Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Home Repair Tips for First Time Homeowners


Before first time homeowner Chelsea Lipford can move into her new house, there are a number of home improvement projects to tackle, from patching cracks and painting walls to sanding and refinishing the hardwood floors. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Home Repair Tips for First Time Homeowners

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Removing tile ceiling.

First time homeowner Chelsea Lipford has a number of home improvement projects to take on before she can move into her new house, including:

  • Painting: Patch cracks, fill gaps, and paint the walls and trim.
  • Bathroom: Replace medicine cabinet, vanity top, and sink faucet.
  • Floor: Remove carpet, patch floor, sand and finish hardwood flooring.
  • Ceiling: Remove ceiling tile covering beadboard ceiling.
  • Hot Water Heater: Replace the water heater with a tankless model.
  • Carport: Tear down the existing carport.

Once all the repairs were complete, Chelsea was able to move into and decorate her new home.

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

Further Information on Home Repair Projects

Further Information on Packing and Moving



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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner our First Time Homeowner series continues and we’re pushing to make the repairs so the owner, who is also my daughter, can move in and make this fixer-upper her own. Here you go.

Hey, welcome to the show this week. This is my daughter Chelsea, and that is her first home. If you joined us last week you saw some of the things that Chelsea went through to get this home. With looking at a lot of different houses, working with the Realtor, going through the closing and then getting started on a fairly long list of things she wants to do to the house. That included removing some of the carpet, some of the trash. And we tackled a foundation problem that really had to be addressed before any of the interior work could be done.

But now she’s ready to tackle the rest of the work inside. The thing she needs to do and has to do before she can move in. She’s going to do most of the work herself but we’re going to help her out a little bit.

Like any house, there’s lots of little, ordinary stuff to be done. But there are also some unique problems. My buddy Tim who works for my construction company is pitching in to help move the washer and dryer out of the kitchen and find it a new home, which seems to be a bigger deal than we thought. Clear. This is in my way.

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I’m sorry. It’s my house and my stuff.

Danny Lipford: It’s in my way, I know. But us workmen, we need space.

Chelsea Lipford: I know, but we’re not working out here.

Danny Lipford: It sure feels like work.

Chelsea Lipford: Nothing like doing laundry while you’re sitting on the couch.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. What’s holding?

Chelsea Lipford: That hose right there.

Danny Lipford: Oh, could be this hose. All right, wash up some clothes. Don’t forget the starch. Then there are small but tedious jobs like removing more burglar bolts.

Chelsea Lipford: Almost there. There we go, all yours.

Tim McCraney: Thank you. What I always wanted.

Danny Lipford: The property line’s right about there. Whoever built this small carport didn’t realize that they crossed the property line. So, it’ll have to come down. Right. Well, I’ll cut it here.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: And then we bend that over, it could pull those out. I don’t know.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay, as long as it doesn’t go into the house, that’d be awesome.

Danny Lipford: Put the little slot up in there, turn it to your right, now pump. Good. After we jack it up to relieve the weight we can cut the legs so that it falls away from the house. Good team here. I would imagine it’ll go pretty easy. Hold it, hold it. We got to count.

Chelsea Lipford: I’ll count. I’m going to count from three down to one.

Danny Lipford: All right, go.

Chelsea Lipford: Three, two, one. Whee!

Danny Lipford: One, two…

Chelsea Lipford: Okay. Three, two, one.

Danny Lipford: Once we get out math figured out this thing comes down pretty easy. There you go.

Chelsea Lipford: Now, it looks like a little chimney.

Danny Lipford: Now let’s try to get it off this dude’s property. Now this carport is ready for us to tear it apart. That’s always the fun part. Cleaning up afterwards, uh, not so much. Think that blade’s dull?

Tim McCraney: Nah.

Danny Lipford: That was pretty bad. Inside, in the bathroom Chelsea wants to replace the 70-year-old medicine cabinet with something a little less rusty. You know what that is right there? Check this out. It’s for the… Well, you know the old tiny razor blades?

Chelsea Lipford: Mmm-hmm.

Danny Lipford: That you would dispose off?

Chelsea Lipford: Oh…

Danny Lipford: They dropped ‘em down in there.

Chelsea Lipford: What’s wrong with the trash can?

Danny Lipford: Well, I’ve got an old medicine cabinet that was left over from a project a while back that I think will fit right in here. Okay, is this where the gold coins are?

Chelsea Lipford: Uh… Oh, razor blades!

Danny Lipford: I told you.

Chelsea Lipford: They didn’t go all the way down, but they’re in there.

Danny Lipford: Golly.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, man.

Danny Lipford: Look at that one stuck in there like that.

Chelsea Lipford: Ew, don’t, don’t touch that.

Danny Lipford: Look at that.

Chelsea Lipford: Don’t touch that. Ew! Ew, that’s someone’s, so you finally told the truth on something, Dad. You didn’t make it up.

Danny Lipford: Hush, that’s not right. After a few measurements and minor modifications the new cabinet is almost ready to go in. But first, we have to clean up this mess. Let me get them in here first.

Chelsea Lipford: Dad, just dump it, and then I’ll get it with my gloves.

Danny Lipford: Just a second. Which ones?

Chelsea Lipford: Just… All of these.

Danny Lipford: Ow. You see how thin they are.

Chelsea Lipford: Dad, don’t touch them. It’s so gross.

Danny Lipford: The cabinet fits perfect and is ready to level. But remodeling with a Generation Y homeowner is definitely different. Oh, you got to be kidding. That’s it, right there. Believe it or not, this is a lot harder than it looks. However, persistence is the key in any remodeling project. I’ll let you close your medicine cabinet. All right.

Chelsea Lipford: Nice.

Danny Lipford: There’s also still plenty of crack plaster to patch. And a few awkward additions from the previous owner that need to be removed. Now, anytime you see that… You see that? When a nail’s let you have a chance to pull it…

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah?

Danny Lipford: Take the chance.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: Once Chelsea gets into it it’s hard to get her to stop. And with a 101 different small jobs to be done, it’s certainly a good thing. Her youth and energy go hand in hand. Naturally some projects are a little easier than others.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, my gosh, this is awful.

Danny Lipford: But before we know it, the day is over and it’s time to hand off another to-do list to Chelsea. What do you think so far?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I think we got a lot done today. But looking around, there’s a lot more to do.

Danny Lipford: Well, got a fresh piece of paper. So, I’m going to make another list.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: We’ll be ready to get going on it. And I’ll put your little list over here. The things that you and your mom can do.

Chelsea Lipford: For me? Okay.

Danny Lipford: And you said you want to have a paint party?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, I think so.

Danny Lipford: That’s good. Good luck with that. While we fine-tune our list of projects why don’t you check out this Simple Solution?

Joe Truini: If you have a wooden balustrade in your home you might be familiar with this problem, a loose baluster. It’s not that big of a problem but if you don’t repair it immediately you may have to replace it. So, we’re going to avoid that with a really simple tip using a toothpick.

First, take a little wood glue and apply it to the toothpick. And it’s best using a flat or square toothpicks, as opposed to round ones. Then we’re going to take it, find the loose baluster and just jam it up into the space behind the baluster at the top, where it goes into the underside of the handrail. Look at that. It’s as tight as all the others.

And now, we’re just going to take a sharp utility knife, score it, and snap it off. There you go. You just use a paper towel to wipe off the excess. Now, in this case I was able to fix it with a single toothpick. But if the hole is too large, you can put toothpick on both sides and that’ll solve the problem.

Danny Lipford: My daughter Chelsea has just become a first time homeowner. And we’re busy trying to get the 70-year-old fixer-upper she just bought ready for her to move in. There are little projects and little discoveries all over this place. But when we get up to the attic to check out the insulation what we found was a time capsule. Wow. Oh, yeah! Here we go. Look at this.

Chelsea Lipford: Ooh! Are they love letters?

Danny Lipford: I don’t know, let’s see, 1963, “Dear Robert, we were glad to have your letter. Lucy said she saw you, she was disgusted with you. Said she had never seen so much drinking. I think it’s a shame and disgrace such is allowed on a campus.”

Chelsea Lipford: Who wrote it? Oh, must be a long one. “Love, Mother.”

Danny Lipford: “Love, Mother.” Oh, you’re going to have some fun reading all of this.

As interesting as it is this is one history lesson we’ll have to revisit a little bit later. For now, it’s time to get back to work.

Chelsea Lipford: We have a giant hole in the hallway.

Danny Lipford: One of the biggest jobs we have planned is relocating the air return for the heating and cooling system from the hall floor where the old floor furnace was located.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay. Well, where do we start? Under the house?

Tim McCraney: Uh, taking all this apart here.

Danny Lipford: Tim used to work for a heating and cooling contractor, so he’s lending his expertise to the project, and moving the return to a nearby closet. And once the hole in the floor is filled I’m going to cover it with some new pieces of hardwood. Well, some of these we’ll leave right here since that’s pretty square.

You can’t rush this job because you have to lace the old in with the new to really disguise where the work was done. It couldn’t have been that easy. Look at that. That’s awesome. That’s easy.

Danny Lipford: We could go one…

Chelsea Lipford: And then bring this one. I like this better. Go one, two, and then three and then bring this one back down here.

Danny Lipford: Okay, that’s the hardest way possible. Once we agree on a pattern, it’s all about sweeping up, lying down a vapor barrier and we’re ready to install this floor patch. Tell me if it’s tight. Is it tight?

Chelsea Lipford: It’s tight. There you go.

Danny Lipford: Painting is not my favorite chore so I’m happy to let my wife Sharon, Chelsea and her friend Jordan handle the paint prep and brush work.

Chelsea Lipford: Mom’s saying your taping job wasn’t very good.

Jordan: I didn’t even tape anything.

Chelsea Lipford: And I said she didn’t teach you properly.

Danny Lipford: In fact, it’s okay with me if they do all the painting.

Chelsea Lipford: Uh-oh, I’ve been tagged.

Danny Lipford: With a roomful of women playing Picasso, I’m glad I have this flooring project to focus on. Before long though the floor patch is complete and my client seems well satisfied. The next day, Allen drops by to help Chelsea trade out the tired, old bathroom sink for a new one she found on sale at The Home center.

Allen Lyle: You know the old saying, right? “It’s righty, tighty. Lefty, loose-y.”

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, just having a little trouble there. You can get started.

Allen Lyle: All right. There we go.

Chelsea Lipford: Are we all done?

Allen Lyle: Well, no! No.

Danny Lipford: But this doesn’t take long at all. After a quick hook up, Chelsea fills up the sink to test it out.

Allen Lyle: Very nice.

Chelsea Lipford: No drippage?

Allen Lyle: Dry as a bone.

Danny Lipford: Then they move on to the crumbling tile ceiling in the small edition of the family room.

Allen Lyle: Who… Well, who covered that beaded board?

Chelsea Lipford: I don’t know. The same person who covered the beautiful hardwood floor with carpet, I guess.

Allen Lyle: Oh, I tell you what, before. Did someone pull this down?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, okay. Before we do anymore of this, let’s do this. Because sometimes the old ceiling tiles like this have asbestos in it. We want to test that. Okay. There we go.

Danny Lipford: After removing a sample and sending it off for testing the results are negative and they can wade in to the rest of the ugly ceiling tiles.

Chelsea Lipford: I hope it’s all beautiful.

Allen Lyle: So far so good.

Chelsea Lipford: It’s almost like it’s not even stapled anymore.

Allen Lyle: Well, you know, since you said that… The tough part’s going to be getting all the staples out.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah. What is this over here? It looks like orange… Orange water drops.

Allen Lyle: Let’s see. Uh… That actually… You know what that is? That’s just wild. You’re… This board… Sap?

Chelsea Lipford: Huh! That’s sap?

Allen Lyle: It’s sap.

Danny Lipford: An older house like this one also requires some additional education for a homeowner that’s been raised with personal computers and cell phones. Do you know what those are?

Chelsea Lipford: No, it looks like a base of a light bulb.

Danny Lipford: Those are what they used before they had breakers. And you see where it has the little silver thing going across there, you see that?

Chelsea Lipford: Uh-huh.

Danny Lipford: And if it was broken then you had to replace the fuse.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, wow.

Danny Lipford: Hopefully, that has been bypassed with some other… Chelsea’s taken on a lot with this house. And her mother and I wanted to help her out so, for her housewarming gift we’ve arranged to have her hardwood floors refinished. I’ve seen DIY-ers take this job on themselves but the pros have the tools and skills to turn around a top-notch job quickly.

Buddy Reed: Okay. I’ve got you some floor stain samples here. And you got your Red Oak and English Chestnut.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Buddy Reed: That you can choose from.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay. Well, that one’s a little too red I think for me.

Buddy Reed: Mmm-hmm.

Chelsea Lipford: But you sure can see the grain in the wood once you put a stain on it. It looks really good. I really do like the English Chestnut. I think I’ll go with that one.

Buddy Reed: Okay. That’s a beautiful color.

Danny Lipford: As good as that stain sample looks it looks even better when the whole floor is covered. While these guys continue adding color to the floors, Jodi has a Best New Product ideal for adding color to your wall.

Jodi Marks: You know, painting is probably the number one do-it-yourself project. Why? Well, first of all you don’t have to have elaborate skills to be a painter. Second of all, you don’t have to have expensive tools to do painting projects. And thirdly, you get instantaneous results so you can transform the look of any room in no time. But, you know, sometimes it can be a little time-consuming, especially if you have a newly constructed wall or you’re going from a dark color to a light color because you’ll need to prime that wall. So, you need to take that extra step.

Well, not now. Take a look at this. Glidden has come out with their Duo paint. And they call this Duo because it is more than a paint, it’s also a primer as well. So, it’s all mixed in there. Now, what this is going to do is it’s going to give you a nice coverage on your wall. So, that not only will it seal up the wall but it will also absorb nicely onto the wall so that you get good coverage, and it’ll last a long time.

Take a look at all of the colors you have to choose from as well. So, your choices are endless. Now, the nice thing is you can use this with the Glidden paint and you can also use this with the Martha Stewart collection. So, now you have no more excuses to get out those paintbrushes.

Danny Lipford: We’re working hard to get my daughter Chelsea’s newly purchased fixer-upper ready to move in. And the hardwood floors are getting a coat of sealer to wrap up the refinishing. Meanwhile, in the back of the house my friend Artie the plumber is helping Chelsea with her latest project to tackle before moving in. Replacing the old and undersized water heaters.

Plumber: Take them out?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Chelsea’s been having a lot of fun demoing her house lately. So, when she sees the guys attacking the water heater cabinet it’s hard to resist.

Chelsea Lipford: There’s no kitchen floor underneath it.

Artie McGowan: Don’t scratch this pretty floor.

Chelsea Lipford: I know.

Danny Lipford: By eliminating the old tank heater Chelsea can free up some much-needed space in the kitchen. And the new tankless unit not only solves the space problem it can really help her control her utility bills.

Artie McGowan: You know, in other words, why I turned it up to 120 and cool it back down with your cold water and over-burn the energy. And so that’s one of the ways to save energy. Bring it down to 108 or bring it down to 105 turn the water on, take a shower like that. And believe me, that’s plenty hot enough to take a shower.

Danny Lipford: Let’s go. Where does this go, Chelsea? With that project Chelsea’s house is finally ready for its first new resident in seven decades. How about pads on this?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, that’s got pads. Put that…

Danny Lipford: Over the past few years, I’ve helped my little girl move into various dorm rooms and apartments. But this is without a doubt the biggest moving milestone yet. It’s exciting, isn’t it, Chelsea?

Chelsea Lipford: Uh-huh.

Danny Lipford: Remember as a kid, sitting around this table?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, it looks a lot smaller when you set it down…

Danny Lipford: Everything up to this point seemed temporary. Because it was. This seems pretty permanent. She’s a homeowner. She won’t be loading this stuff back up in a few weeks. She’ll be here dealing with the same ups and downs that we all have to deal with. Frozen pipes, a leaky roof, or an appliance that dies a week before payday.

Allen Lyle: Get out of the way.

Danny Lipford: Oh! Oh. Of course, along with the setbacks there’s also the excitement of decorating the place and making it your own. So, for now, that’s what we’ll focus on. Here comes the finishing touch.

Chelsea Lipford: I want to do it, I want to do it.

Danny Lipford: No, let me do it.

Chelsea Lipford: I want to do it. Boom! Watch out. You’re in the way, Dad.

Danny Lipford: Do you know how? Ooh, mod.

Chelsea Lipford: It’s so girly. I like it.

Ralph asks: How do I stop my wood steps from squeaking?

Danny Lipford: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a set of stairs that’s framed with wood that didn’t squeak at least a little bit. Now, if you have access under the stairs, it’s fairly easy to fix. Just drop by The home center, pick up a few wooden shims. Use your hammer to drive it right in the space that you’ll find under the stairs, where the squeak’s occurring. Then to keep the shims in place use a good quality construction adhesive to caulk around and seal it in place. That’ll also help prevent some of the squeaks.

Now, if you already have carpet on them, like I have here, then pick up a few small-diameter screws that you can drive right down through the carpet and then fluff the carpet up around it to cover it up a bit. If you have hardwood floors, well, use the same screw, recess a little bit, and then cover it up with colored putty.

Danny Lipford: Well, Chelsea’s completed enough of the work around her house so that it’s comfortable enough to move in. But like so many times when you move into a house, there’s still plenty of things to do. And later on, we’re going to be attacking this kitchen that has to include doing something with this old, old floor here. And it particularly looks bad when you see it up against this beautiful hardwood floor. Lot of other things are having to be done around here.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, can we drill a hole in the back for my cable?

Danny Lipford: Always something. Well, we’ll take care of that and a lot of other things. And we want you to join us for a kitchen remodeling that we’re doing here. Also, redoing the outside of the house as well as tackling all of this overgrown yard. It’ll be a big difference by the time the season’s over.

I’m Danny Lipford. Thanks for joining us every week right here on Today’s Homeowner. Hey, I got you a few tools here that will help you out as well.

Chelsea Lipford: Great. You got a drill?

Danny Lipford: Drill… A few other things here, maybe you won’t have to call me so much. You see that? I’d have felt bad if that broke the toilet.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, yeah, so bad you would have to buy a new one.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, not that bad.