Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Kitchen Renovation for First Time Homeowners


Find out how to makeover a small kitchen by removing a wall to open up the space and adding new cabinets, countertops, and flooring. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Kitchen Renovation for First Time Homeowners

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Completed First Time Homeowner kitchen

Removing a wall to open up this cramped, dated kitchen to the adjoining sunroom really made a big difference! Other changes included:

  • Merillat kitchen cabinets
  • DeNova quartz countertops
  • Subway tile backsplash from Shaw Floors
  • Porcelain tile flooring from Shaw Floors
  • Faucet and cast iron sink from Kohler
  • Range hood from Broan
  • Shelf liner from Duck brand

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 into the kitchen for one of the most dramatic changes yet in our First Time Homeowner series. So, stay right here as we explore some great ideas and cool materials while we have a little fun.

Look at that, what do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, it looks awesome.

Danny Lipford: We’re digging deeper and deeper into our First Time Homeowner project and it’s steadily gaining momentum. My daughter Chelsea is renovating her first house, and we’re bringing the cameras along for the ride. She settled into her house a few months ago and immediately started planning improvements. Since then, we’ve remodeled the exterior with beautiful low-maintenance materials and renovated the tiny bathroom to maximize the space and visual appeal.

Now it’s time to tackle the seriously outdated kitchen in this 70-year-old house. Chelsea’s been busy online looking at cabinet choices, and she went straight to merillat.com to check out their step-by-step kitchen planner. With this design tool she answers a few questions that allows the online tool to make suggestions on the style and functionality of her kitchen. The steps include: getting started, inspiration, door styles, organization and accessories, planning your space, and finally, all the finishing touches.

She’s also been talking with the kitchen designers at Merillat and they’ve agreed to help out with the layout and provide some cabinets for her kitchen. That’s great news, because we’ve worked with Merillat many times before and they always bring some cool ideas to the project.

One idea is to open the kitchen up to the sun room behind it. This area was originally a back porch. So, our first step was leveling that floor to bring it up flush with the kitchen. Now it’s time for the real work to start.

On a kitchen renovation like this, this is when reality really sets in. When the homeowner has to remove everything out of the cabinets, put it in a box and move it out to the storage area so that all of the cabinetry can be torn out. But we’re going to try to reuse as many of the cabinets as we possibly can. If you’ve ever removed all of the stuff out of your kitchen cabinets you’re probably amazed at how much stuff is actually in here.

Here, I’m going to give you a hand on this. This is one of those jobs people never allow enough time to do. Let me show you spinning plate.

Chelsea Lipford: No. Uh-uh.

Danny Lipford: No? Thought you’d like that.

Chelsea Lipford: You do those at your house on your plates.

Danny Lipford: The key is to pack it safely and organize it so that you can find it later. Once the cabinets are empty it’s time to start removing them.

Chelsea Lipford: Yoo-hoo. I’m so strong I just ripped it right off the wall.

Danny Lipford: There you go.

Chelsea Lipford: Hello.

Danny Lipford: Pretty, pretty. Before you tackle the appliances, be sure to turn off the power or gas. Tilt it straight towards me. Now, try to grab the gooey bottom.

Chelsea Lipford: Hmm, lucky me.

Danny Lipford: There you go. Getting the cabinets off the wall can be more tedious, especially with older ones like this.

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I’m not too keen on getting hit in the face with a cabinet, so…

Danny Lipford: But, I’ll bet… We’re good.

Chelsea Lipford: Got it?

Danny Lipford: Yup. It’s going to get real serious, now the microwave’s going away. Now what you going to do?

Chelsea Lipford: Put that on the bed or something, we got to keep that. To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump!

Danny Lipford: Now, we’ll save this.

Chelsea Lipford: Huh, okay.

Danny Lipford: Taking apart a kitchen this old usually gives you some insight into the history of the house. I guess that’s the original floor.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh.

Danny Lipford: 19, what? ’45 or whatever? And, see, they put it down… Look, they put it down directly over the one-by material. And that goes on top of that. That’ll be a lot of fun to tear up. And occasionally a surprise or two. Oh!

Chelsea Lipford: That’s so mean. He was just teasing me.

Danny Lipford: Oh, boy. Oh.

Chelsea Lipford: There was something! That’s so gross! Oh, my gosh!

Danny Lipford: Once the cabinets are all out… Go ahead, hit.

Chelsea Lipford: That’s all?

Danny Lipford: It’s time to attack the wall between the kitchen and the sun room.

Chelsea Lipford: Hello.

Danny Lipford: Okay, go the other side.

Chelsea Lipford: It’s about to get messy up in here.

Danny Lipford: How’s that feel? All right, let me, let me have a little fun here.

We’re only removing the bottom half of the other walls to give the plumber and electrician the access they need without having to rework the whole wall. Once we’ve done all the damage we can do, the guys from my construction crew drop by to begin framing.

These temporary walls will support the kitchen and sun room ceiling while we pull out what’s left of the wall between those two spaces. Since this was originally the back wall of the house, there’s a lot of load to be supported here.

Joe Denson: It’s certainly less than eight. Seven-foot five.

Danny Lipford: Okay. What do you think as far as the options? I know before you were talking about putting some kind of beam that we would ledger these off to. Maybe joist hanger them, too. What do you think?

Joe Denson: You know, I’m a big fan of a conventional beam, but I know that doesn’t work with the cabinetry so… I think we need to work out something we can get as much wood in there as we can. I’m thinking cut the rafter tails, cut the ceiling joist back and we’ll slide a beam straight up to the roof decking.

Danny Lipford: Well, we’ll probably get what, like a two by eight in there?

Joe Denson: We’ll be able to put a full two by eight on the back beam and just shy of a full two by eight on the front.

Danny Lipford: It’s still going to be a bit funky though. You’re going to have this coming down. And then a step down of what, about three and a half inches.

Joe Denson: Three and a half.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. That’s not ideal. But we don’t want to lower this ceiling.

Joe Denson: No.

Danny Lipford: Okay, well, that’s about the best we can do. I guess you can go ahead and get that beam in. We can take these temporary things down and… Man, it’s going to be pretty awesome though. It’s a wide open space like this.

Joe Denson: It really opened it up getting the wall out.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. What do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: I like it. It’s awesome.

Danny Lipford: Okay, good. While these guys finish up with the framing here on Chelsea’s kitchen, let’s check in with Joe for a Simple Solution to cut down the clutter coming from your kitchen.

Joe Truini: Paper or plastic is not much of an option any longer, so you usually end up with dozens of plastic grocery bags that you need to recycle or reuse. But storing them neatly is always a challenge. Here’s one idea.

Start with a piece of four-inch plastic sewer pipe, and use a jigsaw to cut a rounded slot on one end. This is about six inches high and two to two and a half inches wide. Then take an end cap, and screw it to the wall. This is about three feet of the ground with a single 1 5/8 inch drywall screw. Then all you need to do is set the pipe in the end cap, and fasten it to the wall again with a single screw.

You’re going to drive it, I drilled a hole in the back of the pipe. I’m just going to attach it right to the wall.  Line it up, you want to get it pretty straight, and drive in the screw. There you go.

And now, you can take the bags and stuff them in the pipe. This pipe is about two feet long. And it will hold a surprising number of bags. You could probably fit four or five dozen bags in there. So, you just stuff them in. And then when you need to use one, you just pull it out. It works almost like a tissue dispenser. And when you come in, empty out your groceries just stuff it back in, and they’re ready when you are.

Danny Lipford: We’ve waded waist-deep into the renovation of my daughter Chelsea’s kitchen. And though it looks rougher now than before we’re headed in the right direction. With the walls in the kitchen and sun room opened up, now the electrician has arrived to begin pulling new wire for both spaces. Chelsea’s even decided to get into the act by rerouting the cable for her televisions herself. That’s a great way for a do-it-yourselfer to help control costs because it isn’t quite as dangerous as working with electricity, but it can be just as dirty.

Joe Denson: Here’s what I wanted to show you in the kitchen.

Danny Lipford: Okay.

Joe Denson: I know we were trying to overlay the old plaster ceiling with sheetrock. But I’m worried about… It’s not as stable as it should be.

Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah. I see the separation on that right there.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, my gosh.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. What’s the deal running there? Because that’s got a little bit of a deflection or something in there.

Joe Denson: Well, we have one ceiling joist, where the old attic stair was headed off and it was cut. And a roof brace was stacked on top of the header ceiling joist.

Chelsea Lipford: So, that’s like pushing the ceiling down?

Joe Denson: It’s pushing it down, so we’re going to have to cut that joist loose and raise it back up and strap it off.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, my gosh.

Danny Lipford: And also with this whole bathroom wall. Look how they got all this stuff cut out of here and everything. It’d be good to get that plaster off and then put some strings there to make sure that that’s good and level.

Joe Denson: It sure will.

Danny Lipford: You’ll know if it’s not good and plumb when you start putting those cabinets in.

Joe Denson: They’ll show it.

Danny Lipford: Okay, all right, I’m good with it. After the earlier incident with the rat, Chelsea’s taking no chances and sealing up every possible penetration in the walls and floors with expandable foam and caulk. For good measure, she’s also adding some borax inside the stud base to discourage insects from making a home there.

Meanwhile, Joe’s crew has removed that remaining plaster and they’re insulating the sun room ceiling before they start putting up the drywall. Like most homeowners at this point, Chelsea’s also trying to imagine the finished space.

With her cabinets perspectives, material samples and paint samples in hand she’s checking out every angle and reviewing every little detail. But soon enough her imagination gets a break as a truck full of brand new cabinets arrive and begins filling up the house. This is always fun to watch, but especially when it’s your own daughter.

All right. What do you think? Does it look like it did when you looked at it on the computer, the little sample?

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, yeah, it looks great. It looks so much different than just the little sample. And see a whole cabinet panel. It looks great.

Danny Lipford: I like it a lot, too, ’cause it’s not completely white, it’s off white. Yeah. And it kind of feels like the house. Feels like an older house like that.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah. And I’m really surprised at how many boxes are here. And I don’t know how all these cabinets are going to fit in this tiny little space.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, there are a lot of little components here. But within just a few hours this room is going to look a lot like that. The cabinets will fill the galley-shaped kitchen and wrap around the corner into the sun room to create an entertainment center. The style Chelsea selected with help from the Merillat designers is called Somerton Hill Maple, and that finish she likes so much is called Chiffon with Desert Glaze.

Now, installing an entire kitchen full of cabinets like this is not a project for a novice do-it-yourselfer. It’s a lot like putting together a big three-dimensional puzzle with power tools. Where each piece depends on the orientation of those around it and the walls behind it. So, once the big elements are set, like the refrigerator enclosure and the corner cabinet, the guys can fill in the blank spots in between.

They can do this because they work from a level line that’s established for each wall. Then, as each unit goes up the level is checked again in every direction possible. They also regularly refer back to the detailed layout our friends at Merillat have provided us.

While they keep piecing together Chelsea’s kitchen, let’s check in with Jodi for a Best New Product that might work for yours.

Jodi Marks: Hey, Shea, how’s it going?

Shea Pettaway: Hey, Jodi, how are you?

Jodi Marks: Good. Now, I’m in here with the flooring department with Shea. Now, Shea, you’ve been working with Home Depot for, what, 16 years?

Shea Pettaway: 16 years.

Jodi Marks: So you have seen a lot of customers come through, and I’m sure they’ve had a lot of questions about flooring in particular. So what are some of the things that people look for in flooring?

Shea Pettaway: Well, the do-it-yourselfers are always looking for something that’s going to be an ease of maintenance. Another good thing is the ease of installation as well.

Jodi Marks: That is right. Now, we’ve got this Cherry Block by DuPont that we’re talking about in particular because it does those things. It’s very easy to install. It’s very durable. One thing I like about this, too, that also helps in its installation is that it has the underlayment underneath, so you don’t have to do an extra step.  Plus, it’s also a noise reduction, so you’re not getting that clicking sound on the floor.

Shea Pettaway: That’s right, Jodi.

Jodi Marks: Uh-huh. Now, what else is good about this particular one?

Shea Pettaway: Another good thing is that it has a 50-year warranty on it that allows no-stain resistant, fade resistant. So, that’s another good thing as well.

Jodi Marks: That’s fantastic.

And you can also put this below grade, which you can’t typically do with all of your laminates. Shea, thank you so much for all your help.

Shea Pettaway: Thank you, Jodi, for seeing us today.

Jodi Marks: Absolutely. You know what, I do have another question.

Danny Lipford: The cabinets are finally going in to Chelsea’s new kitchen. And there’s enough in place now to start planning the installation of some appliances like this uniquely-designed vent hood the folks at Broan sent to Chelsea. And you get a straight shot all the way through to the roof?

Joe Denson: Straight through the roof.

Danny Lipford: Man, that sounds pretty good.

Chelsea Lipford: Hey, Dad, I want to show you all the kitchen tiles coming in.

Danny Lipford: You got all the samples?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, show you what it looks like in here.

Danny Lipford: To really see if everything ties together. Okay.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah. Well, this is floor tile. Uh-huh. I don’t know if you want to… I just wanted to see what it looked like on the floor.

Danny Lipford: Why, that’s great.

Chelsea Lipford: It’s going to look pretty cool.

Danny Lipford: What is that? 18 by 18?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Uh-huh. That’s perfect.

Chelsea Lipford: And this is the backsplash I picked out.

Danny Lipford: I like that now! Look at that.

Chelsea Lipford: And this is the countertop sample. So I wanted to see what it kind of looked like in there.

Danny Lipford: Gee, that looks great.

Chelsea Lipford: That ties-in really well.

Danny Lipford: See, I hate that kind of selection, having to tie all this stuff together.

Chelsea Lipford: I know. You hate it, I hate it. And this is the paint I picked out, which is kind of hard to tell in the sample. It’s kind of a purplish blue which should tie-in nicely.

Danny Lipford: That’s great! It looks like there’s some of that color in there.

Chelsea Lipford: I picked it out from the countertop, so it should look… It should look pretty good.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, that should look great. And how, I mean, are you putting this all the way around?

Chelsea Lipford: I think so, yeah. And definitely up behind the vent hood. And behind the shelves that are going up there.

Danny Lipford: That sounds pretty good then.

Which means Joe has to get that hood installed first. That starts with brackets, to hold both the hood and the flue in place on the wall. After test-fitting the hood to be sure it’s level, Joe can cut the flue pipe to size and install it before adding that decorative cover.

We’re also adding a decorative touch to the walls in the sun room. These beadboard panels can be painted the same color as the cabinets in the kitchen to help visually tie the two rooms together. The backerboard that goes down on the floors next will also tie them together, because it’s the base for the porcelain tile that will be the finished floor for both the sun room and kitchen.

But before the tile goes down, the countertops are going in. Chelsea chose a quartz top from DeNova called Sand Staccato. Quartz counters are an engineered material that combines natural quartz, polymer resins and colored pigments to create a beautiful nonporous surface that never needs sealants and is less likely to chip than granite. It’s also mold, mildew and stain resistant. We also talk about the placement of her backsplash tiles before she meets with Joe Dear, our tile contractor, about the details of his installation.

Joe Dear: Basically right here you’re going to have this exposed edge out here. And anywhere you have an exposed edge you really need something to kind of reduce that down and put a little accent strip there.

Chelsea Lipford: And then will you guys be able to put it in here? Behind the vent, all the way up? It would… There’s no room to do it behind.

Joe Dear: Right. We’ll just have to tile around it.

Chelsea Lipford: Because that’s all built-in. So is that something you can do?

Danny Lipford: Joe gets his team up to speed on the details for the backsplash, but first they have a bigger job. Laying the floor tile throughout the sun room and kitchen. This 18 by 18 tile from Shaw Floors should be a good choice because it’s porcelain. So, it’s extremely durable. And the color is just dark enough that it won’t have to be cleaned every other day. That’s important, because I remember what Chelsea’s room looked like when she was a teenager.

After the floors, the backsplashes start going in and things start to take off quickly. It’s sort of a circus, but before long Chelsea’s ready to start moving back in all that stuff we moved out weeks ago. And this time to keep her cabinets nice and clean, she’s using shelf liners.

What’s cool about this stuff from Duck Brand is that you can remove it and run it through the washing machine if you happen to have a spill.

Rachel Asks: I’m seeing a lot of small cracks in my walls. Do I have a structural problem?

Danny Lipford: It’s very unlikely that those small, hairline cracks that you see on the walls in your home, maybe above doors and windows, are actual structural problems. It’s usually just a little thermal expansion that can be repaired very easily by just using a little lightweight spackling.

But the type of crack you really need to be concerned with are those that are little wider than that, maybe three-sixteenth of an inch or more, and where one side of the crack is not level with the other side of the crack. That can indicate some active structural movement. Also, if you have any doors in your home that don’t fit the jams quite as well as they used to, another tell-tale sign. Either of those situations you need to call out a foundation specialist and allow them to look very closely at that area of your home.

Danny Lipford: From the start, the kitchen in Chelsea’s house was obviously one of the biggest challenges. Besides the fact that it was small, it was awkwardly arranged. And the appliances, surfaces and materials were at least a generation or two out of date. It was bland, and frankly, a little depressing. But now, her kitchen is a bright and inviting space.

No square footage has been added, but the whole area feels a lot larger, because we’ve opened it up to the sun room, making both spaces more comfortable and functional. The vintage character of the new cabinets and fixtures fits the house to a tee. And the use of beadboard adds to that feel and brightens up both the sun room and the kitchen.

I have removed many, many walls between a kitchen and a living space and it always has such a big impact on any house. I bet you had no idea your little kitchen would end up feeling this large.

Chelsea Lipford: No, I really didn’t. And even just taking the original kitchen, the footprint, it’s the same footprint, but just this section seems so much bigger. But then you have this whole other space connected to it. It’s… It just flows really great.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, it’s really nice how it flows out into the sun room. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this project come together. Next week, we wrap up our First Time Homeowner series right here on Today’s Homeowner. I’m Danny Lipford, we’ll see you then. You thinking about a rug right here?