Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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How to Convert a Courtyard into Indoor Living Space


Watch this video to see how we took an outdoor courtyard room and enclosed it to convert it to interior living space that can be used all year long. The courtyard conversion included adding double glass doors and a gas fireplace. ...More




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How to Convert a Courtyard into Indoor Living Space

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The outdoor room with an attached open courtyard on this house saw little use during hot summers and cold winters. To convert it into an indoor room that could be used year round, we enclosed the opening with arched, glass doors and added a gas fireplace.

Other changes included:

  • Adding a separate HVAC unit to heat and cool the room.
  • Applying stucco to the outside walls.
  • Painting the vaulted, V-groove wood ceiling.
  • Adding a wine bar with wine rack and refrigerated cooler.
  • Concealing the TV over the fireplace behind a retractable painting.

Read episode article to find out more.



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This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re converting a cool covered outdoor living space into an even cooler indoor space by building a single wall. We’re not only creating an area that can be used year around, we’re adding some great amenities to make it the most popular room in the house.

Now what a beautiful neighborhood filled with some very attractive houses. Well, I understand this street didn’t look this way about 15 years ago. Now we’re in Mobile, Alabama and as part of an urban revitalization program they removed all of the old derelict buildings and then made all of the lots available so homeowners could come down and experience downtown living and live in a house that is built just to their standards.

That exactly what John and Brenda Elsevier have done, they built a really nice house, very attractive, a lot of cool features and exactly the type of structure they want to live in. They also have the very neat outside living area that they use almost year round but we’re going to make just a few alterations actually some of the work’s already started on it, so they can use it all year long. We’re going to let Brenda tell you the whole story.

Brenda when I first saw this room I was amazed at how large it is, this is a big place.
It is, it’s a room that we’ve had a lot of fun in, a lot of parties in, but we’ve finally got to where we are now, is we’re not using it as much as we should be using it. We want to get more use out of it.

What motivating you to do all this? Because it looks pretty darn perfect like it is.

It is perfect except for a couple of things. One is that living in downtown Mobile we’re near the coal plants, we’re near the boxcars that carry the coal, and if the winds blowing the wrong way, unfortunately we have coal dust in here.

Really? It infiltrates even though you’re a little ways off the water here.

It does, it really does, and I can clean the courtyard completely, come in the next day, it’s really to be cleaned again.

Yeah, well I see this. Of course the guys have already started stirring up dust but I guess I can see what you mean there.

It’s black.

Wow. Boy, a nice white blouse like you have there wouldn’t stay white very long would it?

Oh no, I wouldn’t get near that right now, and of course the other reason is the temperature here in Mobile. It not only allows us to spend so many months out here and be comfortable. The heaters are great in the winter time but summer we just you know, it’s not cool enough out here.

Yeah, well it’s well designed and you can certainly benefit from this room all the way around and all the different parts of your house but what are the plans here. I know we’re closing it in, but give us some of the details of some of the things you’re planning on doing.

Well, of course first thing is the fountain has to go, that’s my heartache.

I heard that’s a little sad moment there.

Yes, it’s a very sad moment because the fountain was the center of this room. A lot of people when they walked through the front door thought they were in the house. And then they looked here, and they were like, “Oh my gosh, we’ve never seen this before.” Like I said I have a favorite picture of one of my grandsons sitting in there. So that will be blown up and framed to remember my fountain by.

Well, I understand you’re going to be putting a fireplace in so that will be a similar look.

It will be, we’re really excited because we thought well if we close this room off all it takes is closing this opening. So let’s put a fireplace in of course man has to have his TV above the fireplace, and then the doors on both side, the glass doors. Which will still give us plenty of light in here. We’re not really losing what this room is about. You know basically that’s it, we will take the heaters out, redo the ceiling.

Yeah the ceiling’s beautiful. What are you planning on doing with that?

Well, we want to keep, well we want to go white up there and you know get it to it’s kind of faded some, we want to go white up there and do it all wooden colors.

I see a lot of beach house that way where you have the one by six V-groove like, with kind of whitewash look to it.

That’s what we’re looking for.

Is that right?

That’s what we’re looking for right here, but you know basically we want this room to really be one you can live in. We have one living area now, when my grandchildren come over, and Papi wants to watch the news it doesn’t work. Now the grandchildren can come out here, Papi can watch his news in there.

That’s perfect.

Great area.

Well, I’ll tell you I know the guys are about to come back from break and they’re going to tear out the fountain so I’m going to escort you inside to kind of keep down the trauma a little bit.

I don’t want to see that.

Brenda has a great attitude, but it’s a good thing we’re getting her out of here because the guys really tear into that precious fountain of hers with a jackhammer. Meanwhile Mark the foreman here starts peeling off the stucco around the cased opening so we can tie into the frame. Now this kind of demolition is hard work but you have to do it all by hand, but in this case, the debris has to be removed from the jobsite the same way. I’ve lost count of the number of wheelbarrow loads that have gone up and down this narrow alley to the trailer but I suspect these guys will remember every single one of them over the next few days.

Under the stucco above the opening Mark finds some pretty serious wood rot damage that has to come out of there, but fortunately the new wall will support some of the load this beam used to carry. Now since the inside and outside will be on the same level the guys seal the underside of the treated base plate with a rubber membrane material before framing the wall up above it. New laminated beams will carry the weight over the two doorways and in very little time the inside walls with the fireplace are going in. While these guys wrap up this let’s check out Joe’s Simple Solution.

Did you know that falls are the number one cause of death and injury around the home? That’s why it’s so important to make your house as safe as possible at every stage of life. Now wooden steps are particularly dangerous because they become wet and slippery when they are outdoors, so one way to protect yourself is to put down abrasive strips. You can get this at any hardware store or home center, it comes in various widths and it’s basically sandpaper with an exterior adhesive on the back.

Now, all you need to do is peel off the wax paper backing and stick it down. And you want to place it relatively close to the front edge, the leading edge of the step because that’s where you’re going to be putting your foot down. So this is about a half inch or so away. So peel off the backing, press it down, you’ll notice that I snipped off the corners because that will reduce the chance of it peeling up. Now you just have to put one strip on each of the treads and make all the steps really safe.

Stick around, coming up next we’ll install some great new doors to make this real indoor space.

What a nasty dreary day, it’s really limiting the amount of work we can do on this project. Now this project is a little unique, what we’re doing is closing in an open patio area by installing a couple door units with a fireplace in the middle so that the homeowners can use this great big room everyday of the year. Now originally it was pretty nice looking with a large fountain area right in the middle and you know it seemed like a good idea but again by closing it up they can get a lot more use out of this place.

Now the door units we’ll be using will match what’s existing with a two full view glass doors with an arched transept above it. We’ll also be matching the stucco finish that’s on the interior of the walls, around the doors as well as on this framework that will house a gas fireplace. Now a lot of people are finding out about how you can put a gas fireplace here and a nice large flat screen TV above it, and that’s what we’ll be doing on this project.

And just think about how nice this area will be on a winter day, you’ve got the fire going, you’ve got the football game on, plenty of natural light coming in, both the new doors, as well as the large window up above that’s part of the original construction and you’ve got the grill going over there. Pretty nice scenario. But it’ll have to wait until the weather clears up so that we can get these doors installed.

Once it does there’s a little cleanup to be done before the doors can go in, like trimming the stucco back neatly around the opening and removing a few bumps we found in the concrete so that the thresholds will sit nice and level. Because the top of these doors are arched we left the plywood sheathing long so that we could mark it fit the doors exactly once they were out on the site. Then it’s simply a matter of following the lines with a jigsaw to cut out any of the excess sheathing.

Housewrap goes on over the new plywood to seal out the moisture and the same rubber gasket material that was used earlier under the wall goes down before the doors are set in place. The prep work pays off because the fit is perfect and that’s what we want. These are high efficiency door units with insulated low-E glass panels so we don’t want to compromise that with a sloppy installation. Now once we’re sure that the jambs are plumb the units can be nailed in place.

You know for a little extra strength Mark replaces several of the can screws with long three-inch screws that will tie into the studs behind the door jams. With the doors in the focus can now turn to the inside and modifying the fireplace wall for a flat panel TV, the owner had his eye on. And after the opening is cut a platform is framed inside the wall to support the TV. Then finally the fireplace itself can be slipped into position and secured to the framing.

Well our doors are all in place, that means we’re sealed off from the cold weather outside, and you know when you are choosing any type of door or window for your house, especially one with a lot of glass like this, make sure it’s low e glass, that means that it will prevent any of the buildup or at least reduce the heat buildup that you’ll have when you have a lot of glass. It will also prevent any fading from taking place on rugs or furniture or drapes or anything like that.

Now, to keep this place comfortable during those cold months the fireplace should do a lot to really provide the to use this room we’ll need to keep it nice and comfortable, a gas fireplace and it does provide a lot of heat. But to be comfortable all year long homeowners are installing a new air conditioning/heating system that will positioned up in the large attic space that we have up above the existing part of the house. It’ll be positioned horizontally and then we’ll have vents here and another vent over there that they happened to cut and then enlarged.

Now, of course with all the activity that’s taking place in here, with carpenters doing some final work and our air conditioning/heating contractor putting a lot of time in the attic getting their new system in place, our stucco contractor finally has gotten a start on the outside, after that he’ll finally be moving inside. The first step in this process is hanging the cement backer board that will form the foundation for our stucco system. This stuff is screwed in place much like drywall but it is a lot more difficult to cut than drywall since the chief component is cement. The trim and accent pieces though are cut from foam blocks so it’s a lot easier to work with.

Now, once the trim is in place the base coat starts going on. The fiber glass mesh they’re embedding around the trim will add strength and kind of tie everything together. You know there’s a lot of detail in this small job so it takes a little while to trim everything out. Now while these guys keep plugging away at the stucco let’s head over to the home center to see what Emily has for this week’s Best New Product.

Every now and then a product comes along that really makes sense. Like accent lighting without the need to hire an electrician for installation. The problem is that many of them are poorly made, they don’t last very long and frankly they look really cheap. Well Hampton Bay has solved all of these problems with their new LED Puck lights. As the name implies they’re the size and shape of a hockey puck. And with a dozen LED lights to power each one you can be sure you’ll get some decent lighting. They produce very little heat, they’re cool to the touch and they are 50 percent more energy efficient than a standard light.

These puck lights look great no matter where you put them. They have an ultra long life of up to 20 years and they’re designed for do it yourself installation. They’re perfect for display cabinets, under cabinet light or any other indoor application. And you can buy them individually for about 15 dollars or in packs of 3 for just under 30. When you look at how simple they are to install coupled with the energy efficiency and good looks, the Hampton Bay LED puck lights are a bright idea for any home.

It’s all coming together and after the break we’ll get to work on the ceiling and the finishing touches.

Well, we’re back out on this interesting renovation where we’re converting outdoor living space into indoor living space. You know the homeowners love this area of their home but they’ve decided in order to enjoy it year round it needed to be heated and cooled. Well, we’re helping them with that by re-closing what was open with the wall, and installing some energy efficient door unit that very much match the existing doors so that no one will know that we built on anything or any renovations taking place, which is always a good thing.

Then to take the place of what was the focal point, a nice little fountain, now we have a fireplace and we’ll be installing a large flat screen TV up above it. You know this place is set up for entertaining with a nice grill in the corner that was part of the original construction, has some very good ventilation to draw all that smoke out. Over on this side our cabinet man added a nice little wine bar in this corner, you have your red wines up above and you’ll be able to put your white wines in the wine cooler that will be installed a little bit later. Also, love the way this ceramic contractor installed this backsplash, a good little accent point goes real well with the granite countertop.

Well, you know even though you have a nice area that’s set up for entertaining you have to do a little work from time to time. This is a little computer desk, that will have your computer and books and different things here, and will probably be a nice little environment to sit there and browse around on the Internet a little bit and maybe pay a few bills. Well things are moving along on this project and it won’t be long before we can turn it over to the homeowners but the next step is to change this stained ceiling into one that’s white.

Seems like a simple of enough job but when you’re dealing with a ceiling this high that means there’s a lot ladders and scaffolding involved in every step of the process, including all of the prep work. The fixtures that stay have to be covered up with plastic and the ones that are being taken out like the radiant heaters have to be removed. Now the walls are taped and also masked with plastic before the painters gear up to start their spraying. As you can see spraying requires a lot of cover up work but that time is easily outweighed by the time you actually save painting the ceiling.

Now, you can see how quickly this primer is going on with this airless sprayer not to mention the fact that the finish will be a lot smoother than a roller or brush could create. Now the sprayer is a professional tool but you can rent them usually for around 75 dollars a day. Well worth the cost for the speed that it adds. At the moment the air in here is a little foggy but Allen’s up in the attic with a great tip to help you clear the air during a renovation.

You know it’s really cool the way they tied in the return air into the existing gable vent but it brigs up a very good point, any time that you are in a remodeling project you’re going to create a lot of dust and you don’t want that dust to affect your existing heating and cooling system. So you want to change a filter regularly, and when I say change it regularly I mean at least once a week during the progress of your remodeling.

And this is one of the few times that I don’t recommend a good filter. I get one of these, this is cost of about one or two dollars at your hardware store but check it out. This is what it’s already stopped going into this system. This is the type of thing that can really bog down your heating and cooling system but once it’s done, the project is complete then you’ll want to pick up one of the nicer filters like this. Now I will tell you this: they cost a lot more but they last about three times longer and once it’s in place well you’ll be a very healthy sigh of relief.

Danny, my kids and I have really bad allergies. Is there really anything worth using to keep the dust and pollen out of my house?

You know it’s really pretty ironic that as more people are recognizing the value of properly sealing their homes to increase energy efficiency the resulting effect has been a dramatic reduction of indoor air quality. Now there’s a lot of heating and cooling systems out there that are designed to remove those allergens but they can get a little expensive. For existing homes your best bet is to replace those plain fiberglass filters that you may have with a two or three stage filter.

Just be sure to look for high density carbon or polycarbon in the filters description. Also make sure the filter is electrostatically charged like this one here. A filter with electrostatically charged fibers will perform a lot better than just those regular filters. Now you can find these filters at a lot of different home centers but a lot of them can also be purchased online. Now you’ll pay a little bit more for these filters than normal filters but they’ll last about three times longer and the health value is definitely worth it.

Don’t go anywhere yet, you don’t want to miss the grand tour.

We started off this week with a covered courtyard basically an outdoor room covered overhead and surrounded on three sides. It was a great spot except for the constant supply of coal dust from the nearby port and all the heat during the summer. So we removed the owners’ beloved fountain and went to work building a wall to enclose the room. A pair of great glass door units went in to keep the outdoor access and natural light while the focal point shifted from the fountain to a really nice fireplace inside. To keep it all comfortable we added a brand new heating and cooling system that was tucked away in the adjacent attic space. This new indoor patio is pretty spectacular.

To compliment the existing grill we added a wine bar so this place is perfect for entertaining and along with the fireplace Brenda’s husband got his TV, but this one can be disguised as art work when he isn’t watching the ballgame. The new doors blend in beautifully with the ones that were already here and because of their high efficiency they’ll keep the power bills in line as well.

Now, the area seems even larger now that it’s enclosed thanks to the newly painted white ceiling. As Brenda mentioned earlier she was really concerned she would miss her fountain that served as the focal point out in the courtyard, well she has the next best thing. A waterfall that circulates the water and still creates that sound of water that so many people find appealing.

Hey, you know this was a pretty tricky job, having to match the stucco, the floor tiles, the windows and doors but all worked out. And now they can use this room that they call their bonus room all year long and instead of just when the weather’s really nice.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed this one come together, hope to see you next week here on Today’s Homeowner. I’m Danny Lipford.

A kitchen facelift can be an easy project and we can net some great results, we’ll show you how next week.