Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

Simple Home Repair Projects

By: Danny Lipford

Curved brick porch steps with wrought iron railing on front of house.

Learn how to tackle these five simple home repair projects. Watch this video to find out more.

Home Repair Projects:

  • Fix Brick Steps and Railing: After the brick steps had been cleaned with a Generac OneWash pressure washer, any loose mortar from between the bricks was removed. The gaps in the mortar joints were filled with Quikrete Zip & Mix FastSet Repair Mortar. While you can apply the mortar by hand, using a grout bag is easier. Concrete screws, coated in fast-setting epoxy glue, were used to attach the loose wrought iron porch railings to the concrete slab floor.
  • Back Door Repair: Two-part auto body filler was mixed up and used to fill any rotten spots on the back door. The old threshold was removed, and a new aluminum threshold installed using concrete screws to attach it to the slab.
  • Secure A/C Vent Cover: Self-tapping sheet metal screws were drilled into the side of the metal ductwork boot to secure the heating/cooling air vent cover to the ceiling.
  • Fix Water Stained Ceiling: To repair the water stained ceiling, we applied several light coats of KILZ UpShot spray paint. Make sure any leaks have been repaired to prevent the water stain from coming back through.
  • Refinish Entry Door: Auto body filler was used to fill the damaged part of the door around the center knob, then the door was painted on all sides. To clean the brass kickplate, it was scrubbed with steel wool dipped in water. To keep the front screen door closed, we installed a new pneumatic door closer to replace the one that was missing.

Read episode article to find out more.

Further Information

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Danny Lipford: If you own an older home, repairs are part of life. Knowing what to do and how to do it—that’s where Today’s Homeowner comes in.

Arria Blanton: And today’s are not on our to-do list because we just try to maintain, make it through every day.

Billy Blanton: Right.

Danny Lipford: Billy and Arria Blanton have owned this home for about two years.

Billy Blanton: We’ve got a houseful. We’ve got a—

Arria Blanton: And today’s are not on our to-do list, because we just try to maintain, make it through every day.

Billy Blanton: Right.

Arria Blanton: Right now.

Billy Blanton: This is a house that was probably built in the 1950s. And there’s nothing major wrong, but just the little things that everyday people have to, you know, maintain that I just—I don’t know how to do it. And we haven’t been able to find anyone that we trust to do it.

Arria Blanton: Some of the problems we’re hoping Danny can help us with are “honey do” things that we just don’t really know how to even start. We’ve looked at on the Internet, and we just don’t even know what to do. A lot of it I’ve tried and probably made worse.

Danny Lipford: So working with these guys should be a lot of fun.

Billy Blanton: See the brick? It’s loose right here, we’ve got cracks.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I noticed that when I walked up. There’s a number of them. Looks like it’s almost shifted a little over here, not unusual, and a lot to do with the rain that hits out here and affects it. Because up here it’s holding up pretty well.

Billy Blanton: That’s right, and the grout’s coming loose, as you can see.

Danny Lipford: No, no, there’s a number of things we can do there. We’ll have to pick a day better than this, looks like we’re about to get wet. Now, I also notice this thing is a little precarious as well.

Billy Blanton: It is. It’s loose and, you know, we’ve looked into trying to figure out how to fix this. We’ve Googled it, but we just don’t know what to do.

Danny Lipford: yeah. Yeah, no problem. We can figure that out. It’s a pretty easy solution.

Arria Blanton: Danny, let me show you this. You might have noticed it when you got here. Have you ever seen anything like this before?

Danny Lipford: I have seen the center door knobs like that, but not very often. Is that one still working for you? It looks a little odd there.

Arria Blanton: Well, I took off this little metal thing to try to clean it up, and I haven’t been able to get it back on. We don’t have a key to this, so we can only use the deadbolt.

Danny Lipford: Oh.

Arria Blanton: And it just pushes open.

Danny Lipford: That’s got to be aggravating.

Arria Blanton: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: but the door looks like it’s in pretty good shape, though, so might be able to figure something out if we can get the mechanism of that working well. Might even be able to get it re-keyed for you and kind of a novelty to have on the front of the house, you know?

Arria Blanton: Yeah, that’d be great. We think it’s kind of neat-looking.

Danny Lipford: Yeah.

Arria Blanton: Then right here, we have this screen door.

Danny Lipford: It looks like it had some type of one of the hydraulic closures on it, but I think that’s a pretty easy fix as well.

Arria Blanton: That’d be great. Then we can have some fresh air.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, absolutely.

Arria Blanton: Let me show you this back here.

Danny Lipford: Oh, you have more, huh?

Arria Blanton: Lots more! Danny, this is our family room, and we spend most of our time out here.

Danny Lipford: Oh, it’s nice. It’s big out here. It’s beautiful.

Arria Blanton: Thank you. We’ve had this air vent that keeps falling. We’ve tried screwing it in, we’ve tried this Velcro tape.

Danny Lipford: Oh, all right.

Arria Blanton: And it just keeps on falling, so we don’t really know how to handle that.

Danny Lipford: Kind of dangerous, isn’t it?

Arria Blanton: Yeah, I’d say.

Danny Lipford: Well, actually, the screws that you’re supposed to use in there, it’s really tricky to hit it just right in the metal flange that’s around there, but that’s something we can handle. No problem.

Arria Blanton: Wonderful.

Billy Blanton: Let me show you this door real quick, too. This is the door going outside.

Danny Lipford: More door problems, huh?

Billy Blanton: Yeah, from the rain we’ve got some water damage down here. It’s rotting.

Danny Lipford: Oh, boy, it is. I would imagine that gets a little wet right in there.

Billy Blanton: It sure does.

Danny Lipford: I think we can put a new threshold in and kind of tighten that up, but we’ll just have to look at the door real careful to see if the door may have to be replaced.

Billy Blanton: OK.

Arria Blanton: The rain also got our ceiling here. We’ve had the leak fixed but it’s left a stain, and we know if we paint over it, the stain will just come right back through.

Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah, yeah. If you put just regular latex paint, it’ll come right back through, but we have a way to fix that as well. I love these kind of projects. They’re projects that a lot of people are dealing with.

I don’t know about the front door knob. That’s a little different, but let me give it a little bit of thought and kind of get a game plan together and see if we can’t come back in a few days and attack all of these things.

Billy Blanton: Sounds great. Yeah.

Danny Lipford: On the day we return, their son Marrs jumped in to help start on the front steps.

Have you ever worked with a pressure washer before?

Marrs Zakary: I have not.

Danny Lipford: Oh, well, I’m telling you, once you get—start playing with this toy, that’s all you’re going to want. And I got you some cool glasses here. I think these look good. I’m pretty sure they’re Ray-Bans. There you are.

The pressure washer we’re using is called the OneWash from Generac. It’s great for do-it- yourselfers because it offers variable pressure settings. This feature allows you to dial up just the right amount of cleaning pressure for a variety of different surfaces.

You’re going to be the soaper. So, there you go. Let’s start at the top. And you don’t have to—put it over the whole steps. You’re not cleaning, you’re just putting soap on it.

I think it’s important to get kids involved in home improvement as early as you can, and Marrs is proving to be a pretty good helper. Of course, like all boys, he can be easily distracted.

Danny Lipford: Uh-oh.

Marrs Zakary: No!

Danny Lipford: We may need to have a funeral.

Marrs Zakary: Rest in peace.

Danny Lipford: Once the cleaning solution has had a chance to work, I turn the OneWash up to its highest setting, for masonry, and change the shift of the wand so I can blast away the dirt, grime, and mildew on the steps.

Joe Truini: The challenge every do-it-yourselfer faces is what to do with all the cans and bottles that you need to maintain your home. Well, here’s one idea. We’re going to use an empty six-pack carton to organize these.

First thing I do, since these are made for temporary use, is I put a couple of pieces of tape along it—either duct tape or packing tape—just to reinforce it so it doesn’t fall apart. And then we’re going to use the six compartments, where ordinarily you’d have the bottles, to put in the cans. It could be glue or spray paint, spray adhesive.

The nice thing about this is you can organize them by all different types of materials or maybe as all glue in it or all spray paint. And then you can very neatly store it on top of a cabinet, on a shelf, and it’s always ready when you are.

And the really great thing about it, also, is that it’s portable, so you can take the entire six-pack, and take it right to your job.

Danny Lipford: We’re helping Billy and Arria Blanton tackle several simple fixes in and around their 60-year-old home. While their son Marrs and I are prepping their front steps to replace some missing mortar, Allen and Arria are about to tackle the water-damaged back door.

Allen Lyle: Let’s do this. I’m going to see if we can repair this. We’ll see about replacing the threshold, maybe put one with a seal on the bottom and let’s see if we can close up that gap a little bit.

Arria Blanton: OK.

Danny Lipford: Because of the damp location, the first step is drying out the area.

Arria Blanton: That looks like the type of job we’d do, just hold it like that.

Allen Lyle: It’s fine.

Arria Blanton: Yeah, get you some duct tape.

Danny Lipford: But what Allen has planned is far more durable than duct tape. He’s showing Arria how to mix up automobile body filler to patch the water damage.

Arria Blanton: It’s like cake icing.

Allen Lyle: Uh-huh. Just don’t stick your finger in and lick it, you won’t be happy.

Arria Blanton: Is that perfect?

Allen Lyle: That’s just perfect. The swirling is, like…. Yeah, it’s like you know what you’re doing.

Arria Blanton: Yeah, exactly.

Danny Lipford: Auto body filler is great for this kind of repair. But it only restores the surface of the wood, so it can only be used for non-structural situations.

Arria Blanton: So it’s like wood filler, but—

Allen Lyle: It’s like wood filler, but it’s stronger.

Arria Blanton: It’s like concrete?

Allen Lyle: Yeah. You can actually drill this if you wanted to.

Arria Blanton: Oh, wow.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Arria Blanton: I can think of lots of places I could use this.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: While the body filler dries, they get started replacing the old, leaky threshold.

Arria Blanton: That looks like something may be living in there.

Allen Lyle: I’ll let you pull the threshold up.

Arria Blanton: Uh-oh.

Allen Lyle: Because something’s going to come running out, I think.

Arria Blanton: Yeah, we’re going to do that the opposite way. Maybe it’ll go to the—ooh!

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Arria Blanton: Oh, not a fan of bugs.

Danny Lipford: The replacement threshold Allen brought over includes two seals on the bottom and another one on top. So no moisture, air, or bugs can get under it or over it when the door is closed.

The screws they’re using are specifically designed for concrete, so they’ll hold the threshold tight to the concrete slab. Arria seems to be enjoying her role as handywoman.

Arria Blanton: Oh, yeah. Very good.

Allen Lyle: You did just right.

Arria Blanton: See how smooth? Don’t let Danny see this. He may hire me instead, you know?

Danny Lipford: While they’re sanding and priming the back door, Marrs and I are getting ready to replace the missing mortar on the front steps.

First of all, we’re going to be chipping some of this mortar out of here.

Marrs Zakary: OK.

Danny Lipford: So that we can fill in some of it. Anything that’s loose, we want to get out of there.

Marrs Zakary: Right.

Danny Lipford: So we upgraded your safety glasses. Did you wear these in science class?

Marrs Zakary: I don’t have science class, like—I don’t do experiments yet, but I do do science.

Danny Lipford: All right. Well, you look good. That looks good for—you may want to wear those all the time. Those look good.

OK, just take this and just try to pry any of that stuff out of there that you can. Oh, yeah, we’re working together now. All right.

To fill these voids, we’re using a fast-setting repair mortar from Quikrete. By adding 10 ounces of water to each bag, you get exactly the right mixture every time. Instead of pouring this package out, we actually put the water in here and then we mix it all up and then we’re going to use it to fill in all of the cracks and that kind of thing. But we need a measuring cup. Do you know what a measuring cup is?

Marrs Zakary: I do. I think my mom has one.

Danny Lipford: You think so? Go get it.

Marrs Zakary: OK.

Danny Lipford: Don’t tell her, though, what we’re using it for. Now, knead the dough. Just keep doing like—you’ve got to do that for about three minutes.

Then it’s a simple matter of pressing the mortar into the voids, and Quikrete even includes a plastic putty knife to simplify this job.

You’re pretty good at this. You’re pretty comfortable doing all of this.

Marrs Zakary: Huh, it’s not that bad.

Danny Lipford: You know, this is one way of doing it—just get your gloves and get right at it. But another way that we’ve done it in the past is to actually use what we call a grout bag, very similar to a heavy-duty pastry bag a pastry chef would use to put the icing on a cake.

We could use it here, but I think with these three little bags we have and pretty good help I have here, we’ll get this done no time at all.

Allen Lyle: Look there.

Arria Blanton: You can’t see.

Allen Lyle: How about that? So not bad, huh?

Arria Blanton: No, it’s great.

Allen Lyle: All right, so we’ll let that Bondo cure up, and then we’re going to sand and paint the door. In the meantime, you want to tell me about what’s going on with this thing?

Arria Blanton: Yeah, that air vent.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Arria Blanton: Oh, man. Kept falling, and you can see they have one of those Sheetrock things that you hammer in.

Allen Lyle: Oh, yeah.

Arria Blanton: and so—

Allen Lyle: A molly?

Arria Blanton: The plastic thing.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Arria Blanton: And then the little holes around it are from little nails that I tried to angle to hold it in, and that didn’t work.

Allen Lyle: OK.

Arria Blanton: And then I used these little Velcro things to try to sticker it up.

Allen Lyle: OK.

Arria Blanton: And that didn’t work, and—

Allen Lyle: Well, that’s interesting, yeah, the fins on these things are supposed to come out to about here, and they don’t. It’s like they’re cut, so let’s do this. I’ll tell you what, Arria, let me go get some self-tapping screws, some longer ones.

Arria Blanton: OK.

Danny Lipford: By driving these longer screws in at an angle, Allen’s hoping they’ll catch in the side of the duct.

Allen Lyle: Oh, yes.

Arria Blanton: All right.

Allen Lyle: How about that?

Arria Blanton: Looks like we might be safe under here.

Allen Lyle: I think so. That was it.

Arria Blanton: Good job.

Allen Lyle: How about that?

Arria Blanton: And to think, the two years we’ve been here…

Allen Lyle: To years, huh.

Arria Blanton: …it’s been open.

Danny Lipford: With a little caulk around the vent and some white paint to camouflage the screws, this repair is complete.

Next, they’ll mask off the area around and beneath the water-stained ceiling so they can cover it up.

Allen Lyle: The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to do the can up. You just pull this way. It’s going to spray it straight up. They tint it to actually match most aged ceilings.

Arria Blanton: So you’re saying that ceiling’s aged?

Allen Lyle: No, you know, I’m not saying it in a bad way.

Arria Blanton: That’s not a water spot, is it?

Allen Lyle: Start slow with it because it’s going to—you don’t want to go all over the place. You’ve masked out a little bit, but you don’t want it to come sprinkling down everywhere. So, now let it dry, and then if you come back and put a second coat when it’s needed.

Arria Blanton: You already can’t see it.

Allen Lyle: Well, it’s better than it was, either way.

Jodi Marks: You know, if you’re in the market for an awesome hammer drill, look no further than right here. This is the Milwaukee M18 Fuel. This is a half-inch hammer drill driver kit. And, boy, let me tell you, this is chock full of power when you open up this box.

Take a look at this. First of all, this is a pretty hefty hammer drill, so this is going to get the job done. It’s got an 18-volt REDLITHIUM ion battery. The nice thing about this battery is it lasts a long time.

It also has a brushless motor, which means it’s got more power, more punch. As a matter of fact, it’s got 25% more power than the standard hammer drill out on the market. This battery is going to last five times longer than the average 18-volt battery out on the market as well, so you’re going to get more life out of this.

And I love the charger because you can not only charge the 18-volt, but you can charge a 12-volt as well, so you got a lot going on in this little box.

Danny Lipford: Our attack on several simple fixes at Billy and Arria’s house is going really well, despite the off-and-on rainstorms that have plagued us since we got here.

I’m glad it was fast-drying mortar, or it would have been washing away with all this rain.

Marrs Zakary: I know, just boom.

Danny Lipford: OK, so a little rainy day project. Do you know what this is?

Marrs Zakary: I actually have no idea.

Danny Lipford: You don’t? OK, well, I’m going to teach you how to install a door closure.

Unfortunately, in his hurry to get the package open, Marrs destroys the instructions on the back label.

Where’s my instructions?

Marrs Zakary: Huh?

Danny Lipford: There they are.

Marrs Zakary: I’m sorry.

Danny Lipford: Fortunately, I put a few of these on over the years.

Arria Blanton: Oh, look, they’re putting up the closure.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. You’ll be able to keep that screen door closed a little bit.

Arria Blanton: Oh, thank you.

Danny Lipford: So it won’t take long at all for us to get this one done. What are you all about to do?

Allen Lyle: Oh, I think we’re going to get this door prepped for everything and take off the kick plate.

Danny Lipford: You going to take the knob off?

Allen Lyle: Yeah, you claim that we’re going to fix that. I hope so.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, all right.

Allen Lyle: What the, what does the…

Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah. Hey, I’m glad you asked.

Arria Blanton: Easter, Mardi Gras, Christmas. I’m just kidding. They came with the house.

Allen Lyle: OK.

Danny Lipford: Early the next day, Allen rallies the troops. While Arria gets started sanding the back door, Allen uses more auto body filler on that mess around the front door center knob.

Allen Lyle: There was such an enormous buildup of paint behind that decorative piece—we had a lot of ridges. That’s why I used the auto filler to kind of build it up so I would knock it down with this first, but then we’re going to come back with a pad sander.

Now, when it’s time to paint, I will tell you this. Here’s one of the reasons you had some trouble with the door. If you look right up here, do you see how this is a raw edge?

Billy Blanton: Sure do.

Allen Lyle: You’ve got a raw edge on the bottom, too. Most people think to paint the four sides of the door, and they don’t think about the other two sides.

Billy Blanton: OK.

Allen Lyle: These have to be sealed to keep the door from swelling.

Danny Lipford: So after Allen knocks down the big stuff, Billy can smooth out the surface with a pad sander. But once again, there’s tragedy in the Blanton household.

Allen Lyle: Not everyone is welcome in the household. Gecko pancake.

Danny Lipford: You know, a lot of homeowners don’t realize that if you have a lock without a key, well, you can get a key made for it. Or, in the case of Billy and Arria, what we’re trying to do is to have the locksmith key this lock to the same key that matches all the other locks in their house. Just got to have the right locksmith.

OK, I got one for you here. Let me—let me tell you, what I’m trying to do is the homeowners never had a key for this thing, you know, so— And they have this key that operates a lot of the other locks around the house. And just wondering, since this doesn’t look the best, even though she’s happy with it, is there any way to replace that whole thing?

Locksmith: Yeah, yeah. I can sell you a knob that this key will go in.

Danny Lipford: Oh. All right.

Locksmith: Sounds good?

Danny Lipford: Perfect. That sounds great.

So Ricky changes out the cylinder for me, but he doesn’t have the knob in stock. So he puts it back together with the old one while that one’s on order.

Back at the Blantons’, Billy has primed the front door, including the top and bottom edges, and Arria has completed painting the back door.

Danny Lipford: while Billy applies the top coat to the front door, Allen and Arria attack that loose rail on the front stairs. Once again he’s using concrete screws—this time coated in epoxy—to drive through the rail base and into the bricks. With that chore complete and the front door finally dry, we’re headed into the homestretch.

All right, looks like just the right timing. Look there, I was able to get it keyed just the same as all the other keys. I wasn’t able to get a new knob. I was trying to do that, but they didn’t have them in stock, so I ordered one. So we’re in good shape. You ready for this?

Allen Lyle: Yeah, yeah.

Danny Lipford: All right. Well, Allen can help me with this. I’ve got a little task for you, OK?

Arria Blanton: OK. I’m on it.

Danny Lipford: I looked at getting a new one of these. It’s $35.

Arria Blanton: OK.

Danny Lipford: But we can clean it in just a minute or two. Here you go.

Arria Blanton: OK.

Danny Lipford: Steel wool, get your gloves on, a little bit of water and then just rub. I tried a little bit here, and it looks like it’s going to work well.

Arria Blanton: Yeah, it looks brand new.

Danny Lipford: Just go back and forth like that. If you’ll get that ready, we’ll get this done, we’ll put it on. Hey, we’re done around here.

Arria Blanton: Sounds good. Thank you.

Danny Lipford: Oftentimes, people are not sure whether to use a brush, a roller, or a spray gun for painting a particular project. Personal preference plays a part, but first consider what kind of finish you want—smooth or textured.

Now, rollers generally create a textured finish, so they’re ideal for walls and ceilings. You can also use them for larger areas of woodwork, but they should always be followed with a brush, something called back-brushing.

Sprayers do create a smooth surface, but they also require you to mask all the adjacent surfaces you don’t want to paint. Often, the additional time that takes negates the time advantage of spraying altogether. That makes them a good choice for a shelf unit that can be painted out in the open, or something like cabinet doors that could be removed from the cabinet prior to coating.

When you want a smooth surface inside, or in close proximity to other surfaces, it’s usually best to use a brush to apply the paint. You’ll have much better control over what you cover and what you don’t.

Danny Lipford: Like so many homeowners, Billy and Arria had a long list of repairs that needed to be done. But a busy family schedule and lack of knowledge about how to solve each challenge kept the list growing and growing. By introducing them to a few tools and materials they weren’t familiar with, we helped them clear the list.

The front steps are clean and safe now, as is the wrought-iron railing around them. The screen door actually closes, and the dings and dents of the front door have given way to a fresh new paint job. Even the center novelty door knob is functional again after a visit to the locksmith. The whole front entry is a lot more inviting.

The sun room ceiling is also a lot more attractive now that the water stains are gone and the air vent is nice and secure. And that back door not only looks better, it should be a lot more effective at sealing out the elements.

Well, Arria, I’ll have to say you and Billy have quite a handyman in training here. He did such a good job in helping me with all of the brick work and the mortar and picked up that power washing pretty well, too. But I did a little bit of the sidewalk. There’s a lot more to go. Maybe a pressure washer for his birthday present.

Arria Blanton: I think so. Good summer job.

Danny Lipford: Well, you guys have to work that out. You know, the projects that we’ve done here are very simple ones, very common ones that just about anybody that owns a house will face sooner or later.

Of course, some of them were a little unusual, with that front door lock, but we even were able to take care of that and get that key matched.

Now, I hope we’ve been able to show you how simple it is to take care of a few of these kind of projects. And you can find out more information on our website at TodaysHomeowner.com.

I’m Danny Lipford. Thanks so much for being with us. See you next week right here on Today’s Homeowner.

Marrs Zakary: I need to knead this.



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