00:00/ 00:00

The Money Pit Helps This Old House Wrap Up Season 35, How an Architect Can Help with Any Home Renovation, How to Bring an Old House Up to Date with the Right Mechanical System Upgrade and more

  • 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: And we are on site today, coming to you from Charlestown, Massachusetts, the site of the latest This Old House renovation.

    You know, this is unbelievable, Leslie. For 35 years, This Old House has been a part of the TV landscape. Probably the very first home makeover show with a focus on rehabbing the historic and handcrafted homes that just ooze Americana.

    LESLIE: I really think that this is a show that I grew up with, along with millions of Americans who feel like they know these guys. Norm, Richard, Roger, Tom and Kevin, as a team, they’ve tackled it all. From seaside cottages to homes at historic registries, they’ve toured hurricane ravaged areas in the most humble of places and visited sites in the heart of posh and trendy neighborhoods, too.

    TOM: Yes. And for 35 years, we’ve seen old houses brought back to life and made better than ever. And Leslie and I have had the pleasure and the honor of working with the team at This Old House now for several years bringing our listeners a sneak peek at several makeovers, including the current season, which focuses on a Greek Revival-style row house tucked into the back of Bunker Hill in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Here to tell us more about it is Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House.

    Kevin, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. But it’s extra special this time because it’s a huge milestone for This Old House.

    KEVIN: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. Always great to be back with you guys. And it’s thrilling that you’re here to celebrate our 35th anniversary with us.

    TOM: Wow.

    KEVIN: It’s amazing, right?

    TOM: It’s crazy, right? Thirty-five years.

    KEVIN: Thirty-five years.

    TOM: This was the very first home improvement television show, wasn’t it?

    KEVIN: You’re absolutely right. And I can just say it with all humility, because I had nothing to do with it. As you guys know, I’m the new guy. But something that started back in 1979. And as you know, Russ and Richard were there for the very first episodes, Tommy and Roger not that long after. The fact that it’s still on – but the fact that it is still relevant and still going so strong is a big victory for us.

    TOM: And you are still going strong with this project. So we’re in one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods. This was actually very close to the Battle of Bunker Hill, correct?

    KEVIN: Charlestown, Massachusetts, basically the first neighborhood. Battle of Bunker Hill happened about 1,000 yards from here.

    LESLIE: That’s so amazing.

    KEVIN: Breed’s Hill right behind us. The monument, you can see it pretty much as you walk to the top of the street. It’s a historic neighborhood, it’s an old neighborhood and it’s fitting for us to be here and also for this season, which is kind of our all-American season given the projects that we are doing.

    TOM: Right. Now, give us a brief overview of this project.

    KEVIN: Well, so this is a row house. It’s a brick row house built in 1850. And there were six of them built at exactly the same time, by the same mason, on this hill that comes down off of Bunker Hill.

    TOM: It’s funny to think that there were developments back then.

    KEVIN: Right? Seriously. Some guy back in 1850 saying, “I’m going to develop a couple row houses.” And off they went. But that’s what they did.

    And as you look at the façade, you can see the similarities between those six houses all at once.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: This has a little bit of a Greek Revival feel to it. It’s hard to see because of these small, little dormers up on the roof.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: Otherwise, a brick façade adjoining on either side with other townhouses.

    And it is owned by Angela. She’s single. She’s got three floors. She’s been here for about 10 years and she really didn’t do anything to the house. She was sort of waiting, as most of the folks we work with had a – “When is the right time to renovate?”

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And now was the right time. And we’re doing top-to-bottom renovation.

    LESLIE: And I mean I understand that the building was in quite disrepair. It was kind of dangerous.

    KEVIN: She had bathrooms that didn’t work, a really outdated kitchen. And as soon as Tommy showed up, that’s when she got the bad news, which was the façade was about to fall off; there’s lots of problems there.

    LESLIE: Oh, geez.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

    KEVIN: So it was good that he got here when he did and did a lot of the structural reengineering of this building for her.

    TOM: Right. Yeah. The walls, I understand, were bowing?

    KEVIN: So, if you can imagine two layers of brick – one on the outside, one on the inside – this three-story-high building, if you’re looking at the front of it, to the normal eye it looks OK, a little rundown. When Tommy’s eye gets on the whole thing, he sees a bow in that building, so the weight of the roof is pushing down on that wall. It can’t go down, so it went out.

    TOM: Wow.

    KEVIN: And you could see 3 inches on the side view when we started picking apart where the bricks had bowed out 3 or 4 inches from the actual structure of this.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    KEVIN: And all of that had to be fixed. And at one time, Tommy developed a huge clamp 28 feet long. He literally took a giant piece of engineered lumber, 20 some-odd feet long, and clamped this brick façade back together.

    TOM: Right. Clamped the building back together. Wow.

    KEVIN: Front and back. It was something. And he just was sort of making it up because a mason said, “This is what we have to do.”

    TOM: Yeah, yeah.

    LESLIE: So interesting.

    KEVIN: So a lot of work went into this building before you see all these beautiful finishes that we’re looking at today.

    LESLIE: But I think what’s so cool is that you have such a historic home that’s obviously quite elderly, if you want to call it that, 1850. And you added all these amazing, modern technologies. It’s such an interesting mix of old and new.

    KEVIN: It’s pretty much our formula. We do that on a lot of projects. Obviously, we work on old homes but we’re working for clients who live today.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: They want their amenities, they want their comfort. So spray-foam insulation, if you looked into the ceiling here, we’ve got it. If you look down in the basement and the mechanical room – Richard’s world – you’ll see the cutting-edge latest heating and cooling systems for this house. People demand that level of comfort and that level of efficiency and that’s what these guys give you when they come in to do a renovation of this scope.

    TOM: There’s a lot of smart-home technology in this home, too. You had a systems integrator that did an internet-based security system?

    KEVIN: You can control all of the security features and all of the life-safety features, like smoke alarms and CO detectors from your phones.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: You can give access to people, you can see what’s going on with the house. The alerts will come to your phone.

    I have a feeling that we are going to be seeing that pretty much in every project going forward: some level of that control.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: Also, the entertainment systems you can control, the wireless. We use our speakers now to get music from our phones, as opposed to DVD players and such. So all of that stuff has been installed.

    LESLIE: Receivers. What’s that?

    KEVIN: Explain that to your kids.

    TOM: Yeah. Exactly. Right?

    LESLIE: My son said to me the other day, “Did you get carsick when you had your iPad in the car when you were little?” I was like, “We didn’t have iPads.”

    KEVIN: Do you think they’ll get the joke when we say that your iPhone goes to 11? Probably not. Probably won’t.

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: Probably not.

    Now one of the fun things about coming to your projects is we get to set up wherever there’s room available for us. We’re in the master bedroom, right now, doing this broadcast. We’ve moved everything out of the way and right overhead is a roof that wasn’t here not too long ago. You guys actually really opened this room up with a beautiful dormer.

    KEVIN: Yeah. So I think we actually did work on two dormers: one on the front, one on the back. The one in the back was a certainty from the very beginning. But in the front, if you could imagine two little doghouse dormers – literally the width of a window, on the left side and the right side – it meant that the middle of the room that we’re in, right now, was pretty much all roof rafters.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And it made it basically useless; you couldn’t use the space.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Cut the room in half.

    KEVIN: Pretty much.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: And it didn’t have head height. And so they went to the city, they asked for permission. We weren’t sure if we were going to get it but we were lucky enough that we did. And by adding this dormer, what Angela got was another room up here on the third floor. It’s actually her dressing room. There’s a dressing table behind me that’s …

    LESLIE: Yeah, this is fantastic.

    KEVIN: Right? Well, I mean she calls it a “chick house.”

    LESLIE: Yeah. Well, it works for me, so I like it.

    KEVIN: And this is the chick room, right?

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: Look at – have you ever seen a dressing table like this, ever?

    LESLIE: No.

    KEVIN: It’s terrific. And she’s on some – I think they called it a “fainting couch,” which …

    LESLIE: Yeah. Which has a note on it that says, “Kindly refrain from sitting here.” Do you know how torturous this is?

    TOM: But it doesn’t say anything about fainting.

    KEVIN: You can faint there any time you want. Yeah, so lots of changes, more space.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: Again, Tommy and his guys and the subs, they work magic on these places. And again, I can say it with humility because it’s not by my hand: it just turned out fantastic.

    TOM: Alright. Well, it’s a beautiful job. Thirty seconds left. What’s next for This Old House? The next project?

    KEVIN: Well, the next project is off to Lexington, Massachusetts: another very historic town right there with the Battle of Lexington and Concord. We’re going to be at a Colonial. It’s a much younger house – 1960 or so – with an addition above the garage. Lots of upgrades, lots of improvements in the efficiencies and the systems, as well.

    TOM: Can’t wait to see it. Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Pleasure to be here, guys. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the set of the current This Old House renovation in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Well, the construction has just wrapped up but episodes have just started airing on TV, so check your local PBS station for info.

    TOM: Still ahead, we’re going to talk to two people behind the scenes at This Old House. We’ll make sure you get to see all the transformations as they happen. Senior Series Producer Deb Hood and director Thom Draudt join us, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    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: Coming to you today on location in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the set of the latest This Old House renovation. Now, this is the 35th season for the iconic PBS program and we are thrilled to be a part of it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s so cool. And I’ve got to say that one of the coolest things about This Old House is watching these homes transform during the course of the show. But for every project that you see completed on camera, there’s a team of TV pros that make it all happen.

    TOM: And no one knows that better than Deb Hood, the senior series producer and the pro that keeps the wheels on the bus. Welcome, Deb.

    DEB: Welcome. Thank you, guys. Glad to be here.

    TOM: And it always impresses me that you have so many moving parts to this operation, between the construction and all the things you discover along the way. Somehow, you pull it all together and deliver great television, as you guys have been doing for 35 years.

    DEB: Oh, well, it is definitely a team sport in this. There’s no better team, I think, in television or in construction, that’s for sure. And so it’s definitely a team sport.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But you never seem frazzled.

    DEB: I can be frazzled on the inside, that’s for sure. But it just doesn’t do any good to freak out. We’ve just got to – we know what we have to do. We just have to carry out the orders and we get it done.

    TOM: Remind me to never play poker with her.

    LESLIE: I know.

    TOM: She doesn’t show it.

    LESLIE: She’s really got a good (inaudible at 0:11:04).

    DEB: Worrying inside.

    TOM: Now, you guys have been – you’ve been working with these guys for a long time. Is there anything that continues to surprise you about these renovations?

    DEB: There’s just always something different. I guess the fact that – I sometimes think that we’ve done every style of home in every place but there’s always a new city. And you think of that we’ve been to New Orleans and Los Angeles and Texas. And we – just when we think we’ve seen it all, there’s just always a new market, always a new style of home and a new set of challenges.

    TOM: And every home has its own surprises that show up, things that you never planned for. And so your story really changes course based on what the house wants to tell you, right?

    DEB: And I think that’s what is the appeal of the show is that – I can’t imagine that we’d ever lose interest in our houses and the things that can go wrong, the things that – the mysteries, the sort of adventures of renovating them. So I think the show just has – that’s why we have that enduring appeal.

    TOM: What was special about this house? Thirty-five years, all the homes that you’ve seen, this is a really important season for you guys. How did you choose it?

    DEB: Well, I think the location. Our hometown is Boston.

    TOM: Right.

    DEB: And Charlestown, we learned in the series, was a big going concern before Boston was even a big deal. And so to be in Boston – the city where the show originated -and Boston’s oldest neighborhood, it’s been a – that’s been kind of a thrill.

    LESLIE: And what do you really see as being next from where you sit in this role as series producer? What do you see as next for This Old House?

    DEB: We definitely always want to evolve the show, keep up with trends, keep the show modern and fresh. And there are new places to conquer. The Pacific Northwest is somewhere that we’ve never been with the show; we’d love to get out there at some point and the middle parts of the country. So I think we have a lot of areas to investigate and housing styles, really, that we still haven’t done yet.

    TOM: Well, congratulations on 35 very successful years in home improvement television. And we wish you many, many more.

    DEB: Fantastic. Thanks, guys.

    TOM: Now, another key member of the production team is the guy who makes sure the cameras are rolling and captures exactly what we need to see on TV and that is director Thom Draudt.

    Thom, welcome to the program.

    THOM: Thank you. Good to be here.

    TOM: So, what does it take to produce home improvement television? Most people don’t want to produce a home improvement project, let alone a home improvement television show about a project.

    THOM: It takes a lot. I mean the thing about our show that is unique – and it has been from the beginning – is that we do it the real way. We don’t cut any corners. We watch, we don’t do time lapses. We actually do the real job. And the guys that – Tommy and Norman, all the guys are skilled in their trade but they’re also very skilled as TV personalities. So, they make it look really simple.

    But both of those jobs that they have have to be fused together. And the days are long but the work is real. And it really pays off in the long run, because we are the real deal.

    TOM: And that is what creates the trust in the program that’s made it so successful for 35 years. People trust you because they know it’s the real deal. And so much of home improvement television and what it’s become today is really just a fresh paint coat and a few new pictures and a little bit of furniture and a big reveal. And that’s just not what happens here.

    THOM: Well, we’re lucky because we don’t have advertising, too, and – as a normal television. So we get to put these scenes back-to-back. And so you have an experience that other television doesn’t have, for that reason, and that’s a PBS thing. And what that does, it allows you to sort of work all the different jobs on a work site and it feels like you’re there.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    THOM: And we don’t go away to commercial breaks and things like that. And while we’re there, we’re actually in on a deep and sort of a very intellectual level. These are the guys that people have come to trust and we have an obligation to make sure that our – that we give that back to them every time.

    LESLIE: Right.

    Now, how do you determine what you’re shooting? Obviously, the guys are here working full days every day. But you guys can’t be here for that entire time or are you?

    THOM: No, we’re not. And that’s the challenge for Deb Hood, the producer – executive producer – of the show. The complexity of running a job site for her, as well as being the producer of a television series, is unbelievable. Just think about it. A job site, well, all the different things are happening.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    THOM: Deliveries and all that have to be completely coordinated or else we don’t have anything to shoot that day. So you’ve got that. And then we’ve got to figure out what are we actually going to – what’s the story going to be when we’re actually shooting that story? You know, what are we going to with Norm? What are we going to do with Tommy? How are we going to tell that story?

    And those two things together are an enormous amount of information and kind of weight. So to whittle it down into the program that we want is difficult but at the same time, we have 35 years of shows to sort of balance it against. So if we go to do another bricklaying scene in a wall or something like that, we’re going to tell it a little bit differently this time because we’ve probably told that story several times before.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And that’s got to be a fun challenge for you.

    THOM: Well, it is. For me, it’s trying to understand how to tell the story visually. There’s always going to be the narrative. It’s a very kind of talk-y show. And my job is to sit back and listen to where they want to take the story and then try to figure out how to put the camera in the right place so that there’s an actual other narrative happening from my visuals. And that’s sort of how I’ve cracked the case.

    I’ve been – this is my fourth year in the show. And I think what the show has gotten is really good storytelling from the producers and then my visualization with my cameraman, just sort of make sure that the camera is in the right place. So when that brick comes in, you don’t even have to say that word because you see it.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Right. You see it. Tell the story with the (inaudible at 0:16:32).

    THOM: Yeah. And that’s a real challenge because that eats up time. And while I’m going for all that extra coverage, the guys are like, “OK. What’s he doing? Oh, the creative guy is going off and doing his thing.”

    TOM: Yeah, yeah.

    THOM: Then, when they see it in the cut, they go, “Oh. That was good.” So, that’s a …

    TOM: I think people don’t realize how many hundreds of hours of video you collect to produce, say, a one-hour show, sometimes.

    THOM: All television is hungry for footage. There’s no way around it. I think the challenge for us is because we are doing a little bit more real time than most other shows, we get stuck in situations, very often, where we’re into a job and all of a sudden, something happens that you couldn’t have predicted, for any of a number of reasons: humidity or that we broke through a wall and something was there that we didn’t expect and all that.

    We’ve got to finish that job, so we don’t go home until that thing is done, most of the time.

    LESLIE: Right.

    THOM: So, because we are a soup-to-nuts kind of show, we don’t have any kind of cheats where we can get out of jail, like a lot of the other home improvement shows. Because they’re not going into that level in the first place.

    TOM: Right.

    THOM: So, it’s a challenge for us. We accept it. We know that we’re the leader in that area, so every – we have long days but when we get done, we feel pretty satisfied.

    TOM: And I think the key differentiator between you and other shows is while all the guys are great, you really let the house tell the story.

    THOM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean that’s the thing: we celebrate houses. We constantly have a backstory about the style of the house, the sort of the lineage, the things that happened in this house beforehand, the old bones. You know, we really celebrate that and that is always there.

    And it’s sort of kind of fun when we get spooked by something, because it’s like “Hey, guess what? That’s not level. You know why? Houses aren’t level.” You know what I mean?

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    THOM: And that’s kind of a cool story for us all the time.

    TOM: Thom Draudt …

    LESLIE: And because of your experience here, do people always ask you home improvement questions?

    THOM: They do. And I admit it: I grew up on my father’s lumber yard and hardware store but I didn’t get that gene. I got the creative gene, so I should know but I don’t.

    TOM: I have to imagine you’ve picked up a few tips along the way. Thom Draudt, the director for This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    THOM: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, are you thinking about your own home renovation? Well, you better get an architect on board. We’re going to tell you why an architect who can help you plan your project is worth every penny in the long run.

    TOM: More from the set of the current This Old House house in Charlestown section of Boston, after this.

    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.

    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: Coming to you today from Charlestown, Massachusetts where the entire This Old House team is getting ready to wrap up another successful renovation. And this, in one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods: Charlestown, a community of many, very historic homes.

    LESLIE: And with any project, the size and scope of the renovations that This Old House takes on, having a great architect on the project is key. Sally DeGan was the architect for this season and joins us now with some details on the plan for this makeover.

    Welcome, Sally.

    SALLY: Thank you. Happy to be here.

    TOM: Now you’ve worked with This Old House before. Does that prior experience help when you tackle a project like this?

    SALLY: Oh, absolutely. It’s always a fast pace and crazy schedule, so good to know the players.

    TOM: Now, we often recommend that folks hire architects on projects, big and small. Maybe let’s ask from the horse’s mouth: why is that a great idea?

    SALLY: I like to think that the best thing we can offer is good space planning. The function of the house, the execution of that, if you have a great builder, I’m happy to hand that type of thing off. But we can save a lot in just laying out a space.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s the key: you really do save folks money. Because the question we get – “Well, what does that cost?” No, you can’t afford not to have an architect, because the one mistake you’re going to make, if you’re lucky it’s just one, is going to probably going to cost you a lot more than the fees that you would pay for that professional service.

    SALLY: That would be my argument to my clients.

    LESLIE: And I think with this property, you’re dealing with such a small house. And granted, I think 1,500 square feet is a big house because my house is 1,500 square feet. But you’re dealing with an interesting layout where every piece of real estate is valuable. So, I know on the first floor, you had an interesting situation where you’re trying to reclaim some space. So how did you tackle that?

    SALLY: Well, part of that was that we did want to get a powder room on that floor.

    TOM: OK.

    SALLY: And so, to squeeze a powder room into a very small footprint – but it’s a pretty functional thing to have on the first floor. So to know that, OK, we can block one view corridor when you come in but open up another into that dining/living space, those are the kinds of things that experience in building and planning – where an architect can really be valuable.

    TOM: Now, storage was an issue here. You actually created a vestibule to kind of solve that problem.

    SALLY: The vestibule helped with some storage. And then we even, in the stair to basement, we even poked hooks in there so that they could even use the excess space as you headed down to the basement.

    TOM: Right. And when you have a 1,500-square-foot house or, really, any house, that’s a great point. There are a lot of sort of hidden nooks and crannies that you can take advantage of for storage. But there are areas that people don’t necessarily think of first off.

    SALLY: Correct. Yes, you have to think out of the box. You have to help your clients think out of the box, as well.

    LESLIE: And I think it’s interesting when you’re dealing with a historical property. This house dates to 1850. So it’s important to have somebody along for the adventure that knows the period details that will really make that project sort of come together authentically.

    SALLY: Yes. And I often think that there’s an eye for authenticity but a willingness to deviate is also helpful. And so, we use the period details here and there and we take some modern cues, as well, to make it even more interesting and timely.

    TOM: Now, one of the popular trends right now is, of course, green remodeling, green building. And part of that is using salvage materials. Do you have a lot of your clients that are interested in taking advantage of the sort of that upcycling trend of taking an old mantelpiece or something of that nature and reusing it?

    SALLY: Yes. A lot of people are interested in that, I think, for varying reasons. Whether it’s as simple as they like the look of some of these old pieces mixed in with their contemporary furnishings – and others take it to the extreme and really are more concerned with how much of the resources are we using and bringing in materials from far away.

    LESLIE: Well, on this property, you brought in that beautiful mantel on the first floor. And I mean – and that is such a standout piece. It looks amazing and I didn’t really get a lot of information on what the before pictures looked like. But when I saw that there had been a wall separating that sitting room from the kitchen, it just seemed so bizarre to me. Why would you take this beautiful, open first floor and have it cut off into these two small spaces? So that was genius of your team.

    SALLY: Yep. And a lot of these homes, for heating purposes when they were built, the rooms had to be small to contain the heat. And we are opening them up.

    TOM: Right.

    SALLY: But we are trying to keep some evidence of a threshold between rooms. So although they’re two different rooms, they’re open but they’re much more flowing than they (inaudible at 0:24:56).

    TOM: It’s really being true to the original design, in a sense.

    SALLY: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: Now, when you start with a client, are there a series of questions that you ask? Or do you sort of have information that the client will glean to you that you’ll start your design from?

    SALLY: You certainly start with what’s not working in your house, what’s problematic. And then you try to get a story out of them. Who are they? How do they live in the house? And then you fit the new design with their experience of the house and how they like to live and entertain.

    TOM: Well, today, we see the beautiful result of that approach. Sally DeGan from SpaceCraft Architecture, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SALLY: Alright. Thank you for having me.

    LESLIE: Well, for those of us who have old homes – and Tom and I are included in that very loving family – we love them for their charm and of course, their unique look. But not all older home components stand up as well as their classic character.

    TOM: Yep. And that’s especially true when we talk about the mechanical systems, like plumbing and electrical, which need to be replaced far more often than the framing and the walls.

    Plumbing-and-heating expert Richard Trethewey handles those jobs for This Old House. He’s been doing it for decades and he joins us next as The Money Pit broadcast of This Old House wraps Season 35 from Charlestown, Massachusetts continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And The Money Pit comes to you today from Charlestown, a Boston neighborhood that was the site for one of the most famous battles of the Revolutionary War: the Battle of Bunker Hill.

    LESLIE: And we are here because the This Old House team is just completing their latest renovation. You know, it’s the 35th season of the program, which is an amazing milestone. And we are thrilled to be part of it.

    TOM: The 35th season has just started on television. Check your local PBS listings for info. But right now, we’re getting a sneak peek inside this amazing Charlestown project.

    LESLIE: Well, a huge part of renovating old homes is bringing the mechanical systems up to date. And there is only one guy who’s up to that challenge every single season: HVAC-and-plumbing contractor Richard Trethewey.

    Hey, Richard.

    RICHARD: Aw, shucks. How are you guys?

    TOM: Hey, it’s good to see you again.

    Now, this Charlestown project required a lot of mechanical work. We were down in the basement before. We noticed that the floor had been lowered and you actually put in heat below that basement floor. We also admired the beautiful plumbing work.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Sure.

    LESLIE: Signature Trethewey.

    TOM: Signature Trethewey work up there.

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah.

    TOM: So, when you go to project like this, Richard – and really, for any old house – where do you identify the opportunities?

    RICHARD: Well, this house, it was about the size of it. This house looks big from the outside. You can stand on the street, you see that it’s got four stories but it’s really a row house 20 feet wide, 40 feet deep and there’s no place for anything. There’s no backstage, so we tried to put in conventional duct work with proper supplies or returns. That didn’t fit. So we just looked at sort of solutions that could fit in.

    So, one was radiant, which we did in the basement, we did in the kitchen and first floor and in the bathrooms. I don’t have to tell anybody about radiant. It’s perfect, comfortable floor warming.

    And then what we did is we hid in that small duct a system that could fit in with just 2-inch holes in the corners. But the difference was is that we used a cold-weather heat pump. We never used it before where we have a condensing unit outside that has – can have four refrigerate line sets connected to it. But then on the inside, we could put this small duct heating-and-air-conditioning system.

    So now, we got a quiet system. We really – technically, we have a boiler down there but the boiler is really almost a second stage if we’re making hot water. And we’re really excited about that. People have talked about heat pumps for a long time and they realize that when it gets cold out, 25 degrees or so, there’s no more heat to be gotten.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    RICHARD: Well, these cold-weather heat pumps, these inverters actually do. They work down to 5 and 10 degrees. So, it’s a big change.

    LESLIE: How are they powered?

    RICHARD: They’re electricity. Electricity.

    TOM: Yeah. And they’re not going into backup power at that point? They’re not converting into standard electric?

    RICHARD: No, no. The difference is inverter technology that’s – it really came from the Pacific Rim. It reads like the who’s-who of Japanese manufacturing. And they came up with this compressor that could just constantly just keep on getting a little bit, little bit, little bit, even in cold weather. Instead of being on and off and the issues of (inaudible at 0:29:46), now you’ve got – and you’ve seen all these big names now come out with these things: Mitsubishi, Daikin.

    TOM and LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: And in this case, we used Unico, so …

    TOM: Right. Right. Now, you mentioned the small-duct technology. So, as we look up at the ceiling of this room, we see very, very small ducts.

    LESLIE: Circular ducts.

    TOM: Circular ducts, like the size of a donut, really.

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

    TOM: Very, very small. I’m used to seeing these as high-velocity air-conditioning systems but you can also distribute heat from them?

    RICHARD: Yeah. Heating and cooling. So what we’re doing here is we’re switching – we’re reversing the process. We’re either using an air conditioner, which means we take heat from inside the building and dump it to outside, or let’s reverse that refrigerate cycle and say, “No, no. Let’s find heat outside and dump it inside.” But once we make it, it gets distributed through these small …

    LESLIE: And the technology is pretty efficient? So it’s not going to be very expensive?

    RICHARD: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Like all this stuff, it’s going to cost you a little more on the front end and then you just get it back over and over and over again.

    LESLIE: Now, I think it’s interesting because you said size was an issue on the interior, so everything is smaller but more efficient.

    RICHARD: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Outside, she doesn’t really have a lot of space on the back of the house. Yes, a large area for city living, but how large are these condensing units that you have outside and how noisy are they?

    RICHARD: Right, right.

    LESLIE: Neighbors are right on top of each other here.

    RICHARD: I think that’s the best part of the story is that this will be a single box: a single box on the outside, quiet – just a little, quiet fan. And it’ll always be on in a white noise but it’ll never have that big on-and-off that we tend to have with – when you walk in somebody’s backyard, they usually have one or sometimes two and even three or four of these big condensers. And every time they come on, the lights dim and you hear it.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    RICHARD: This is just this little, quiet, almost like a refrigerator noise that’s on all the time, just doing what it’s got to do. So you don’t notice it from a noise standpoint and it’s a single box versus two or three or four big units. And it’s small.

    TOM: And that’s the great thing about having a pro like you on this job, Richard. You’re always bringing us the latest technology.

    Now, it’s been a lot of years you’ve been on this program; we’re celebrating the 35th anniversary. Do you have some favorite moments to share?

    RICHARD: Right now. It’s never been better than right this second.

    TOM: The moment when you were interviewed on The Money Pit. Career highlight.

    RICHARD: Right this second. This is a career highlight. And I want to thank all my friends that allowed me to get here on The Money Pit.

    There’s been tons. Today, we’re here at a final wrap party and the wrap parties are always great celebrations of this team that we’ve built over the 35 years, all my brothers that I love so much but also the craftsmen that help us and get this thing done. It’s amazing how great it looks but how hard it was to get it done on time and it worked out, so …

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, there’s so many home improvement shows out there that the big reveal is a new coat of paint, some new furniture, you know?

    RICHARD: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

    TOM: But you guys don’t cut any corners.

    RICHARD: Try not to.

    TOM: Brilliant job, once again.

    RICHARD: Thanks, guys.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, thank you so much for being on The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be with you.

    TOM: Still ahead, have you ever wondered what it’s like living through a This Old House renovation? I mean how do the camera crews and the army of construction pros work hand in hand? We’ll find out about those details, direct from the owner of this old house, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete & Cement Products. QUIKRETE, what America’s made of. Like us on Facebook and visit online at www.QUIKRETE.com for product information and easy, step-by-step project videos.

    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: Coming to you today from the historic Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. It’s the site of the current season of This Old House.

    Now, the Battle of Bunker Hill happened just behind this house. It’s a Greek Revival row house built in 1850, which made it the perfect choice for a transformation by the This Old House team.

    LESLIE: Well, the best thing about being chosen as a This Old House renovation is surely getting the best expertise available from a team that’s been lovingly restoring old houses for 35 years. But what’s it like living through this process? Well, we’re going to have to ask our next guest, homeowner of the Charlestown project: Angela Daigle.

    Welcome, Angela.

    ANGELA: Hi. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So here we are at Wrap Day.

    ANGELA: Yes.

    TOM: This whole project is done.

    LESLIE: Did you think it would ever come?

    ANGELA: I did. I had confidence.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ANGELA: They’ve got to meet their deadlines, right? They’re on TV.

    TOM: That’s right. Yeah. That’s a great point. You can’t just leave this job and come back six months later, right?

    ANGELA: Exactly.

    TOM: You’ve got to make it finished. You’ve got to finish it on time.

    So you’ve owned the house for 10 years. What made you decide that this was the right time to tackle this project?

    ANGELA: I’d been living here for a long time in Charlestown. Ten years in this house. And I had been thinking, “Am I going to stay in the house? Am I going to stay in Charlestown or going to move?” And it’s a wonderful area. It’s in the city of Boston, but still has …

    LESLIE: A neighborhood-y feel.

    ANGELA: Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ANGELA: Some of the benefits of, maybe, suburban life. And I decided to stay. And the house really was falling down around me, so it was now or never.

    TOM: Now, did you ever imagine that you would be part of a This Old House project? How did you actually get these guys to come here?

    ANGELA: I have been a fan of this show forever. I love watching this show and I was well under way with a permit and some plans and I was interviewing contractors.

    TOM: Yeah. Right.

    ANGELA: And I had a tough work week, to be honest. And I saw Norm on TV on PBS and they were looking for a house in the Boston area. And I said, “What the heck? What do I have to lose?”

    TOM: Exactly.

    ANGELA: So I just applied. So I found the link online and just filled out – answered their questions. It was pretty simple. So, answered their questions, attached some photos, attached my plans and hit submit. And I didn’t spend a lot of time on it.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    TOM: And so you must have been shocked when you got the call.

    ANGELA: Yeah. I think – so that would have been like Sunday and then on Monday, I got a call – an e-mail from Deb asking if they could come see the house. And then she and Thom were here on Friday.

    LESLIE: How funny.

    ANGELA: Yeah, so less than a week.

    LESLIE: Now …

    TOM: Wow. So what’s your favorite part of the renovation?

    ANGELA: Just the fact that the whole house is usable now.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ANGELA: The room we’re sitting in, it was a room I almost didn’t buy the house over. It had a horrible, sloped ceiling, so it was difficult to even to stand in.

    TOM: Right.

    ANGELA: I think the fact that the house will be warm, it’s insulated, it’s all usable.

    LESLIE: It’s beautiful.

    ANGELA: It is beautiful. And it’s an adult space. You know, I had a purple bedroom, from the prior owner, with cardboard-box night tables.

    TOM: Right.

    ANGELA: It’s just …

    LESLIE: For 10 years?

    ANGELA: Pretty close.

    TOM: Wow.

    ANGELA: I was making due for quite a while.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Well, this really is going to be an amazing change for you.

    ANGELA: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. And how special that you’re part of their 35th season.

    ANGELA: Yes. Absolutely.

    TOM: Angela Daigle. Beautiful home. Bet you’re really glad it’s done, though, huh?

    ANGELA: I am.

    TOM: A little sad, maybe?

    ANGELA: It’s going to be really sad, absolutely.

    TOM: Going to miss these guys?

    ANGELA: I think I’m going to miss the guys, I’m going to miss the crew, I’m going to definitely mourn. But I’m also excited to sort of be in the new beginning of this house.

    TOM: Congratulations. Thank you so much for inviting us here to your home.

    ANGELA: Thank you. Well, thank you for coming.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show direct from the set of This Old House in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show does continue online and be sure to check your local PBS listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House.

    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.


    (Copyright 2014 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.)

Leave a Reply


More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!