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  • Transcript

    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: On air and online at MoneyPit.com. A very special edition of The Money Pit today. We are broadcasting from the set of the current This Old House renovation in Bedford, Massachusetts.

    Now, This Old House has taken on some pretty old houses over the year but this one definitely takes the case. This is, in fact, one of the oldest homes in the show’s 32-year history. In fact, only one other renovation comes even close.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, this house that they’ve been working on is called the Nathaniel Page Homestead. And Nathaniel Page was involved in the Revolutionary War. And the home itself was built around 1720 and is actually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. And over the next couple of hours, we’re going to hear all about this renovation, inside and out, as well as get some great ideas and tips for all of you.

    TOM: Now, the owners of the home, who are Joe and Rebecca Titlow, bought this early-Georgian home back in 2007 and they say they are proud to own a home tied to the birth of America. But to get to their dream home, well, they had to turn it over to the good folks at This Old House and let it become a working television set. And even though the team has been doing makeovers on TV for more than three decades, it never really gets any easier.

    Here to tell us about the process is Senior Series Producer Deb Hood.

    Welcome, Deb.

    LESLIE: Hey, Deb.

    DEB: Hi, guys.

    TOM: Now, I want to talk to you about what I think is really your art and that is balancing production deadlines versus construction deadlines.

    DEB: Yes.

    TOM: Anyone who’s ever tackled a home improvement project knows that the deadline is the first thing that goes out the window. With you guys, it can’t.

    DEB: Right. That’s right. And our secret weapon is Tom Silva. Not everybody has access to him, I know.

    LESLIE: Now, Deb, how much more difficult was it because the home is on the National Register of Historic Places? Did that add just a whole ‘nother monkey wrench to the whole solutional tool box there?

    DEB: Well, we certainly want to be mindful of a house with 300 years of history and luckily, the homeowners were really on board with that, which is essentially taking the main part of the house and really not doing too much. Even down to the historic window sash, we just restored, weatherstripped, put back in. And it was just really respecting that old part of the house and the newer editions off the back, we took some liberties but still tried to keep that character intact.

    LESLIE: No extra paperwork involved?

    DEB: Oh, actually, no. No, there wasn’t. I think it’s only if there’s federal monies involved do you have to get sort of federal approvals for things. But the surprising thing to us is that even here in town, this house is not in a historic district.

    TOM: Wow.

    DEB: So although it has that designation, we really weren’t – there were no more restrictions than usual.

    LESLIE: Good for them.

    TOM: Now, is that because one of the complications of this house is that it was actually moved here?

    DEB: It was originally on this lot. It was like, I don’t know, about a lot size over, so it was just …

    TOM: Oh, OK, so it wasn’t moved far.

    DEB: No, it was just moved kind of on the property.

    TOM: OK.

    DEB: But this was one of the greatest – if you read the history – one of the most sort of expansive and wealthiest farms in the area. It was really – Nathaniel Page helped found Bedford with his horses and his carriage. He built these roads; this is Page Road.

    LESLIE: I mean roads are named after him, yeah.

    DEB: Yeah, absolutely. So they were a really important family in town and this property was.

    LESLIE: And it’s nice that the oldest flag in the country is the flag that Nathaniel Page carried and it stayed within the town. So there really is such a sense of history here.

    DEB: So that’s crazy, that story. That is – it is the oldest existing battle flag in America and it – the reason it survived is because it was kept here in this house.

    TOM: Wow. It was actually housed right here?

    DEB: Yes. Yep. It was tucked away, maybe in this room – who knows? – in this house and that’s why it survived. And the Page family finally gave it to the town sometime in the 1800s but it exists to this day.

    TOM: Now …

    LESLIE: When did it finally get out of family ownership from the Page family?

    DEB: Yeah, sometime in 1820, I want to say, they gave it to the town and it’s in under sort of lock and key in the town library but you can go see it. It’s under glass; you can see it. It’s in this humidity-controlled room and it’s preserved, really, because of the Page family.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    TOM: We’re talking to Deb Hood. She’s the senior series producer for This Old House. We’re in Bedford, Massachusetts, the site of the Nathaniel Page House.

    Now, you must have had your pick of the litter when it comes to choosing properties. The age of this place must have made it hard to resist.

    DEB: Absolutely. We get e-mails all throughout the year; people send us house proposals. And this one came in in the last couple of projects. As you guys know, we’ve done a lot of houses from the teens and the 20s. And when we saw – they originally thought this house was 1689 or something like that. When we saw that, that really got our attention.

    TOM: Right, right. And it turned out it was actually just a little bit younger than that but not that much.

    DEB: Right. That’s right. Yeah, we had some architectural historians that helped us date it more to 1720 so – but still, pretty old.

    LESLIE: And that’s really just because of – we would call it recycling of parts but today, we go to The Home Depot. Back then, you went to whatever was coming down and grabbed pieces and used them again.

    DEB: Absolutely. So there were – like especially this – a door to the attic is certainly from the 1690s and so there are old house parts here.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    TOM: I think one of the very special things about your program is that you have always, over the 32 seasons, made the home the star of the program.

    DEB: Absolutely.

    TOM: So all of these guys here that we know and love so well – Tommy, Kevin, Roger, Norm, Richard – they’re the supporting characters but the house is always the star. And I think you’ve done it again in the 32nd season.

    DEB: Oh, thank you so much.

    LESLIE: Congratulations.

    DEB: Thanks.

    LESLIE: Alright. You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com, coming to you today from the site of the current This Old House renovation.

    TOM: Still ahead, the guts of this house. We’re going to talk to heating and plumbing expert, Richard Trethewey, about what it takes to get an 18th-century home modernized. That’s all coming up, after this.

    (theme song)

    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: And we are broadcasting a special edition of The Money Pit today from the set of the current This Old House renovation in Bedford, Massachusetts. Today’s broadcast is presented by Icynene and we want to thank them for making this possible.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Icynene is a line of spray-foam insulation products and they expand to fill cracks and crevices, which allow your home to be insulated and sealed at the same time. And you can learn more at Icynene.com and that’s Icynene – I-c-y-n-e-n-e – .com.

    TOM: Now, for those of you that are following this season’s episodes on television, we are seeing only the middle of the project. Here on the set, though, we are happy to give away the ending as the house does get finished. And we are getting a sneak peek right now.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And a big part of any renovation is always the guts of the home. And that’s, of course, the heating and the plumbing. And Richard Trethewey is the team member who takes all of that on and he’s here with us to tell us about what that entailed in this historic home.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Nice to be here. Nice to be out of the basement, actually.

    TOM: It is, it is. You know, you’ve worked on some very old houses in your career. They’ve always got a lot of surprises. Did something in this house teach you a thing or two?

    RICHARD: Well, this house, there was a time that there was no water and no heat in this house. And so we saw the sort of the relics of that. There was a time that if you wanted to use the plumbing, you went up to a little building that was outside. And so, we saw the first iterations of plumbing in the system and that was – there was a well and there was a little hand pump. And they used to pump that well and then push the water up to a tank that would have sat somewhere in the attic and then it would have worked by gravity in that order.

    TOM: Oh, interesting.

    RICHARD: That would have been probably in the – this house was from 1720s and 30s originally. This would have been in the – after the Industrial Revolution of 1880, 1870, something like that.

    TOM: So they created their own water pressure by lifting the water from the basement up to the tank and then down …

    RICHARD: With a little bit of gravity.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICHARD: And come by gravity.

    You’ve got to think about it. That tank, they would have filled it, would have put it in the attic. The building wasn’t insulated at all. Their heating system would have been these fireplaces and you think about just how hard people had to work. This is what you did back then. You just …

    LESLIE: That’s why you all slept in one bed and stayed in one room.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. Right. But the things that we take for granted so much now in modern life, where we turn our thermostat and hope to be within a half a degree, we forget just how hard it was in the developing years of this country to sort of get heating and comfort.

    LESLIE: Now, with this project, I mean there were two renovations that were completely modernized and brand-spanking new. So how do you marry the sort of historical components of the home but modernize the systems that will truly keep it functional given the clearance spaces and things you may have had to deal with in walls, under floors?

    RICHARD: When we got here, we could see the remnants of the first coal-fired gravity system that had been taken out long ago. There was a modern, gas-fired furnace but it was only one zone.

    Now, we were adding a bunch of space – that beautiful room off of the kitchen – and there was no guarantee that we could get the right amount of heating and cooling through the whole building. So we added zoning – forced, warm-air zoning – and it was this brilliant system that sort of – you put the dampers onto every branch and you just connect them by telephone cords. You can group disparate rooms together. So I could have this room where we’re in but another room in the other side of the house could be off the same zone.

    LESLIE: Oh, interesting.

    RICHARD: Yeah, really cool, yeah. So we brought super-duper-modern zoning.

    LESLIE: And do they feed to a central thermostat, then?

    RICHARD: There’ll be three zones now in this house that used to just have one zone that – when we first got here, all the heat just wanted to come to that first floor right over the furnace and it didn’t get to the bedrooms too well. So now we’ve brought modern comfort to this very old building.

    TOM: And you do that so well and you’ve done it for so many years. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and inviting us today to your money pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    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: And today we are in Bedford, Massachusetts where the entire This Old House team is getting ready to wrap up another very successful renovation. And this time, it’s on one of the oldest homes they’ve ever taken on. It’s an 18th-century historical landmark: the Nathaniel Page Homestead.

    Now, for those of you that are Revolutionary War buffs, you may know that Nathaniel Page was actually a flag-bearer for the Revolutionary War. In fact, the flag that he carried during the Battle of Concord is considered to be the oldest one in the country. It’s on display right here in the town’s library but actually lived in this home for many, many years.

    LESLIE: I know. That’s so amazing that we could be sitting in the very room that housed that flag for all of that time and kept it with such love and care.

    Well, with a home this old, it’s pretty much a guarantee that there was no indoor plumbing when it was built. And that really didn’t become popular in homes until the late 1800s. And even then, it was often a luxury.

    Well, we’ve come a long way since then but toilets can still cause us headaches, especially if they’re leaking or running. How often do you find yourself doing the old jiggle-the-handle trick before you just give up in frustration? And even though indoor toilets have been around for decades now, they still use the most water in your home on a daily basis.

    TOM: And that’s why The Money Pit, in conjunction with the EPA’s WaterSense program, has been bringing you water-saving ideas each week throughout the fall.

    We want to tell you now about a very easy way to save water. It eliminates flapper leaks or even having to do that jiggle-the-handle thing to release the chain and it’s called HydroRight.

    Now, this is a product that was invented by a plumber and you can easily and quickly install it yourself in less than 10 minutes with, check this, no tools. It actually saves water by converting your current toilet into a dual-flush system: one for liquids and two for, well, everything else. It could actually save you up to 15,000 gallons of water a year and that’s a lot of water.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And all of that you can do for less than 25 bucks.

    Check out their website. It’s SaveMyToilet.com and you can learn more about the HydroRight system right there. And check out more great, water-saving ideas and products online at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: Well, what old-home projects are you working on in your house? We’d love to hear about them. Call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    My most recent old-home project, Leslie, was to replace not one, not two but all three exterior doors. Because if you’re going to open your house up wide open in the fall, why not just do it?

    LESLIE: Why not?

    TOM: We actually installed fiberglass entry doors that were made by Therma-Tru.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know, I definitely want to do one of those for my side door. We’re at a point where the current one is just in disrepair, so I’m with you on that with an old home.

    TOM: And you know what’s cool about them? They really look like the old doors. I mean they’ve got the technology down.

    LESLIE: That whole-new American Classics line that Therma-Tru has, that we saw at Builders’ last year, is stunning and just historically accurate.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you today from Bedford, Massachusetts, site of the current season of This Old House.

    Now, Joe and Rebecca Titlow, who own the home currently being renovated, took a giant leap of faith with this house. They did love the home’s history and character and they figured, eh, they would work with the rest.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Actually, the renovations started with architect Dan Quaile. And the challenge was that, as with most older homes, there has been a long history of improvements over the years, over the really 300-year history of this home. And Dan had to work with several previous renovations, additions and even a move of the entire structure on the property. And he’s with us now to talk about how he planned for the future of this incredible home.

    Dan, thanks for joining us.

    DAN: Well, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

    TOM: So, Dan, this house has had 300 years’ worth of history, a lot of changes. What’s the first thing that you do as an architect? Do you kind of assess what you have?

    DAN: Right. The first thing is to come out and take a look at the house, meet with the homeowners and try and figure out what their goals and aspirations are. One of the next steps we need to do is to measure up the existing building, develop a program with the homeowners and then we start to go through the design process.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, how is it now throwing a television show into the mix? Did that sort of change your approach and procedure or was it very similar? They were just an extra client, if you will.

    DAN: It really didn’t change the process at all. I mean the – we started with the homeowners just coming up with early design options before the crews were here filming and doing any of that. It was very low-impact, if you will.

    TOM: One of the challenges, I think, of trying to change a house is to try to have that vision as to what it’s going to look like when everything is added together. So a lot of what you do is taking those conversations and really bringing them into a visual product. When you get to that visual stage were you actually have some sketches and drawings, does that really move the design forward?

    DAN: Absolutely. We have found that three-dimensional models really help a lot for the homeowners to understand what the product is going to look like.

    LESLIE: Oh, really?

    DAN: A lot of folks have a tough time understanding a two-dimensional or a flat drawing. But if you can show it to them in perspective or in three dimensions, it makes it much easier to understand.

    LESLIE: Gives them the feel of moving through the space.

    DAN: That’s right.

    TOM: And that’s a fairly new innovation, isn’t it, to be able to do that effectively?

    DAN: There are new processes but there’s an old – the old-school model where we built it out of chip-wood and cardboard and paint it and so on and removable roofs and walls and so on so you can actually sort of get a look at what the inside is.

    LESLIE: Model-making, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    DAN: Now, with Joe’s company, he was able to build a 3-D model with his 3-D printers.

    TOM: I’ll tell you what. When I was in high school and I had that meeting with my guidance counselor when they were trying to figure out what I should do for a living, they said they should send me to model-making school.

    LESLIE: But that would be so fun.

    And you’re right. It really is – I work as a decorator and same thing: people just cannot grasp sometimes. No matter how many swatches and drawings you show, you really have to physically give them that space.

    Now, is your specialty older homes? Do you primarily work with homes of this age group?

    DAN: We work on a variety of different projects: homes, institutional, commercial. Many of the homes are old but we also have several new houses that we’re designing or adding onto and renovating, as well.

    LESLIE: And how did the historical impact of this property affect your approach?

    DAN: Well, we try to keep within the character of the existing house. The house was built somewhere in the early 1700s and then there was an addition put on about 10 years ago. That addition has a family room and other amenities in it but it really didn’t tie in well with the main house.

    Fortunately, the major portion of the addition for this project is in the back of the house, so for impact from the street, it really didn’t have a huge impact. And then we tried to tie in the new mud-room addition with the character of the original house, renovating windows and clapboards and new trim, keeping in line with what would have been there originally.

    TOM: We’re talking to Dan Quaile. He is the architect on this season’s Bedford project of This Old House, known as the Nathaniel Page Home.

    Now, one of the most important considerations when planning any home renovation is the budget. We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, Dan, if you can stick around, we want to talk about how budget plays into those designs and how you can really have your dream house without totally going bankrupt in the process.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the set of the Nathaniel Page Homestead in Bedford, Massachusetts, the project being completed today by the team of This Old House.

    LESLIE: Now, the inside of the house is not the only thing that gets a makeover here. Up next, we’re going to talk to Roger Cook and the lead landscape architect about the lawn, driveway and garden plan a little later and get some tips on how you can make improvements to your old house, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you in part by Arrow Fastener Company, the leader in professional fastening products since 1929. The makers of the iconic T50 Staple Gun, the world’s bestselling staple gun, Arrow Fastener has the right tool for every application. Explore Arrow’s latest product innovations at ArrowFastener.com.

    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.

    TOM: This is a very special edition of The Money Pit. We are broadcasting from Bedford, Massachusetts and the site of the current This Old House renovation.

    Now, this house is nearly 300 years old and one of the oldest ever taken on by the expert team at This Old House.

    LESLIE: That’s right. While old homes are built really well and they have lots of charm, they really do need lots of extra TLC. And you may have to upgrade some of the home’s major systems. For example, steel plumbing was common many years ago but we know that the rusting pipes can lead to clogs and other destructive side effects.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, homes were designed differently, as well, and that was one of the challenges for architect Dan Quaile, who joins us again right now.

    Hey, Dan.

    DAN: Hi, guys.

    TOM: Now, as part of that design process, we would need to talk about the elephant in the room: the budget.

    DAN: Right.

    TOM: Now, people’s …

    LESLIE: Yeah, every press release we’ve gotten has said “modest, modest, modest.”

    TOM: And it’s true. You really did work with a modest budget here but how does that play into the conversations that you’re having not only with the Titlows, who own this home, but with just homeowners in general that are thinking about making these types of grand changes to their home?

    DAN: Well, budget is obviously always an issue on any type of project. And in this project, it was no different. We went through a variety of design options. Some of the options were two-story additions, had much more square footage of new construction and renovations.

    And through the process, trying to find out exactly what the owner wanted and what was the most important, we were able to whittle down and maybe build a little bit less. Maybe they didn’t get the second bedroom they wanted or some of the other features they wanted, to try and keep it within budget. We do periodic estimates through the process to make sure we’re on track before they start to put a shovel in the ground.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, as the architect on any project, when you’re dealing with the homeowner and you’ve gotten to the point where, OK, this is the plan, do you then specify all of the materials with that client so when they turn to a contractor – because this is where we find people always sort of get lost and get a lot of misinformation. They know what the project is and then turn to a contractor and say, “Oh, yeah, I guess that tile will work,” and maybe that one’s $20 a square and they were thinking something more along the lines of 5.

    DAN: We like to try and specify all the products that go in our projects. There are times, however, when we need to make adjustments on the fly to keep a project within budget. Sometimes, it’s going with a slightly less-expensive window or slightly less-expensive tile or maybe a different line of kitchen cabinets and so on.

    But it’s definitely a part of the process. If we can help control what goes into the building, we can help the owner control the budget.

    TOM: Now, speaking about control, the impact of a television production happening at the same time the home is being renovated has to impact the speed of everything that you would normally do. Has that been a big change for you?

    DAN: It really wasn’t too bad on this one. We had enough lead time to get through the major portion of the design process before the filming needed to start. It was really going through the design end of it, getting our permit drawing submitted to the town to get everything approved and be able to stay within the filming schedule.

    TOM: Is it difficult to work with a township on renovations of this sort today?

    DAN: It can be very difficult. It depends on what town you’re in, it depends on what district you’re in, it depends how close you are to your property lines and what type of addition you’re doing. Sometimes there are height restrictions or there are setback restrictions or there are other historical components you need to deal with and go through an approval process with the town.

    And that can get very lengthy. And we’ve had projects where it’s taken upwards of a year to get through just the permitting process to be able to start construction.

    TOM: And it also depends on what side of the bed the building inspector got up on that day.

    DAN: That can happen, as well.

    LESLIE: Dan’s like, “I did not say that.” He’s like, “That came out of your mouth, not mine.”

    Do you have any advice, in general, when working with an architect? Because we just get so many calls about renovations and hiring contractors and people get lost. What would you give somebody advice who wants to undertake this?

    DAN: Well, obviously, hire an architect. Yeah, as an architect …

    LESLIE: I mean we agree.

    TOM: Well, we’re advocates of that, too, because we explain the role of an architect in the essential planning process. And the small investment in the architectural fee really does save tens of thousands later, potentially.

    LESLIE: We agree.

    DAN: Right, right. That’s right. In the big picture of things, it’s a small portion but I think with our experience and an architect’s experience in design and understanding space and relationships, how they work, we can ultimately give the owner what they want in the end for a final product.

    TOM: Dan Quaile, the architect for the Nathaniel Page project, this season’s This Old House renovation, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    DAN: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Up next, from the outside in, an old house gets a new look and feel. We’ll learn about the landscaping, garden and driveway makeovers from This Old House landscaping expert, Roger Cook, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

    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.

    TOM: And you are listening to The Money Pit coming to you live from Bedford, Massachusetts, where the current This Old House renovation is just about wrapping up.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And we want to thank the folks at Icynene for making this broadcast possible. Icynene is a very energy-efficient spray-foam insulation product that both insulates and seals out drafts and cracks and gaps around your home. Visit Icynene.com for more information.

    TOM: Now, the home being renovated by the This Old House team for this season is rich with American history. In fact, one of the residents was Nathaniel Page. He was a flag bearer during the Revolutionary War.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know, we’ve talked a lot about the inside of this home but outside of the home got a major makeover, as well, including a new driveway. And here to tell us more about that is This Old House landscaping expert, Roger Cook, and the landscape architect for this project, Jenn Nawada.

    Welcome, guys.

    ROGER: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom.

    JENN: Hi there.

    TOM: Good to have you. So you guys have really had your work cut out for you with this project. There was an awful lot of planning that went into it, an awful lot of work.

    Roger, tell us what you had to start with here. There was some pretty rough territory around this house, wasn’t there?

    ROGER: Oh, it was basically two-thirds of it was overgrown. So we came in and we did some brush-cutting. We actually opened up the whole back of the property and we found some really great soil. We roto-tilled it, we seeded it in September. We ended up with a beautiful lawn out back.

    TOM: Yeah and you would never know looking at it today. It’s absolutely beautiful. And you also put in a cutting garden.

    And that’s something that you worked on, right, Jenn?

    JENN: Yes. Becky was interested in having an activity when she was waiting for Joe with her daughter. So, doing that and adding a vegetable garden and just opening up space to utilize the back garden.

    LESLIE: Now, I think it’s interesting. I had read that given the historical impact of this home, there also happened to be a protected salamander that lives on the property?

    ROGER: Shhh. He tasted great.

    TOM: Oh, man.

    LESLIE: Don’t even joke. How do you deal with that?

    ROGER: No, no, that was – that’s one of the things you have to go through with wetlands, endangered species and all this stuff. And fortunately, when you have someone like Jenn to do all the paperwork, it makes it easier on me.

    JENN: We basically had to present the design to the wildlife commission and from there, they approved everything. We were just saying we were going to pull out invasives and they did not find a blue-spotted salamander on site.

    LESLIE: So you didn’t even see one.

    JENN: No, no.

    LESLIE: So the fictitious blue salamander remains elusive to this day.

    JENN: At one point in time, I think he or she did live here.

    TOM: Now, besides …

    ROGER: Well, it was “a breeding area” for them so that doesn’t mean they’re here.

    TOM: Oh, I see.

    LESLIE: So maybe it’s seasonal.

    ROGER: That’s right.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: That means they could go into that area.

    TOM: One of these days, Becky and Joe, the homeowners, will be outside and they’ll make an appearance and know it was all worth it.

    JENN: Absolutely.

    TOM: Now, besides the work you did in the backyard, this house had a real mud pit in the front yard and you guys did a really innovative driveway design here.

    Roger, talk to us about that.

    ROGER: Well, it was an old, basic, gravel driveway which had just gotten packed down into the soil year after year after year. It wasn’t graded properly, so all the water sat on it. So we just lifted everything up and put good material in. We put a foot of gravel under the driveway and then we put a 3-inch layer of asphalt. And on top of the asphalt, we did what’s called a “rustic finish” and that’s that stone you see out there now.

    It’s actually – we came back six weeks after the initial pavement went in. We put down a layer of hot, liquid asphalt and then we …

    TOM: To kind of glue it together, so to speak?

    ROGER: To make a bond between the old asphalt and the stone.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: Then we put a ½-inch layer of stone down and it was rolled right into the top of it.

    LESLIE: Oh, interesting. So it’s really going to stay put.

    ROGER: It’s going to stay put. There’s some loose stone on the top but I like that because when you walk on it or your car drives on it, it makes a great noise.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: And it looks so rustic. It looks great; it just fits really nicely in with the house.

    TOM: And because it has a tremendous base to it now, you’re not going to get the erosion that you would typically get with a stone driveway, where you’re always pushing the stone back to where the tires pressed it down.

    ROGER: Right. They either go down into the soil or they go sidewards. Here, we don’t have that problem.

    TOM: And it squirts out to the street and all of that, so that’s eliminated with that.

    Now, that’s very similar to a tar-and-chip driveway that you would do when you had something that was very high-pitched. Like in a lot of the areas where they have ski houses and things like that, we see that very rough tar-and-chip surface.

    ROGER: Yeah. I think they call it macadam where they come in with a layer of stone and then a lot of liquid asphalt and then a layer of stone to build the driveway that way.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, Jenn, I know the homeowners, for them it was really important to keep the historical plantings that you might have found on the property and really work with things that are local, accurate to the time period of the home. How difficult was that for you to sort of incorporate into your plan?

    JENN: Well, we tried to look for native species and just old-fashioned plants like the pines. The old eastern white pines, they were definitely during the 18th century. And old-fashioned plants like hydrangeas and some hollyhocks and some Echinacea and just – and then making sure that they tie in with the color of the house, which changed at the end. So that was – so at the last minute, we swapped around a few different colors and species.

    LESLIE: Everything is always changing with a home renovation/makeover/design, everything. And all of us sort of fly by the seat of your pants.

    JENN: And that’s just normal.

    TOM: And this house has had a lot of changes over the years. In fact, it was actually moved, I understand, a very short distance; it was somewhere else on the property.

    ROGER: Yeah, I believe it was just located about 100 yards up that way and they brought it down here.

    TOM: You mentioned that conversation: “You know, I really liked the other end of the yard better, honey. Can we just roll the house over there?”

    ROGER: Yeah. Can you imagine moving a house without mechanical devices at the time?

    TOM: Right. Yeah, yeah. Pretty amazing.

    LESLIE: Now, I know this home had sort of an (inaudible at 0:30:02) really didn’t work with the historical style. What did you guys do, as a team, to really modernize it but bring it back to that historic look?

    ROGER: We actually took and found some bridge abutments that were over 100 years old and we sliced them into a huge landing and a huge set of stairs so that now we have a period piece that sits in front of the house. We used some brick that came from a local brickyard, that they make here in New England, and they look like they’ve been there for hundreds of years. In fact, the factory is one of the oldest ones in the country.

    So, we’ve combined old practices and old material to give it a great look in the front.

    TOM: As a landscape architect, I’m sure you’re faced with situations where folks have a lot of old growth around their house. They don’t really know – if the limbs are looking dangerous, obviously, they’re going to take them down. But sometimes they have to make the decision as to what stays and what goes. Any advice for listeners that are thinking about really tackling and trimming back some of the vegetation around their house to help them make that decision?

    JENN: I think if you keep on it over the years – don’t wait 10 years to do every 10-year pruning. Try to look up at the trees, see – prune out the dead wood before it’s going to fall. And just really try to keep on top of it before things grow out and get leggy and just tuck it back every two, three years.

    LESLIE: Now, for you guys, I mean this is everyday lingo; you know exactly what you’re talking about. But for somebody who really doesn’t have a green thumb but wants to get involved, if they’re looking at a tree, what is an obvious sign of a problem area?

    ROGER: Well, you’ve got branches hanging over the roof. You want to have 8 to 10 feet of clear roof space so that the branches aren’t going to rub against the shingles and cause damage. You look at the structure of the tree. Can you see a hole? Are there squirrels going up and down it? Well, you look for a hole that they’re making. Look at the foliage on a tree. Is it fully foliated? Does it have a lot of dead branches? Is there a crack or an ooze coming out of the tree?

    We look for abnormal conditions and those are the ones that indicate that there’s something going on with the tree and that’s when you really should have an arborist look at it.

    TOM: We’re talking to Jenn Nawada and Roger Cook. Jenn is the landscape architect and Roger is the landscaping expert for TV’s This Old House. We’re at their set in Bedford, Massachusetts, 32nd season of This Old House.

    Does it ever get old, Roger?

    ROGER: I do but it doesn’t.

    No, it’s a ball. It’s really a lot of fun working with these guys all the time.

    TOM: Roger Cook, landscaping expert, Jenn Nawada, landscaping architect, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. You guys have done another amazing job.

    ROGER: Well, thank you, guys. It was good to talk to you again.

    JENN: Thank you. Nice meeting you.

    TOM: Still ahead, insulation is one of the most lacking areas of an older home. It was pretty much non-existent a couple of hundred years ago. We’re going to have tips on a type of insulation, though, that keeps out the cold in more ways than one.

    We’ll be back with more from the set of This Old House in Bedford, Massachusetts, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Hometalk.com. Join Tom and Leslie on Hometalk.com and log on to become part of the community of folks who love taking care of their homes, at Hometalk.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: And we are on location today in Bedford, Massachusetts at the Nathaniel Page House. It’s the almost 300-year-old home being renovated by the expert team at This Old House.

    Now, one of the things an older home often lacks is the most important and that is insulation. And one of the most energy-efficient types of insulation is the type that is sprayed into the structure of the building.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And the experts at Icynene, they tell us that this type of insulation both insulates and seals out drafts because of the way it expands once it’s in its place. So here to tell us more about it is Betsy Gallacher and she is the vice-president of marketing for Icynene.

    Welcome, Betsy.

    BETSY: Thank you. Nice to be here.

    TOM: One of the things I think is interesting about the use of Icynene in this project is that too many people presume that Icynene is the type of product you can only use in new construction when the entire structure is open. But this is a great example of how, during a renovation, it works equally well in a remodeling situation.

    BETSY: This is a great example of how Icynene spray foam can be used in a retrofit. And we see that market growing and growing in importance as people with their existing homes are becoming more concerned about their energy usage and want to reduce the amount of energy being used: spraying attics, spraying crawlspaces, getting into walls. It’s all very important and very easy to do in an existing home.

    LESLIE: Now, how do you get into the walls? Because obviously, in this space, you’re dealing with no insulation at all in the wall structure. I’m sure the attic had nothing, if anything, at all. So now how do you go about putting it where you need it in a place like this?

    BETSY: Well, with an attic, it’s easy to get into an attic and bring – the spray foam comes out of a hose.

    LESLIE: Right.

    BETSY: You bring the hose up and you can spray the attic.

    With the walls, it’s a little different, depending on what type of retrofit it is. In this type of retrofit, the walls were taken down, so there were open cavities that we could spray into. However, with a home where the walls won’t be coming down, there’s a type of spray foam we have that’s called Pour Foam that can be used, so you don’t have to open up the whole wall cavity.

    LESLIE: And that you have to be careful and really do need a pro, because you don’t want to mess with the pressure and bust the walls off of the studs.

    TOM: Overfill.

    BETSY: Absolutely. With spray foam, for any jobs that you’re doing, one of the most important things is to insure that your installer is highly trained and very effective. Because particularly with the Pour Foam type of product, you need to be very skilled and experienced at using it.

    TOM: Now, one of the main benefits of using spray-foam insulation is that it not only insulates but it seals. And air infiltration is responsible for an awful lot of the heat that we have to pay for every winter, correct?

    BETSY: That’s correct. When you use – as an insulation with an air barrier, you can save up to 40, 50 percent of the energy just by eliminating that air flow that you have through traditional insulations.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Tom and I both have older homes; I’m a 1920 balloon-framed house with zero insulation. So just this discussion right now is just getting every wheel turning in my brain about it is possible to retrofit my existing old home and really make it work and make it energy-efficient.

    Now, the best way is to go through the Icynene site and find somebody who’s trained within your area, correct?

    BETSY: Absolutely. If you visit our site at Icynene.com, you can locate a dealer in your area who can provide you with extensive information on what you could do to your home. And even doing just an attic in your home will significantly improve your energy efficiency. It’s the most important part of your home that you can insulate with spray-foam insulation.

    TOM: And I dare say, it’s probably the least expensive way to lower those heating bills.

    BETSY: Mm-hmm. Absolutely it is.

    TOM: Betsy Gallacher from Icynene, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    BETSY: Thank you.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit coming to you from the set of This Old House. Be sure to check your local PBS listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House. The Money Pit continues online.

    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.

    (theme song)


    (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.)

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