Jay Jackson and Laura Stone get their first home into shape by tackling some needed repairs and making some easy improvements.

Home improvement projects covered include:

Install Bathroom Vent Fan: We removed the noisy, old fan motor and housing and replaced it with a new NuTone Fan Upgrade Kit.

Replace Tub Caulking: See how to remove old caulking around a bathtub using a Homax Caulk Finishing Set, and replace it with Titebond Ultimate MP Sealant.

Install Wood Window Casings: To improve the look of plain drywall returns around a window, we framed the opening with wood casings.

Kitchen Tile Backsplash: See how to add a tile backsplash the easy way using SimpleMat peel-and-stick tile setting mat.

Replace Rotten Eave Boards: We removed rotten eave boards and replaced them with low maintenance cellular PVC trim boards from Royal Building Products.

Lawn Care: We used a mulching blade on a Lawn-Boy lawn mower to improve the look of the yard by cutting only 1/3 of the grass height and returning the clippings to the ground.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re helping a young couple get ready to move into their first house. Stay tuned. Whether you’re a first time homeowner or not there’s a lot to learn.

Jay Jackson: Put you to work.

Laura Stone: Yard work, my favorite.

Danny Lipford: For many of us, homeownership is just a facet of everyday life. But for a first time homeowner, it’s all new and exciting.

Laura Stone: It’s going to be hard to fit all my stuff.

Danny Lipford: So this week first time homeowners, Jay and Laura, are starting their crash course in homeownership.

Laura Stone: We loved the house, the inside and everything was more updated than others. There were actually a lot of them in our price range that were newer in those new neighborhoods, but what we didn’t like is how close proximity they were together.

Danny Lipford: And that’s certainly not a problem here. This house is only about 1,200 square feet, but it’s on an enormous shady lot. All the major appliances and ceiling fans are new.

Laura Stone: And the bathroom in the master bathroom, there is a whole new shower and everything that’s really nice.

Jay Jackson: And it was just the only house that we saw as nice as it is for the price.

Danny Lipford: Obviously, there’s no buyer’s remorse here, but what’s next?

Laura Stone: So our weekends are filled with going to different furniture stores and trying to furnish the place. And it’s been fun, especially with the bathroom stuff and everything.

Danny Lipford: Jay would like all new windows, but dressing up what’s here fits into their budget a lot better.

We could use some regular window trims, similar to what you have on the back door there.

Laura Stone: Can we actually… Do we have to put wood in here though?

Danny Lipford: Well, in some houses you have wood in there, but it’s not necessary.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Danny Lipford: Because we could actually just sand that nice and smooth, paint everything the same, nobody will ever know.

Laura Stone: Oh, okay, great. Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Sound like a good idea?

Jay Jackson: Sure. Now, Danny we’d still be able to come back later and replace that window easily if we wanted to?

Danny Lipford: Yeah, because we don’t want to do anything that you have to redo later, so, now what about the kitchen? You’ve got a pretty good-sized kitchen here.

Laura Stone: The kitchen’s very nice, yeah.

Danny Lipford: Wood cabinets, so what were your ideas in here?

Laura Stone: We’re thinking about painting this just kind of mimicking some granite here.

Danny Lipford: This is a good candidate for it because the white doesn’t really look as good as it could when you’ve got the look of these cabinets.

Laura Stone: Absolutely, right.

Danny Lipford: All right. So that’s another good weekend project. Boy, Jay, your weekends are filling up here.

Jay Jackson: They are already full. Now your weekends are filling up, too.

Laura Stone: Yes.

Danny Lipford: But, you know, one of the things that we’ve done a lot, and I see a perfect spot here, you know, when you have an area like this—lets see if it’s got a light, there you go—that’s visible from other areas of the house, if you really put some personality and a splash of color right here, with a simple backsplash.

Laura Stone: Make it a little bit more modern, right? Great.

Danny Lipford: Sure.

Jay Jackson: Now will that involve cutting any of the tile?

Danny Lipford: There will probably be a little bit of tile cutting. We can rent just a little small saw to do that, but there would probably be.

Jay Jackson: I think Laura has been dying to put on some of these.

Danny Lipford: Oh, perfect!

Laura Stone: Oh!

Jay Jackson: Safety goggles I got for her.

Danny Lipford: That’ll look good, all right. You are planning ahead. Perfect.

Laura Stone: Yes.

Danny Lipford: You should wear those for the rest of the project. What do you have, two bathrooms?

Jay Jackson: Two bathrooms, yes.

Danny Lipford: Okay, I’m interested to see what they look like. Are they in pretty good shape?

Jay Jackson: They’re in good shape. One of them has some very interesting colors.

Danny Lipford: Oh, does it?

Jay Jackson: Upstairs.

Danny Lipford: Let’s check it out.

Laura Stone: Here it is.

Danny Lipford: All right, yeah, a nice lavender. It’s not as bad though. You know, some of the older bathrooms would have like, pink or harvest gold, something like that. You could work with this I think. Now what about the other bathroom?

Jay Jackson: It’s much better. It’s right over this way.

Danny Lipford: All right, wait a minute, wait a minute, you got a little game going in here? What’s this?

Laura Stone: Well, he’s trying to prove to me that we can fit a king in here, so.

Jay Jackson: Well, we were having trouble deciding whether or not the furniture that we’ve picked out is going to fit in the room. My mom actually suggested getting Solo cups -and putting them up to outline.

Danny Lipford: All right, well, there you go.

Jay Jackson: Here’s the master bathroom. Take a listen to this.

Danny Lipford: Oh, geez. I’ve heard that a lot. I can’t stand a loud vent fan like that. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a solution to that that’ll only take about 10 minutes to fix.

Actually the solution is from Broan-NuTone and is called the bath fan upgrade kit. You don’t have to get in the attic, you don’t have to take all of the casing out. 50% quieter and 20% better in operation.

The kit includes a new cover, a fan motor assembly and two different mounting plates to adapt the motor to different size housings. Once you unplug and remove the existing motor, you match up the mounting plates and install the new motor on the plate that fits.

Pop it into the existing housing, plug it in and install the new cover. The result is a quieter, more efficient fan. Okay, now the key thing to remember is use it every time you take a shower. And really good idea to leave it on about 15 minutes after the shower is complete to get all that moisture out of here.

Jay Jackson: All right. I think I know who we need to tell that to.

Joe Truini: I was in the kitchen earlier using some silicone caulk to seal around the sink, and I thought I’d use the silicone to solve another problem and that is the slamming door.

The reason it happens is the door has self closing hinges, which are great because it pulls it closed, but once the little pads—the felt pads—wore off, you just have wood on wood. And I’ll have to come back and repair that one, but here’s another one that was slamming I repaired earlier.

What I did is I took the silicone, and I put a nice dab of silicone at the bottom corner and the top corner of the door. Then I took masking tape—this is painter’s tape—and I put some on the cabinet itself, corresponding to where the silicone would be. That’s just to keep the door from sticking right to the cabinet.

I also sprayed a little cooking oil on the tape—again to keep the silicone from sticking. And then in order to have the silicone—both silicone pads—be exactly the same thickness, I came up with this idea. It’s just a paint stick that I taped right to the cabinet. So when the doors close against this, the silicone gets squished down to the exact same thickness.

Now, we’re going to remove everything and try it out. There you go, problem solved.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re helping first-time homeowners, Jay and Laura, with some simple repairs and easy upgrades to get their home ready to move into.

Laura Stone: You don’t want to put me with the power tools.

Jay Jackson: She’s very accident-prone.

Laura Stone: Yes, sorry. I’m now telling you.

Jay Jackson: Murphy’s Law, if anything can go wrong it will go wrong.

Danny Lipford: We’re about to add some character to these simple drywall return windows. So the blinds come down and the window stools starts coming out. We’ll show you how to repair some drywall little bit later.

Then we make some careful measurements so that we can cut the new stool to fit the opening. And while we’re setting up to cut Jay finds out about payback. You have any special glasses you can wear?

Laura Stone: Uh, I think you need to be wearing these.

Danny Lipford: Oh, perfect. There you go. Come on, it’s perfect.

Jay Jackson: Uh-uh.

Laura Stone: I think so.

Allen Lyle: The snorkel comes with that one, right?

Laura Stone: Yeah, right.

Danny Lipford: Once we cut the stool to length, we mark it to fit in the window opening. That’s fool-proof right there, buddy. That way when we cut the notches, it fits like a glove. But while Jay and I are doing some real work, Allen’s just playing in the tub.

Allen Lyle: You’ve got a lot of mildew along the base here where the wall meets the tub and the caulk so we’ll get that out. And this is important that it looks nice.

Laura Stone: Right.

Allen Lyle: It’s got to look really nice. That’s why you and I are in here.

Laura Stone: And not them?

Allen Lyle: Right. So the knuckleheads are in the other room. I just got something new here, this is a caulk finishing set. We’ve got a caulk removal tool and a finishing tool.

Danny Lipford: We discovered this tool when the folks at Homax sent it along with a tub refinishing kit they asked us to try out. Caulk removal was important to that project because preparation is a big part of the refinishing process. Thankfully, Laura’s tub isn’t as ugly as the one we tried the kit on but if yours is, the spray on kit provides a pretty neat solution.

Once the old caulk is gone and the mold behind it removed, it’s time for the new sealant. Once she applies the bead of caulk, Laura sprays it with a light mist of denatured alcohol. This solvent will allow the caulk to flow more easily when she uses the finishing tool to smooth it all out. Not bad for a first time homeowner.

Laura has also been busy with an important aspect of home improvements, careful shopping, as she selected the tile for that backsplash we talked about earlier.

Laura Stone: Okay, so I like this one, because it’s got, you know, a little bit of that granite and stuff.

Home Depot Rep: You’re getting white countertops, because you could tell by the white that it’s going to look really good.

Laura Stone: Yeah.

Allen Lyle: You see, Laura, I told you they would be acting like they’re working.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, man, we got it going on here, look at this.

Allen Lyle: Looks good.

Danny Lipford: Of course it looked like that a little while ago.

Allen Lyle: Right there, right there.

Danny Lipford: Just wait till the trims are on, it’ll be great.

Allen Lyle: We’re going to put the backsplash up, all right?

Danny Lipford: All right, cool. That’s good. Once Jay and I get the stool and apron secured, we can measure it and cut the sidepieces for the window trims.

This might not be straight, but you can move this in and out and get it there, caulk it, paint it, you’d never know it.

Jay Jackson: Okay.

Danny Lipford: The consistency of this reveal is important because it allows you to disguise the fluctuations in the finish of the drywall and make it look like finished carpentry.

Meanwhile, Allen and Laura are getting started on the backsplash.

Allen Lyle: We’re going to make this real easy. I’ve got what’s called the simple mat. -You’ve used double sided tape before, right?

Laura Stone: I have.

Allen Lyle: This is like double sided tape for tile.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: It is so cool. We’re going to put it up, it’s going to stick to the wall as is. We don’t have to do any kind of mastic, no glue. We peel it off and put our tile up and grout the same day.

Laura Stone: That seems too easy.

Allen Lyle: It is. It’s real easy.

Danny Lipford: Once they create plumb lines along each side of the space, they can begin applying the simple mat to the wall. Once the mat is up they use a rubber grout float to press out any air bubbles and ensure it’s firmly attached.

Meanwhile, Jay and I are wrapping up the last piece of this window trim so we can move on to the next one. Back over in the kitchen, all that’s left is to peel the cover off the simple mat and stick up the tile.

Allen Lyle: I want to see you get real close in there because then your hair is gonna get stuck on that. I’ll be cutting it off.

Laura Stone: Which would be, yes.

Danny Lipford: Then it’s just a matter of placing the tiles on the mat, adjusting the position slightly and pressing them into place.

Laura Stone: I feel like I’m putting together a puzzle.

Allen Lyle: But look how fast it’s going together.

Laura Stone: I know.

Danny Lipford: Now once the last of the large sheets of tile are in place, they fill in the gaps in the pattern with small, individual pieces. Finally, it’s time for the grout.

Allen Lyle: I got to tell you, you’re doing it right and it just is bringing it all together.

Danny Lipford: These two have a bit of an unorthodox method for getting the grout on the float, but seems to be working. And Laura has taken to the job like a pro. In no time the backsplash is complete.

Laura Stone: That looks nice.

Allen Lyle: I think you did a good job.

Laura Stone: I think you did a good job, too.

Danny Lipford: While they’ve been busy in the kitchen, Jay and I have completed the second window and caulked and puttied both units to get them ready for paint. Okay, give ’em the brushes.

Laura Stone: Thank you.

Jodi Marks: You know I have to say I love tiling projects. And the nice thing now is you can do an ordinary tiling project and spruce it up with some designer beautiful mosaic tiles.

Look at all the different options—you’ve got glass tiles, you’ve got stone tiles. You even have these like right here that combine both of those mediums, because you’ve got glass—this is a glassy look and then this is a frosted look.

Along with this travertine right here, we’ve got three different, or four different colors actually of glass tiles mixed in with the travertine. This is a great application for your backsplash where you could then do a bullnose underneath and then have your field tiles come in underneath for a really awesome designer look.

The nice thing is it comes in a 12 by 12 sheet. You flip it over, you see the mesh, that’s what holds it in place. It’s very easy to trim this so that you can make easy cuts. This also runs through a wet saw really quickly to get nice cuts as well.

So this is just a great addition that can really spruce up your average looking tiling project.

Danny Lipford: Jay and Laura are first time homeowners and this week they’re in the middle of Home Improvement 101. So far they fixed a noisy bath fan, recaulked the tub, installed a tile backsplash and upgraded their windows with some simple carpentry work. Today it’s time to take the classroom outside.

Allen Lyle: All right, Laura, first time homeowner?

Laura Stone: Yes.

Allen Lyle: First time lawn?

Laura Stone: First time mowing the lawn.

Allen Lyle: Okay, well, let’s go over some pointers then.

Laura Stone: Great.

Allen Lyle: I like your mower, you’ve got a good one. Consider this the on/off switch.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: You can’t do anything unless this is on.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: And when you don’t want it on anymore, let go and that’s off.

Laura Stone: Safety release kind of thing?

Allen Lyle: Just a safety thing, right. So it’s not gonna be running unless you’re holding it. You’ve also got this, basically it’s a two point height adjustment system where this one lever here is operating both wheels so you don’t have to go four wheels to adjust the height.

Laura Stone: Okay, right.

Allen Lyle: When you’re cutting, you only want to cut about a third of the blade width or blade height off of the grass.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: Lot of people want to cut it really short, that actually can expose the roots and cause some problems. Now what I like is to have a mulching blade on there. What that means is it cuts it and also chews it up into little bitty-bits.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: You’ve got a choice here. You’ve got this really large bag.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: And it’s very easy to put on. There you go, but preferably I take it off. I leave that shut.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Allen Lyle: And the mulching actually will feed your lawn.

Laura Stone: Ah, okay. So it re-puts that back in there.

Allen Lyle: There you go. So, here’s the real test. On/off switch is where? All right, get behind it. Turn on. Grab this.

Laura Stone: Oh, boy.

Allen Lyle: All right? And pull.

Danny Lipford: Once again, Laura handles the job like a pro. Of course it helps out that this Lawn-Boy mower is lightweight so it handles as easily as it starts. While she takes care of the lawn, I’m getting Jay started on another chore.

So, Jay, what do you think there? Laura’s done a pretty good job mowing the grass.

Jay Jackson: Yeah. Yeah, she’s doing great. I think we’ve got a new weekend job for her.

Danny Lipford: I think that’s perfect. That’s perfect. Well, while she’s doing that, let’s get this patio cleaned.

Jay Jackson: All right.

Danny Lipford: If you’ll get the hose, hook it up. That’s the main thing to have water going to the pressure washer before you turn it on and I’ll go ahead and get the blower out here.

Once we’ve blown off the leaves and soaked the concrete with detergent, Jay starts the pressure washer and begins cleaning. He told me he’s done this a few times for his parents when he was growing up, but this time there’s no allowance money on the line, just the pride of homeownership, which seems to be a strong motivation for Jay.

Earlier, he showed me some fascia and soffit he was concerned about on the front of the house so Allen has already started tearing out the water-damaged wood so we can make the repair.

All right, man, that works out pretty well. We’ve got a little pressure washer going, we’ve got some lawn mowing going.

Allen Lyle: Good. Good.

Danny Lipford: Let’s go get a cup of coffee.

Allen Lyle: We could do that. Hey, take a look at this.

Danny Lipford: What’s going on?

Allen Lyle: Well, it looks like there’s just quite a water issue on the corner but that was really it. It was enough, though; that it flowed through here, all of this was rotten. Now, coming up this board I’ve got about seven inches and then the rot stops. And it’s solid on up here. We have a joint about 17 inches up.

Danny Lipford: I got you.

Allen Lyle: So we could stop there, just take this out, replace this.

Danny Lipford: I don’t necessarily like to stop it right there, but if the rest of that is all original and fine, we should be good.

Allen Lyle: It’s in good shape.

Danny Lipford: Well, heck, I’ll be your ground crew, I’ll be your cut man.

Allen Lyle: You’ll be my cut man?

Danny Lipford: And you give me some measurements and that’s only just a couple of pieces that we’ll need there.

Allen Lyle: Soffit, fascia, and…

Danny Lipford: Three pieces, yeah.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, three pieces is all I need.

Danny Lipford: Okay. All right, sounds good. While Allen removes the last of the rotten wood, I’m cutting replacement pieces from some cellular PVC trim boards from Royal Building Products so there’ll be no future concern of water damage.

Meanwhile, some of our lawn crew is getting a little bored with their assigned jobs.

Laura Stone: Hey, can you show me how to do that?

Jay Jackson: Hey, sure. Hold it in your right hand there. Put your left hand a little bit further out.

Laura Stone: Okay.

Jay Jackson: And then hold it about six to ten.

Laura Stone: Is this close enough?

Jay Jackson: No, that’s not close enough. So you got to get it a little bit, you can move that up a little bit.

Laura Stone: Okay, yeah.

Jay Jackson: And then just aim it down and pull the trigger.

Laura Stone: Whoa! It’s very powerful. Makes it look good though.

Danny Lipford: While those two are haggling over their jobs…

Laura Stone: Well, do you want to try mowing?

Jay Jackson: Not really. It looks like you were doing great.

Danny Lipford: …Allen and I have replaced the fascia boards and now we’re putting in a new piece of plywood to replace the soffit. Then it’s just a matter of caulking and priming.

Allen Lyle: I hate painting, I really do.

Danny Lipford: Marsha asks, “Can I lay a ceramic tile floor over a vinyl floor?”

Yes, you can, and we did that very thing on this tile floor just a couple of years ago. But because this house is on a wood subfloor, we had to do a little work to prepare the surface, and that entailed installing half-inch cement backer board.

We first applied some adhesive, put the cement backer board down, then installed a series of screws. After that we used the same type of adhesive to smooth out all of the seams to have a great smooth surface. A perfect surface to install this tile floor; and it’s held up very, very well.

Now, if your house is on a concrete slab and you have a vinyl floor. As long as that vinyl floor is adhered well to the slab—not peeling up anywhere—then you can install your tile right on top of it. Allow it to dry, apply your grout just like you would on any other type of tile installation.

Laura Stone: Yeah, I could see myself doing a little garden over here.

Danny Lipford: Jay and Laura are starting the adventure of homeownership with a great house. And this week they both picked up some skills and knowledge to go along with it.

The lawn and patio are both looking good. The soffit is repaired and ready for paint, the new backsplash looks amazing and the newly trimmed windows are a giant improvement. All right, getting everything in place, huh?

Laura Stone: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Well, I’ll tell you what. The rotten wood out front is all taken care of. We’ve got it primed, we got it painted. So, one more coat tomorrow should work out pretty well.

Laura Stone: All right.

Allen Lyle: I got to tell you, just the way you supervised Danny with the idea you had on the windows, it looks great, I think you did a great job. I’m sure you’re inspired to do a lot more. You’re first time homeowners?

Laura Stone: Yes.

Allen Lyle: So you’ve got to have your first time tool kit.

Laura Stone: Oh, nice.

Danny Lipford: Now this is a pretty modest kit, but just think of all of the power tools ahead. You know, you can buy Laura the cordless drills and all that sort of stuff, so you can have that.

One of the projects that you talked about, how you wanted to change the look of the white countertop.

Laura Stone: Yes.

Danny Lipford: Well, we have a countertop refinishing that will make those ugly white countertops look just like granite.

Laura Stone: Oh, cool!

Danny Lipford: And it’ll only take just a weekend for you guys to make that work.

Laura Stone: Perfect. Thank you!

Danny Lipford: Well, it won’t be this weekend though, because they’re gonna be really busy moving into their first home. It’s a really exciting time. Thanks so much for being with us, I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week right here on Today’s Homeowner.

Allen Lyle: I don’t think this would be a good time to scream in her ear.

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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