TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we’d like to welcome you to a very special edition of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Today, we are in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey and we are broadcasting from the wrap party for the 34th season of This Old House.
And today, they completed production on a very special series that covered a topic near and dear to our hearts. The season is called This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds. And it chronicles what this part of the country is going through to repair or replace the more than 80,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy just one year ago next month.
LESLIE: Now, the eight-week series premieres this week, so be sure to check your local PBS listings for that. And we will also be covering the episodes as they air with special, behind-the-scenes reports that we’ve been privileged to capture, with exclusive access to the production team over the past several months.
TOM: And today’s show and the series that follow are presented by Red Devil. Red Devil has been providing quality adhesives, sealants and tools that are made in the U.S.A. since 1872.
For special offers and the latest in Red Devil’s innovative products, visit SaveOnRedDevil.com.
LESLIE: Now, telling a story of this magnitude is always a challenge and This Old House took a unique approach to chronicling the rebuilding efforts of three Jersey Shore homeowners, which is a first for the show. You’re going to hear from those homeowners and get tips on what it takes to build a home that can handle just about anything and any weather event that may occur.
TOM: And this hour, we’ll also learn what it takes to bring a hurricane-ravaged community back to its feet, including how so many homes have to go up to be rebuilt. Plus, we’ll hear about the damage the hurricane waters caused to the local landscape and some valuable lessons about the kinds of plants that can survive this kind of destruction and those that don’t.
LESLIE: But first, we want to welcome the mayor of a town that’s become synonymous with New Jersey, first because of a reality TV show and then because of the reality of the incredible images of that giant JetStar roller coaster sitting smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Bill Akers is the mayor of Seaside Heights, New Jersey and is joining us now with a first-hand account of the destruction that his community faced.
BILL: How are you today?
TOM: Well, we’re well. The question is: how are you and how is Seaside Heights doing almost a year now since Hurricane Sandy put you on the map in a way that you never imagined?
BILL: I think we’re well on our way. I’ve seen progress each and every month. Each month has gotten better than the previous and we’re thrilled that although that we didn’t have the summer that we wanted to have, we’re thrilled at the way the progress is moving along. And we’re very, very hopeful for the future.
TOM: Well, take us back to the days before the storm and the preparation you guys went through and then that fateful night. What was going on in Seaside Heights then?
BILL: Well, the first thing was is that we had to get out and start notifying the people that it was a mandatory evacuation. And our job, at that time, was to get as many people out of Seaside Heights and over the bridge as possible. I think we did a pretty good job at that. We got approximately about 90 percent of the people out.
There were some that, unfortunately, during the night of the storm had to be rescued because – you know, we’ve been down this road many times before. You’re going to have a storm and it always veers out to sea. Well, this one didn’t.
TOM: Yeah. And despite your best efforts, I mean there’s always going to be those people that want to – that think they’re tough enough to stay there, right?
LESLIE: That want to stay.
BILL: Sure. That’s correct.
TOM: So, at what point during the evening did you guys recognize the severity and how bad it was going? Were you in touch, in any way, with what was happening on the island?
BILL: Yeah, we stayed. I stayed and – with the first responders and members of the Police Department and Fire Department. We stayed. And once we – we’re about – where our command center was set up is about three blocks from the ocean. And once we saw the water creeping up in front of the building, we knew how serious it was going to be. It was different. It had the feel, the look of everything being different. And then with the tides being so close with the ocean coming up first and then the bay coming up right behind it about five hours later, the entire town went underwater.
LESLIE: Now, Mayer Akers, Tom is in New Jersey, I’m in New York and I think we were all just so amazed at how quick the media was to show us the images of that JetStar roller coaster sitting right in the ocean. It was a disaster but there was something really beautiful about that disaster, even though we knew the reality of it. What were you guys thinking when you saw that JetStar go into the sea?
BILL: That was probably the most iconic picture coming out of the storm – was the JetStar going into the water. And I remember when daylight hit and people started saying, “Hey, the JetStar is in the water. It’s in the water,” and having to make our way up to the beach to take a look at it, just to see it to believe it, and how it just kind of dropped down and sat there. It was in the upright position just sitting there. And pretty much until the day it was removed, it sat there. Maybe it moved 5 or 10 feet from the original position that it went in.
TOM: We’re talking to Mayor Bill Akers. He is the mayor of Seaside Heights, New Jersey.
Now, you’re a community that depends heavily on your summer visitors. I know you worked very hard to get the boardwalk back up. How was this summer for you in Seaside Heights? Did all the tourists come back?
BILL: No, they didn’t all come back. It was pretty much a fight but we anticipated that we were going to be down some. So when we did our – put our budget together, we went down about 25 percent. In reality, I think, when everything settles in, we’ll probably be somewhere around 30 percent down as opposed to last year’s numbers. But you could look at it as 30 percent down or 70 percent up.
And there were many days after the storm that we didn’t even think we were going to be open. So I’d rather look at it as we are 70 percent up and that we had an opportunity to do something that maybe we didn’t want to do. But we certainly stepped up to the plate and got ourselves ready and got the municipality open and put our best foot forward.
TOM: Mayor Bill Akers from Seaside Heights, New Jersey, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and telling us about this incredible story of disaster and recovery at the Jersey Shore.
BILL: Thank you for having me.
LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, This Old House cast member Richard Trethewey is joining us to talk about the need and the dangers of lifting Sandy-damaged homes, as well as the hazards of the debris-ridden waterways that were left in Sandy’s path.
TOM: Plus, we’ll hear from one homeowner who paid her house off only weeks before the storm and had it totally destroyed. Hear her tale of resilience and recovery, when The Money Pit’s coverage of This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds continues, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, celebrating their 170-year anniversary. At Stanley, making history is our future. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.com.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit’s coverage of This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And the progress here is amazing to see. Lots of residents are back in their homes but there are still hundreds of others who just aren’t. And for them, rebuilding and moving on is still a dream.
LESLIE: Yeah. And the reality is it will take years to come back to the way it was. And really, it will be more likely to just be a new normal.
Now, we’re seeing it already: many more dunes and berms are being built to help protect the homes. And many more homes are just standing 8 or 10 feet up in the air.
TOM: But we’re also seeing the beaches full of Shore visitors and the waterways full of boaters, as well. And those waterways actually had to be tested and cleared. And that part of the project was covered by Richard Trethewey of This Old House.
So, Richard, welcome to the program.
RICHARD: Nice to see you guys.
TOM: Now, tell me about this. It’s so unusual to think about it. When you go – when you’re a boater, you go through the water, you always have in the back of your mind, “Gee, I could hit something that’s below the surface.” But that was a real issue here, wasn’t it?
RICHARD: Right. The bay is really the life blood for so many of these houses. Everybody wants that water view and there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of homes, I should say, right on that bay – on Barnegat Bay – and all the bays that – behind the barrier islands. Well, guess what? Everything that was on the shelf of the barrier islands – the decks, the cars, everything, the houses – ended up in the bay.
RICHARD: And so, where once you had a silty bottom, you might run aground, it was no big deal. In this case, you could run aground and hit an – and it was also hazardous stuff: oil tanks and fuel tanks and propane tanks. So, there was a major job to get all the flotsam and jetsam that was sitting, that used to be people’s homes, out of the bay.
TOM: You know, it was amazing, when I got a chance to tour it after it happened, the things that float that you had no idea.
RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah.
TOM: I saw a massive steel dumpster that floated across the water and landed on somebody’s deck.
RICHARD: Yeah. That’s right. You put a sail on it, you could go across the Atlantic.
TOM: So tell us about this sonar technology that you had a chance to see firsthand. How does that work?
RICHARD: Well, that was – one of the great tools is to be able to see what’s there because it’s also silty. You can’t do it visually. You could try to go high enough in a helicopter or a plane to try and pinpoint some of the big pieces but sonar was such a more precise way to do it. And they could pinpoint it, pick it off, tag it and then get it pulled up. And some of that stuff was big. It was houses; it was serious stuff.
RICHARD: And the other thing that happened was all of the beach that used to be on the ocean side of the shelter island went into the bay. And so now you had to also get all that stuff out. So, once the big chunks were taken out, so to speak, that now the bigger – as big a challenge was to say, “Let’s get all this sand. Let’s have a barge with a backhoe on the barge. Now, we pick the muck out of – with the sand, I’ll put it onto a barge.”
RICHARD: The barge comes over to the beach. Another backhoe picks that out, goes through a filter, pumps it into a thing – pumps it across. And they’ve been doing that for almost 9 months, 10 months trying to get the sand …
TOM: Taking all the sand from where it landed, to where it started.
RICHARD: Yeah, correct. Right. But it – when it went into the bay, it became – in a place where it was potentially contaminated. So you had to filter every bit of it.
RICHARD: Nobody realized the engineering challenge it has been to bring that shore back.
LESLIE: And I imagine you really have to test the quality of water at this point because you can’t open the water up for swimming and fishing and just enjoyment without knowing it’s OK.
RICHARD: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. It flushes pretty well with each tide but it is so much stuff that went in there. I think they’ve knocked off the worst of it now. I think right after the storm, I think you’d be very worried. But you can feel the quality of the water coming back. That whole bay washes out beautifully every day, twice a day.
TOM: So, as a plumber, this is like the largest plumbing project ever seen.
RICHARD: They’re right. That’s right. That’s right. Right. It’s all about the water.
TOM: Hey, let’s talk about some of the choices that the homeowners faced here. One, of course, was tearing down or lifting up. Now, I know that you worked on a house that actually was torn down – and we’re going to hear from that homeowner shortly – but what are some of the considerations when these folks are making those decisions?
RICHARD: Yeah. Well, I tell you, I knew the term “prefabricated modular” and I had a perception of what that means. A house is built in the factory. And when it first started, it was really the equivalent of trailer-park construction and you had this view of it. And then, what we saw with this particular part of our story, in Manasquan – Rita Gurry, who you’ll meet, is an amazing character. House was all paid for and the house got completely filled with water. She took it down and then in its place, we drove pilings and then had a prefabricated modular house.
Now, that house was built in a controlled factory. It was built with 2x4s glued and screwed. It was completely engineered. All the plumbing and electrical was put in at the factory. And what happens in the case of this Jersey Shore, there is more demand than the contractor base can even handle.
So going forward, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better place where prefabricated modular makes all the sense. Because you can, literally, order the house you want. You see it on computer first. You can – could take a 3-D view inside. You decide what house you want and it shows up that way. And most of it’s painted and trimmed out, so I think it’s a powerful way to get the Shore back.
TOM: Would you go so far to say that a prefab home could be better built than stick homes?
RICHARD: Absolutely. Absolutely.
TOM: Wow. That’s …
RICHARD: The idea of taking 2x4s and dumping them off the back of a truck into a pile of snow and thinking you’re going to get a level, plumb and true house all the time, I don’t think you’re going to get it as strong.
LESLIE: I don’t think that ever happens.
RICHARD: Yeah. It does, too. Yeah.
TOM: Richard, one more question before we let you go. One of the problems here was the infrastructure or the gas lines and the water lines.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: What’s being done to shore them up? Because I know that some of them actually exploded.
RICHARD: Yeah. Well, everything got rejiggered. When Mantoloking breached – one of the towns right in the center of the barrier island – it broke every gas line and really severed the island. They’ve rebuilt that. And then most of these houses, when they get blown off their pins, anybody that had a gas connection, it was spewing gas. So it was a big deal to get that all back.
That’s mostly controlled now but people forget. We take it for granted. We turn on water and we turn on gas and it just shows up magically.
RICHARD: But part of this is the hidden part you don’t think about. And that all has had to be worked on over the last year.
TOM: And thankfully, a lot of that has been done and will continue to for many years to come, I’m sure.
RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
TOM: Richard Trethewey, Plumbing-and-Heating Contractor for This Old House, thanks for the great work you did on This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds.
RICHARD: Everybody should come down and visit the Shore.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show broadcasting from what just one year ago was ground zero for Hurricane Sandy.
Now, when it comes to rebuilding, one of the options these homeowners had was to go prefab. Modular homes are built in a factory setting where weather doesn’t affect the building process and quality control is always top-notch.
LESLIE: Rita Gurry is one of those homeowners. Her home in Manasquan was just recently paid off, of course, when Sandy came in and forced her to start all over again.
Rita, welcome to The Money Pit.
RITA: Oh, thank you. I’m happy to be here.
TOM: So, what was it like seeing your house for the first time after this incredible storm?
RITA: Well, I went in a day after the storm. I anticipated that it would be bad because friends of mine managed to get at – gain access to my house the day before.
RITA: And they kind of apprised me of the situation that it was not pretty. I opened my door. I knew that it was going to be bad. It was beyond bad. I had just put brand-new floors down in my house in September in the whole bottom floor. Wood floors. I opened my door. The first thing I looked at was my floors and I just said, “Oh, my God. They were so beautiful two days ago.”
And then I looked around. I saw all my furniture that used to be in place was in different rooms. It had floated into – my living-room furniture was in the bedroom.
RITA: The mattress was like askew on the floor. Everything was just on its side. My dining-room chairs were in other rooms.
And I just – I walked through the bottom of my house and I didn’t even go upstairs because I knew the floodwaters didn’t get there. But I took a deep breath, I looked around for 10 minutes. I stood in my kitchen, I looked in my bathroom. I saw that the sewage was not over the top of my toilet; it was in the tub. It was everywhere.
RITA: And I just said to myself, “There’s no way I can fix this.” And I made a decision almost instantly that I’m going to tear this down. I have flood insurance. I’m going to tear it down and I’m going to rebuild. I’m going to make a new life here.
TOM: Now, I had the privilege of actually being at your house when the new modular home that you opted to go with was being lifted into place.
TOM: What were your emotions that day?
RITA: Well, after seeing my old house boomed and torn down, I was a little disheartened. But watching the house come in in pieces, my spirits were so uplifted, I just – I really felt that my life was back; it’s coming back.
RITA: And you know what? I just paid it off in September. Sandy came October 29th. I had a month of no bills and it’s one of the situations where you don’t have a choice. You can either just put your hands up in the air and get frustrated or you can just tango on.
RITA: And I knew that I just had to do what I had to do and if that involved more money and getting back into debt, then I have to do that. I actually felt, you know, like I had a connection again with my home.
TOM: Right, right.
RITA: And it was so wonderful to see. Within an hour or two of it being set, I was able to go up the back stairs into my house and actually see my kitchen cabinets.
TOM: Yeah. In fact, I took a picture of you in your kitchen, literally hours after the building was set.
RITA: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just amazing. It’s amazing.
TOM: We have that online at MoneyPit.com.
RITA: It’s just amazing.
RITA: And I could conceptualize my whole home. I could conceptualize then where I’m going to be sleeping, where my family is going to be upstairs and my brother, Tom, and Mike.
RITA: And I just – I felt so good. All that anxiety that I had been harboring for months and months and months, it just – it went away.
LESLIE: And I mean it had to be a terribly displacing feeling to know that everything you’d worked so hard for was just a lot at that point.
RITA: Well, it’s not – not only was it just a lot but all my personal possessions that I’d had for years and years – furniture of my mom who passed away last year, as well – that it was just kind of completely – like someone robbed me.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
RITA: When the units came in, they literally gave my life back. And from that point on, I’ve been so hopeful and I’ve been so – my spirit is so uplifted.
TOM: So how does the house look today?
RITA: The house is unbelievable. Unbelievable.
TOM: Yeah. Great.
RITA: When I tell you something – and I had a short window to furnish everything for the shooting of This Old House.
RITA: And I – literally, for two weeks, I’ve worked day and night. And I pulled it off.
RITA: They had the shoot on Tuesday. That is one of my greatest accomplishments in life.
LESLIE: You must just be feeling so relieved.
RITA: I’m so relieved and it came out so well. And the house itself is just beautiful. It’s just beautiful.
TOM: How much fun was it working with This Old House?
RITA: Let me tell you something. This team is – they’re incredible. They’re like God’s gift. They’re God’s gift. One is better than the other. Rich, who I worked with closely, Sarah, Deborah, Jay, the cameraman – who’s like a monkey; he jumps on the roof. He’s everywhere.
LESLIE: Got to get the shot.
RITA: He gets the shot. Cliff and Griff and the director, Tom. One is better than the next. I felt like I was with old friends. And people said, “Aren’t you intimidated to do this filming?” And I was, initially, but let me tell you something: they made it so easy. It was like being home with them.
TOM: Rita Gurry, congratulations on completing your home and getting back in.
RITA: Oh, thank you so much. You guys have to stop by. I will make you feel at home.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We’ll be back with more from the Jersey Shore, after this.
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TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
Now, when millions of gallons of saltwater driven by Hurricane Sandy flooded the miles of coastline, it wiped out vegetation in droves. But what was very interesting is that some of the vegetation survived and some of it didn’t. To find out why, we welcome, now, Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House.
ROGER: Oh, thanks for having me.
TOM: So, you and I were talking about this before the show and you made a stunningly obvious to-you-but-to-no-one-else comment that you could tell by seeing this vegetation what was imported and what was natural, what belonged here and therefore survived the storm and what people had brought in over the years and did not survive the storm. It was pretty interesting.
ROGER: Well, salt is a great mineral except when there’s too much of it and especially when it comes to vegetation.
ROGER: And you just walk by and you notice that some plants are just burnt. You know they’re gone and they’re never going to come back again. But then you’ve got to be careful because some of the native plants may lose some needles or leaves and then sprout out and come back again. So, it’s knowing what species and what form of – it’s called “desiccation” that’s actually happened to them.
LESLIE: Now, do you think it’s because the proximity to the saltwater, just through evaporation and air movement, that the local plants are sort of used to the salt content?
ROGER: Right. You think about it: they’ve grown up in this climate and they get flooded every three, four or five years. They get covered with salt in sprays and then they’ve grown to handle that. These new ones we bring in are interior plants. They’re living in – some of them aren’t even from this country, OK? So they come in and they’re put in this stressful environment. They don’t handle stress well.
TOM: Let’s talk about the environment that we find ourselves here. And one of the reasons that Hurricane Sandy, all up and down the East Coast, was so devastating was because of the barrier islands. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the bay waters on the other and basically, they met and wiped out …
LESLIE: Pretty much everywhere.
TOM: Yeah. They pretty much met and they wiped out all of the infrastructure, all of the homes, all of the cars that were in between that area. Development here, in that kind of scenario, is – has to be much different than you see farther inland or perhaps different than you guys see up in Boston. What struck you in seeing the damage and the work that has to be done here?
ROGER: It was truly amazing to see the force of that water and what it can do and what it can carry away. I mean literally lifting houses off of their foundations and moving them down the street, eating away huge holes in the barrier islands that were here and allowing that water to just cut through and flood everything that had never been flooded before.
TOM: In fact, it cut one island in half.
ROGER: That’s right.
TOM: Literally, right in half. Picked out a bridge and cut it in half.
ROGER: And now, they’re in the process of figuring out how to recreate these barrier islands. And it’s very hard to do with the houses and there’s all sorts of ideas being thrown around of different types of barriers to put up. In one of the places, they’re burying huge boulders and then covering them with sand and other vegetative things they’ve done.
LESLIE: Covering it up.
ROGER: So, it’s interesting to see it.
LESLIE: And you had a great opportunity to visit the Island Beach State Park, which is pretty much one of the last undeveloped areas here. Can you tell us about that?
ROGER: It was amazing to drive into that place and walk up and see things that have been untouched, just let Mother Nature do what she wants.
And you discover that there’s a series of these coastal banks – barriers. They don’t work as a single one; there’s like three or four different layers. And it slows the water down and it stops it from carrying all the way through in the erosion. And the beach grass here grows out into the sand; it’s really amazing how it spreads. The wind blows the sand up on top of it and then the roots grow into that and it makes a stabilizing mat. And it just continues its growth along (inaudible at 0:24:07).
TOM: And that’s an effort that’s been ongoing in even in the years leading up to Sandy. You know, a lot of these towns try to plant beach grass and they have all kinds of signs and warnings to stay off of it. They don’t want the kids playing on it because that really is what holds it all together, isn’t it?
ROGER: Well, people don’t realize that we’re doing this for a purpose; we’re not just spending money because we have money to spend. And like you probably see that with this grass planting, don’t go on it and then a pathway that’s cut all the way through it. Now, that’s creating a weak point in that so that down the road, the water will find that weak point and work its way through.
ROGER: So stay off the berms.
LESLIE: Now, do you think with all of the lessons that you saw at the State Park, is that something that, in reconstructing these barrier islands and in the developed areas, that they’re looking to recreate?
ROGER: They are. They’re going to try to recreate that but in some cases, you don’t have the space to do it enough that Mother Nature would slow down the water. So they’re going to try to create bigger ones or higher ones. And that’s some of the things you’ve seen as you go along here: some of the higher dunes that have gone in to stop that initial rush of water.
TOM: Roger, you spent several months down here filming Season 34. Congratulations on another very successful season, by the way.
You’ve talked to a lot of these victims. What’s your impression of the people that live here on the Shore?
ROGER: They’re tough as nails and ready to rebuild. There wasn’t a question in 90 percent of them – maybe 99 percent – that they were all coming and they were going to rebuild.
ROGER: Yeah, there was the occasional one where there wasn’t the money there or they just weren’t going to put the effort in but the most part, I’m amazed to see what it looks like now. When I was here earlier this year, I never thought it would progress as far as it has and …
LESLIE: And I think so many people – you have a history with an area. And even though you understand that the potential for something like this to happen again is pretty likely, you want to invest in your life, your home, your area.
ROGER: Yeah. And that’s where you see all the people who’ve raised their houses up. They’ve gone to the trouble to do it right so that the next storm, they won’t have that problem. They won’t have that surge knocking their house off. But it’s a big investment of time and money and it’s pretty amazing to watch it happen down here.
TOM: Well, thanks so much for participating in the rebuilding effort and chronicling it for the millions of people that are going through it. We really appreciate it.
Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for being a part of this very special broadcast.
ROGER: Thanks for having me down.
LESLIE: Alright. Still to come on The Money Pit’s coverage of This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds, one of the biggest challenges of producing a television program on the rebuilding efforts of a major disaster is figuring out which stories are the stories to tell. So up next, we’re going to find out how This Old House‘s producers tackled this challenge and what they learned about the people of this community in the process.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And as these homeowners here in the Jersey Shore rebuild from Sandy, there’s an opportunity to improve their energy efficiency. But even if you’re not rebuilding, now is the perfect time to make sure your home is well-insulated to keep your heating and cooling costs down.
A very simple check is this: if you can see the floor joists in your attic, you don’t have enough insulation. Now, if you think that adding insulation is a hard, messy and maybe even painful job, you need to check out the new EcoTouch insulation from Owens Corning.
TOM: EcoTouch insulation from Owens Corning, you can feel the difference. The new generation of fiberglass insulation is soft to the touch, it’s easy to install. And EcoTouch is made with 99-percent natural ingredients, which are plant-based and much less irritating. It’s also formaldehyde-free.
EcoTouch also provides temperature and sound control, so you can expect lower monthly heating and cooling costs when this project is done.
LESLIE: Yeah, check out HomeDepot.OwensCorning.com for some more product information and some easy weekend project ideas. Or you can call 1-800-GET-PINK.
TOM: Now, behind the team of talent that you see on camera at This Old House, there’s also a team of pros that make it all happen. And this season was a little more challenging than most because instead of one TV set that was also a construction zone, there were actually three.
LESLIE: That’s right. Sarah Monzón is the producer with This Old House and was on the ground for this. And she’s joining us now with the scoop on the behind-the-scenes prep that goes into bringing This Old House to your TV screen.
SARAH: Thank you. Good to be here.
TOM: Now, when you first landed at the Jersey Shore, I had the privilege of meeting you and the team when you guys first got to my neighborhood, so to speak. Were you just overwhelmed by the devastation?
SARAH: Completely. I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was a war zone as far as I was concerned.
TOM: And while you’re used to maybe just finding one perfect house, I mean all your seasons, 34 years, have been trying to find that one perfect house season after season after season. Now, you just had hundreds and hundreds of houses, even in this small area, to choose from.
SARAH: Yeah. I think whenever I’m asked about this project, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. The hardest part of it is how do you choose? And we’ve talked about this before. How do you choose the project that you focus on? Because I know if I were living here, I would go around in a blur all day long, just looking around me. And I know that a lot of people did and still are.
SARAH: I can’t imagine having to recover from something like this, let alone rebuild in the same place, with unknown resources, with unknown help, with unknown infrastructure around me. Just whole – when you learn the whole story of Mantoloking and the fact that they had to rebuild the whole town and everything underground, where do you start? So …
LESLIE: Now, did you come here anticipating to do three homes or were you just so profoundly affected by the devastation that it led its way to three?
SARAH: I think – and my hat’s off to Deborah Hood, my senior producer, for this whole discovery process. We came down here the first time thinking, “We don’t even know if we can come here. We don’t even know if there’s a place for us to stay.”
SARAH: We don’t even know if there are builders working, let alone homeowners who can afford to pay them, you know?
SARAH: We didn’t know what we were going to find. We were very fortunate to have hooked up with Cindy Napp at KSI Engineers, who steered us in the right direction. She and Pat and Kevin at KSI piled us in a van and took us around and showed us the wreckage and showed us, actually, most helpfully, a few projects that they had already been working on and doing assessments of.
And that’s where we started to really understand that, from an engineering perspective, how you get your head around what’s the first step in repairing or rebuilding these homes and what is smart rebuilding. Because none of us had ever seen anything like this before.
TOM: Now, one of the challenges that we faced here in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Long Island, all the areas that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, is trying to figure out what exactly we’re supposed to do to stay consistent with code. There’s been a lot of developing in terms of how high the homes have to be. And nobody wants to make that step in starting that project until that’s worked out. Did you run into any of those sort of regulatory stumbling blocks as you were working with these three homeowners?
SARAH: All three of our homeowners ran into that.
SARAH: I think possibly – with the exception of the one that was a new modular-built where they had been there, done that before and they knew how they were going to go about it – in Bay Head, one of the reasons we haven’t finished that project is that they didn’t know, for the longest time, what sort of foundation they were going to be required to build, how high they were going to have to go or what their soil conditions were going to require them to do once they knew the FEMA regulations.
And in Point Pleasant, Carlos was constantly jiggering things back and forth with the town trying to figure out what he could get permits for, what he couldn’t get permits for, waiting on grants, qualifications and insurance settlements. There’s so much uncertainty from the point of view of regulation and financing these projects that I am blown away that two of them were able to finish and certainly understand that the third one is still pushing for it. But they’ll get there.
LESLIE: Now, do you think it was helpful that Carlos pretty much took on the role of general contractor for his project? Is it more beneficial that he, as the homeowner, was so upfront with the community and the Building Department to get things to move forward, rather than that third party of a builder?
SARAH: Well, I think that Carlos is a rare bird. I don’t know anybody who’s more squared away than Carlos is. And he was on the phone, as we all know, the morning after the storm, before the floodwaters had even receded, filing his claim. He kayaked out of his house and practically went to the Building Department after that. But he saw his family first.
I sat with him in the Building Department in Point Pleasant. That was one of my first ways of being exposed to what this whole process was going to be. And even building departments across the area were still struggling to figure out what they were going to require of their constituents. I mean it’s really hard to nail down exactly what the first step is. And Carlos was the one who was able to figure that out and map his route to the finish.
TOM: Well, despite all that, though, there seems to be generally a spirit of cooperation between homeowners and builders and the code officials to make sure that they get as much done as physically as possible. Would you agree?
SARAH: I definitely saw that. And I don’t know if it was because it was for the show or the homeowners but everybody pulled together and got this done. And I’m really impressed by that cooperation.
TOM: Sarah Monzón, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
SARAH: My pleasure. Thank you.
TOM: Still ahead, a wrap-up of the program and a look at what’s coming up in the weeks ahead, as The Money Pit’s coverage of This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds continues.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Owens Corning and The Home Depot. The Home Depot and Owens Corning have teamed up to show you just how quick and easy it is to make simple upgrades to your home insulation and save money on energy costs. What’s your insulation project? Learn more. Visit HomeDepot.OwensCorning.com today.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Broadcasting today from Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. We are here to celebrate the wrap, the final day of production, for This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds.
LESLIE: We’d really like to thank the team at Red Devil for making this show possible. Their company has a rich history of innovation and some really great, new products that are being used by the pros involved in the reconstruction here and in construction projects all across the country. So here to tell us more is John Primavera, the VP of industrial sales.
JOHN: Thank you, Leslie, Tom. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: So John, with all these homes being rebuilt right now, there are a lot of opportunities for folks to improve the greenness of their home, to do a home remodeling project, home construction project, a new home project that is more environmentally responsible than ever before. I think what’s really cool is that manufacturers like Red Devil are serving that need by developing fantastic products that are actually very green.
You have a new one I want to ask you about. It’s a construction adhesive that’s such an important product if you want to build a home that can stand up to a storm. Tell me about the new GREENGUARD product.
JOHN: Well, GREENGUARD – many of our products are actually GREENGUARD-certified.
JOHN: The construction adhesives, which is about a dozen different construction adhesives, are all GREENGUARD-certified, which means they have been certified to be low in VOC content. And this is very important, especially in interior work when you’re caulking windows or when you’re using construction adhesive on subfloors, drywall. Because all products emit these VOCs and our products are very low-VOC and they’re certified – GREENGUARD-certified.
TOM: And they still work very well. They perform perfectly.
JOHN: And they work as well as any of the traditional products which – many of them are solvent-based, which are not as friendly.
LESLIE: And you guys have really even gone above and beyond because the Indoor Air Quality has certified them for children and schools, which is huge.
LESLIE: We’re in an area that, unfortunately, is forced to rebuild so greatly. And to have the opportunity …
TOM: Including the schools, by the way. Yep.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. To have the opportunity to make sure that things are adhered well and up to snuff with air quality is very, very important.
Now, I think what’s also important to point out, John, is that you guys do so much at Red Devil that involves spackling and patching. And spackling and patching always tends to lead to the next step: sanding and priming. But you guys have really become so innovative in creating a one-time patch-and-prime product that doesn’t require priming. So tell us about that.
JOHN: Well, actually, the ONETIME brand of spackling is known worldwide. We were the innovators of this lightweight spackling. We sell it in 20 different countries, in 20 different languages.
But one of the things that you have to do sometimes is prime the spackle before you paint it. We now advanced that to the next level where ONETIME Patch & Prime is a primer and patch all in one. So, the homeowner can just patch it and paint right over it and there’s no need to prime it, as traditional spacklings have required.
TOM: And let’s face it: that’s what most folks want to do. And even today, they’ll spackle and then they’ll paint but you still see it, you know?
LESLIE: And then just paint it.
LESLIE: That’s true.
TOM: So this is going to really save that step.
Now, John, you – Red Devil is a New Jersey-based company for many years. You made a lot of your tools here. What are some of the other products that Red Devil makes?
JOHN: Well, we’ve made painters’ tools for many years: putty knives, paint scrapers and the like. We also manufacturer a full line of caulks and sealants: silicones, acrylics, sealants that are used for window-and-door weatherization.
TOM: Great products, great brand. John Primavera from Red Devil, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
JOHN: Thank you, guys. It was nice being here.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, we want to take this opportunity to thank the cast and crew of This Old House for letting us take part in yet another season with them, especially one that’s so meaningful to me as a Jersey Shore native.
LESLIE: And we want to remind you that This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds kicks off its 34th season this week on PBS, so be sure to check your local listings.
TOM: 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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(Copyright 2013 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.)