Find out how to tackle these four great DIY home improvement projects for under $100 each:
- Tiling over a vinyl floor
- Installing crown molding
- Adding pull-out wire baskets
- Refinish a refrigerator with stainless steel
Read episode article to find out more.
- How to Lay a Tile Floor (article)
- How to Cut and Install Crown Molding (video)
- Cool Kitchen Tricks (article)
- DIY Faux Granite Finish for Kitchen Countertops (article)
Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re exploring projects you can do for less than $100. So, if you’re ready to improve but you still haven’t won the lottery, pull up a chair, you’ll want to see this. Now, you might recognize this set of stairs from a show we did last season where we took a fairly old, ugly set of stairs and made them look a lot better and certainly made them a lot safer by applying a concrete resurfacer over the top part of the stairs. Now, this is a house that’s owned by a friend of mine, Brad, who’s done a lot of work on it over the last few months, but you’d be surprised at how many projects you can do around your home that cost less than $100 for all the materials. And we’re going to focus on a lot of those projects on this week’s show.
Now, Brad started a project this morning that is a type of project that we get a lot of emails on, and that’s how to install a tile floor over an existing wood floor. Let’s check in and see how he’s getting along on that project. The mudroom between Brad’s kitchen and back porch has some old, worn, self-adhesive vinyl tiles on the floor now. So he wants to upgrade the look and create a more durable surface. After removing the two doors that open into the space, he takes measurements for the cement backer board that has to go down first. This stuff is the crucial first step, because it isolates the tile from the wood subfloor so there’s no cracking when the wood and tile expand and contract at different rates.
A layer of thin-set adhesive goes down before the backer board, which is then secured with special screws designed to countersink into the hard surface. The seams between the pieces of backer board are coated with more thin-set and covered with mesh fiberglass tape. Finally, Brad puts one more coat of thin-set over the tape, and he’s ready to begin the tile layout.
Danny Lipford: All right, what’d you end up with here? Some kind of slate.
Brad: Slate, yeah.
Danny Lipford: This is odd looking.
Brad: Yeah, I know. I just picked that up this morning at about six o’clock.
Danny Lipford: The next step is to figure the layout, which is a little tricky since these doors aren’t quite centered. Normally, you’d start any tile job right down the middle, and then lay off from there. But here, I’m not really sure you wouldn’t want to bias it over here like this.
Brad: Yeah, I think it’ll work. And I know what you’re saying about the line not being directly in the middle. But it’s closer here than it would be if you centered it up.
Danny Lipford: Then, let’s see, as far as this distance. Let’s see, so sixty-four. So, if you laid them straight you’d have about a four-inch cut on one side or the other. So, that’s the other decision is whether or not you would want. Let’s see, with a four-inch piece you could have a four-inch piece there, a four- inch piece there, or a two and a two. What do you think?
Brad: Uh . . .
Danny Lipford: You want to flip a coin? Once we establish the two layout lines that are perpendicular to each other, we can mix more thin-set to begin laying tile. And then, like I say, as far as the selection of these pieces, since they’re kind of. There’s gonna be a random look to them, you don’t want the same kind side by side.
Brad: Yeah, some of them are more colorful than others. That one that you set there against the wall.
Danny Lipford: Which one you want? Which one you want? You want to put two of those spacers on each one. Otherwise they’ll rock back and forth.
Danny Lipford: What do you think? This one? Where?
Brad: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think it’d look all right against the wall.
Danny Lipford: From here, the process is mostly repetitive until we get to the point where we have to start cutting tiles. While I make the cuts, Brad continues applying the thin-set and laying the tiles, being careful to keep the grout lines consistent with spacers. There are a few notches to be made here and there, but, otherwise, this is a great tile project to get your feet wet. Not just because of the low cost, but because the size is manageable in terms of time spent.
Danny Lipford: Hey, Brad, when I first saw what you picked out here for the tile, I wasn’t really sure that it was gonna look right here, but with all the different colors and the textures, it really turned out well.
Brad: Yeah I think so, too. And once we get the gray grout on there, it’s gonna tie it all together.
Danny Lipford: Applying grout is less precise than laying the tile, but it does
require some effort. The idea is to rake the grout over the gaps between the tiles, forcing it in as you go, and leaving it level with the tiles’ surface. After that, it has to be cleaned several times to remove the excess grout from the surface of the tile. But the effort really pays off because once Brad’s baseboards are back in place, this mudroom has a great new look and he has only spent about $95 for tile and material.
Joe Truini: One way to mind a budget when working on home improvement projects is to get the most out of all the material you buy, even glue. Now, what most homeowners do, of course, is they just spread out glue in some lines and they stick the pieces together. But what happens, often, is you overuse the glue and you spend more time cleaning up and throwing away glue than you do actually putting the project together. So here’s a technique I came up with that works really well.
I took an expired gift card and I used a pair of decorative shears to cut this scalloped edge on it. If you look closely, you’ll see there’s little teeth on there. What that helps is to spread the glue. So, you just use the card, either way, and what you end up with is a nice, even coating of glue. And you’re not wasting any of it. The other good thing is, if you have a nice, even coating like this, it sticks a lot better. Otherwise you just have small little beads of glue. Here, you have full coverage, 100% coverage, and it sticks a lot better.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at home improvement projects you can do for under $100. Wayne and Linda Goff have been homeowners for quite a few years, and in that time they’ve made more than a few improvements. When y’all did this work in here now, what did he have you doing? Were you cutting, were you nailing, were you painting?
Linda Goff: Watching. “You missed this! And you missed that!”
Danny Lipford: Oh, you’re quality control?
Linda Goff: Yes, I am.
Danny Lipford: Today, I’m pitching in with Wayne to add some crown molding to their home office. Plenty big for an office right here, it’s pretty cool.
Wayne Goff: Yeah, it is. But we need to kind of dress it up a little bit.
Danny Lipford: Well, you put some crown molding in one of the other, you were telling me about, in the other bedroom. How you had the old dark paneling that you painted and then the crown molding back there, man, that looks great.
Wayne Goff: Yeah. And the molding in here will make a big difference.
Danny Lipford: All we need to do is get these four measurements. There’s no outside corners here, so this makes it pretty easy to square up. We’ll get these if you’ll hold the other end.
Wayne Goff: Okay, yeah.
Danny Lipford: I’ll hold on to the smart end.
Wayne Goff: Give us a number over there!
Danny Lipford: Since few walls are perfectly plumb, it’s important to take these measurements up at the ceiling for the best accuracy. Once we have the length for all four pieces, we take our notes out the miter saw, which thankfully is situated out of the rain on Wayne’s front porch. By orienting the molding against the saw fence, just like it will rest against the wall, we can make a simple 45-degree cut that will allow the pieces on adjoining walls to line up perfectly.
The tricky part is that this measurement is made along the bottom edge of the molding where it extends to the corner. So making the cut requires carefully eyeballing that mark and the blade to be sure they match. Back inside we sort out what pieces go on what walls and begin putting them in place. We’ve cut these to fit snuggly so we can force out the bow in the middle so that it closes any potential gap in the corners. Wayne’s nail gun really speeds this part up, but it’s not absolutely necessary to do the job.
Danny Lipford: See how easy that was? He’ll be able to do every room in the house now.
Linda Goff: Now, okay good.
Danny Lipford: But you’re gonna have to be the cut lady out there doing all the cutting.
Linda Goff: Oh, okay.
Danny Lipford: All he needs is pick up a few paying gigs and you can do the whole place.
Wayne Goff: We work cheap here.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, that’s right. While Wayne and I put in caulk to get the new crown molding ready for paint, Allen is meeting with homeowner Bud Black to tackle a project that’s more about organization than aesthetics.
Allen Lyle: You’ve got, actually you’ve done some upgrades to this already, right, because this is a solid surface top.
Bud: There’s the sink and the countertop and of course painting.
Allen Lyle: Right.
What about the split brick. Is that original?
Bud: That is original. We haven’t done anything to that. We did refinish it.
Allen Lyle: I was about to say, they look sparkling new. Roll away island. I say roll away. “Pick up and take away” is that what it is?
Bud: Right. It’s a little extra work space.
Allen Lyle: So the looks of the kitchen good. It’s good. Function though you have a problem with. Function with the pantry here. Let’s take a look. Oh, my! Just can’t get to what we want to get it to. You got a lot of stuff back here, Bud. So what are you thinking of doing here?
Bud: Well, actually we wanted some type of roll-out baskets or something like that. Where Tommy can get to what she wants to.
Allen Lyle: Gotcha. And I think there’s actually a solution we can get right off the shelf. And that’s those roll-out baskets you were talking about and they’re wire instead of wood. You can get the wood, but I’ll be honest with you the wood baskets are normally about twice as much as a wire basket. What we’ll do then, I’ll see what I can find, if they’ve got the wide ones we’ll see if we can work with removing the style. If not, maybe we can get some individual baskets for each side. While I do that, do you mind tackling this and getting it cleaned?
Bud: I will get it all cleaned up.
Allen Lyle: Okay, good.
Bud: Thanks, Allen.
Allen Lyle: You bet.
Danny Lipford: While he’s cruising the aisles of the home center, Allen finds the perfect roll-out basket for Bud’s project. Four of them should do the trick, and at a little less than $25 each, the price is just right. Now let’s check in with Jodi across the store for this week’s Best New Product.
Jodi Marks: Now, when you think about doing home improvement projects on a budget, nine times out of ten, you’re probably doing projects around the house that won’t really change the esthetic or the overall look of the room in the house. But there are some DIY projects that you can do on a budget that will help you save money over the long haul as well, and installing a programmable thermostat is one of those. Now, I’ve got a good example of one right here. This is by Filtrete, and I like this one because there’s a couple of little features going on.
First of all, this has got both capabilities to program seven days a week on either a five-two programmable schedule or a five-one-one programmable schedule. Now, another feature that I like about this is it’s got a large screen here and it lights up in the back, so it’s got easy visibility and it’s very user friendly. If you have Wi-Fi in your home, another feature that this has is that from any Internet connection or Smartphone, you can program your thermostat while you’re away, so that’s also another little added feature.
All in all, programmable thermostats are very easy to install and most of them are compatible with your HVAC system. So you’re in good shape there. And again, this is just another project that you can do on a shoestring budget that actually will save you money over time.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re exploring home improvement projects that you can do for less than $100, and Allen is right in the middle of one with homeowner Bud Black. The back of Bud’s pantry isn’t very accessible because of its depth, so Allen has found some roll-out wire baskets to solve the problem At a little under $25 each, they come in under the $100 mark. Now, it’s just a matter of getting them installed.
Allen Lyle: All right. What are you thinking there, Bud?
Bud Black: Well, I think it’s going to work.
Danny Lipford: This kind of detailed layout may require a little extra effort like temporarily removing a cabinet door, but it’ll pay off later.
Allen Lyle: All right. Let’s go ahead and draw some lines here.
Danny Lipford: By precisely centering the baskets in the existing openings, Allen and Bud will not only ensure that there aren’t any obstructions when they roll out.
Allen Lyle: Fifteen. This is nine and a quarter. I didn’t know I had do any math here. Okay. Did you already get that?
Bud Black: I think.
Allen Lyle: Three and an eighth. Three and an eighth is what we got? Wait. Nine and a quarter. Subtract from 15. That’s five and, what did I say, a quarter? Five and three quarters left. Right? So, five and three quarters divided by two. That’s two and a half and three-eighths Two and seven-eighths. Is that right?
Danny Lipford: They’ll also maximize the extra shelf space that isn’t covered up by the baskets so that area can also be used for storage.
Allen Lyle: All right. Let’s say maybe, that basket sticks out a little bit. Want to bring it about two inches edge, will that work?
Bud Black: Well, you think it’s better to utilize all the space back to the back?
Allen Lyle: Want to take it all the way back?
Bud Black: Well, I don’t know about all the way.
Allen Lyle: Or bring it up?
Danny Lipford: Once the track is in the right location, it’s just a matter of securing it with a few screws before installing the basket and checking the clearance.
Allen Lyle: How about that? Think she’ll be happy with that?
Bud Black: Yeah. Let’s check that door and see if that door close good.
Allen Lyle: How much do we have? Oh, half an inch. We’re good.
Danny Lipford: Now they simply repeat the process three more times.
Bud: All right, Allen.
Danny Lipford: And this pantry problem is solved.
Allen Lyle: All right. One more. Oh, yeah. I think you’re set.
Bud Black: Well, I think that did real well, Allen, but there’s only one thing. I think next weekend I’ll be putting them in the bottom cabinets.
Allen Lyle: Well, you know, making work for other people is what I’m good at. Good luck.
Bud Black: Well, we thank you.
Danny Lipford: If you’re looking for a project around your home that’s very budget-minded, look for something that works really well but doesn’t look so good. And then let the project be improve the appearance of it so you don’t have to replace it or throw it away. Here’s a great example of that.
This refrigerator works fine. All the gaskets are in great shape; but you got to admit, it’s pretty ugly. Now, people have been sanding and repainting appliances for years. And certainly, they make a big improvement in its appearance, but what if you could change something like this into the very popular stainless steel finish? That’s exactly what we’re going to do in this project, is use a liquid stainless steel. Now, this is actual stainless steel. It’s not paint, and this kit costs a little bit less than $70. Has everything you need in it to completely coat a refrigerator like this. They also have kits for only $25 that you can do a range and a dishwasher. So think about it. Less than $100, you’re changing, completely changing, the look of those three appliances in your kitchen. First thing we’ll do is attack this rust and take these handles off. Sanding off the rust will prevent it from bubbling back through the new finish later on. And a good cleaning will get rid of that dust and any dirt that’s left on the fridge. I’m spraying a rust-inhibiting primer over those bad spots to add an extra layer of protection against any future problem.
While it dries, I’ll mask the inner edge of the door gasket before I begin stirring the stainless steel coating. The directions call for the liquid stainless steel to go on in several thin coats using a foam roller. Like an ordinary painting project, you want to minimize those lap lines but this kit includes a large foam brush you can drag over the wet surface in one direction to completely eliminate them. Between coats I’m spraying the white plastic of the handles with a hammered black finish to help them blend in a little better. The second coat of stainless steel really begins to fill in the finish, and this time when I brush out the roller marks, I pull in the opposite direction.
When the second coat is dry, I apply a sealer to protect and add a bit of luster to the finish. The sealer goes on white, but it dries clear And you can determine the level of gloss you want, by how many coats of sealer you apply. All righty, I’ll put the last screw in the handle here, and hopefully this little clip will slide right over it. And it’s done. I got to admit, this thing looks a heck of a lot better than the refrigerator I started with. You know, it’s over 20 years old, all the rust that was on it. Now, if you have a fridge that’s a lot newer, you’ll get even better results than this. Actually, this thing turned out so nice that I’m thinking about the old rusty refrigerator I have down at my river cabin. I think this will replace it this weekend.
Marie Asks: My cheap laminate countertops need to be replaced, but my budget won’t allow it right now. Can I paint them instead?
Danny Lipford: If your countertop looks like this, with all these stains, discoloration, and maybe an occasional burn mark, you’ll be happy to know that yes, you can paint your plastic laminate countertops. Over the last few years, several different types of specialty paints have been developed that’s formulated to paint countertops. One particular one only requires you to do a little bit of sanding, apply the coating, allow it to dry for three or four days before you use it.
Another one can actually simulate the look of real granite. What it requires is you do a little more work in applying a black primer, then one coat, then come back with a sponge with a little bit of an artistic flair to create that granite look. Either way, either of these systems, less than $100 for a typical kitchen. If you’ve got a home improvement question, I’d love to hear it.
Danny Lipford: Our tour of projects for under $100 has taken us all over the house this week. From the floor to the ceiling, and from functional to purely aesthetic. As you can see, you can get a lot done for $100 or less around your home. You know, just a few days ago, I thought I would be taking this old refrigerator to the landfill, it was so ugly. But I actually have decided to take it down to my river cabin this weekend.
You know, you’ve probably done a few projects you’re proud of, why don’t you send us some pictures of it? Or if you have any comments to make our show a better show, we want to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org And if you have any questions for us, you can call us toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week 1-800-946-4420. We want you to be a part of our show each and every week.
Hey, I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week here on Today’s Homeowner.