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This Old House

Season 31 2009 - 2010

  • 2009-10-10T15:00:00Z on PBS
  • 25 mins
  • 10 hours, 19 mins (26 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Documentary, Home And Garden, Reality, Special Interest

Newton Centre; Roxbury

26 episodes

31x01 Newton Centre; Welcome to Newton Centre

  • Season Premiere

    2009-10-10T15:00:00Z — 24 mins

The 30th anniversary season of This Old House opens with the crew beginning a small but sophisticated addition to a 1915 Dutch Colonial Revival that includes a new kitchen, home office, and family room. Homeowners Bill and Gillian Pierce love their old house but it lacks family space, flow, and a modern kitchen. Architect Paul Rovinelli presents his plan for the addition, while problems are identified in the old house, both in the basement and in the landscape. Host Kevin O'Connor visits a similar house in the neighborhood that has been opened up and expanded, while general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram arrive to begin the demolition with Bill. By the end of the day, the three-season porch has been removed, and work is well underway.

Master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva remove the old vinyl siding from the exterior of the house, exposing not only the original wood clapboards underneath but also lots of repair work that needs to be done. Inside, architect Paul Rovinelli takes host Kevin O'Connor and homeowner Gillian Pierce through the plan for the new kitchen, which calls for a modest expansion, building as Gillian puts it, "just what we need," and nothing more. One early proponent of that style of thinking was architect and author Sarah Susanka, so Kevin travels to her own "Not So Big" home in Raleigh, North Carolina, to see some smart ideas for restrained remodels that won't break the bank. Back in Newton Centre, landscape contractor Roger Cook breaks up the old porch slab to make way for the foundation for the new addition.

Host Kevin O'Connor and general contractor Tom Silva discuss the homeowners' decision to stay in the house during construction, and they agree it won't be easy. Homeowners Bill and Gillian Pierce are already living out of boxes and coolers, because today their kitchen will be gutted back to the studs. In the basement, the laundry room can stay for the time being, but the entire heating system is also coming out today, as plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey goes straight to work with a reciprocating saw and a sledgehammer. Outside, Tom shows Kevin how he's extending the old windowsills with wood and epoxy to replicate the historic "ears" of the sill that were cut off by the vinyl siding contractor years ago. Gillian sets up a temporary kitchen in the basement, while Kevin gets some bad news from master electrician Allen Gallant. The exterior service components are water-damaged beyond repair, and due to some hidden (and ungrounded) knob-and-tube wiring, nearly ninety percent of the old house will have to be rewired to meet building code. Out back, Tom uses interlocking, insulated concrete forms to form the foundation for the new addition, just before the concrete truck arrives for the pour.

Host Kevin O'Connor meets general contractor Tom Silva in the kitchen to see some bizarre and inadequate framing that he recently discovered in the old kitchen ceiling. As a result, they have to reinforce and level the entire ceiling using an angle iron, a laser level, and multiple new LVLs. Then, Kevin visits Long Island, New York with architect Russell Versaci to learn about the origins of our house style, the Dutch Colonial Revival. Back in Newton Centre, master carpenter Norm Abram leads the effort to frame up the first floor platform for the new addition.

Homeowner Gillian Pierce shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress—the first floor family room is entirely framed in, and up above, general contractor Tom Silva is building the gable-end wall for the new addition. Kevin climbs up top and lends a hand with the wall raising. Out front, master electrician Allen Gallant prepares to upgrade the service from 100 amp to 200 amp, but first he sets up temporary jobsite power by making up a new main connection from the street—with live wires. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin how he's using a composite pipe made up of PEX and aluminum to run new lines to the old radiators. Out at the new addition, Tom walks Kevin through the complex roof framing, and they get a sense of the new library and home office space for the first time.

Work on the Dutch Colonial Revival continues as master carpenter Norm Abram recaps the progress on the addition, then turns his attention to the kitchen where general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O'Connor are working to reframe the existing walls to accommodate new door and window openings. Upstairs, Tom installs a large new window in the library that is really six individual window units grouped together, while downstairs, kitchen designer Tamara Raymond helps homeowner Gillian Pierce envision her new kitchen with the help of paper mock-ups. Kevin pays a visit to former This Old House architect Treff LaFleche to see how he renovated his 1906 Gambrel-style Victorian to achieve superior energy efficiency and a LEED green building certification.

Landscape contractor Roger Cook welcomes certified arborist Matt Foti to Newton Centre to prune all of the existing hemlock trees on the corner of the house, and along the driveway. Inside, master electrician Allen Gallant installs a bath fan in the new powder room that looks like a recessed light, but it has hidden ventilation capabilities built in. Host Kevin O'Connor travels back to Austin, Texas to revisit our first certified green building project—a 1920s bungalow that was expanded to accommodate a family of four. Nearly three years later, the homeowners and their builder report back on how the house is performing. Back in Newton Centre, general contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how he's roofing the new addition to match the existing house using an architectural asphalt shingle.

General contractor Tom Silva replicates the old exterior trim details around the new windows in the addition using cellular PVC that will never rot. Master carpenter Norm Abram installs the pre-hung Douglas fir exterior door for the back entry. Architect Paul Rovinelli takes host Kevin O'Connor on a tour of a recently renovated Dutch Colonial Revival that makes the most of its small footprint. Back at the house, Tom gets some help from homeowner Bill Pierce and his dad, Bill Pierce, Sr., as they remove the old bookshelves and plaster wall to gain entry into the new library addition.

General contractor Tom Silva enlists homeowner Gillian Pierce to help him fabricate the new decorative bracket that will support the rear entry porch roof. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress on piping the old radiators, and the challenges he is facing in providing heat to the new kitchen space. The solution is two different applications of radiant heat, a portion installed above the subfloor, and a portion installed underneath. In a renovated church downtown, interior designer Lisey Good shows Kevin how she created a beautiful new kitchen and a combination home office/library space (both with smart storage solutions). Back at the house, Kevin helps master carpenter Norm Abram use new red cedar clapboards to patch in the old exterior siding at the back of the house.

To replace the stairway he removed from the old kitchen, general contractor Tom Silva builds a brand new stairway to the basement. Then, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor how to select a good quality faucet—discussing function, finish, construction and valves. Inspired by an existing arched door opening, Tom shows Kevin how he's making a vaulted ceiling in the hallway that connects the front of the house to the new addition out back. At the end of the day, insulation contractor Tony Trigler arrives to install spray foam insulation in the new addition.

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives at the house and finds that preparation for the exterior paint job is well underway. Homeowner Bill Pierce reveals that he has selected a new kind of paint that promises homeowners that they'll "never paint again." General contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram install custom copper half-round gutters that the architect specified for the rear of the house. Inside, Kevin finds the wallboard up, and plastering contractor David Crawford and his crew putting up a base coat of veneer plaster. Back outside, Kevin meets painting contractors Mat Giovanello and Pat Foley to learn more about their product—a system that relies on proper surface preparation, proprietary bonding agents, and an acrylic paint containing ceramic beads to create a lasting finish. Kevin learns that just a few weeks before the end of the project, Bill has decided to have Tom rebuild his entire one-car garage. Wasting no time, Tom gets to work removing the old garage.

Host Kevin O'Connor lends a hand as general contractor Tom Silva builds a new small deck that will serve to connect the kitchen to the patio. Then, landscape contractor Roger Cook works with homeowner Bill Pierce to lay concrete pavers for the new patio. Tile specialist Catherine Mitchell shows Kevin the range of options available in selecting white subway tile for the kitchen backsplash. Then, in the new library, flooring contractor Patrick Hunt shows master carpenter Norm Abram how he's installing new oak flooring to match the existing flooring in the house. Kevin checks back in with Roger as they finish the patio by applying polymeric sand, compaction, and finally, water, to lock it all in place.

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives at the house to find that landscape contractor Roger Cook has removed the old driveway and has begun putting down the the new asphalt. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram finds the new cabinets on site, and lends general contractor Tom Silva a hand as he begins to install them. In a nearby showroom, Kevin meets up with lighting specialist Bob Joyce to see the latest in under cabinet lighting, including some new energy efficient LED options. Then, back at the house, Kevin observes how painting contractor Anne Brady strips off two layers of old wallpaper from the front entry hall. With all of the kitchen cabinets installed, Tom and Norm work to trim out the bank of windows in the back corner of the kitchen.

Landscape contractor Roger Cook and homeowner Gillian Pierce visit neighbor and gardener Cathy Schneider to take her up on her offer to share some of her plants that need dividing. Back at the Pierce home, painting contractor Anne Brady gets started on the prep and painting of the dining room, first explaining how to patch and spot prime a water-damaged ceiling. Then, Anne teaches host Kevin O'Connor a method for repainting the ceiling in 3'x3' patches that allows her to do two coats at once while always keeping a wet edge. Kevin checks on the progress of the kitchen and then meets up with countertop fabricator Danny Puccio to see the latest offerings in countertops at an off-site showroom. Out back, they see how the tops are fabricated both by machine and by hand. Inside, Kevin finds general contractor Tom Silva constructing the new built-in bookshelves for the formal living room. Kevin lends a hand fabricating the boxes and mounting them to the wall.

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives at the project house to find a bustling jobsite and the finished countertops arriving. Inside, homeowner Bill Pierce reviews the tight clearances around the kitchen island before the tops are permanently installed. Landscape contractor Roger Cook takes homeowner Gillian Pierce shopping for plant material for the yard, focusing on dwarf specimens to fit the scale and size of her lot. Back at the house, master carpenter Norm Abram welcomes back wood countertop fabricator Paul Grothouse to install the butcher block island top and to review other wood top options. Outside, Roger and Gillian review the site prep and put the new plants in the ground. Upstairs, Norm and general contractor Tom Silva continue work on the new library by fabricating and installing the face frames for the base cabinets and gluing and installing the new oak tops for the window seat. Back in the kitchen, tile contractor Mark Ferrante installs and grouts the subway tile backsplash using a new pre-mixed urethane grout that promises faster installation time, greater stain resistance and no additional sealing.

In the final show from Newton Centre, host Kevin O'Connor drives up to find all hands on deck for the last few days of the project. Landscape contractor Roger Cook mulches in the last of the plants and lays sod around the new patio. Inside, flooring contractor Pat Hunt shows Kevin the prep for the new oak floors and how the color is achieved through layers of dye and stain to match the 100-year-old floors in the rest of the house. Down in the basement, Kevin meets plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey to see the final heating installation and how he made smart use of some old radiators to heat the basement space. In the kitchen, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant installing the new LED under-cabinet lights that use a fraction of the energy of traditional lights. On the final morning of the project, master carpenter Norm Abram meets up with architect Paul Rovinelli to see the finished exterior elevations, and inside, the dramatic new library and furnished home office space. Homeowner Bill Pierce shows Kevin the finished living room, with plenty of new built-ins for books, and the new family room that is already being used by the kids in the house. The highlight of the whole project is the new kitchen, where homeowner Gillian Pierce is already happily at work preparing food for the wrap party. Highlights include a new 30” range with burners up top, and two ovens below, and plenty of space for the family to gather around to keep her company. Lead by general contractor Tom Silva, the modest project (with a modest budget) succeeded in its goals of tightening up the old house, while adding on just enough space to achieve better flow and living space for the family. At the wrap party, friends and family arrive to celebrate another This Old House job well done.

For the second project of This Old House's 30th Anniversary Season, the crew takes on an issue that's top of mind in the country: foreclosures. Partnering with the City of Boston and local non-profit Nuestra Comunidad, they will take a foreclosed and abandoned two-family house from the 1870s, and turn it into two units of affordable housing in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Local general contractor David Lopes shows host Kevin O'Connor just how extensive the damage to the old house is, and they quickly get to work demolishing the parts that can't be saved, including a three-story rear extension, which has rotted through from roof to floor. Joining the project will be apprentices from YouthBuild Boston looking to earn jobs in the building trades. In order to recruit two young carpenters from the program to work with the crew, master carpenter Norm Abram visits YouthBuild's annual carpentry challenge. Back at the house, after more necessary demolition, certified arborist Jack Kelly and his crew arrive to remove a giant dead tree that had fallen from the project house yard onto the neighbor's garage. Renovating the house will be a great challenge, but the City feels it will make a statement of hope and respect in a neighborhood that has been plagued by foreclosures.

31x18 Roxbury; Mounting Challenges

  • 2010-02-06T16:00:00Z — 22 mins

Master carpenter Norm Abram meets up with general contractor David Lopes to discuss problems he's encountered in the last several weeks, including major engineering challenges and a month of rain. Meanwhile, host Kevin O'Connor meets up with non-profit developer David Price to learn more about Roxbury's past and present. David explains the work that his CDC, Nuestra Comunidad, is doing to bring back parts of Dudley Square. As part of Nuestra's mission to create affordable housing, they recently held a public lottery for our project house that resulted in a qualified buyer. At nearby restaurant Merengue, Kevin meets the lucky buyer of the house, Roxbury native Lanita Tolentino, to go over her renovation plans. Back at the house, the foundation walls for the new rear addition have been poured and backfilled. Inside, David Lopes shows Norm what he's done to shore up the structure of the main house, and how he is using laminated veneer lumber to remedy a structural problem caused by the failing foundation. After extensive foundation excavation on the main house, a framing crew arrives to start raising the walls for the new addition.

Master carpenter Norm Abram meets up with general contractor David Lopes to check out the progress that has been made on the house both outside and in. They find that there has been extensive framing work completed, but unfortunately, a great majority of the house had to be rebuilt due to the dire condition of the structure. Out front, a concrete truck arrives to pour the footing for the new front entry, which will be one of the last sections to be reframed. Up on the mansard roof, David shows Norm how he's putting down the new roof using architectural shingles made to look like the slate that would have been on the house originally. Days later, the new, energy-efficient vinyl windows have been installed, and work continues on the exterior PVC trim. Host Kevin O'Connor catches up with carpenter Ed Curet to see how he's installing the new siding, which was both pre-primed and pre-painted, saving time and money. At the end of the day, paint color consultant Bonnie Krims shows Norm how she worked with all of the modern, low maintenance materials to create a classic color scheme that is historically informed.

31x20 Roxbury; Coming Together

  • 2010-02-20T16:00:00Z — 24 mins

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find the construction trailer leaving the site, making way for the landscape work to begin. The roofing and siding of the house have been completed and the paneling on the front bay window has been recreated to resemble what might have been there originally. In the basement, plumbing and heating contractor Richard Trethewey reviews the waste and water configuration of the two-family house, and meets HVAC contractor Abdul Barrie to see the new, high-efficiency two-stage hot air system he's installing. Throughout the house, spray foam insulation has been installed to keep that warm air inside. Host Kevin O'Connor visits the Fort Myers area in Florida and realizes that while foreclosures are still on the rise in Boston, the city is better off than many others in the country. Real estate agent Mark Joseph gives Kevin a look at one of the country's most foreclosure-ravaged communities, and explains how the houses there are selling quickly, but often at half their former market value. Back in Roxbury, Kevin catches up with our new homeowner, Lanita Tolentino, to see the progress she's made on selecting flooring and kitchen cabinet finishes with the help of interior designer Tricia McDonagh. Out back, master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor David Lopes use low maintenance PVC decking and prefabricated railings to dress up the rear entrance decks.

31x21 Roxbury; Help From Our Friends

  • 2010-02-27T16:00:00Z — 24 mins

Despite the bitter cold, landscape contractor Roger Cook works with a group of students from YouthBuild Boston to spread soil and put down sod in the backyard. Meanwhile, fence contractor Mike McLaughlin and his crew install a PVC privacy fence along the perimeter of the yard. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram and lead carpenter Colin Paterson are adding some period charm to the bay window area by installing custom casings and paneling. The house's existing plaster ceiling medallions were beyond repair, so Norm brings back preservation plasterer Rory Brennan to replicate them on site. Fortunately, the originals were nearly identical to the medallions from the Charlestown project years ago, so Rory mixes up some plaster and pours a new medallion from the Charlestown mold. Afterward, they install a completed casting in the front parlor. At the end of the day, the fence is nearly complete and the sod is finished, thanks to our group of intrepid apprentices.

Host Kevin O'Connor finds carpenter Zo Curet in the front parlor installing a plaster crown molding. This close reproduction of the 1870s original is a lightweight foam made with plaster and an acrylic coating which can easily be installed with nothing more than a joint compound. Homeowner Lanita Tolentino shows Kevin the colors she's considering as painting contractor Ivan Batallas paints an accent wall in the back bedroom. Master carpenter Norm Abram visits a workshop to see how the slabs for our new, eight-foot, oak front doors and sidelights are machined and pre-hung for installation as one large unit on the jobsite. Two miles down the road, Kevin visits an architectural antiques shop to find a matching marble fireplace surround for the second unit of our house. Shop owner Bill Raymer shows Kevin around and offers to donate a closely matching fireplace to the project. Back at the house, the new front doors have arrived, and lead carpenter Colin Paterson makes quick work of installing them.

31x23 Roxbury; Custom Details

  • 2010-03-13T16:00:00Z — 24 mins

General contractor David Lopes shows Kevin the progress on the puddingstone retaining walls and front entrances at our Roxbury project. Master carpenter Norm Abram travels to Dover, N.H. to see how millwork fabricator Denis Goupil and his team fabricated custom arches for the front of the house. Back in Roxbury, stone specialist Steve Torok installs a decorative antique marble fireplace surround and mantel to match the original at the house. Upstairs, Kevin finds flooring contractor Ingo Vu laying out and installing a pre-finished, solid birch floor that is hand-scraped for an aged effect. Interior designer Tricia McDonagh shows Kevin how she took cues from the panels in the bay window and the marble fireplace surround when designing the cabinetry and countertop details for the new kitchen.

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find landscape contractor Roger Cook on site with the landscape apprentices from YouthBuild Boston. The group is helping to spread new soil in the front yard and also to plant low-maintenance ground cover and an ornamental dogwood tree. General contractor David Lopes shows master carpenter Norm Abram the progress at the front entry and in the kitchen of the second unit. Next door, countertop fabricator Danny Puccio shows homeowner Lanita Tolentino how to clean and remove stains from her new marble countertops. Nearby, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey meets Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing to look more closely at the historical aspects of Roxbury. Finally, Richard and David Lopes install a new tankless hot water heater in the basement of Lanita's unit.

With just one week left in Roxbury, tile contractor Angelo McRae shows Kevin how to install meshed white subway tiles with a rail cap for the kitchen backsplash. Kevin visits our Washington, D.C. project house to meet the family that moved in and see how our last venture in non-profit development turned out. Then, general contractor Tom Silva lends a hand to lead carpenter Colin Paterson, who is customizing and installing the stair treads and newel post for the new stairs.

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find the job nearing completion thanks to the dedication of general contractor David Lopes. Landscape contractor Roger Cook and the YouthBuild apprentices plant the final tree and spread mulch out front, while out back, fence contractor Mike McLaughlin installs the entry gate on the perimeter fence. Inside, designer Tricia McDonagh is readying the house for the wrap party, as the final light fixtures and window treatments are installed. Down in the basement, local HVAC contractor Abdul Barrie gives homeowner Lanita Tolentino a crash course on what she needs to know about the mechanicals in her basement. Boston Mayor Tom Menino stops by to see how the house turned out, and while work continues on the second unit, Lanita’s unit is ready for her to move in. Upstairs, she shows Kevin the tile and fixture choices in the bathroom, and also her spacious new bedroom and walk-in closet. Downstairs, as her family arrives for the party, her grandmother gets a batch of Cape Verdean cachupa going on the new stove, as Lanita shows master carpenter Norm around her new kitchen and living spaces. Norm and David Lopes reflect on how far the house has come in eight months, and as the team gathers for the wrap party, all agree that it was a successful partnership. While foreclosures remain a problem nationally, there is one less foreclosure on this street in Boston.

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