Auburndale; Los Angeles
This Old House opens a brand new season by helping the Sharma family renovate their 1940's house on Boston's famous Charles River. Out front, the home's bland exterior will receive a curb-appeal makeover thanks to the creative ideas of architect Chris Chu. On the inside, the house will get a new, larger kitchen, updated baths and loads of new windows to take advantage of the spectacular views out back. General contractor Tom Silva conducts a structural investigation and cites concerns about a new EPA law affecting all contractors dealing with lead paint in 2010. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey finds asbestos in the usual spots in the basement, but with the help of asbestos inspector Glenn Potter, it's also discovered hiding in the ceilings, walls, under the kitchen sink and even in the joint compound. Work gets underway as landscape contractor Roger Cook puts erosion control in place to protect the flood plain, while asbestos abatement contractor Brian Fitzsimons begins what will be nearly two solid weeks of asbestos removal.
Landscape contractor Roger Cook preps for the new foundation of the entry hall by removing the old overgrown and badly pruned yews. Out back, host Kevin O'Connor finds general contractor Tom Silva and lead paint specialist Ron Peik demolishing the sun porch within the limits of the new national EPA lead law that now affects all contractors working on houses from 1978 or earlier. Master carpenter Norm Abram and homeowner Allison Sharma learn more about the grand estate that once occupied the neighborhood by visiting its original gatehouse, which is now a private home. Tom shows Kevin the progress on the excavation out front and out back, where Tom has transferred the load from the rear wall of the house, inbound, to a series of three temporary walls so work can begin. A team of concrete cutters arrives to set up and begin the process of cutting through the 10" thick concrete foundation walls. After the final cuts are made, they drop out a 16-foot section of the rear foundation wall to make way for the new family room addition.
The morning starts with the arrival of a 17-foot-long steel beam that weighs 900 pounds. It will carry the load of the house over the 16-ft. opening that was made in the rear foundation wall. Because the site is so hard to access, general contractor Tom Silva uses a crane to lift it up and over the house and place it carefully on a temporary wall near the installation site. Then, host Kevin O'Connor and Tom's crew lend a hand installing it. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets with product specialist Bill Gaines to see the insulated concrete forms being used not only for the foundations, but also for the above-grade walls on the new additions. Inside, Kevin welcomes Chris Kimball from America's Test Kitchen, to help us understand the "time capsule" of a kitchen that we have from 1940 and where the new design is headed for our homeowners in 2010. Back outside, the forms are complete and the concrete truck arrives to pour the foundation and walls. At the end of the day, Tom and Kevin discuss how the new lead laws affect interior work and how to properly test for it. Using proper protocol, the kitchen is gutted and the wall to the dining room comes down.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find most of the demolition complete, and the house entirely opened up. General contractor Tom Silva shows him the progress and then they get to work taking the dip out of the old kitchen floor by working from below, down in the basement. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram frames up the new mudroom and powder room on the first floor using Tom's preferred method of framing up new walls: cutting all of the stock to length; assembling the walls on the floor; and standing them up one at a time. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey meets Massachusetts State Director of Flood Control, Bill Gode, to see how the Charles River has been literally formed and shaped by several major engineering projects over the years, including three major dams. Back at the project house, as Tom contends with the termite-damaged sill out front, Kevin welcomes pest control expert Todd McNamara to see his "eco-friendly" plan to address the termites and also the carpenter ants out back.
Master carpenter Norm Abram meets homeowner Allison Sharma to review progress and see the new front entry and framed up kitchen. At the garage, he helps general contractor Tom Silva turn the flat roof into a pitched roof with the help of some prefabricated trusses. Kitchen designer Donna Venegas and homeowner Raveen Sharma review the layout of the new kitchen with the help of a paper mock-up. In the backyard, landscape contractor Roger Cook and urban ecologist Peter DelTredici show host Kevin O'Connor the native and non-native species taking over the flood plain. Norm and Tom review the layout for the new back deck and walkways and get to work setting 12 new footings to support them. Later, they frame up the floor of the new sunroom using engineered lumber.
Work continues on the Auburndale project, as general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram frame the flat roof over the new sunroom. To shed water, the roof will be pitched slightly. Tom accomplishes this by tapering both the LVLs and the roof rafters. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Norm an expensive change order in the basement bathroom, and he also shares the news that the homeowners have decided to add air conditioning. Meanwhile, host Kevin O'Connor visits the Boston Public Library to learn about the former resident of the home, one of Boston's most famous street photographers, Jules Aarons. At the library, Curator Aaron Schmidt and son Phillip Aarons share their perspectives on the man and his work. On the second floor, Richard shows Kevin the progress on the rough plumbing and explains the layout of the new back-to-back bathrooms. Out on the future roof deck, Kevin finds Tom finishing up installing the underlayment on the flat roof. He lends a hand gluing down the rubber membrane, overlapping the sections, and caulking the joints.
In the basement, host Kevin O'Connor finds plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey finishing up the installation of the floor-warming radiant heat that will be in the slab under the new family room. A concrete pump truck arrives to pour all of the concrete on the basement level, including the footings for the new deck, and a team of concrete finishers works to create a smooth and level new basement floor. In a tile showroom at the Boston Design Center, Kevin and homeowner Allison Sharma meet interior designer Melissa Gulley to begin making aesthetic decisions for the entire project. Melissa gets a feel for Allison's style by looking at images she loves, pulled from books and magazines. Back at the house, general contractor Tom Silva is busy installing the new energy efficient, vinyl clad casement windows in what was formerly one of the darkest corners of the house. He cuts in new window and wall openings to reveal the spectacular views of the Charles River for the first time in that corner.
Halfway through the renovation in Auburndale, master carpenter Norm Abram lends general contractor Tom Silva a hand patching in some sidewall shingles on the front of the house. Down in the basement, host Kevin O'Connor finds plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installing the ductwork for the new hydronic heating and cooling system, chosen for its flexibility in duct sizes, which are installed in the ceiling over the family room to feed the sunroom above. Next door, in the kitchen, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant finishing up the rough electrical, and also using something new— 4-inch, dimmable LED recessed light units with a light source that will last 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Back out in the hall mudroom, Norm and Tom accommodate another change order (and finish up the rough framing) by installing a pocket door kit that you can get at a local lumberyard.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find work on the exterior progressing in the front, while out back, general contractor Tom Silva uses an acrylic stucco system to make the new basement addition blend in with the poured concrete of the old walkout basement. Inside, Kevin welcomes Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen back to the show to see the final layout of our kitchen and to get his opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the design. Back outside, Kevin finds Tom up on the roof, working to waterproof the valley where the flat roof meets the pitched roof of the new entry addition. Insulation contractor Tony Trigler arrives with crews to install four different kinds of insulation throughout the house for four different applications including, eco-friendly batt insulation, cellulose, and both open cell and closed cell spray foam.
Host Kevin O'Connor meets landscape designer Jen Nawada Evans to see her plan for opening up the front yard while also creating perennial beds that can be added to over time. Inside, plaster contractor David Crawford shows Kevin how he is blending the old work with the new. Certified arborist Matt Foti shows landscape contractor Roger Cook why the Norway maple out front cannot be saved and demonstrates how his crew is taking it down safely, being mindful of its entanglement with the power lines. Down the river from our project, Kevin and master carpenter Norm Abram take some time to see the Charles River through the eyes of its most colorful tour guides—the "conDUCKtors" over at Boston Duck Tours. They take a tour through the city streets and then "splash" into the river as the tour bus becomes a tour boat, revealing some of the best views in Boston. Back at the house, Kevin meets up with general contractor Tom Silva and painting contractor Mauro Henrique to see how his crew is removing paint from the old shingles and how they will use a solid body stain to let the texture of the cedar shingles show through.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find landscape contractor Roger Cook overseeing the crew that is setting the footings for the new pergola, while also preparing to give the concrete stoop a makeover using fieldstone veneer on the riser and a bluestone cap on the top. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva begin trimming out the first floor windows, starting with the 16-foot bank of windows in the sunroom. The trim details will match the originals, using a build up of unadorned profiles created with a moulding machine. With the pergola on the way, Roger takes homeowner Allison Sharma to the Arnold Arboretum to see several different kinds of vines and select one that is appropriate for her front yard conditions. Back at the house, Norm surveys the progress on the second floor and sees how tile contractor Rob Raps is using pitching sticks to create a mud job at the base of the new shower.
On site at the Auburndale project, the transformation of the back of the house is almost complete. Up on the deck, general contractor Tom Silva is putting down a new generation of composite decking—it is made from the same recycled plastic bits and wood waste that we’ve used before, but this time it has a durable new proprietary finish that carries a 30-year warranty. The manufacturer also provides a hidden fastening system and a prefabricated railing. Inside, painting is underway, and we’re using a product that promises richer colors, but also low VOCs—so master carpenter Norm Abram heads over to the factory to learn what goes into a quality can of paint. Painting contractor Mauro Henrique shows host Kevin O'Connor what he likes and doesn’t like about how the paint performs. In the living room, Tom shows Kevin how he’s making a few simple modifications to the fireplace mantel that will update its style to better fit in with the rest of the newly renovated house.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find landscape contractor Roger Cook getting ready to install nine tons of rustic Pennsylvania fieldstone for the new entry walkway. Inside, general contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how to recognize a quality cabinet, and they assemble the kitchen island that has been sent in pieces from the manufacturer. Upstairs, Kevin finds tile contractor Rob Raps working in the kids' bathroom to install the new black and white tile scheme. Then Kevin lends a hand while master carpenter Norm Abram boxes in the ceiling beams in the sunroom, finishing them off with crown moulding. In the front entry hall, Tom shows Kevin the interior MDF two-panel doors the architect has specified, as well as a beefier version for the front door, from the same manufacturer, just as it is being painted a color called "audacious" red.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find pergola contractor Mark Bushway and his crew installing the new custom pergola in front of the house. Inside, general contractor Tom Silva modifies the turnouts at the base of the main staircase, which are now too large given the open floor plan. He modifies the structure, tread, riser, and scotia to be both smaller and more squared-off to better match the details in the rest of the house. Landscape contractor Roger Cook preps the beds for planting as nurseryman Peter Mezitt delivers a 12-foot tall river birch tree that was grown in a 25-gallon container instead of the ground. This allows for better root system retention and seasonal availability. With proper care – teasing out the roots and using adequate compost and water – the results will be better than using field-grown specimens. Next-door neighbor Sue Hickey provides some of her extra perennials to round out the garden, and then, in the basement, Tom installs a new click-together laminate floor over the new concrete slab.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find the wood island top being installed, and fabricator Paul Grothouse is on hand to show how he achieved the distressed finish. General contractor Tom Silva installs the "his & hers" closet systems that were designed online by interior designer Melissa Gulley and picked up at the local home center. Security system specialist Jack Basset installs the new wireless security system that cannot only detect opened windows and broken doors, but also the sound of breaking glass. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin the high-efficiency two-stage air conditioning system, and an equally efficient system for heat and hot water thanks to a condensing boiler and an indirect hot water tank. Countertop contractor Danny Puccio installs the kitchen window stool his shop made out of marble, as well as the "leathered" granite countertops – a look that's achieved by using metal brushes rather than diamond polishing pads. Tom installs the exterior hardware and shows how the new "smart lock" can be re-keyed anytime without the help of a locksmith. Landscape designer Jen Nawada Evans oversees the planting of the neighborhood trees in the community island, and the sod going down on the project, which is just about finished.
In the last episode of the Auburndale project, master electrician Allen Gallant finishes up the exterior low-voltage lighting, while inside, lighting designer Susan Arnold shows off the installed lighting plan and how she's made a house with low ceilings look more spacious. Upstairs, host Kevin O'Connor meets plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey in the kids' bath to see the water-saving plumbing fixtures, and a bath fan that will turn on automatically when it senses humidity in the room. Interior designer Melissa Gulley shows Kevin how a small custom rug factory in Fall River, MA, is making the carpets for the house using both old and new world technology. Out front, landscape contractor Roger Cook shows master carpenter Norm Abram the hops vines that will be planted to grow on the pergola in the spring. Architect Chris Chu is on hand to review the overall effect of the changes to the front of the house and general contractor Tom Silva shows Norm the new composite shutters that add low-maintenance character to the front of the house. Inside, kitchen designer Donna Venegas shows Kevin the finished kitchen and the appliances that she specified, and then kitchen consultant Chris Kimball drops by to give Kevin his final thoughts on the space. Melissa shows Norm the challenges of furnishing an open floor plan on the main level, while upstairs, it is a master bedroom retreat, where homeowner Allison Sharma joins to reveal the master bedroom and luxurious bathroom. Down in the basement, it is all about family and function, as we see the family room, new bath, and laundry with Raveen Sharma and the kids. The entire team wraps up seven months of hard work with the traditional "wrap party" from our Auburndale project on the banks of Charles River.
For the second project of the season This Old House goes Hollywood with the first ever renovation project in the Los Angeles area. After seeing some of the local sights, master carpenter Norm Abram and host Kevin O'Connor arrive at the 1933 Spanish Colonial Revival project house in the hillside neighborhood of Silver Lake. Homeowners Kurt Albrecht and Mary Blee plan to expand and renovate the 1,500-sq.-ft. house, while keeping and extending the character of the existing house into the small addition. Changes include a major kitchen renovation, a second floor addition and reconfiguration of the back half of the first floor. Norm ventures up into the Hollywood Hills to meet general contractor Steve Pallrand at a job he's been working on that showcases the unique challenges of building in Los Angeles. Back at the house, site supervisor Angel Leon gets to work salvaging finish materials for later reuse. Project manager Joe Luttrell begins preparations to replicate the plaster "cake decorating" details on the walls, and takes some time to show Norm their salvage yard. Angel and Kevin review the plans and outline the scope of work for adding a second floor on the back of the house to gain a full master suite. In order to do that, they need to remove the roof, so roofing contractor John Dybas arrives to harvest the valuable antique clay roof tiles for future use.
Master carpenter Norm Abram and host Kevin O'Connor stop by one of LA's major movie studios to find homeowner Kurt Albrecht at work in the animation division where it can take his team up to five years to make a feature film. Back in Silver Lake, things are moving a bit quicker, as Kevin finds the front of the house intact, but the back of the house is opened up wide from demolition—no walls or roof remain. Site supervisor Angel Leon shows Kevin the result of three weeks of work—a massive foundation form for the new addition that will meet LA's strict seismic code and "hillside ordinance" regulations. Two of the biggest challenges are getting five loads of concrete delivered up the narrow winding streets, and the 3000 psi mix that tends to set up quickly in the California sun. Up in Stockton, California, Norm visits a facility where they replicate real earthquakes with the help of a "shake table" to assist them in developing ways to protect buildings—and therefore people—from damage. After a few weeks of framing, structural engineer Jeff Ellis shows Norm how the building science has been applied to the house through shear walls, hold-downs and tying off at every level. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey reviews the rough plumbing progress while the new heating and cooling systems are being installed in the basement.
Back in Los Angeles, host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find the new clay roof tiles on site as well as the custom windows and doors, which are made of wood and single-glazed to keep a historic look. They meet the strict California energy codes with a combination of tempered glass and Low-E coatings. Roofing contractor John Dybas returns to show Kevin the plan they've come up with for the new roof: using the roof tiles from the old house for the perimeter of the new roof only where they can be seen from the street. The rest of the field will be new, manufactured two-pan tile to cut down on costs. Down in Corona, California, Kevin sees how piles of clay and sand are mixed with water and fire to produce our roof tiles. Back in Silver Lake, John shows Kevin the polypropylene underlayment he's using, the flashing details, and how his expert crew sets the tiles along the ridges using nails, mortar, and hand tools. Out on the reservoir, the director of operations for the LADWP, Marty Adams, shows plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey how the neighborhood landmark has been providing LA with drinking water, and why it is being taken offline. Up in Griffith Park, they go thirty-five feet below ground to see the new infrastructure going in that will supply the city with water in the future. Back at the house, stucco specialist Alfonso Garcia evaluates the condition of our stucco, which he'll be working on next time.
Master carpenter Norm Abram arrives to find site supervisor Angel Leon wrestling with the latest challenge of the project: replicating the arch details from the front living room in various openings in the house. Outside, stucco specialist Alfonso Garcia shows Norm how the stucco system starts on the new addition with the scratch coat, and then the brown coat. The top two layers will be placed once the base is dry. On the other side of the lake, host Kevin O'Connor meets resident director Sarah Lorenzen to see architect Richard Neutra's VDL Studio and learn why the house and the architect are so important to the neighborhood and to California modern architecture. Back at the house, insulation contractor Pat McKinley shows Norm the batt insulation he's using in the basement—it's a dusty-colored fiberglass batt made with 30% post-consumer recycled bottle glass and formaldehyde-free binders. Project designer Shelby Roberts takes Kevin to a South Pasadena tile showroom to meet tile specialist Tisa Adamson and see the reproduction tile that's being selected for the project. To cut down on costs, they choose a combination of hand-made and factory-made tile. Back at the house, wallboard goes up around the main arch leading from the kitchen to the new family room.
At the project house, exterior work has been delayed due to four weeks of record setting rains in Southern California. Inside, Host Kevin O'Connor finds plaster expert Alfonso Garcia installing custom foam forms to create a tray ceiling that replicates the existing detail in the house. Once the forms are in place, they are covered with plaster. Master carpenter Norm Abram visits cabinetmaker Larry Bucklan at his shop in the nearby neighborhood of Frogtown to see how work is progressing on the kitchen cabinets. The boxes and drawers are made off site in Orange County, but Larry's crew carefully makes the doors and the custom end panel for the refrigerator. Back at the house, Larry builds a toe kick to receive the base cabinets. Upstairs, Alfonso shows Kevin the "cat face" plaster technique he is using on the walls to replicate the original plaster style. This technique provides a combination of open and closed finishes—after the finish coat is applied but before it sets up, he goes back over it with his trowel leaving closed and open patches. Some areas of the finished coat are smooth and others are rough which are known as "cat faces." In the original part of the house Kevin finds a new stain on the ceiling of the dining room and a large hole in the ceiling of the front entry.
Host Kevin O'Connor checks in with homeowner Mary Blee, whose pregnancy has kept her away from the construction dust for most of the project, but she's keeping tabs on the progress thanks to the webcams and her husband Kurt Albrecht's photographs. Stucco specialist Alfonso Garcia shows Kevin the last two steps of the stucco system going up, which includes an embedded mesh for strength and crack protection, and also a top layer which has integrated color and a "sand" texture finish. Kevin goes to Orange County to see some new period-appropriate ornamental ironwork created for the house and the restoration of some existing work. Then, master carpenter Norm Abram visits a small shop in Covina, CA, to see how the reproduction tile for our project is being hand glazed piece by piece. Back in Silver Lake, Kevin meets tile contractor Carlos Sandoval to see the black and yellow tile going up in the powder room.
Host Kevin O'Connor gets a rare, up-close look at the Hollywood Sign with the man in charge of preserving it, Chris Baumgart. Then, in Silver Lake, flooring contractor Luke Hiller shows Kevin how he's matching the 1930s look of the old floors using new red oak with a walnut feature strip. Out back, the new terrace is constructed and the crew is adding some prefabricated decorative corbels made from foam that are covered with the same stucco product as the rest of the house. Landscape designer Melanie Williams evaluates the existing yard, and then takes Kevin to a recent job in Windsor Square to show him that low water plants can also be attractive. At the end of the day, tile contractor Carlos Sandoval installs the California-made terra cotta tile on the back terrace.
Plaster specialist Alfonso Garcia shows host Kevin O'Connor how he is wrapping the kitchen cabinets in plaster for a look that is reminiscent of those found in Mexico. He fashions an archway over the sink, a cove at the ceiling, and a freehand bullnose detail at the corners. Then, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey meets up with local plumbing contractor Noe Lopez to lend a hand as he installs the pedestal sink in the first floor powder room. In the kitchen, master carpenter Norm Abram meets countertop contractor Tim Farr to see the soapstone countertops going in, and learns how to care for them going forward. Custom woodworker Larry Bucklan shows Norm how he is replicating the original ceiling star from the dining room for use in other parts of the house. With the profile matched and run and the miters cut, the pieces are joined with biscuits and glue and dried with an RF glue drier. Back at the house, carpenter Josheulo Mondragon installs the star with glue and a few finish nails. Outside, ornamental iron contractor Jeff Bradley and his crew install the 400-pound Juliette balcony, while inside, his wife and designer Robin Bradley show Norm the new decorative iron balustrade that is accented with circles of amber-colored glass.
Landscape designer Melanie Williams shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress in the front yard and how landscape contractor Jose Martinez uses broken concrete for the walkways at a fraction of the cost of flagstone. Then, they head to the local home center to see options for edging material for the planting beds. Inside, hardware specialist Dan Hakes shows Kevin the work he's been doing to restore the old hardware and light fixtures for the job. Dan mixes in reproductions to extend the look into the addition. Up in Malibu, Kevin visits one of the most spectacular Spanish Style houses in Southern California – the Adamson House – which is known for its extraordinary use of decorative tile. Back at our house, the Spanish theme continues with a new custom garage door that blends seamlessly with the period of the house: wood construction and iron window grates studded with dozens of "clavos" or rustic nail heads. Ornamental iron designer Robin Bradley returns as her team installs the front gates, which were fashioned to match an original found on site.
Work on the Los Angeles project wraps up with the finishing touches both outside and in. Plaster specialist Alfonso Garcia replicates the original "cake frosting" plaster detail on the walls, while plumbing and heating contractor Eric Downs shows host Kevin O'Connor the new bathroom fan system that not only takes stale air out, but also brings fresh air in through a damper in the basement. Homeowner Kurt Albrecht gets a look at the new HVAC system that will also clean the air, while landscape designer Melanie Williams shows off the finished landscape, and the irrigation system that will keep the plants healthy year round. Inside, interior designer Rachel Horn and her team from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, show master carpenter Norm Abram how they've used a mix of antiques, reproductions, and upholstery to create inviting spaces that are appropriate for a Spanish Colonial Revival. Homeowner Mary Blee introduces Kevin to her new son, who's arrived just in time to enjoy the renovated house. After a look at the master suite and the new kitchen, the family gathers on the back terrace to congratulate general contractor Steve Pallrand and site supervisor Angel Leon on a job well done.