In the third of our six-part series, homeowner Chelsea Lipford is on a mission to give a big boost to the curb appeal of her new house by making a number of major home improvements to the exterior of the house.

Framing up the front porch on the First Time Homeowner house.
Framing up the front porch on the First Time Homeowner house.

Exterior Home Improvements

Our makeover of the exterior of the house included:

  • Removing cedar tree and shrubs.
  • Adding a new front porch.
  • Roofing the house with asphalt shingles, and installing a solar powered attic vent fan from Broan.
Solar powered roof vent fan.
Solar powered roof vent fan.
  • Blowing cellulose insulation into the wall cavities, and sealing any cracks with spray foam.
  • Removing the old asbestos siding, making sure to take the proper safety precautions.
  • Using the Dream Designer website, which allows you upload a photo of your house to visualize how it will look with different styles and colors of vinyl siding.
Installing decking with hidden fasteners.
Installing decking.
  • Installing a Schlage Camelot entry door handleset with an aged bronze finish and Schlage Keypad deadbolt.
  • Replacing the existing deck with new pressure treated decking with the CAMO hidden deck fastening system and stainless steel screws.
  • Roofing and siding the garage, as well as installing a garage door.
Completed exterior of First Time Homeowner house.
Completed exterior of First Time Homeowner house.

Other Tips from This Episode

Tying string on trash can and lid.

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Keeping Up with Trash Can Lids

To keep the lids to your trash cans from becoming lost, run a 4’ long piece of thin rope through a hole in the trash can lid, then tie a knot in it to hold it in place. Tie the other end of the rope to the trash can handle. As an extra precaution, write your street number on the inside of the lid for easy identification.

Ryobi 24-Volt Cordless Trimmer/Edger

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Ryobi 24-Volt Cordless Trimmer

The Ryobi 24-Volt Cordless Trimmer/Edger has an auto feed head and converts from trimmer to edger in seconds. It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery that can recharge in less than an hour with a run time of an hour per charge. The Ryobi Cordless Trimmer/Edger is available at The Home Depot.

Weep hole in brick wall.

Ask Danny Lipford:
Sealing Weep Holes in Brick

The small openings between the bricks near the bottom of a brick house are called weep holes and are used to allow moisture to drain out of the wall and air to circulate. Never fill weep holes with solid material like caulking or mortar, but you can insert strips of fiberglass screen wire or scouring pad into the weep holes to keep insects out.

Our exterior makeover of the First Time Homeowner house included:

  • Adding a porch portico to the front of the house.
  • Replacing the roofing.
  • Installing a solar powered attic vent fan from Broan.
  • Removing the asbestos siding.
  • Adding cellulose insulation in the walls.
  • Installing Exterior Portfolio vinyl siding and trim.
  • Replacing the windows with insulated glass window units.
  • Installing new exterior doors with Schlage locksets and deadbolts.
  • Replacing the existing deck with a composite deck and CAMO hidden fasteners.

Read episode article to find out more.

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re making big changes to the outside of this 70-year-old cottage as our First Time Homeowner series shifts into high gear with a full-scale exterior makeover. Can you say curb appeal?

We’re right in the middle of our six-part First Time Homeowners series. My daughter Chelsea has just bought her first house. She’s moved in, and is learning the ropes of homeownership and improvement. Since we started following this process with the camera, people in the home improvement business have gotten interested and wanted to help out. So, with a break on materials and a dad with a construction company, Chelsea’s dream projects are coming together sooner than she had imagined. And since you’re along for the ride, you’re getting an up-close look at what that entails.

Whether your budget allows you to tackle one or all of them. But right now Chelsea’s in the middle of making some really big decisions. First of all, 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. Removing that tree and some of these larger shrubs will also help this house look not quite so short and squatty. In fact, Chelsea has another idea to add some character that may help add some height, too.

Chelsea Lipford: I would like to add a front porch. I don’t know how easy or hard that would be. But I just think it would make it look cozy.

Danny Lipford: It would be kind of limited though if you think about it. Because you’ve got the set back. You know, you may only be able to add 12 or 14 inches there. You think that’s enough?

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, that’s all I need. Yeah. I mean, I like that one, how they have the two chairs and then there’s enough leg room.

Danny Lipford: And the gable roof, you see what that might allow is having that gable roof up here can make this thing seem a little… A little taller.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Besides adding a new porch, we know we’ll be replacing these old inefficient, single pane windows thanks to our friends at Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors. Once we add a few changes to the garage and the aging deck to our list, Chelsea gets busy with the legwork.

Shea Pettaway: Okay, well, tell me the reason why you want to change them.

Danny Lipford: At the local Home Depot the millwork pro, Shea, helps her decide on the particulars of her new Jeld-Wen windows.

Chelsea Lipford: Looking for something energy efficient, a little more maintenance-free.

Shea Pettaway: Okay, good. Let me tell you, we do have something on offer for you. Jeld-Wen has a premium vinyl window that’s going to give you a good insulation onto your home.

Danny Lipford: And for even more efficiency and character the folks at Exterior Portfolio are hooking Chelsea up with brand new solid core siding. Choosing the new siding and accessories is really easy because Exterior Portfolio has an online design tool called Dream Designer, which lets you upload a picture of your home and then try out a variety of options for siding, trim, and tons of architectural details. Visualizing these changes is always difficult for homeowners and this tool removes the uncertainty.

Sharon Lipford: Oh, wow.

Chelsea Lipford: Looks a lot different.

Danny Lipford: You can even order a sample board that combines your selections so there’s no guesswork at all.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, that looks really good.

Sharon Lipford: That does look good.

Chelsea Lipford: But this is the…

Sharon Lipford: So, that’s what they’ll send you?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, and that’s on the back of it is my house with everything mapped out.

Danny Lipford: My excavation contractor Wesley May, is bringing by his backhoe to jumpstart the removal of those trees and shrubs. But there’s still plenty to be done by hand. Yeah, there needs to be a mountain of this stuff trimmed out, honey. That’s an ugly bush.

Chelsea Lipford: Well, you know what? We might say the same thing about you. But we still keep you around.

Danny Lipford: She’ll end up cutting that down, I guarantee it.

Chelsea Lipford: What?

Danny Lipford: I didn’t say nothing.

Chelsea Lipford: I heard you whispering and then you look at me like that.

Danny Lipford: Once the overgrown landscaping is cleared we can start work on the small front porch we’re adding. At the outset, the weather isn’t cooperating as we cut into the old roof to begin the process of framing the new gable. But eventually, we get some clear skies so we can finish framing the porch. Chelsea even has some samples of the new materials to help flesh it out.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay, this is the siding color I chose. So, that’s… And this is the trim that’ll be around the windows and the soffits and stuff.

Danny Lipford: And you chose white windows as well.

Chelsea Lipford: Right, right.

Danny Lipford:  Great.

Chelsea Lipford: So, and this will…

Danny Lipford: And this will be the shake.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, it’ll go up on the…

Danny Lipford:  It’ll be up on the gable.

Chelsea Lipford: And probably the same color for the shutters.

Danny Lipford: Oh, I got you.

Chelsea Lipford: So, to kind of tie that in.

Danny Lipford: And then, we got…

Chelsea Lipford: The shingle.

Danny Lipford: That’ll go up above it. I think it’s great. Now, that the weather is clear the roofers can get to work removing the old, worn-out shingles so they can be replaced with the new ones Chelsea has selected. Now, while they’re busy making sure this place stays dry, let’s check in with Joe Truini for a simple solution you can use at your house.

Joe Truini: Here’s a tip I got from my brother-in-law, Michael who lives in Florida. There’s a way to keep your trash can lids from being separated and lost from the trash cans themselves. Start with a length of nylon cord, about four feet long, and tie a knot in one end. Then take the other end and feed it through the lid itself. Now, this lid had holes in it already, but if yours doesn’t, you can just drill them with a quarter-inch diameter bit.

Then take the other end of the cord and just tie it to the handle of the can. What you’re doing of course, is just latching the lid to the can itself so that they don’t get separated. And again, with four feet of cord that’s plenty of room for the collector to drop the lid, dump out the trash and put it back. Now, the additional tip that in case these do get separated, additional tip is to write your house number right on the underside of the lid. This way, if they do get separated maybe the neighbor will return it.

Danny Lipford: The exterior makeover on my daughter Chelsea’s house is well under way. We’ve added a small front porch to give the front facade some height and character. And the tired old roof has been replaced with new shingles. The roof of the old garage out back got a little more attention. In fact, we removed it completely so we could frame a new one that’s much sounder.

Now that Chelsea’s picked out her siding, it’s time to get the house ready for the installation of that siding. Now, this is a very brittle type of material. I’ve worked with it a lot over the years. And if you try to install vinyl sidings over this it breaks up, falls down and can make the siding look so bad once it’s all done. So, what we’re going to do is remove all of the siding all the way back to the original sheathing, then we’re going to pump insulation in these outside walls, because with a older house like this, that has no insulation in the outside walls at all. Then we’ll be installing a house wrap over that for even more insulation value.

Now, it’s kind of misty out here right now which really plays to our favor because this siding contains a bit of asbestos. And part of the precautions in removing asbestos is to keep it nice and damp. That’s because the greatest danger of this material comes from breathing the dust. So, once they’ve suited up in protective gear they’ll soak the wall with a solution of water and liquid soap to keep it damp, suppressing the dust.

As the pieces come off the wall they’re soaked again before they are bagged and taped so that they can be disposed off safely. Once all the siding is down we can start insulating these old walls. And we’re doing that from the outside by drilling holes in the exposed sheathing and pumping the insulation in.

Chelsea Lipford: This is so cool.

Danny Lipford: Now see, every 16 inches you see you got the joist, the studs there. And he’s pumping it in. It’ll just filter on up. You know, usually these houses will have fire-blocking, a horizontal blocking through there. But which…

Chelsea Lipford: Mine doesn’t?

Danny Lipford: I don’t know why, but I’m glad it doesn’t. The insulation is going into those cavities as a loose cellulose being pumped from a large truck-mounted hopper. The smaller voids will be sealed with spray foam to stop drafts around openings.

Danny Lipford: Do you remember we were talking about how you’re selecting the windows?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: And what were you thinking?

Chelsea Lipford: I was thinking of putting two to fill in the hole. Not thinking that you could reframe the room and put in a…

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I know. Well, because if you put in the two…

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah?

Danny Lipford: Then, That’s a little over four-foot. The window would be that small.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: You know two of those. And it just wouldn’t look right or wouldn’t look original, because this was an old porch, obviously, because of the beaded-board ceiling. To avoid that awkwardness, we’re modifying the openings of some of these windows so we can put in consistently-sized windows all around the house.

The windows in back that are already done look incredible. This is what I want to see back here, with this triple window here. Now, tell me that doesn’t look a whole lot better.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah. That looks so good.

Danny Lipford: It had before, what like four…

Chelsea Lipford: It had four… …

Danny Lipford: or five ‘ol nasty wooden windows that didn’t work. That looks pretty darn good. I’ll tell you what we could do while they’re handling all of that chaos out front. We should get some tools here and go ahead and tear all the handrails off, the deck boards. We’ll get an idea of how that deck’s going to be.

Chelsea Lipford: I call the sledgehammer.

Danny Lipford: All right, let’s get the tools. This kind of demolition is an area where a novice homeowner can save some money on a renovation.

Chelsea Lipford: Here’s your sledgehammer.

Danny Lipford: Plus, it doesn’t require any special tools or skills. But it is important to be careful because demolition is where most construction accidents happen.

Chelsea Lipford: Show off. Whee! Hey, you told me to hit it slow.

Danny Lipford: I’m more experienced.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, okay.

Danny Lipford: When my father-in-law drops by to check the progress my do-it-yourself daughter becomes a tour guide for her grandfather while I’m left to finish the deck all by myself. Back around front, after the insulation holes are plugged the house wrap goes up and Joe starts installing the windows. These vinyl units from Jeld-Wen won’t transfer heat like the old metal windows. The space between the panes is filled with argon gas, which is much less conductive than air. Add to that the low-E coating, and these are some highly efficient windows. They’re also impact-resistant. So, Chelsea won’t have to worry about boarding up her windows during hurricane season.

But all of that is pointless if they aren’t sealed well during installation. So, the guys are using butyl-based flashing tape to make sure each opening is air and water-tight. The entry doors on this house are pretty weather-beaten so Jeld-Wen sent us a few doors to replace them. The front door is a craftsmen-style fiberglass door. That means the skin is a blend fiberglass, polyurethane and recycled natural materials which can be stained to look just like wood. Then the core is filled with polyurethane foam to make it extremely efficient. While we keep things moving here…

Chelsea Lipford: Brought some refreshments.

Danny Lipford: Why don’t you check in on Jodi at The Home Depot for this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: You know what, I think I like this one. Now, if you’re in the market for a trimmer/edger look no further than right here. This is the latest by Ryobi. Now, let’s start right up here at the top. First of all, it’s got a 24-volt lithium ion battery. You’re going to get a lot of power with this battery. It can charge up in less than an hour. And the run time is about an hour. So you can get a lot done in that time.

It’s got a variable speed trigger, so I can adjust my speed here. It’s got an ergonomically correct handle, so it’s not going to strain my back to move this thing around. And of course, right here, the trimmer. It’s got an automatic feed, so there’s no bumping. And the nice thing is you can adjust the string from 11 inches all the way out to 13 inches.

But take a look and see how easy it is to switch it over to an edger if you need it. Locks right into place and you are ready to go. So, if you are in the market for a trimmer/edger look no further than right here. This is a good deal.

Danny Lipford: Our exterior makeover project is gaining steam. The house now has a new roof, new windows and doors all around. Now, we just need to add the new siding.

While we’re waiting for the installation team to get here, the other work continues. The new front porch is wrapped with bricks that match the home’s foundation. And our carpenters are right on the masons heels adding the columns for the front porch and trimming them out.

When the siding crew arrives the Exterior Portfolio factory rep is with them and he gives me some of the inside scoop on this stuff. Joel, I know you guys must get some great response off of this siding.

Joel Davidson: Oh, we absolutely do, Danny. It’s an incredible product.

Danny Lipford: And then over here, with having the foam backing for the moisture barrier and a little extra R-value, that’s awesome.

Joel Davidson: It gives your home a drainage plane. It gives a place where the home can let the moisture out.

Danny Lipford:  And then all of your accent pieces… I always love to see the shakes like this. I know she’s planning on using these up on the gable there. And seeing that in contrast with the siding…

Joel Davidson: The beautiful cabin brown, and that is the single eight Portsmouth Shake. And when you put those together giving that staggered texture, it’s just going to be beautiful on there.

Danny Lipford: And then this is going to be embedded in the gables as well. So, you have that.

Joel Davidson: Yeah. And then in addition, she’s going to be using a three-and-a-half-inch lineal to give the old-wood window look.

Danny Lipford: Man, what…

Joel Davidson: That needs to be done.

Danny Lipford: What a great combination. And even that’s insulated.

Joel Davidson: Absolutely. So, yeah. She’ll have a fully insulated home on the outside of it.

Danny Lipford: Boy, it’s perfect. I know something else that I think is pretty cool. They’re putting up some of the soffit pieces over here now. And I noticed how… This is a little bit different than what I’ve seen in the past. Where it’s basically all of the ventilated slots are kind of hidden there.

Joel Davidson: Exactly. This is a hidden vent soffit. And what’s really cool about this is your ventilation is up into the break of the soffit. So, it’s hidden, but it gives you the net free air space that’s required for the intake ventilation.

Danny Lipford: That air intake is important because we’re installing a solar-powered attic ventilator on the roof to exhaust the warm, moist air that builds up in attics. Because this one from Broan is solar-powered there’s no need to wire a separate circuit. More importantly, it’ll come on each morning when the sun rises to start moving fresh air through the attic before the heat has a chance to build up. And it’ll do all of that without adding a penny to Chelsea’s utility bill.

Speaking of utility bills, that foam backing on the siding that Joel showed me it adds a 2.5 R-value all over the house. But it also makes the siding more rigid so it looks more like real wood. The trim pieces that wrap the windows, corners, and just below the soffit also help create the authentic look of traditional materials without the upkeep.

In fact, Joe Truini dropped by to take the tour while it was going up. And, well, let’s just say if you can impress Joe, you’ve really done something.

Joe Truini: So all new vinyl windows, vinyl sidings. So it’s going to be pretty maintenance-free, which is nice.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Joe Truini: You don’t want to be scraping and repainting if you don’t have to.

Chelsea Lipford: No.

Joe Truini: I love the wide trim boards. You don’t often see this on vinyl siding, right? And this is vinyl, right? The foam on the back? It’s going to be like living in a cooler, right?

Chelsea Lipford: Or heater.

Danny Lipford: In the backyard the old deck we demoed is being replaced by new, more sturdy one. And out front, the details, like shutters are being installed on the newly completed siding. Now, the shutters have made such a big difference on the outside of the house, what a great before-and-after picture.

Actually Chelsea’s coming over right now to see it for the first time since the shutters have been up. Anxious to see her reaction on that. You know, Chelsea’s been really lucky to have a lot of help from a lot of great companies to get us to this point. Now, it’s time for her to take care of a few odds and ends. Look at that. What do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: Wow! It looks awesome.

Danny Lipford: There’s plenty of general cleanup to be done. Plus the old brick foundation needs a good clean. And the old, rusty foundation vents need a fresh coat of paint. Chelsea’s also prepping that new front door so she can brush on some gel coat stain. Then she’s using the same shade on the porch rail to tie it all together.

Meanwhile the garage door is going in out back, and David, the siding installer, is back to add the final touches. Like the gable vents and the matching caulk sealant around the windows and doors. Titebond makes this stuff in nearly 200 colors, so David can match the siding perfectly.

Once the front door is dry Chelsea’s itching to put on the new lock set folks at Schlage sent us. It’s going to look great. But instead of an ordinary deadbolt this unit includes a combination lock. That’s a big deal to Chelsea because, as a runner, it means she won’t have to worry about taking a key when she goes out for a run or forgetting the key and getting locked out.

Steven Asks: What should I use to fill the small holes in my brick walls?

Danny Lipford: The holes you’re talking about that you’ll find around the perimeter of a brick home are called weep holes. Now, these are very important and can’t be sealed up because bricks always hold moisture and store moisture. So, you need some place for that moisture to escape and air to circulate. Now, if you’re concerned that insects may use that to get inside your home, well, here’s something you can do there.

You can find some fiberglass screens. Readily available, very inexpensive. You can just cut small pieces of it like this and then just force it into the crack to keep the insects out. Another way is to use a scouring pad like this. Again, cut small sections of it and insert it right in the crack. But you don’t want to use anything that has metal in it, because sooner or later it’ll rust.

Danny Lipford: From the beginning Chelsea knew an exterior makeover for this 70-year-old house would make a big difference. What wasn’t hidden by overgrown trees and shrubs lacked any real character. And it had more than its share of maintenance issues that needed attention. But no one, including me, expected that transformation to be this outrageous.

The new porch gable gave the house the proportion it desperately needed. And the addition of a new siding with its detailed trim and accessories amplifies the clean lines of this house. The new windows and the doors help with that, too. Especially since they’re all consistently-sized now. Oh, what a great before-and-after picture. You know, Chelsea told me that the neighbors have been dropping by, paying a lot of compliments to how much different the house looks now than it did when she first bought it.

But we’re not finished yet. Next week, we’ll be renovating the bathroom. After that, the kitchen. Then we’ll be back outside to do a little yard renovation with a modest landscaping project we’ll be taking on. And that’ll finish up our First Time Homeowner’s series.

I hope you’ll join us each week right here on Today’s Homeowner. Hey, I liked the idea you had here to stain the top rail.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, thanks. I like it. It’s the same color as the front door, so they really tie-in nicely together.

Danny Lipford: Uh-huh. Sure does.

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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