TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We are broadcasting a very special edition of The Money Pit today. We are on the road, on the current set of the This Old House renovation, which is in Bedford, Massachusetts. And what an amazing home it is.
LESLIE: That’s right. You know, there is a ton of history in this place, including a former resident who served in the Revolutionary War. Yes, this house is 300 years old and boy, did it stand the test of time, with several additions, renovations and even a complete move from about 100 yards away from where it currently stands now.
TOM: Now you can watch episodes of the makeover on your local PBS stations and they’re actually about halfway through the project right now. But today, we’re going to give away the ending. We’re going to tell you how it all comes out. We’re going to give you a sneak peak, if you will, inside and behind the scenes, with a look of how this all happened.
And with us is the man who has the biggest job here in all of the renovations.
LESLIE: That’s right. We’ve got This Old House general contractor, Tommy Silva, joining us.
Tommy, you just told me you know how to sew? I’m blabbing that out to the world.
TOM SILVA: Years ago, Leslie. Years ago. Like 30 years ago, when I made my daughter’s clothes for school, yeah.
TOM: See, that could be the – that’s going to be the trivia question when we have theThis Old House quiz.
Now, you guys have really had your work cut out for you in this place. You’ve worked on a lot of old homes. This is actually the second-oldest you’ve ever tackled.
TOM SILVA: Second oldest. It’s a – I love these old places because they’re such a challenge. Nothing’s level, plumb, square or straight and that’s what I like about it.
TOM: Now, what were some of the areas that you really – gave you some trouble. When you have an old house, it never totally cooperates; there’s always a lot of surprises along the way. This is a historic property; I’m sure that made it even more challenging to try to stay true to the period. What were some of the bigger parts of the project that you worked on?
TOM SILVA: Well, the biggest part of the project is basically taking out the back section of one of the walls to open up into the new addition/family room/pantry. And as you can imagine, a house of this period is, I said earlier, is not level or straight, so we need to marry the new floor to the old floor without having a step transition in that one space.
So, actually, there was about an inch and ¾-of-an-inch difference. So, I basically build the outside of the foundation of the new foundation level and then I basically twist the framing structure to marry into the unevenness of the building, so …
TOM: Interesting. So in other words, not – you purposely build the new addition out of level to match the old addition and marry the floor together.
TOM SILVA: The outside parts of the addition are level and then the parts that meet the old part become, basically, twisted or turned to follow the unevenness of the existing floor. So, that’s the kind of stuff that is a little bit challenging but it’s fun to do.
LESLIE: Well and I think it’s interesting. In the new addition, there are some amazing beams. And you would look at them and to me – and I don’t know the history of these pieces but they look like you found them from another 300-year-old house and put them up.
TOM SILVA: Well, I actually found them from this 300-year-old house. The problem is is those beams and posts that you’re looking at, although they look like they’re 8 inches by 8 inches, are only 1 inch by 1 inch.
LESLIE: And you just built them as a wrap?
TOM SILVA: I built them as a wrap, yeah.
TOM: And that’s why the beams match so perfectly.
LESLIE: They’re beautiful.
TOM SILVA: They match perfectly and then we hand-hewed them to match the hewning of the existing beams.
TOM: And this is part of the creativity of working in an old house. It’s not just buying something off the rack at the home center or lumberyard, it’s really working with what you have and really staying true to the period so that it all melts together and looks so natural.
TOM SILVA: Right. Yeah. The trick to an old house is basically take the new-house mentality away and think like a Yankee. I’m a Yankee at heart. I grew up in an old house myself and I learned my business from my dad when I was started – probably when I was four years old, working alongside him as we worked on my old house that was built in the 1700s, so …
TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva – he is the general contractor on This Old House – about all the work that went into this nearly 300-year-old historic home here in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Now, one of the evils of any home is the rotting that occurs as time goes on. You had some rotting clapboards that you had to deal with, didn’t you?
TOM SILVA: We had some rotting clapboards. We had some – few rotted posts. We had a few rotted pieces of sill. The clapboard situation basically was in pretty bad shape and it wasn’t salvageable. Lots of times, I try to salvage things. But with the lead-paint issues and the rules and regulations of today, I would have had to set up for all of that anyway, so it basically came down to let’s just take the siding off, take the trim off and re-trim and re-side the house.
TOM: And that’s the judgment call you have to make every time you have an issue like that.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: Is it repairable? What are the implications? In this case, lead paint. What’s the cost implications and then is it a repair or a replace?
TOM SILVA: Right. And the benefit that I see is – in a house of this period, it’s so old and actually, I even look at houses when I’m – houses 50, 60, 70, 80 years old. I like to remove that kind of siding because I can then reattach the sheathing to the structure. I can assess any situations that may arise, like maybe there was a leak over a window that may be damaging some of the sheathing and I can get in and repair that situation.
But it also enabled me to look between the boards themselves and check out the insulation situation.
TOM: Which is never much in an old house.
LESLIE: If any.
TOM SILVA: No, true. The sad part about it is that the house was insulated at one time with blown-in insulation. The sad part about that is is when you insulate a house, if you get 60, 70 percent of the building, you’ve got 60 or 70 percent more insulation than you had if you didn’t try to insulate.
TOM SILVA: So that’s a good thing. But unfortunately, it’s very hard to get every spot.
LESLIE: Now, you had mentioned that that insulation came in at some point during some renovation. And through the history of ownership of this property, you’ve had a variety of modifications, one being an accessibility ramp on the house, which clearly doesn’t work and it’s some sort of change to the front entry.
TOM SILVA: Right.
LESLIE: How important was that to sort of bring that back to a more historical aspect to work with the property.
TOM SILVA: Well, the homeowners that were previous here were elderly and they needed the ramp. And the homeowners that are now here are young and they don’t need the ramp. But they also – the ramp had to go because of the new configuration of the side/front entry, which – and we actually put in a half-bath and a new door that made that side of the house more pleasing.
So, that had to go and hopefully it’ll never be needed again.
TOM: Now, part of the charm of this home is its curb appeal. It’s really beautiful and you had a lot to do with that in your restoration of the original front door. Let’s talk about that. I got a chance to see you putting the final touch on that yesterday when you attached the knocker.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, that was handmade; that was an absolutely beautiful piece that was made from a local forge.
TOM SILVA: That door is actually from the early 1700s. It’s basically a panel – very thin, paneled door with a what they call a “boarded door” in the back. So it – if you look at the door opened, you see panels. You go inside the house, you see two boards that stand up and then long strap hinges.
It was in pretty bad shape. It’s facing southerly, so the sun will beat the heck out of anything. And so, basically, I used a product that is an epoxy product that is – expands and contracts with wood. So we had to dig out all the crevices. We repaired the major corner that was rotted and we re-epoxied, blended it all back together.
But then I wanted to be very careful not to sand the door flat. I wanted to sand it, leaving in all those imperfections and all those undulations and basically make the door look like it’s from the 1700s, which it is.
TOM: Imperfections. And it really does that, look that way. In fact, I was thinking you’re looking – it’s almost like the 300-year-old version of a laminate.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: Because it’s different layers together, which give it that structural stability.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Right. And like I say, it’s basically on the worst side of the house to get the biggest beat-up.
TOM: Terrific. Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House, another amazing job here. We all learn so much from you, Tommy, and want to really thank you for that. You’re a real inspiration.
TOM SILVA: Well, it’s my pleasure. It’s always fun to do these.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com, coming to you from the set of Season 32’s This Old House program.
TOM: Still ahead, old houses are beautiful and majestic but there are quirks you need to be aware of and update when needed, including old and potentially unsafe wiring. We’ll be back with those old-house tips and more, when we return fromThis Old House, next.
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MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We’re talking about old houses this hour but your house doesn’t have to be ancient to have some issues. In fact, a common type of wiring used in the 60s was made of aluminum. Today, that’s considered a fire hazard that needs to be upgraded. You can learn more about construction duds over the decades at MoneyPit.com. Just search “home repairs by age of house.”
LESLIE: That’s right. Well, we are on the road again in Bedford, Massachusetts this week and we are bringing you a behind-the-scenes look at the current project being taken on by the team at This Old House. And today’s broadcast is being presented by Icynene and we want to thank them for making this possible.
TOM: Icynene is a spray-foam insulation that expands to fill cracks and crevices, allowing your home to be insulated and sealed at the same time. Learn more at Icynene.com.
LESLIE: Well, those of you following the This Old House current makeover on television are only in the middle of the project. But we here on the set right now, it’s just about done. Everybody is wrapping up and we are getting a sneak peek at the finished product.
TOM: And this home is a historic gem and that’s exactly what attracted Joe and Becky Titlow. They love owning a home so rich with history. Joe and Becky join us right now to talk about their home and the process of it being chosen as the project for the 32nd season of This Old House.
You guys must be over the moon right now.
BECKY: Oh, we are. We’re ecstatic.
JOE: Absolutely. Yeah.
TOM: Now, tell me about the process. You applied. You heard they were looking for houses and you applied to the team.
JOE: Yeah. I’m actually a long-time fan of the show. I’ve watched it for years and years and we knew they basically had an open-submission process. So we kind of put together a project we thought would be interesting and kind of would turn this house into our dream home and packaged it all up, sent it in and they selected us.
TOM: And here you are.
Becky, what’s been your favorite part of the renovation?
BECKY: Oh, the end. So glad that today has arrived. It just – it looks beautiful and we are ready to move back in.
LESLIE: And really, what drew the both of you to this home in the first place? I mean the historical importance of the house itself but it’s a 300-year-old house. Obviously, it’s going to need some work.
JOE: Yeah, I think – you know, I’ve always wanted an old home. Just the character, the charm, managing a house like this, keeping up a piece of our history has always been attractive to me. And I think as we were looking around the area, we loved the town, we loved kind of the places like this in the area and it all kind of came together with this particular house.
TOM: Did you know the back story about Nathaniel Page when you bought the home?
BECKY: We did. The former owner was a librarian and kept copious notes on everything that happened here.
TOM: Oh, what a wonderful role for somebody that owns this house, being the keeper of the records, essentially.
TOM: Now, what surprised you most about the renovation process?
BECKY: It’s been an intensive process but I wouldn’t say there were a lot of surprises. I think we were pretty prepared to become old-home owners and particularly through renovation. And we really enjoyed that process.
LESLIE: Now, you guys, I know it’s important – you have a very small daughter. So, for you, when you’re keeping up the historical aspect of the home – but obviously, you need to modernize some things to make it safe for her and childproofing. How do you sort of marry those two ideas?
BECKY: Safety first, no question. And we had her out of the house during the entire renovation. You worry about lead paint and all kinds of dangers that come with the construction process, so we were very careful. And I think safety has always been our top priority.
JOE: And then I think for updates around the house, we looked at a lot of things and said, “You know what? If it’s a real safety issue” – like there was one fireplace that was just hard to work around, hard to baby-proof, hard to really make safe; that came down. But others, we’ve always looked for a way to try to work around it and make things safe and usable. So sometimes – like on another fireplace, we took part of it down, rehabbed it and made sure it was structurally sound, stopped the water leakage and dealt with it.
TOM: Now, one of transformations here is how open the space has become downstairs. A lot of old homes, when they’re reconstructed, have very separate rooms and we kept them small because they were hard to heat. Now you really have a wide-open space that transforms from the kitchen to the dinette area to the living area. And it just feels very spacious and it’s very unusual, especially for a 300-year-old home.
BECKY: We worked really hard to kind of marry the elements of an older home with some of the modern functionalities. And we were lucky that Tom Silva is just an expert at this and he had some incredible ideas about how to make the space still feel authentic and integrate it with the remainder of the house.
TOM: You’ve got a nice shop outside now, I see.
JOE: That’s right.
TOM: There were some tools delivered today.
TOM: So you’ve got a bit of woodworking in your future, I bet.
JOE: Yeah. I’ve always been the hobbyist and when you own a house like this, whether you like it or not, you’re going to be working on things and – but I love it. And I grew up watching the show. I learned a ton from these guys in the past 30 years and I continue to do so.
LESLIE: Were you really playing close attention through every step of this construction process?
BECKY: Yep. That would be an understatement.
JOE: Yeah. You know, to walk out in the morning from my little room that I was staying in and find Tom Silva in my kitchen, get to talk to him about all the challenges of the day and everything that was going on was just an experience of a lifetime.
TOM: Joe, Becky, thanks so much for inviting us here to your old house and it’s a wonderful project. We were so pleased to be able to report on it.
BECKY: Thank you.
TOM: Well, if you’re going to tackle an old house or really any house, you need to have good-quality tools. We’ve got two experts standing by right now who know all about that: Dan Christopher and Todd Langston from Stanley Black & Decker.
DAN: Thank you. Good afternoon.
TODD: How are you?
TOM: Now, the holidays are here. They’re upon us. Folks are out shopping for tools. I know that you guys have a lot of new stuff that you’ve come out with in the past year. Let’s talk about some of those and I’m going to talk about one that I got a chance to use just this past weekend on a camping trip with my son: the 3-in-1 flashlight. Love that product. Let’s talk about it.
DAN: It’s a great flashlight. We have patented technology around it, so there’s not another one like it in the world. So it’s just a great tool. It’s hands-free, so you have these great three legs.
They pop out. You can put it in there under your sink, work on it. You don’t have to hold it. Plus, the three lights that are combined into a base are also reassembled, so you can actually take those out, take them with you.
LESLIE: And they’re individually super-bright.
TODD: They are.
DAN: They’re super-bright so they give you a light where you need it, when you need it and guess what? You don’t have to hold onto it so again, you have both your hands free to work on whatever you’re working on.
LESLIE: So Todd, this time of year, I know everybody who’s got a home improver on their list doesn’t really know what to get them. And I think you, at Stanley, really do lead the field as far as tool storage, tool boxes, tool transportation. So what’s new in that field?
TODD: There’s a lot of options and it depends on the person that you’re really buying the gift for. But we have a 24-inch and a 28-inch structural-foam tool box that’s water-sealed. And it basically hits the gamut for most of your DIYers at home. And if you don’t really know what product to get someone, a tool box really is a good one to get.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because there’s always need to store things.
LESLIE: And we’re always – as all of us being home improvement enthusiasts, we end up with so many tools.
LESLIE: And it’s nice to have proper storage. And I think what was interesting was one of the models that you showed us at the launch where the box itself came out and it became a dolly cart, in addition to the tool cart.
LESLIE: So that really – multi-purpose and super-user friendly.
TODD: Yeah, that’s the 3-in-1, which is very popular for folks who – it has three different levels and actually, it does – it has a cantilever and it just actually opens up. And all you can see – all the different drawers that would be available. It gives you a lot of different storage options. You can even put your small items in the top bin, so it’s really a good gift to get.
TOM: Now, one of the things that I think you guys do so well is that you are so creative and innovative. You take something that hasn’t changed in seemingly forever, the utility knife, and you came out with a new blade this year that’s actually carbide-reinforced.
DAN: It’s something that we’ve been working on for probably the last 18 to 24 months. Again, something else that no one’s done in the past, so we actually will apply carbide to the tip of the blade. So what that’s going to do is strengthen the blade, extend its life and really give you productivity, both in your house and on the job site.
So, instead of you changing the blade constantly where you have in the past, now this blade will extend its life. You’re not constantly changing blades out in your utility knife, so it’s a great selling feature for both your DIYer and your pro.
LESLIE: And I will tell you, I’m a fan of utility knives and I use them on a ton of different projects but fearful of changing the blades. And I love this system that you have on the utility knife where it really does feel like I’m not going to injure myself. And it just slides in, slides out and it’s done. No finagling with extra tools.
TOM: And finally, FatMax, a line you’ve had around for a long time, you’ve got new products under that. My favorite has been the tape measure; it’s my go-to tape measure. It’s the one that never breaks down.
LESLIE: Thirteen-foot standout. You’re a guy. We get it.
TOM: Right, exactly. What’s the newest in the FatMax line?
TODD: The FatMax line really is the same, as far as the tape goes. It’s a perfected model. I think it’s got all the right things on it. You know, the 13-feet standout that you mentioned is good. And Tom, it’s everybody’s favorite. It’s probably the most popular tape measure that’s out in the market. We continue to do things to refine it but really, we feel like we’ve hit the mark right now and we’re waiting for some new innovations. We can’t quite share with you the next one but – pretty awesome.
LESLIE: You’re always holding something close to your vest.
TOM: He’s always holding something back.
Todd Langston, Dan Christopher from Stanley Black & Decker, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
LESLIE: Alright. Up next, if watching the gorgeous makeovers that happen season after season makes you want to buy a grand old house, we’ve got a list of the things you’ll need to keep in mind and budget for, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. Well, a lot of us, including Tom and myself, love the charm of our older homes. But if you’re thinking of buying one, there are a few things that you should be keeping in mind. The first is attic insulation. You might have very little or maybe even no insulation up there. Also, rusty plumbing could be an issue if you’ve got steel pipes.
TOM: And another thing to look for in this era of home building is the wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring was very common in the early 1900s and it’s extremely dangerous now. For more info on what buying an old house will mean in terms of repairs and improvements, you can visit MoneyPit.com and search on “buying an old house.”
LESLIE: Well, speaking of old houses, the home we are in is a historic gem. And one of the home’s residents was the flag bearer for one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. And here to talk more about the home and all of its transformations is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: It’s great to be here, guys.
TOM: Now, this house has a tremendous history back to the Revolutionary War. And that’s part of the beauty of you guys doing this project here. It’s a great story, isn’t it?
KEVIN: Well, imagine a morning in 1775 when all of a sudden, Nathaniel Page, who used to live in this house, hears a knock on his door. Probably an urgent knock. And someone shouts to him, “Up, Mr. Page. The regulars are out.” And that’s because the British are starting to march and he has got to grab his musket and his horse and his battle flag. And he heads out the door of this house to the Battle of the Old North Bridge. It’s got quite a story and a great history.
LESLIE: That’s crazy.
KEVIN: Isn’t it something? And that flag, which they think is one of the first battle flags in this country’s history, was in this house for a couple hundred years and actually was in here until it was actually donated to the local library.
LESLIE: Do you know what year it went to the library?
KEVIN: I don’t. I think it was about 20 or 40 years ago.
LESLIE: That’s so crazy.
TOM: Now, this home had some pretty major facelifts over that 300-year period. And you guys have added what’ll probably be the final lift here. A lot of work went into this house. There’s an addition, there’s a lot of restoration. Tell us about some of the hallmarks of this project.
KEVIN: Well, so we figured the house was built sometime around 1720, which puts it at almost 300 years old. And when we actually came to this project, we thought it was from the late-1600s. And it wasn’t until an architectural historian came in and told us otherwise and we had to break the news to the homeowners that they weren’t in a house from the 1600s but in fact from the 1700s. And they were very disappointed.
KEVIN: They were. They wanted a house from 16-something as opposed to 17-something. But they took the news in good stride. They figured that they got about another 10 to 15 years before they can actually celebrate the 300th anniversary of this home again.
TOM: Just going to have to wait for it.
LESLIE: They can actually be part of it this time.
KEVIN: Yeah. And then so as we were walking through the house, we actually – I can remember, at some points, we were talking about the addition?
KEVIN: We were talking about an addition that was done in 1780. This is the fairly new part of the house and that’s how old this home is.
TOM: Yeah. Right.
KEVIN: And it’s a great challenge, though. We love working on the old homes and this is one of the oldest ones we’ve ever worked on.
TOM: Now, part of the history here is that it’s the second-oldest house but you guys actually took a trip back to the first-oldest house that you ever do – or the oldest house, I should say, that you’ve ever done, to kind of see how things stood up at least over that short period of time?
KEVIN: That house was in Acton, Massachusetts, not that far from here. It was before my time on the show but I can remember watching those episodes when I was just a fan. Similar period: a first-period style house. We did a major renovation to that and Norm took us back to see how it held up. And in fact, it’s been holding up pretty well.
LESLIE: That’s amazing. I mean we obviously know that you guys do very excellent work.
Now, part of the history of this property is that where we’re currently sitting in this home is not where the first house actually sat originally when it was constructed on the property. Do you know anything about the history of what motivated the move just 100 yards from one location to the other?
KEVIN: I don’t know what motivated the move but I do think it’s a pretty common story with these old farmsteads. You’ve got to understand that back in the 1600s, when this farmstead was established, it was probably the only thing within a great expanse.
KEVIN: And it would have had many buildings on it. All these old farmsteads had three, four, five, maybe a dozen different buildings on it. And at some point, as the property probably got smaller, this house was moved and it was actually built with parts of other buildings that existed on this property in and around the town. It’s got a great, old pedigree.
TOM: And you’ve got to imagine the value they placed in the structure back then, because that was a major, major event. It’s hard today to move a house but back then, I can’t imagine what was involved.
KEVIN: When you start to pick apart this house and you look at a summer beam that runs through the first floor and you realize that you’ve got this massive, 14-inch square beam that is probably 25 feet long that you’ve actually put the mortises on, you don’t want to do that twice.
KEVIN: Because you took it from a tree and turned it into a summer beam. You don’t want to do it twice. And so it really starts to help you appreciate why folks would not just throw these houses away like we do today, where they actually either take the pieces apart or try to take the entire house and move it in its entirety to a new location.
TOM: It’s the ultimate in green building.
KEVIN: It really is.
TOM: It really is, right?
KEVIN: Look at what we’re sitting in.
KEVIN: This has been standing for nearly 300 years. We can see all of this material.
TOM: Terrific. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, thanks for inviting us to your old house today.
KEVIN: It’s always a pleasure, guys.
TOM: Still to come, we’re going to talk to original cast member, Norm Abram, about Revolutionary-era details and other unique aspects of the Bedford project.
LESLIE: And later with This Old House, you don’t just get a complete renovation, you also get the icing on the cake: a design plan complete with fabrics and finishes to die for and maybe some ideas for home décor for your old house. That’s all coming up, next.
[audio timestamp: 0:25:47]
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TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from Bedford, Massachusetts, where we are with the cast and crew of TV’s This Old House as they wrap up production and construction of the current season’s renovation, known as Nathaniel Page Homestead. Its namesake was a flag bearer in the Revolutionary War and the flag is actually still around. In fact, it used to be kept right here in this house.
LESLIE: Now, one of the things that makes a period home so special is the details, like the crown molding, original woodwork and the true craftsmanship in home construction that’s kind of hard to find today unless, of course, you’re working with the This Old House team.
Well, you can create details like that in your house, too, with the right tools, like those made by our sponsor, the Arrow Fastener Company. And I’ve used these tools my entire career and really couldn’t be happier. You can actually take wood trim and turn a plain, boring room into a gorgeous showpiece.
For example, a chair rail can make a dining room look beautifully detailed. Wainscoting, it’s a great choice if your home has a more coastal or country feel and really looks super when it’s painted glossy white. And of course, crown moldings cap off a room and really makes it look taller, bigger, even grander.
TOM: And applying those details couldn’t be easier when using your Arrow Electric Brad Nail Gun with 2-inch brad nails. It gives you the depth of fastener you need for the project, with the comfort you expect from Arrow.
Get the details for this project and dozens of others, by season. Just download the bonus chapter of our book, My Home, My Money Pit. It’s free at MoneyPit.com or check out Leslie’s blog for more details.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the wrap – that would be TV lingo for the last production day.
TOM: They’re very happy downstairs to see us because that means they’re just about done.
LESLIE: I know. When we got here this morning, they’re like, “Wait. You two. That means party and we can go home.”
And we are coming to you from the Nathaniel Page Home project in Bedford, Massachusetts, which is part of This Old House’s 32nd season.
TOM: Now, one guy who’s participated in each and every one of those 32 seasons is master carpenter Norm Abram, who joins us right now with his perspective on this very historic home.
NORM: Thanks, Tom and Leslie. It’s nice to have you here again.
TOM: Yes. We’re very …
LESLIE: “Because we’re done.”
TOM: Yeah, that’s right.
NORM: You’re right. It’s the end.
TOM: Now, you have seen a lot of transformations in those 32 years, Norm. Did you ever have an idea, when you did that very first season, that you’d still be here today and there’d be so many other home shows that have come along?
NORM: Not at all. I mean when Russell Morash came up with the idea and approached me and we did that first house way back in 1979 in Dorchester and wrapped that one up pretty quickly, that was only 13 episodes. We were only there for about 3½ months and auctioned the house off on the Channel 2 auction. And the same homeowner, by the way, I think is still living there, so that’s a testament to the project.
TOM: That’s terrific. Now that’s a historic home: the very first This Old House home.
NORM: Well, we were just talking about that downstairs. Thirty-two years. I think it’s time to go back to the first house and give it an update.
TOM: I think so.
LESLIE: Yeah, revisit. See if they’ve changed anything.
NORM: I don’t think they have.
LESLIE: Well, I wouldn’t.
NORM: But you know – and then Russ said, “Well, maybe we’ll do this again.” And he called me up a few months later and we went and looked and did the second project, which was one of my favorites. But 32 years never even crossed my mind.
TOM: Now, this has been an amazing project here. Second-oldest home in your – in the history. Almost 300 years old.
TOM: Anything surprised you about this house?
NORM: Well, we’ve seen a lot of old houses and not too many surprises: the sags and the dips. And that’s what brings character to these great, old houses.
LESLIE: Standard, old-home charm.
NORM: Yeah. And what I really liked about our homeowners in this project is that from the outset, they said, “We don’t want to disturb some of that old-home charm. We want to keep the history of this house. So the two front rooms, hands off. We don’t want to change anything there. Maybe some fresh paint and wallpaper but other than that, that’s not what we want to do. We love old houses but we need a new kitchen and our family is growing and we’d like to have a little more space.”
And as it moved forward, the process really, in the end, as we said yesterday, I think the Page family would approve. We’ve kept a lot of the historic aspect of the house and a lot of the work that Tommy did here was to show the wood and the structure of the house and to hand-shape some of those posts and beams that are in the house. And I think it came out great.
TOM: And the restoration aspects of this are really impressive. I know that you took a side trip to a factory that just restores old windows and did an amazing job basically breaking down the old windows, putting them back together so you could truly have a period window here.
NORM: Right. Right. Yeah. I mean judge for yourself; you’re sitting in a room now with these windows and it’s hard to believe that those were covered in lead paint, kind of beat-up and the glazing was all falling off.
LESLIE: They’re beautiful.
NORM: And these women up there just throw them in the oven, get rid of the paint and they really did a terrific job. And from an energy point of view, with the weatherstripping they included and a good storm window, it doesn’t get much better than that.
TOM: They’re pretty darn tight.
NORM: They sure are.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
LESLIE: And so you’re really able to sort of modernize the energy efficiency while still keeping that historic look. And you’re right: they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Now, what was your favorite part of this project? I know you always take something on that’s really special for you.
NORM: Yeah. Well, I think – well, Tom and I did a joint project on the front entry; we did a new entry. And the front wall of the house, ironically, was leaning in a little bit, much as it was in the Acton house that we did 17 years ago that I got to revisit again.
NORM: So it was a lot of the same problems. When the house leans in, the door wants to open by itself, it wants to hit the floor and we needed a new frame. The homeowners wanted to save the door, even though it wasn’t original to the house but it was an old door. So we worked on that; we built the front entry.
And I had a lot of fun on some of the remote projects. I got to go to a blacksmith’s shop not too far from here and they …
TOM: Is that where the made the door knocker?
NORM: They made the door knocker and the boot scraper. And this guy was amazing. He had a saying and since somebody challenged me on it. He said, “Are you sure?” He said, “Paul Revere could walk into this blacksmith’s shop and start working right away.” And somebody said, “Was Paul Revere a blacksmith? I thought he was a silversmith.”
TOM: Boy, I tell you, you can’t call it home unless you have a boot scraper outside, you know?
NORM: That’s right. Especially here in New England.
TOM: The addition is also amazing here because it matches so perfectly with the old house.
LESLIE: It’s seamless.
NORM: It is. We were standing there – “Where did the old house end before?” And they said, “Oh, yeah. It was right where that beam was.” And it opened up that kitchen space, which was just really tight, had a chimney in the middle. We got rid of that and now they have a great place to entertain and have good family fun.
TOM: Norm Abram, for 32 years you’ve been creating majestic transformations on This Old House. Thanks so much for inviting us to your old house, once again, today. Congratulations on another terrific job.
NORM: Oh, thank you. I don’t do it alone. We have a terrific team.
TOM: Still to come, the icing on the cake. We’re going to talk to the interior designer that brought this renovation to its final step, next.
[audio timestamp: 0:33:12]
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: A special broadcast of the program today from the site of the This Old House renovation going on in Bedford, Massachusetts. Today’s broadcast is presented by Icynene. We want to thank them for making that possible.
LESLIE: That’s right. Icynene is a spray-foam insulation product that expands to fill cracks and crevices, allowing your home to be insulated and sealed at the same time. You can learn more at Icynene.com. That’s Icynene – I-c-y-n-e-n-e – .com.
TOM: Now, the final step in any renovation is finding a designer to bring those fabrics and finishes that really make a home complete. Joining us now is the very design team that did this project: Dee Elms and Andrew Terrat.
ANDREW: Hi. Thank you.
TOM: Well, thanks for being on the show. Now, is it a challenge to try to keep the period intact but still make the home feel comfortable and relevant?
ANDREW: It’s been part of the fun on this project.
ANDREW: Yeah. It gives you a really good context to start from. And you’re looking at fabrics; there’s such a wide array and that really helped us narrow down. We looked for classic, more traditional patterns.
DEE: Yeah but it’s some updated colors and fabrics, as well. So I think we achieved a nice mix of a lot of different things.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Like I don’t want to say that the addition/family room almost – the fabrics have a global feel to them, because it doesn’t exactly but there’s a print and a feel and a technique in the fabrics you’ve chosen that feel very Americana, that feel very historic, especially with the color palette.
LESLIE: There’s a lot of navy blues and reds and that nice green that really works beautifully. I mean you’ve done a wonderful job.
DEE: Thank you.
ANDREW: Yeah, we’re really happy with the way it all pulled together.
TOM: Now, talk about the process for those in the audience that perhaps have never had an opportunity to work with interior decorators. We all have a vision of what we want our space to be but it’s hard to bring that together. How do you help elicit that from your clients and bring it to reality?
DEE: Well, John and Becky, they definitely had thought about what they wanted their home to look like when they started this process. And we just listened a lot and I think we probably started with inspiration pictures. And we would go through them and they gave us some and we gave them some and we went back and forth. And we kind of just narrowed down what they really wanted their house to look like.
TOM: So that’s a cool process. So you show each other photographs and they give you feedback: “Yeah, I kind of like that, I kind of don’t like that and what I do like, what I don’t like.” And that helps sort of narrow down where they’re going with the design.
DEE: Exactly. And we really encourage them to say – “If you don’t like something about this, tell us.” Because we like to know what people don’t like, as much as what they do like.
LESLIE: Now, in working on this project, because they sort of had an idea, do they then let you just run with it and fill in the blanks and say, “Hey, get it. Whatever you think, as long as you know we’ll like it”? Or did you really have to go through an approval process with almost every piece?
ANDREW: What was great about working with Becky and Joe is that they were very interested and involved. So we would show them lots of things, they would have lots of strong opinion, which we really prefer: somebody who can tell us, “Yeah, I love that,” and “No, that’s not really us.” And they did that really cleanly for us, so …
DEE: And quickly.
TOM: So for those in the audience that are thinking about making a change – it’s hard to move today; we’re spending a lot of time improving our homes – where’s the best place to start if you want to, say, tackle a room?
ANDREW: Well, I would say the easiest place to make a change, it would be color. Wall color is a great way to make a space that you’ve been living in for a long time feel fresh again.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And probably the most affordable, as well.
ANDREW: And the most affordable. You can do it yourself, really.
LESLIE: Now, in working with the team here at This Old House, did adding the TV production to the mix sort of change your process or time frame or anything? Because as we’ve said, you order a rug, sometimes you’re looking at 8 to 12 weeks.
LESLIE: How do you make it work when a camera is waiting?
DEE: The process with the TV and everything, it really didn’t complicate things any. We just did what we normally do and instead of just coming and installing, we also had to do filming. So it just …
TOM: Dee Elms and Andrew Terrat, the very historic design team on this very historic property, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ANDREW: Been a pleasure. Thank you.
DEE: Thank you very much.
TOM: Coming up next week on The Money Pit, getting ready to deck those halls? Well, think about it: you’re going to be decking out the windows, too, so you want to make sure that you don’t damage your vinyl window frames in the process. We’ll have tips on how to hang lights and garland from the window safely and securely and without damaging them, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself ...
LESLIE: But you don't have to do it alone.
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END HOUR 2 TEXT
(Copyright 2011 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)