Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford
Adding an Attic Lift and Built-in Drop Zone to Improve Storage
By: Danny Lipford
We’re helping homeowner August McWhirter organize her crowded garage by installing a Versa Lift remote controlled attic lift to make storing seldom used items in the attic easy, and building a drop zone bench with rollouts for shoes and hooks for coats and backpacks.
Read episode article to find out more.
- How to Build Garage Storage Shelves
- How to Make a Drop Zone Storage Bench (video)
- How to Build a Window Seat (video)
Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re tackling storage with a family that has some unique challenges when it comes to what to keep and what not to keep.
Allen Lyle: Now I can make it work, and you helped me. Thank you.
Danny Lipford: August McWhirter and her husband Mark built this home seven years ago just before the first of their two kids were born. Then two years ago, August and the kids lost Mark to leukemia.
August McWhirter: I guess the things that keep me going are my kids, for one. They’re the ones that need me, because I’m the only parent now. And with the loss of their father two years ago, it makes it harder to—you know—be able to do things myself. But for their sake, I have to keep going for them.
Danny Lipford: And they do go. This is a busy family.
August McWhirter: I have two small kids, ages five and seven. Both are in school, very active with sports. After school, we have soccer and tennis. I teach kids to ride horses. I just—I have a lot to do with the horses every day and the kids. And since I’m a single mom now, some of the improvements we wanted to make in the house don’t get done.
We cut out a few things in the house just because we thought we could do those things later on ourselves, like enclose the garage possibly, or took out a cabinet space that’s just an open space now that we’re going to add the mud room in. These are just little projects we thought we could do ourselves. But we obviously didn’t get around to them. And now, you know, now there’s a need for them that the kids are a little bit older.
The majority of the stuff in the garage is from my husband. We have a lot of my husband’s old tools, and some of them were passed down from his grandfather and uncles and things like that. So they’re all in the garage.
Now my kids have bicycles and dirt bikes and scooters and all kinds of toys, so the garage is getting cluttered. And they like to play in there when it’s rainy. I do park the car in there occasionally, so it’d be nice to have it cleared up and straightened up a good bit.
I would like to be able to tackle some of these projects on my own, but I guess I’m a little scared of—if it’s a small project that involves painting or things like that, I could do. Building something, having to cut stuff, I’m not so sure about doing that on my own. So I’d need help with that.
Danny Lipford: And that’s where we come in.
August McWhirter: OK, so you can see what I’m dealing with.
Danny Lipford: All right, we’ve got a lot to work with here. And I can see the kids have a lot of fun out here.
August McWhirter: We have lots of kids toys, lots of other big stuff that we need to kind of organize and move around a little bit so we can have a little bit more room in here.
Danny Lipford: I bet your son loves that right there.
August McWhirter: He does. It’s—he runs the battery down of it every day, because he rides it so much.
Danny Lipford: I can see that. That’s perfect. I wish I had one of those when I was a kid. You know I noticed when I drove up, there’s a lot of space above here. I notice your attic stairs there. Are you using that at all for any of the storage?
August McWhirter: Yeah, there’s a huge space up there. But I don’t really like going up and down the stairs, and the kids always try to follow me up the stairs…
Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah.
August McWhirter: …and I really don’t want them doing that. So I don’t really use that space, but it’s a lot of space.
Danny Lipford: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what. There’s a lot of different ways that we can kind of organize this. Of course, the hardest part is going to be figuring out what to throw away.
August McWhirter: Right. I have thought about that. I know there’s a lot that needs to be thrown away, I just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah, we all do that. So there’s a lot of that. All right, well, what about any other ideas that you have?
August McWhirter: Yeah, I have this great idea inside that I want you to look at.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, great. OK.
August McWhirter: So we have this space here that I really wanted to be able to do something with.
Danny Lipford: OK. Well, that’s a pretty good-sized space. That’s–that’s perfect. What did you have in mind?
August McWhirter: Yeah, maybe like a bench and some storage area up top. And put the backpacks up and be able to sit down and put our shoes on.
Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s perfect. It looks like there’s an assortment of shoes there already.
August McWhirter: Yes, there is.
Danny Lipford: Have you seen anything that you like, because there’s so many different ways to go with something like this.
August McWhirter: I have. I’ve been looking at ideas on Pinterest and wanted to do some but just didn’t think I could tackle it myself.
Danny Lipford: Yeah. All right, perfect. Let’s get some measurements here and see what we can do with this.
August McWhirter: OK.
Danny Lipford: After I get a few measurements in the hallway, I check out the attic space. There’s plenty of room here. The challenge will be getting all that stuff up into the attic, but I think we may have the perfect solution. I’m getting some dimensions and photos to be sure it will work.
Meanwhile, Allen is looking at a few ideas August has for the drop zone online.
Allen Lyle: What sort of thing did you have in mind for over there?
August McWhirter: Anything like this with the shelving or bench seat.
Allen Lyle: OK.
August McWhirter: Is an option. I like this with some hooks to be able to hold stuff.
Allen Lyle: Strictly for like clothing, or something for book bags or anything like that?
August McWhirter: Backpacks or possibly jackets, but that would probably be about it.
Allen Lyle: Well, I think that gives me some good ideas.
August McWhirter: OK.
Allen Lyle: I’ll put something together and maybe sketch something out, let you take a look at it.
August McWhirter: OK.
Joe Truini: On the occasions that you need additional seating around the house, you can’t beat a metal folding chair. First, they’re pretty affordable, they’re comfortable, and they stack really neatly—you can fold up and stack them away. But they do have an Achilles heel—let me show you.
If you look at the bottom, the legs are nothing more than a steel pipe, and that’s a really sharp edge. And they come with rubber tips on, but what happens over time is the legs just cut right through. Here you see it cut completely through. And now, if you move this chair around on your living room floor, it’s going to scratch it all up.
So here’s the solution. You go out and you buy a new set of rubber chair tips. These only cost about less than $2.00 for four of them. But if you just put it back on, which most people do, what’s going to happen? Of course it’s going to just cut through and you’re going to have the same problem.
So here’s the solution. If you look at this, it’s exactly the same diameter as a nickel, about 7/8 of an inch diameter. So what you do is take a nickel, put it in the bottom of each new chair tip, then slip it on. So now the chair leg will rest on the nickel and it won’t cut through the chair anymore.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re helping August McWhirter maximize her storage and corral some of the clutter that’s creeping into her home from the garage. Allen’s worked out a plan and collected materials for a drop zone just inside the house. And my friend Paul Little has arrived to install a motorized lift called the Versa Lift that will help move some of the garage clutter up into the ample attic space for storage.
Paul, the joists are running back this way. So from the information that you sent me, I guess the Versa Lift will go right in like this?
Paul Little: Yeah, we try to run it in between the—or long ways with the rafters—so that we only have to cut out one, which really cuts down on structural issues.
Danny Lipford: Oh, sure. Yeah, that makes it real easy. Well, I guess we’ll get up in the attic and take a look. Have you installed a few of these before?
Paul Little: About 700 of them.
Danny Lipford: Well, Paul, like you saw from the pictures, it’s all completely decked right in here, so…
Paul Little: Yeah, that’s great.
Danny Lipford: I guess you just kind of want to cut in the center, huh?
Paul Little: Yeah, we want to put it in a spot where they can use it from both sides.
Danny Lipford: Right. Yeah.
Paul Little: That’s the ideal spot. There’s nothing in the way. They’re not running into braces like this or worried about falling through the attic ladder.
Danny Lipford: While Paul and I unpack the Versa Lift, Allen, Chelsea, and August are unloading the materials for the drop zone cabinet.
Allen Lyle: It’s quarter-inch, come on, Chelsea!
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: I know, but it’s slippery!
Danny Lipford: And they’re also getting some help from August’s little boy, Cullen.
Allen Lyle: Right there. Good job!
Danny Lipford: After a quick review of Allen’s intricately drawn plans…
Allen Lyle: Picture, if you will, this is down below where the seating is. This is the paneling above it, the hooks here; and above all this is going to be a shelf.
Danny Lipford: …they start cutting out the components…
Allen Lyle: This is only going to cut only about to about here.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Right.
Allen Lyle: So if y’all keep it steady for me once I get the cut made, and then flip it for me.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So we’re doing all the work?
Allen Lyle: You’re doing the work, yeah.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK. As long as we got that straight.
Danny Lipford: …and sanding the wood.
Allen Lyle: All right, what I’m going to do here is cut what’s called a dado, or it’s a groove that’s cut in the board, and here’s the reason why. For a lot of furniture, if you’ve got a piece of wood just butting against the other, it’s a very weak joint. But if it’s in a groove, or a dado, it almost becomes part of that next one, so it’s a much stronger joint.
And that’s what I’m going to do here. I’m going to cut two dados in the top and the bottom, that’s what the dividers are going to go through. It’s really going to strengthen up this bench.
Danny Lipford: Meanwhile, Paul has made some progress.
Man, Paul, looks like you already got this thing pretty much assembled.
Paul Little: Almost done. That’s the last bolt right there. We’re ready to go.
Danny Lipford: Man, that’s pretty cool, that’s not too bad at all. So what’s next?
Paul Little: We’re ready to cut the hole.
Danny Lipford: Oh, really? All right.
Paul Little: Soon as that’s done, we can get the lift installed.
Danny Lipford: So you said that just being—having to remove and block out just one of the ceiling joists, and so we hit it lucky that this spacing is just right.
Paul Little: It’s perfect, yes. On this particular model, we want it to be 22 and a half on the insides, and from a little preliminary measurement, we are exactly 22 and a half.
Danny Lipford: That’s some good luck.
Paul Little: Yeah, that’s great luck.
Danny Lipford: So you’re going to try to center it in this space, or what are you going to try to do?
Paul Little: I think what we’re going to do is we’re actually going to push it to one side so that the customer has plenty of room to walk around the end. They’ll be able to store on that side and/or pull off of each side, and they’ll still have plenty of room over here.
Danny Lipford: Perfect.
After marking the dimensions of the opening, we cut out the outline and remove the plywood decking, followed by the joist in the middle of the space. Then we add a piece of two by 12 on each end of the opening so we can support the ends of the joist that was cut.
Finally, Paul cuts out the drywall separating us from the garage below, and the lift is ready for installation.
All right, so we just put it right in place, huh?
Paul Little: Yeah, right over the hold.
Danny Lipford: And you have some lag bolts to hold it down?
Paul Little: Right over the hole, eight lag bolts, and it’s ready to drop the wire. You already have your electrical outlet in place, so, heck, we’re getting close on this thing.
Paul Little: Not too far.
Danny Lipford: Now, you know, it makes so much sense, if you think about it. How you’re able to take things from here, put it on the lift, and have it go right down into the garage. Or, of course, bring things right back up. That’s a lot safer than trying to lug big boxes up and down a set of stairs.
While we attach the frame, outside Chelsea and August are applying a coat of primer to all the parts of the drop zone cabinet under the vigilant supervision of Cullen, of course.
Back in the attic, once the frame is secure, we drop the cables down into the garage, where we complete the assembly of the basket and attach the cables that will fit it.
Paul, I love this thing. Let me give it a try there and see if this thing will work for me. No, here’s who should give it a try. OK, here’s your remote control.
August McWhirter: OK.
Danny Lipford: Push the button. Let’s see what happens. I just love that. You’ll be able to put all kinds of things on there, bring them up and down. We also put a railing around the staircase there to keep it safe when you’re going up and down.
And you can put just about anything on here except little boys. No little boys or girls can ride on this, OK? All right.
Jodi Marks: You know, inside your garage is premium real estate for storage. You’ve got your cars, your bicycles, you may even have a refrigerator and a freezer, and you certainly want to get your lawn mower in there. And Shea and I have stumbled on a really good lawn mower that can store very easily, right?
Shea Pettaway: We have a great mower that’s made by Toro. Briggs & Stratton has made this engine to be stored vertically.
Jodi Marks: Wow, that’s fantastic. So let’s show what happens. With this mow-and-stow, what you do is you release the handle, you flip it over and you make sure you lock it into place. Let’s make sure it’s locked—OK. Now you take off the leaf bag. And, Shea, let’s lift this up to show just what you can do for storage.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, kids. What about the gasoline and the oil? Is it going to leak out?” And the short answer is no, it’s not, because of the way the engine is designed.
Shea Pettaway: Another great feature is that it’s accessible, so you can sharpen the blade or even clean it.
Jodi Marks: See, and that’s fantastic. And I love this profile. Makes it so easy to store up against the garage wall, and you’ve got a great lawn mower that doesn’t take up a lot of space.
Danny Lipford: Our plan to help August McWhirter improve the storage in her home is coming along nicely. We just completed the installation of a Versa Lift system that will help her move things back and forth between the garage and the attic without lugging them up the stairs.
You can put just about anything on here except little boys.
And Allen has all the pieces together to create a custom drop zone just inside the entry to the house from the garage.
Allen Lyle: Will this be at the right height for you? I mean, would you be happy with that?
August McWhirter: I think so.
Allen Lyle: OK.
Danny Lipford: And Allen’s finally found someone to show him how his fancy stud finder works.
Allen Lyle: Anything yet? OK, keep moving. See if you can find it. Any red? Oh, oh, boy. That’s what we needed right there. Right there. That’s going to work. Now I can make it work because you helped me. Thank you. Perfect. Good job.
In fact, we may have found our newest member of the Today’s Homeowner crew. The next lesson is nail gun 101 for August, and she seems to really like this job.
Allen Lyle: That middle piece is never coming out!
August McWhirter: You said as many as I wanted.
Allen Lyle: Good job!
Danny Lipford: Now the bench can go in place so that they can complete the beadboard back and coat hangers.
Allen Lyle: Oh, no. I forgot hooks. I was supposed to get hooks.
August McWhirter: I think I might have some hooks that my husband had bought to do a project with my son, so let me see if I can find those.
Allen Lyle: Yeah. Oh, that would be awesome.
Danny Lipford: While Allen cuts down the beadboard and coats it with primer, Chelsea is helping me add some shelves in the attic to handle the stuff we’re about to start moving up here. But you just can’t keep a kid from playing with a new toy. You cannot ride up on that thing!
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: I’m not going to! I got my saw and some nails.
Danny Lipford: Are you kidding? You can’t walk up the stairs with those?
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: No. Why should I have to? We’re adding some vertical supports that align with the rafters, so that we can run horizontal supports between them to hold up the shelves.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Someone drew pictures! They added eyelashes to a knot of the wood so it looks like an eye. Oh, look! It’s two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. That’s funny!
Danny Lipford: Funny carpenters.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Carpenter humor!
Danny Lipford: Did I mention that my daughter is easily distracted from the job at hand sometimes?
By the way, some of the eyelashes we found here have actually been spiders. So we got August some Miss Muffet’s Revenge. It kills spiders inside but can also be used outside as a barrier to repel them and keep them out of the house. And because of its powerful precision sprayer, you can reach all those spots that spiders love, no matter how high or low.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and I have completed the attic shelves with a sturdy plywood top. Allen’s gotten some more help from his short stud finder expert and pretty much has the drop zone ready for paint. Now it’s time to attack the clutter in that garage.
All right, how’s the drop off zone going in there?
August McWhirter: It looks great. There’s some painting to do, but it looks good.
Danny Lipford: Well, he loves painting, so that works out really well. What do you think? You think it’s going to work, with the kids coming in and throwing off the boots and such?
August McWhirter: Yes. It’s going to be perfect.
Danny Lipford: Good, good. All right, in the attic space, you got so much room up there. Not only the area that you have decked, but me and my carpenter’s helper have you a two-foot by 16-foot of shelving.
So here’s where the hard work comes in. We’re going to clear out everything we have in the garage here except what you want to go up there. So you’ll have to tell us what to do. We’ll lower this down and we’ll get to work on it.
August McWhirter: OK.
Danny Lipford: First, the big stuff with some help from the little people.
Hey, what is this?
August McWhirter: Oh, yeah. That’s a shelving unit I bought a couple months ago, and I thought I could put it together, but I just haven’t had the time.
Danny Lipford: Oh, man, that’s exactly what we want. I thought, actually, we would end up needing to build something maybe over in this little corner…
August McWhirter: Right.
Danny Lipford: …you know, for a lot of the small things. But, hey, this might be just the thing.
August McWhirter: Yep.
Danny Lipford: We can save some wood with this.
And finally, we’re getting some of the clutter up to the attic with the help of the Versa Lift. And August’s little girl, Kippen, has taken over from Chelsea as the operator.
It’s amazing how easy it is to get bulky, even heavy, items up to the attic with this thing. And once they’re there, it’s simple to take them off the lift and stack them away on the new shelves.
Back downstairs, the daughters—Chelsea and Kippen—are busy putting together those shelves to organize the small stuff. But I’m afraid Chelsea has given Kippen bad advice.
Here you go. Scoop, scoop.
And finally, it’s starting to look like a garage again. Inside, Allen has finished painting the drop zone—complete with rollouts on the bottom for the kids’ shoes. And August has found…
Allen Lyle: Fish hooks.
Danny Lipford: Fish hooks that her late husband had bought.
Allen Lyle: I know that your late husband had always planned to do something here.
August McWhirter: Right.
Allen Lyle: This way, he’s actually contributing.
August McWhirter: Right.
Allen Lyle: Isn’t that cool?
August McWhirter: Yep.
Allen Lyle: I like that.
August McWhirter: It’s perfect.
Allen Lyle: What do you think?
August McWhirter: It looks great.
Danny Lipford: People often want to know what their options are to cover up a concrete garage floor.
Concrete stain is a quick, easy, inexpensive option to improve the floor’s appearance, but it probably has the biggest risk of failure with repeated vehicle traffic.
An epoxy coating tends to hold up a lot better to hot car tires, but it requires a fair amount of preparation before it is applied, and the cost is somewhat higher.
An interlocking rubber tile floor to completely cover the concrete will handle almost any amount of vehicle wear with ease and it’s relatively easy to install. The tradeoff is that the cost of these systems is much higher than the other two options.
There’s more Today’s Homeowner When we started this week, the clutter in August’s garage was threatening to spill over into her house. Everyday life, combined with her late husband’s hobbies and projects, had filled it to overflowing. Even the alcove just inside the door from the garage was getting cluttered.
So we started there by building the drop zone they planned when they built the house. In addition to being a great spot for two active kids to store their stuff, August has also made it a daily reminder of their dad by placing some of his mementos there.
Much of that clutter in the garage found a place in the attic, thanks to the addition of the Versa Lift, a few simple shelves, and a little effort. By making some room up there for memories, there’s a little more space in the garage for an everyday life that’s clutter-free.
All right. OK, August, you have storage space upstairs, you got storage space downstairs, and a great way to carry everything up and down.
August McWhirter: It looks great. It looks so much better. Thank you.
Danny Lipford: Oh, absolutely. Thank you, and we’ll see you guys soon. See you later. Bye-bye, and stay off that lift, OK?
Hey, I tell you what. Every time we do an organization-type project, it’s always very rewarding, even if it’s not at my house. It’s just very gratifying, and I’m sure there’s a few things around my house that I could probably get to as well.
If you have some projects, some things that you need to do around your house to get a little more organized, check out our website for some great tips, TodaysHomeowner.com.
Hey, I’m Danny Lipford. I hope to see you next week, right here on Today’s Homeowner.