Before & After: 1950s Ranch House Renovation

DIYer Chelsea Lipford Wolf walks us step by step through the exterior transformation of her 1950s ranch house renovation.

ranch house exterior renovation

DIY maven Chelsea Lipford Wolf, daughter of acclaimed contractor and TV host Danny Lipford, is taking on one of her biggest projects to date: renovating her ranch-style house from top to bottom.

The Today’s Homeowner co-host and Checking in with Chelsea creator recently purchased a 1950s Spring Hill ranch that she and her husband Brandon are updating for their growing family.

The first phase of the project was tackling the home’s scruffy exterior. Here, Chelsea walks us through the transformation step by step, offering some expert tips along the way.

Exterior Paint Color

While Chelsea was drawn to the overall style of her new house, the exterior paint color was not so attractive. A fresh coat of paint was exactly what the home needed.

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How do you find a paint color you won’t regret? Chelsea recommends driving around your favorite neighborhoods and taking pictures of the houses that grab your attention. Do you notice similarities between your favorite houses? That will give you a starting point for finding a color you’ll love for a long time.

Front porch

New Front Door + Windows

When it came to refreshing the front of the home, maintaining the charm of the front door was a must. “The front door was a main focus for me because a real wood door is classy and classic,” says Chelsea. “I’ve been obsessed with light wood tones for a while, so I wanted a door that was light and fresh.”

Chelsea and Brandon’s home was built in 1956, so replacing the rusty, leaky original windows was a must. After taking measurements, Low-E, energy-efficient JELD-WEN windows were installed around the perimeter of the house and sealed with Duramaster, a super-flexible new caulk, to keep them air and watertight.

Wooden Shakes on Gable

The gable on Chelsea’s home was big, pink and, well, an eyesore. Nailing cedar shakes directly into the stucco wasn’t an option, so she installed 1x4s on the stucco and nailed the shakes into the 1x4s. She used Titebond Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive to provide most of the support for the shakes and followed up with the nails. 

Changing out the lurid pink stucco proved trickier than she at first imagined. “We knew the gable above the front porch had stucco, or at least a stucco coating,” says Chelsea. “What we didn’t know was that it was real, solid stucco that nails bounced off of. Fortunately, masonry screws came to the rescue. It was an extra step, but a necessary one, to install 1x4s with masonry screws so we could easily nail the cedar shakes.”

Custom Garage Doors

Just like the windows, the old garage door was rusting and leaking. A functional and fashionable new garage door was just what the house needed. Chelsea and her dad worked together to build new garage doors using wood planks in a diagonal pattern for a more modern look.

“Our garage is too small for a vehicle, and garage doors (especially the ones I would pick out!) are so expensive. We opted to DIY some doors out of pressure-treated wood. We were able to fill the opening with two doors without any modifications to the house,” explains Chelsea.

As soon as the new doors were installed, Chelsea got busy sanding and staining them. She chose a natural stain to bring out the grain in the wood as well as protect them from the elements.

Landscaping (sodding, mailbox, plants, etc.)

When it came to landscaping, the grass was in rough shape, so Chelsea and Brandon decided to pull it up and start from scratch.

The couple also removed the old, wooden fencing around the property and added a new mailbox. “I don’t love tearing out or tearing down things just to be different. So, we thought we could keep the fence, maybe pressure wash it and spray it with a wood stain to freshen it up,” says Chelsea. However, some unwelcome critters had other plans for the banister. “The closer we inspected it, the worse it looked. It was old and the termites had eaten many of the posts below ground.”

Tearing out the fence proved to be a smart move. “It’s amazing how much larger our yard looked after we removed it. And with the new sod, it looks so fresh and like nothing is missing,” remarks Chelsea.

Parking Pad

When Chelsea and Brandon were first moving in and meeting subcontractors at the house, they noticed that everyone came to the back and parked in the driveway because there was no parking area in the front.

“We wanted our guests to come to the best part of our house, through the living room in the front,” says Chelsea. So, she devised the perfect solution—a simple parking pad with landscaped edging and gravel. “An added bonus is how much it adds to the overall curb appeal too. We’ve already noticed the shift in where guests park when they come to visit.”

Stay tuned for the next story in this series for Chelsea’s tips and tricks on how to transform a mediocre hall bath into a fabulous retreat!

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