Cambridge 2012; Essex 2012/13
This Old House is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the crew will turn the inside of a dark, divided 1887 two-family into an open, Scandinavian-style one-family. Kevin O'Connor tours the house, while Roger Cook finds surprises outside. Richard Trethewey does an eye-opening energy audit. Architect Marcus Gleysteen shows Kevin his Scandinavian-style home. Tom Silva brings in deconstruction experts to remove unneeded parts, carefully peeling back the layers.
Deconstruction continues and Kevin visits an "eco" resale store in Springfield, MA. Arborist Jack Kelly removes the sick Norway maple that, left untouched, would come down on its own one day soon. The architects show Kevin the plan via a 3-D computer model, then they visit a house down the street with homeowner Sally Peterson to see the design ideas that first caught Sally's eye.
With the interior opened up, master carpenter Norm Abram shows host Kevin O'Connor the bones of the building, and the unique features of a balloon framed house—studs that run from sill plate to top plate, with floors that hang from that structure. On the first floor, general contractor Tom Silva needs to relocate a load bearing partition wall, and take the dip out of the floor. He uses temporary supports, makes up a carrying beam, inserts the new structure, and then removes the old wall. Out front, Kevin and homeowner Sally Peterson meet Susan Maycock from the Cambridge Historic Commission to learn about appropriate colors for the outside of her Victorian-era house, and how many homeowners get it wrong by using too many colors in the wrong places. While the outside of her home will be traditional, inside it will be anything but, so Sally takes Kevin up to Porter Square to see the style she's after via a shop where owner Dale Anderson curates a collection of vintage and current Scandinavian items for the home. Back at our house, Tom continues to frame in the basement, but this time without wood—he's using new tongue and groove foam panels with embedded plastic studs and wiring chases. Kind of like a partial ICF, he installs them against the fieldstone foundation with a foam construction adhesive. Master electrician Allen Gallant shows Kevin how he's upgrading and relocating the electrical service on the house.
After a quick coffee in Porter Square, host Kevin O'Connor finds general contractor Tom Silva working on the architect's plans to vary ceiling height on the first floor for dramatic effect. Kevin lends a hand in the living room as they use two-by-fours and strapping to drop the ceiling by eight inches in two key places. Then, Kevin travels to Fairfield, CT to meet designers Edie Van Breems and Rhonda Eleish to learn how our house's Scandinavian modern style evolved from more rustic Swedish country interiors. Back in Cambridge, master carpenter Norm Abram shows Kevin the framing progress on the second floor where there will be three bedrooms, a laundry, and a shared bath. Norm notes where Tom made the ceilings flat without necessarily needing to be level in the bedrooms. On the third floor, they review the framing upgrades, and Kevin helps Tom install a new skylight so it will never leak. At the end of the day, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey arrives with ductwork and plans to introduce air conditioning to the house for the first time in its history.
Kevin joins the legions of Cambridge locals by biking to work on a vintage bicycle restored locally. Landscape architect Greg Lombardi presents a plan for a yard that combines both traditional and modern elements. Tom shows Kevin how he's gotten rid of the steps to the roof deck by dropping the structure into the ceiling of the second floor. Roger arrives to tackle the giant stump left over from the old Norway Maple, first with a chainsaw, then a stump grinder. Richard shows Kevin how they've kept the ducts out of the roof rafter bays to preserve that space for insulation, and on the second floor, how they've hidden the air handler at the top of a hall closet. The plumbers have also been creative by using cast iron on the vertical runs of waste pipe in the bedrooms to dull sound, and by using a new polypropylene green pipe for supply lines as an alternative to copper. The new system incorporates connections that are fused using high heat.
Mason Mark McCullough shows Norm how he's repointing the old brick foundation with great care and a type N mortar that is slightly softer than the brick so it will give before the brick does. Then Norm and Tom repair the sagging front porch by jacking up the porch roof, replacing one of the rotted posts with a match from a local salvage yard, and then fastening the roof back to the house. Kevin visits Community Rowing on the Charles River to see how they make the Cambridge pastime of rowing available to everyone, including kids, disabled vets, and even general contractors. Back at our house, the historic porch railing is rotted and paint-caked, but the conservation district says we must replace it in kind, so Tom and Kevin re-build it out of 2x2 stock ripped down from 6x6s. Tom details the fire blocking and fire caulking as spray foam insulation begins in our balloon frame house.
Roger replaces the existing concrete front walk with a beautiful new bluestone design. They jackhammer out the old walk and start the prep for new. Tom shows Kevin the modifications he specified on the replacement windows to make them more acceptable to the Historic Commission. On the third floor, tile contractor Mark Ferrante, uses a shower waterproofing system made up of prefab components that can be customized for any size shower. We're not the only ones planning a modern house inside the shell of an old one—architect Michael Kim shows Kevin how he did just that in Brookline, and how modern and traditional can live in harmony. Painting contractor Mauro Henrique starts paint prep and shows Kevin the shades of yellow the homeowner is considering for the exterior.
After a taste of the local Japan Town, host Kevin O'Connor meets Vito Bucco, a 60-year veteran of the plastering trade. Master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva match the old staggered shingle pattern. In Boston's South End, Kevin visits interior designers Andrew Terrat and Dee Elms for a sneak peek at the Scandinavian Modern vision. Radiant heat and the boiler are going in.
Norm and Kevin arrive to find the painters putting up a tinted primer with airless sprayers, turning the house from a bland grey to a sunny (and Swedish) yellow. Inside, Tom and Norm get to work trimming out the double hung widows on the second floor with an elegant, modern detail specified by the architect. Back outside, Norm finds custom gutter fabricator Augustin Crookston on site again to form and install the custom copper half round gutters for our project. Kevin meets homeowner Sally Peterson and appliance expert Sandy Lashway to explore the benefits of upgrading to professional grade ranges and ovens at a hands-on showroom. Back at the house, Richard meets fireplace specialist John Sullivan to see the Danish-designed zero-clearance wood burning fireplace insert he's providing for the living room. With the fireplace installed, homeowner John Stone shows Kevin the design and storage options they considered for fireplace wall, including the final design.
Norm drives up to find the paint job and the gutters complete, and the effect of the yellow, white and black with the copper is fresh, and decidedly Swedish. Inside, our Scandinavian-style house will be white on white, except for some key accents of wood. Tom shows Kevin how he's installing Southern yellow pine boards on the ceilings at the bay windows for architectural interest. On the third floor, the designers have chosen to add some color in the form of bright blue mosaic floor tile. Tile contractor Mark Ferrante shows Kevin how he's using the same mosaic to create a feature strip on the vanity wall to break up an entire wall of oversized white subway tile. Out on the roof deck, Tom uses cellular PVC porch boards and a customized railing system to complete the space. In the kitchen, Norm shows Kevin the prefinished maple flooring they are using and how he's working from the middle of the floor out, to compensate in case the exterior walls are out of square. At the end of the day, the last detail is installing a custom cap for the roof deck railing.
In the side yard, Roger installs two new sets of granite steps to access the old deck. Tom shows Kevin how he's making a new window seat fit into an old bay window. Norm installs the last of the maple stair treads, and creates a custom newel cap out of southern yellow pine. In the master bedroom, Tom shows Kevin how he concealed access doors within the wainscoting for the knee walls. Painting contractor Mauro Henrique use a whitewash stain with a lacquer finish to make our southern yellow pine ceilings look Swedish.
Kevin meets proprietor Jack Woker at his record store in Porter Square to see why people still love and appreciate vintage vinyl. Back at the house, Roger shows Kevin how he's using two lightweight plastic drywells to deal with the water that will come off the roof. Inside, kitchen designer Kathy Marshall shows Kevin how she used cabinetry details and custom wood finishes to create a Scandinavian-inspired kitchen. Norm meets HVAC consultant Evan Trethewey to see a new thermostat that claims to be able to learn your habits and preferences. Tom shows Kevin how he's refurbishing the old pressure treated deck by covering it over with click-together Ipe deck tiles.
Kevin arrives to find Roger putting in the plants before the weather turns. He's using a mixture of traditional plants and modern grasses to achieve the same mix of old and new as the rest of the project. Inside, the fireplace is ready for its hearth. Stone specialist Danny Puccio shows Kevin how they are using pietra cardosa (Italian sandstone) turned upside down to achieve a rustic finish that goes with the Swedish theme. The sides of the woodbox are getting the same stone, right side out with a honed finish. Norm visits Paul Grothouse in his state-of-the-art Pennsylvania shop for a meeting of the woodworking minds. The butcher block top for the kitchen island has a "waterfall edge" made with an eye-catching joinery technique called a dovetail key. Paul trucks the island top to Cambridge, where the whole crew lends a hand getting it in the house, and in place. On the third floor, Richard is working on a waterfall of his own – he shows Kevin the progress on the plumbing trim out and the wall mounted fixtures for the double vanity sinks.
Kevin arrives to find Roger finishing up the driveway and the planting. Inside, Norm finds the first floor nearly complete—and very white—except for the small powder room where wallpaper installer Mike Bradshaw is putting up a bold hand-drawn wave pattern made in England. We see his technique for cutting and installing around the new blue vanity. Tom turns his attention to the basement, where he meets homeowner John Stone to help him make a simple DIY workshop with materials from the home center. They make a workbench out of a solid core door and add pegboard for tool storage. Next door to the workshop, the basement hallway and playroom will be more finished than the workshop, to give the kids a place to play. Jamie Gilmore shows Kevin how his team prepped the room by grinding down the high spots of the concrete, sealing the surface against moisture, skimming the surface with concrete, then finally applying the linoleum composition tile. Local glass artist Carrie Gustafson invites Norm into her workshop to see how she translates her background in printmaking and her love of natural, organic forms into magical pieces to hold the light, like the fixture she's making for the entry foyer at our project. On the third floor in the master suite, closet designer Erin Hardy shows Kevin the latest offerings in storage options that blend seamlessly with the modern aesthetic of the house. Back downstairs, at the end of the day, automation expert Doug Schmidt shows Kevin how he's provided wireless control for the battery- powered window shades, the first floor lighting and music. He's also provided an amazingly slim flat screen that pivots on a bracket for easy viewing, or tucking away flush with the wall it sits on.
Norm arrives to a rainy morning in Cambridge. The weather, however, isn't stopping Roger, who is putting in the last of four granite posts. Inside, Norm finds Tom reinstalling a little piece of nostalgia from the old house: an old-school doorbell that the homeowners wanted to keep. Next, Kevin finds Sally and kitchen designer Kathy Marshall settling Sally's stuff into her new kitchen and showing off its functional features: appliances, storage, sink, faucet, chopping block drawer, and even a hideaway step stool. Downstairs, Kevin finds John with no man cave, but rather great space for the kids, a workshop of his own, and Richard, who's given him high efficiency mechanicals. Richard welcomes back energy auditor Jimmy Seaborg to see how we did on tightening up the building. Back outside, Kevin meets landscape architect Greg Lombardi to see his plan realized. There were some adjustments because of budget, but the design intent is still intact: hardscape and plant material work together to create separate areas of use and function. The other great outdoor space is the roof deck; Norm recaps the work out there and then meets interior designer Andrew Terrat for a tour of the master suite. The second floor is all about the kids so Sally shows Kevin the highly functional laundry, and how the girls each had a say in the colors and details of their own rooms. The heart of the project is really the first floor. Designer Dee Elms walks Kevin through the entry foyer, hallway/mudroom, powder room, built-in hutch, living room, and dining room. As Andrew shows Kevin the highlights of the kitchen, the crew and homeowners gather for one last hurrah...until the newly installed doorbell rings! Everyone flows out onto the front porch for a last look at the exterior and a farewell cheer with the neighbors.
The second project of the season finds Norm and Kevin back on Cape Ann, this time in the scenic riverside town of Essex, Massachusetts. Not far from the antique shops and clam shacks downtown is a 1935 English-style cottage in the woods that homeowners John and Julie Corcoran hope to turn into an accessible in-law residence for Julie's aging parents. Norm finds lots of deferred maintenance, rot, a failing roof and windows, and some strange architectural choices, like the giant shed dormer that is out of sync with the rest of the cottage. Inside, Julie shows Kevin what she loves about the house and how she plans to make it comfortable and accessible for her parents, with all the necessary amenities on the first floor. Outside, Richard shows Norm the oil tank that's in the way of the new kitchen and why he might like to abandon oil altogether to pursue geothermal heating and cooling instead. In the basement, they will have to contend with ledge, well water treatment, and the unknown status of the current septic system. John shows Roger the large yard and how they'd like to keep the many trees, shrubs and perennials, while getting rid of the ratty vegetable garden and runaway forsythia. Architect Sally DeGan reviews the renovation plan with Tom and Kevin with the help of a highly detailed 3D model. Roger gets to work clearing small junk trees and the forsythia, while a specialist is brought in to properly remove the oil tank so Tom can begin work on the addition.
Kevin heads downtown to Boston to the Institute for Human Centered Design to see how good design can make living easier for people of all ages and abilities, not just those who are disabled. Back in Essex, Tom and Roger are underway with site work so that our doorways can eventually be level with the ground, requiring no steps. Inside, demolition is underway, and on the second floor, it has revealed bizarre and unsafe framing from a previous renovation that will need to be fixed. At the small kitchen bump out, excavation is complete, and the footings are in progress. Architect Sally DeGan shows Kevin that in her practice, accessible homes don't have to be institutional, they just need a short list of key considerations—one-floor living, room to get around, good lighting, no thresholds, and barrier free showers. Back in Essex, a few weeks later, the foundation for the addition is complete, as well as the first floor platform and gable end of the kitchen. Before work can progress, Norm, Tom, and Kevin need to remove the bad shed dormer. They make quick work of it with careful demo and a 60-foot boom lift. Meanwhile, Roger shows the progress on the retaining walls that will support the new patio. Then, Norm, Tom, and Kevin frame up the steeply pitched roof of the kitchen addition starting with the ridge beam and then all of the rafters, one by one.
With the main framing complete, Tom shows Kevin where water infiltration has damaged the house, what he's doing to repair it, and how he'll prevent it from happening again. Landscape architect Jade Cummings shows Kevin the plan for the side patio and how it's designed for ease of entry into the house, but also for dramatic effect and proper drainage. Then, Roger shows Kevin how he's adding a fieldstone veneer to the concrete retaining walls to give them the rustic look of a dry laid wall. In Bucksport, Maine, Norm meets architect John Gordon to see the house he designed for his physically challenged daughter, Jessica. Back in Essex, Norm and Tom replace a rotted sill, while Roger adds granite veneer to carry the look of the old foundation around the rest of the house.
Roger meets aquatic systems specialist Yorgos Gregory to learn about our existing and neglected water feature and to see what it takes to restore it to good condition and function. Kevin meets Richard to learn the anatomy of a water well and how we can revive ours. Drilling expert Roger Skillings arrives with a drilling rig to diagnose and treat the problem. In the backyard, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant working on a 100-yard trench from the house to the street down below. Excavation revealed that the service was once buried, but then put above ground again in the 1960s. Today he's reburying it 18 inches down with PVC conduit that follows the contour of the land thanks to a PVC heater. At the end of the day, Kevin finds the drilling rig still on site as renewable energy specialist Ross Trethewey explains why this is an ideal site for geothermal heating and cooling and how it will work.
Norm arrives to find the new windows on site and largely installed. Tom shows him how they matched the original casement details and the operation features. Exterior trim is also going on the building, and Tom walked Kevin through the options the other day. Tom shows Kevin the stock exterior window trim choices available at the local home center, and then an option of making your own (that will last longer) out of cellular PVC if you want a slightly more custom look. They gather supplies to bring back to the Essex house. Norm has the PVC stock glued up, and Tom runs the sill profile on his moulding machine. Richard brings Kevin up to speed on the geothermal installation. The work begins with the drilling of two 350-foot deep wells or "bore holes" using the same rig that drilled our water well last time. The next step is to insert the loops into the closed loop system and grout them in place. Tom shows Kevin the detail for the cedar sidewall shingles that were pre-dipped for longevity and are being installed over cedar breather. We learn how to weave shingles around interior and exterior corners and into the flashing around the windows Tom trimmed out earlier. Roger & Kevin with see how the 5-foot trench for the geo pipes has hit ledge, and what dynamite can do about it. The blasting crew drills 5-foot deep holes into the ledge, fills them with explosives, wires them together and the show ends with a bang!
Kevin and Roger dig the Essex clamming scene out on the flats, then are regaled with some world-famous fried clams where they were invented a century ago: Woodman's of Essex. Norm drives up to the project house to find the infrastructure work (finally) settling down outside, and reminds us that we're designing for one-level living. Inside, on the day before spray foam insulation, he reviews the floor plan while Richard provides an update on rough plumbing and ductwork progress. Challenges include running vents to the backside of the house and getting ducts up into the steeply pitched roof spaces. Radiant floor panels are going down on second floor. Back outside, Norm finds roofer Dennis Gannet and his daughter Sarah Gannet installing the standing seam metal roof. Back on the front side of the house, Kevin finds Roger halfway through the front walk. He's created a flush condition at the front door with a Chelmsford granite slab, then a bluestone patio near the outcropping that then transitions to Rockport granite at the walk. It provides a rustic woodland look, while maintaining a safe and stable surface for the older folks who will be living here. We see how stone is cut with a trace chisel vs. a saw to create a broken edge. Being on a hill and having a metal roof don't make us as vulnerable to lightning as as much as being near the water does. Kevin meets Parker "PJ" Willard Jr. to see how he'll protect the house with a lightning rod system that is aluminum based vs. copper so as not to react with our aluminum roof. We see the three main components of the lighting protection system: air terminals, bonding and grounding.
Inside our Essex cottage, insulation is in and drywall is going up. Tom shows Kevin the progress and they meet drywall installer Brian Jones to see his method for boarding ceilings using a panel lift and scaffolding for the high cathedral ceiling in the kitchen. Upstairs, the plastering is well underway. Tom shows Kevin the rustic/Old World effect the homeowners want and how plastering contractor Bob Bucco achieves it using rounded corners and the rough/base coat plaster as the finish coat. At a third-party testing facility in Falmouth, MA, Richard meets George Heufelder for a brief history of septic innovation and a look at new technology that is on the horizon, and already here. One of them uses "membrane bioreactor" technology, and we're going to try it out in Essex. George's group approved the system, and it is a true leap forward in wastewater treatment. Back at our house, manufacturer Ingo Schaefer helps show Kevin how it works. We got the septic in before the cold weather, and now Roger is trying to do the same for the hardscaping. He shows Kevin the decorative bands that will make up the border for the (future) asphalt parking court, with granite strips and cobbles making up the pattern. Back inside, Norm brings out the decorative timbers that must go up in the kitchen before the plaster can continue. Tom is reusing old oak beams to simulate collar ties and rafters, and he and Norm fabricate the final joint and install the pieces.
Norm visits the last shipyard still located in Essex, Mass. A home that was restored with accessible retrofits is toured. At the cottage shiplap barn-board walls are installed; the mantel is built; Roger finishes the yard; and Kevin checks on the reclaimed tile hearth.
Exterior details are added to the sunroom; the historic look of the original cottage is revived with parged plaster, salvaged tile and oak floors. Norm visits rock hero Daryl Hall at his antique home and studio.
Completing the geothermal system; installing reclaimed marble tile and hand-painted border tile. Exploring a two-story accessible design in the Seattle home of architect Emory Baldwin.
The season's final episode tours the cottage after the installation of interior screens and a Dutch door.