Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Bathroom Remodeling for First Time Homeowners


Find out how we remodeled a small bathroom to improve both the look and functionality with new plumbing fixtures, lighting, tub, vanity, and flooring. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Bathroom Remodeling for First Time Homeowners

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Danny Lipford in remodeled First Time Homeowner bathroom.

To remodel a dated, small bathroom, we:

  • Removed all the old fixtures and walls down to the studs.
  • Replaced the existing door and window.
  • Added a NuTone bathroom vent fan.
  • Replaced the plumbing and wiring.
  • Installed a tub and surround by Sterling.
  • Insulated both interior and exterior walls.
  • Hung mold resistant drywall.
  • Installed a vanity from Merillat with DeNova quartz top.
  • Tiled the floor with porcelain tile from Shaw Floors.
  • Installed Kohler toilet and faucets.
  • Added accessories, lighting, and mirror.

Read episode article and visit our First Time Homeowner website to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re moving inside to tackle a bath renovation in our First Time Homeowner series. We got a half hour to make some big changes to one tiny bathroom, so don’t go anywhere.

Several months ago, my oldest daughter, Chelsea, became a first time homeowner. With low mortgage rates and bargain properties all around, many of you may be thinking about doing the exact same thing. So, with some help from our friends in the home improvement business and her dad the contractor, Chelsea’s taking on the fixer-upper project new homeowners ask about all the time.

We’ve just completed a low-maintenance makeover for the exterior of her little cottage. And now we’re about to tackle the lone bathroom. The house is over 70 years old and the bathroom isn’t all original, but it sure isn’t up to date either. Chelsea made a few minor cosmetic changes a few months ago before she moved in. But this will be a complete renovation of this tiny room. So we’re making preparations to make a real mess.

Hey, we actually started this bathroom renovation a couple of weeks ago when we were doing the exterior facelift to Chelsea’s house. That’s where we removed this existing window and replaced it with a vinyl insulated window from Jeld-Wen. This will still allow plenty of natural light in there and it’ll eliminate this problematic window that I’ve seen in so many bathrooms. Every time I pull a window out like this that’s positioned in a shower, we always find a lot of water damage right below it. We repaired all of that and we’re ready to move forward.

Now, the window was there, of course, to provide a little ventilation in the bathroom. Something that’s very important. But obviously, not enough ventilation because even though she painted the ceiling just a few months ago when she moved in, it didn’t prevent all of the mold and mildew from growing. So that’s an issue we’ll have to deal with in just a little bit.

But right now we’re ready to move forward with the demolition. We’re going to remove all of the walls and the floor, and I’ve done this a lot in bathrooms this age and you never know what you’re going to find. I’ve never seen that before. Even if you’re not extremely handy.

And then I’ll give you the pigtail that goes to it.

Chelsea Lipford: Don’t even know what that means.

Danny Lipford: Doing the demolition yourself is a great way to save money on a bath renovation. Chelsea Lipford: Look at that, I’m a pro.

Danny Lipford: That’s pretty good, yeah. But proceed carefully, especially if you’re trying to save any of the fixtures for reuse. Let’s try old Allen’s trick out here. He says all of it will go away. Huh! Pretty much does. Bathroom demolition isn’t always a real pleasant task. Go get you a little cup and scoop out the rest.

Chelsea Lipford: Ew!

Danny Lipford: I’m kidding.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, that’s gross. That’s gross.

Danny Lipford: But it does give you a better understanding of how things work in your home. Pretty cool, huh?

Chelsea Lipford: Okay. We’ll go with that.

Danny Lipford: Once you’ve made sure you won’t damage any plumbing within the walls you can be a little more ruthless with the things you don’t want to save. Like this old cast iron tub.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, there we go.

Danny Lipford: That’s too large and too heavy to get out of the room in one piece. Eventually, the bath is gutted down to the studs. Now there are dozens of decisions to be made. For example, the folks at Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors have offered to update all of the home’s interior doors. So Chelsea is meeting with her field rep, Blake, to work out the details.

Blake: We’ll go through the brochure right now and decide what type of style you’re looking to do. All right?

Danny Lipford: Once they settle on a door style Blake takes the measurements of each opening using a system that optically digitizes an exact 3-D measurement for each opening. So the new door can be precisely machined to account for any imperfection in the door frame. This system, called The Perfect Fit, for obvious reasons, is available through select Home Depot stores.

So until Blake returns in a few weeks to install her new doors Chelsea has time to make some other selections. Like a bath vent fan to eliminate that mildew problem we looked at earlier.

Shea Pettaway: Do you know the size of your bathroom?

Chelsea Lipford: I think it’s about, it’s five feet by six feet.

Shea Pettaway: Okay, all right. That’s a fairly small bathroom. But it’s always good to get a nice bath fan. Two things you want to remember, air movement and sound level. The higher the number in the air movement the better bath fan you’re getting. The lower the number on the sound level, it won’t sound as loud.

Danny Lipford: This NuTone fan that Chelsea’s selected is not only silent and sized properly. It also includes a light and a night light, which is a big advantage in a small bathroom. In a case like this where all of the studs and joists are exposed, Joe will simply connect the wiring to the housing and mount it in the ceiling. The fan motor and trim will be added after the drywall work is done.

Connecting this flexible metal duct is a very important element. Without the duct routed to an outside vent you’re simply moving moisture from the bathroom right on up into the attic. Now while we have the guys from my crew here, I’m trying to convince Chelsea to add a closet to the small office next to her living room. All right, I know you’re skeptical as to how we can get a closet in here. But if we can, it’ll be a legitimate third bedroom.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, but I don’t need a closet in my office.

Danny Lipford: Well, I know it’s going to be your office, but still, if you have a closet you can arrange it with shelving or anything like that. It doesn’t have to have a closet rod in it. But for future resale, it would be great. I thought about putting it over here. But that would really… I mean, it’s a small room, I realize. But, you know, I thought about another way here that we could put a small closet… You wouldn’t want to do it just on one side, it’d be lopsided.

While I keep selling Chelsea on my idea, why don’t you see what Joe has on tap for this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: If your washing machine seems to take forever to fill with water, here’s the reason why. If you disconnect the hoses on the back side you’ll see that there are small filters inside each of the hot and cold water fill. And those filters are designed to keep sediment such as sand, dirt and minerals from passing through into the machine. So what you need to do at least two or three times a year is clean out the filter. And here’s an easy way to do that.

Take a plant mister filled with water and hold a cup underneath it just to catch some of the water and dirt, and just spray right in there. And you’ll see the dirt comes right out. See that? And then what I like to do… Most of the dirt comes out just with that. What I like to do is come back with a small acid brush and just scrub it a little bit just to get any stubborn bits of dirt and sand out and then spray it one more time. And of course, you need to do this on both the cold and the hot.

And again, if you do this a couple of times a year it’ll keep the filters clean and the water will be flowing freely.

Danny Lipford: I finally convinced Chelsea to add a pair of small closets to the little room off of her living room. She wants to use it as an office, but the closets will qualify as a legitimate bedroom at resale time. When it comes time to sell, it’ll be perfect.

Chelsea Lipford: Three bedrooms. Perfect.

Danny Lipford: You good with it?

Chelsea Lipford: Okay, it sounds good. Let’s do it.

Danny Lipford: Once Joe and I work out the details for the layout, it’s back to work on the bathroom. I’m checking to make sure everything’s ready here in the bathroom for our plumber, who will be out here in just a couple of hours to install the new tub and tub surround. And you can see we installed insulation in the exterior wall to make things a little more energy efficient. But while the walls were open we also installed insulation on the two interior walls for sound proofing. Always a good idea in a bathroom, kitchen or even a laundry room.

Now we’ve also installed the vent light unit that Chelsea picked out, so that’s ready to go. And all of the plumbing for the plumbing valve and shower head are in place as well. So now the challenge is to bring a tub and a tub surround in this small bathroom that has a pretty small door.

My friend, Ed Del Grande, is a master plumber who spends a lot of time educating people about plumbing solutions for their homes. We caught up with him at a trade show, where he was demonstrating a tub-and-shower enclosure from Sterling Plumbing that may just be the solution to our problem.

Ed Del Grande: Okay, now with a tub enclosure, just picture this large shower enclosure with a wall in front, because basically that’s a bath tub. So it would work the same way as this big shower stall. So you’d get your tub, bring that in first, put that down, level it. There’s some special instructions you have to follow for all bath tubs to make sure you don’t get squeaking on the floors, and make sure you anchor it to the wall. And then the walls itself can come and lock into the tub unit, and then that snaps into place. Remember, no caulking at all is needed with any of these Sterling Vikrell walls.

Once you get the wall up there you can see that you do have holes already pre-drilled, or if they’re not pre-drilled, they have dimples for you that you can just drill right into the studs, hit every stud. If that’s screwed into place, you’d bring your sheetrock down, then you can finish off the top with tile or paint. Either way, with these walls inside you will have some nice storage shelves and you will have the grab bars already installed.

Danny Lipford: In our case getting the tub in is easy enough. And once it’s leveled and secured to the studs we’re ready for the surround which comes in three separate pieces. First, the back wall is snapped in and screwed to the studs like Ed described. Then the side walls are added and secured. One wall has to be modified for the faucet, of course. But once that’s done we’re ready for the drywall. This purple rock is ideal for bathrooms because it’s both moisture-resistant and mold-resistant.

The new vanity for the bathroom is from Merillat Cabinets, and features SoftAction closing drawers. The wall cabinet is from the same Merillat collection called Avenue 5 Maple.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s new interior doors have arrived and Blake, the Jeld-Wen rep, is back to install them. This Perfect Fit system really works. Because each door is custom-fit to the opening, they go in quickly and easily with minimum adjustments.

The next big arrival for the bathroom is the quartz countertop. It’s called Flaxen Fresco from DeNova, and it’s just one piece. The porcelain sink mounts underneath it to leave a flat, rim-free surface on top. Joe, our flooring guy, gets the room next, and because the space is so small and requires so many cuts, his layout will be very crucial.

The tiles Chelsea chose from Shaw Floors are 13 by 13-inch porcelain, and that was a good call. Because a larger tile might have looked a little awkward in this small space.

Well, I think the tile looks great, but what kind of grout did you decide to go with?

Chelsea Lipford: It’s kind of a light color.

Danny Lipford: I’ll tell you what. It’s not easy matching tile to a countertop like that. You did pretty good on this. I hate when you have to do that, when you have to match countertop with…

Chelsea Lipford: It’s so hard, but it just ended up looking really good.

Danny Lipford: Okay, we’ll grout it tomorrow. They’ll let it sit today, grout it tomorrow. Clean it the next day. And we can get a plumber in here, then set the toilet, trim out the tub, put the faucet in there and then painter and a few touch ups and then the aggravating part of hanging towel rods and all that. It’s no fun doing that.

Chelsea Lipford: Finishing touches.

Danny Lipford: How about that purple color?

Chelsea Lipford: I think I might change the color a little bit.

Jodi Marks: Now, you know, a whole bathroom renovation isn’t something that you can bang out in one weekend. But if you are looking for a great weekend project that’s going to help transform the look of a room, you might want to consider installing a laminate floor. Now, not all laminate flooring is created equal. And I’m standing right here in front of the Pergo XP line.

Now, why they call this XP is because of the extreme performance that you get in this line. And what does that mean? How does that translate? Well, in the manufacturing of this they have what they call PermaMax. And that offers you 30% more resistance to scratch from your pets. Also stains from, say food or wine. And it’s going to hold up a lot longer. If you install this in your home, you get a limited lifetime warranty. If you install this in a commercial application, you get a limited five-year warranty.

Now, look at this. This is what I like about it so much. Is that it’s very easy to install. And look, you’ve got the underlayment attached here, so you don’t have to put anything down first. Plus, it’s going to create a sound barrier to reduce the amount of sound when you walk across it. And, of course, look at all the options you have. This could go with any decor in your house.

Danny Lipford: My daughter Chelsea is a first time homeowner. And we’re getting close to wrapping up a major bath renovation in her new home.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, my gosh! It’s not even putting’ a dent in it.

Danny Lipford: The tile setters return the day after they lay the floor to grout it. Then it was time to add a little color to the walls. Michael is a professional painter who works for my construction company. So getting him involved will really keep this project moving along quickly.

Now, while he’s busy giving the bathroom a more finished look, Chelsea is busy adding the finishing touches to her new interior doors with new lock hardware from the folks at Schlage. By shopping online in their Decorative Collection, she was able to put together the hardware and finish she needed to achieve the vintage look she wanted for these craftsman-style doors.

Chelsea Lipford: Joe said they’re putting carpet in here today. So I’m really excited to see what it’s going to look like.

Danny Lipford: What did you pick out?

Chelsea Lipford: I don’t even remember. I picked it over a month ago. And I hope it looks good in here once it’s laid down. But no muddy work boots will be allowed here when that’s done.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, we’ll have to put the paper down and everything after that. Now, what about the closets? I mean, you know, it’s…

Chelsea Lipford: They look like they’ve been here all along.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I love the doors and everything. It kind of ties it into the rest of the house. And what we did is we put… Went ahead and put the hanger in here, and the rod, so you can have some extra storage. And then on this one we put two.

Now a lot of times we won’t put the shelves on, but we put, you know, this at seven, this at three and a half. So that you can have more storage. But if you only use it as an office and you don’t need the storage, you can still use the shelves and so forth for all of that. So, what do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, I can’t wait to…

Danny Lipford: It doesn’t make it feel…

Chelsea Lipford: No, it doesn’t seem any smaller at all.

Danny Lipford: What about your desk? What are you thinking about your desk?

Chelsea Lipford: I’ll probably put a desk… I’m going to put a tree out, right out that window, and put a desk there, and kind of make it a focal point.

Danny Lipford: That’s cool. That’s cool. All right. Well, they’re going to be putting the pad down and carpet pretty soon.

Chelsea Lipford: I know. I’m going to write my name on the floor, so next time someone pulls up the carpet they’ll see a little note from me.

Danny Lipford: All right. Pretty cool. All right. The first chore to installing carpet is nailing down the tack strip around the perimeter of the room. The upward-facing tacks in the stuff will hold the carpet in place later after it’s stretched over them and tucked under the baseboard. Next comes the carpet pad. And while you don’t see it in the finished installation, it’ll be very obvious later if you cut corners here. A firm pad will keep the carpet from showing wear paths and indentations from furniture legs. Some will have a moisture barrier to keep stains from soaking in to the pad, which can be a really big advantage if you have children or pets or you’re just clumsy. The carpet from Shaw Floors is made from a nylon fiber in a pattern style. This light color should keep Chelsea’s office nice and bright.

Back in the bathroom the electrician is working hard to brighten things up as well. He’s trimming out all of the switches and fixtures including that NuTone vent fan we added. Since the housing is already in the ceiling all he has to do is snap the motor in its place and plug in the electrical connections for it and the light before installing the cover.

Electrician: That’s it.

Danny Lipford: Artie the plumber is in next to trip out the plumbing fixtures in the shower and vanity. He’s also installing this toilet that the folks at Kohler provided. The one-piece design not only makes it look cool, it saves a lot of space. And that’s a big deal in this bathroom. All right. This is cool. You’ll have this bathroom finished today. Oh!

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, no! Sorry, toilet. So it’s eight and three quarters. What’s half of eight and three-quarters?

Danny Lipford: Four and three-eighths. Let’s see how we’re going to get this thing in here. We can center it between the cabinet and the wall. Center it on the faucet or center it on the light fixture. Chelsea Lipford: Here’s… Here’s… Perfect timing, Mommy.

Danny Lipford: Oh, boy!

Sharon Lipford: Maybe this plant, too. Let’s try it.

Chelsea Lipford: Hmm. I like it.

Sam asks: How do you size a bathroom vent fan?

Danny Lipford: Your bathroom is a big source of moisture in your home, so it’s important to have the right size exhaust fan to remove all of that moisture. Now it’s very easy to determine exactly what size fan you need by grabbing your tape measure.

Measure the length, times the width, times the height of your bathroom. Divide that number by 60, which is the number of minutes in an hour. Then multiply that number by eight, which is the suggested number of air exchanges that you should have in your bathroom each and every hour.

Now, that number that you end up with will be your minimum CFM number or cubic feet per minute. Head on down to the home center, check out the exhaust fans and find that number, then buy an exhaust fan just a little bit bigger than that and you’ll have the right fan for the job.

Danny Lipford: The fact that Chelsea’s 70-plus-year-old house had only one bathroom was a big drawback from the beginning. Very little had been done to improve it since the house was built, and it was showing a little wear and tear. The advantage of a single bath is that a change there makes a big impact, and that’s just what we’ve done.

The space is no larger than it was before, but it’s so much more attractive and functional. I don’t imagine there’ll be any complaints around here. They style of the bathroom suits the house perfectly, but that’s not the only change we’ve made. The new doors and hardware have made a difference throughout the place, and especially in Chelsea’s newly revised office.

Well, it’s still a very small bathroom, but it doesn’t look as small as it was with the larger tub, the larger floor tiles. And your mom and you did a great job at putting all the finishing touches on it.

Chelsea Lipford: Thanks. Even though I picked everything out, I think it does look pretty good, too.

Danny Lipford: It really does.

Chelsea Lipford: Just a few more things I need for the cabinets.

Danny Lipford: Hey, you know, when you remodel a small bathroom like this, it may empower you to take on even a larger project you may be wanting to do around your house, like remodeling your kitchen. Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing next week here at Chelsea’s house on our First Time Homeowner series. I hope you’ll join us.

We’ll see you next week. That’s all you got left. Just a few things here, huh?