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The Money Pit Joins This Old House for the 35th Season Wrap Episode, How to Use Salvaged and Reclaimed Items in Your Renovation, Replacing Outdated and Unsafe Building Materials and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are doing a very special show for you today. We’re coming to you from the site of the latest This Old House renovation in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown. Now, that’s just on the other side of the historic Bunker Hill, where one of the most famous Revolutionary War battles took place.

    LESLIE: Some history being made for This Old House, as well, who are celebrating their 35th season.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing. I mean I would venture to say that this was the first home makeover show, which really paved the way for thousands of hours of television shows about fixing up houses. You know, maybe I’ve worked on some of them.

    TOM: That’s right. And millions of Americans who feel like they know these guys – Norm, Richard, Roger, Tom, and most recently, Kevin – they help breathe new life into old houses. And Leslie and I have had the remarkable pleasure of being part of some of the most memorable makeovers, from a brownstone in Brooklyn to three houses rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Jersey Shore.

    And one of the newest members of the This Old House joins us now. And I say that because Kevin O’Connor has only been hosting the show for, what, 12 years?

    KEVIN: Only 12 years.

    LESLIE: Slacker.

    KEVIN: Still the new guy.

    TOM: Kevin, welcome to the program.

    KEVIN: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me back.                                                 

    TOM: Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t know the story. You were a fan before you were a host.

    KEVIN: I was a huge fan.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: I grew up – as so many people did, I grew up watching the show with my dad and my brothers.

    LESLIE: Me, too.

    KEVIN: Right? And even when I got to college, I was the guy that my roommates always had to wrestle the remote out of the hand, because they wanted to watch a basketball game and I wanted to watch This Old House.

    And it was my good fortune that when I bought my first house with my wife and we set about our renovation, we quickly realized we should get some help from the pros. And we wrote a letter to the magazine hoping to get an answer.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And instead, we got a house call.

    TOM: Wow.

    KEVIN: Tom Silva showed up with a camera, filmed the segment and remarkably …

    LESLIE: That’s awesome.

    KEVIN: Yeah, remarkably, they offered me the job like two or three months later. I still – it’s still a little hard to believe.

    TOM: Now, through all those years that the show has been on the air – 35 years and the last 12 with you as the host – what are some of your most memorable moments?

    KEVIN: Oh, there’s just been absolutely no end. I think my greatest pleasure from this job is working with these guys.

    LESLIE: It seems like you guys have such an amazing camaraderie. It’s like a brotherhood.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: You’re picking on each other, you’re making each other laugh. It’s always joyful.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: It’s never like, “Oh work is terrible.”

    KEVIN: No. If you’ve ever been on a job site – you guys have been on job sites a lot. But for anyone who’s ever been on a job site, that’s kind of the talk.

    LESLIE: Sometimes, they’re angry.

    KEVIN: But when I – but you’re always ribbing the guy, right?

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: You’re always trying to get one up on the other guy, hide his tools or whatever.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: That goes on quite a bit. My good fortune is that they’ve been together as a band, basically, for 20-plus years when I showed up.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: And to their credit, they just opened me with welcome arms, made me part of the family. And it’s been a real trip.

    So that has been my greatest joy. I learn from them, I have the utmost respect from them. And even after more than a decade, I kind of look up to them as sort of my idols.

    TOM: Now, you’ve done a lot of row houses over the years. I think there were three different row-house projects. You did a Brooklyn brownstone. We were there with you for that one. You did a house in Washington D.C. and this now is your third row house.

    KEVIN: Yep. Correct.

    TOM: What’s special about working on the row house?

    KEVIN: Well, it’s a very – I would say it’s a very American form for us. When you were in Brooklyn and you realize that that entire city was built row house after row house – and so many people can trace their roots back to coming to Ellis Island and then going through Brooklyn and then spreading out from there. It’s a very accessible form. It’s a very compact form. And I think a lot of people in this country, if they looked back would find out that at some point, their family members might have grown up in one of these row houses.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: Incredibly efficient for these intercity places. And for us, they’re iconic looking. They’re a challenge because they’re often attached to another house on the left and the right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. But it’s such a community presence. You know, you really feel like you’re part of something. And that’s what This Old House is. It’s part of something, so it just is suiting for you guys.

    KEVIN: You physically share space with your neighbors.

    TOM: Right. Yes.

    KEVIN: I mean you have common walls. You go through the wall, you’re into your neighbor’s living room.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: So there’s something special about that. And they’re a real treat to work on.

    LESLIE: And this one is just fantastic. What you guys have achieved here at this brownstone is just beautiful and open and welcoming. And I know some of you were saying “small.” I think it’s fantastic.

    KEVIN: Well, the one thing that runs throughout the three that we worked on – Brooklyn, D.C. and Charlestown – is that they were all pretty bad off. They were dilapidated.

    The one in D.C. was uninhabited. It had a fire; there was no one living there. They actually had repossessed the home. The one in Brooklyn was really rundown; we had to sort of tear that one apart. And this one was in decent shape but it had pretty much gone as far as it could go on its old life. And it was our job to kind of give it new life. They’re timeless buildings. This one will go, easily, for another 100 years.

    TOM: Amazing. Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, thank you so much for 35 seasons of great home improvement television.

    LESLIE: Well, he’s only done 12.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, just thanks for 12, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Well, then half you’re welcome and thank you for having us back.

    TOM: Well, when you live in an old house, you often have to deal with old technology. But not when you live in a This Old House, because you’ve got guys like Greg Smizer on your team. Greg is a systems integrator and installed a really fascinating music system here that enables you to hear what you want, when you want, pretty much anywhere in your house. And you can do all that wirelessly.

    Welcome, Greg.

    GREG: Hi, Tom. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, when you work with old homes like this, I guess people are probably surprised with how much technology you can bring in.

    GREG: Yes. We actually are on the cutting edge. I love technology. When I got into this business, it was because of technology. And I love to try the latest technologies in houses. But usually, I try to first install it in my own home, to make sure it’s something that I’d want to use.

    TOM: Right. Make sure it works. This is always good.

    GREG: Integrated and it works well and the tech support is good on the other end.

    TOM: Yeah.

    GREG: And then if I’m happy with it, then I integrate it into my business.

    TOM: Alright. So, let’s talk, first, about the music system, because I think it’s really cool. It’s wireless.

    GREG: Yes.

    TOM: You said it’s called SONOS?

    GREG: SONOS, yes. SONOS is a company in the United States. Manufactured here. And it’s an integrated system that can be installed throughout the house, both wired and wireless.

    LESLIE: So, are there bases that you could, say, then hook up your iPhone to or something to do that? Or would you then hook up wirelessly through your iPhone?

    GREG: You hook up wirelessly through your technology. So you can use smartphones. You can use touch pads, like a, say, an iPad or something like that.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    GREG: And also your laptops to connect to the music.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    TOM: So, literally, you’re sitting at home in your easy chair, you can open up your iPhone and dial up any music you want to.

    GREG: Right.

    TOM: And then probably pipe it exactly where you want in the house?

    GREG: Exactly. So we do it by zones, individual rooms.

    TOM: OK.

    GREG: So in this house, we have four hardwired rooms where we actually have the luxury of new construction. We’re able to put the walls open, run the wires to the speakers in the ceilings, and those rooms are hardwired, as well as we have two wireless speakers that you can move around the house anywhere she wants to go and use those.

    TOM: Right. That’s great. So those are, essentially, just plug-in speakers?

    GREG: Exactly. Just plug in. They grab the network as soon as you plug them in. They find the network in the house, they work. To make the system work you need to have internet, though, in the house.

    LESLIE: Now …

    GREG: That’s how the system works. It’s based on connecting to the internet and then all the products kind of talk, themselves, as repeaters. And then that technology is your base to start to connect to all the other music services in the world. You have streaming service, you have your iTunes account. All of that comes together in one (inaudible at 0:08:06).

    TOM: Oh, so, it really is not supplying the music. It’s basically giving you the bridge and you can connect to, what, Pandora or iTunes or whatever you have?

    GREG: Exactly. Exactly.

    TOM: Very cool.

    LESLIE: So now you mentioned there were four zones. So if – say, if she had a friend staying over in the guest room, could the friend listen to their own music device?

    GREG: Yes.

    LESLIE: Angela could listen up here to her own, as well?

    GREG: Exactly. Two ways they could listen to on their iPhones, yes. Just load the free app from the store, onto her phone, and then she could play the music as long as she’s connected to Angela’s Wi-Fi network in the house. Or she could take her iPhone – if she has a song on her iPhone and says, “I really like this song, guys. I want to hear my song.” And she could say, “Play from this iPhone.” And she could play directly from the iPhone to the technology.

    LESLIE: That’s fantastic.

    TOM: Wow. Very cool.

    LESLIE: And I think it’s interesting because a lot of people – this is a prime example of you had a part that was new construction that you could work in one method and you have the part that was a home that wasn’t really being opened up.

    GREG: Exactly.

    LESLIE: So you’re really opening up the technology to pretty much any and every homeowner in every type of situation.

    GREG: Exactly. The story I like to tell is we did a job about a year ago for an old mason who had built an addition on his home where he wanted to do a home theater in this addition.

    Well, it was cathedral ceiling, so we had no way to get wires into the ceiling. It was a slab tile floor; no way to get wires in the floor. But he had a gorgeous fireplace that he hand-built and he had the TV mounted on the wall. He said, “I want to do surround music system in this room.” So we used a wireless sound bar below the TV. We used two wireless speakers on the left and right rear channels and we used a wireless sub underneath the couch. And it was all done in a matter of two hours.

    TOM: Wow. Very, very cool.

    LESLIE: Now, Greg I think it’s interesting. You were actually part of one of the first This Old Houses here in Charlestown 14 years ago?

    GREG: Right. Not one of the first but 14 years ago, the project they did in Charlestown first was right here, up the street here. And we were – that was our first project with Tom Silva’s gang and now, here we are again back in Charlestown again.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: And what kind of technology were you introducing 14 years ago?

    TOM: That’s a great question.

    LESLIE: Power strip.

    GREG: Well, we actually – we did have sort of a – we had a cool – we had a watch that we called the Dick Tracy watch. Through the watch, the homeowner was able to arm and disarm their alarm system.

    TOM: Yeah, look at that.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s awesome.

    TOM: You probably could do that now through the new Apple watch right?

    GREG: Yeah, so – true, exactly.

    LESLIE: I bet.

    TOM: Great. Greg Smizer, systems integrator, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    GREG: Sure. Thank you very much, Tom.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, old homes may have charm but that often comes along with some antiquated and unsafe materials, like asbestos, lead paint or really old and brittle electric wiring.

    TOM: Ah. But if you’re This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, it’s all in a day’s work. Tom joins us next with tips on how to stay safe in your own construction projects, as well as his reflections on over 28 years with This Old House. That’s all coming up, after this.

    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 Charlestown, Massachusetts with the team of This Old House. Now, we’re at the latest This Old House renovation and it is the 35th season for this iconic PBS program. We’re thrilled to be here helping celebrate both the history of the program and the homes they’ve brought to life.

    LESLIE: Well, the 35th anniversary season has just started airing on PBS. And we’re here as they film the final episode, giving you a sneak peek of what’s to come.

    TOM: Now, as This Old House fans are well aware, this program never takes the easy way to a great renovation. You know, while there’s dozens and dozens of so-called home improvement shows on the air, where the big reveal shows little more than a fresh coat of paint and a few furnishings, this is the show that tackles seemingly insurmountable projects, time and time again, with amazing results. One of the big reasons for that is general contractor Tom Silva, a guy who never runs away from a challenge.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, Tom. Nice to be here.

    TOM: They keep throwing them at you, don’t they?

    TOM SILVA: Oh, they do. I just keep going out for that catch.

    TOM: Yeah, you sure do. And this was – nothing different about this project: a Greek Revival built in 1850. One of the first things you worked on were some bowing walls. That’s something that strikes fear in the hearts of homeowners.

    TOM SILVA: Well, yeah. When you have a three-story building and the front wall in the back wall are actually bowed out so bad that they could fall, it’s something to be concerned about.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, I would think so, right?

    LESLIE: Was the homeowner aware that it had deteriorated so badly?

    TOM SILVA: No. No. But if you actually look to the left and to the right to the neighbors, you’ll actually see the bowing of the walls.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And they’re pretty bad. So I actually had to clamp the wall and pull it back into place. The way they built these buildings, there was no connection between the floors and the outside walls, so they were all supported by the roof and freestanding.

    So when you get a snow load on a roof, the rafter bows down, pushes the wall out and it comes back and out.

    TOM: Out, yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Over time, eventually, it splits the brick that it’s married and connected to each of the side walls.

    TOM: Now, I noticed that there were steel rods that seem to connect this home from front to back.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. They did that – not when they originally built it. But they did that as a renovation, probably 50 or 100 years later, because they realized there were issues that they had to be stopping this from happening. And it could control it a little bit but there still – there wasn’t enough of them.

    TOM: So, essentially, they’ve been trying to control this bow for 100 years. And do you think we’ve got it this time?

    TOM SILVA: I think it did it this time, because these walls weren’t studded.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: There was only a strap and nail to it with cut nails. And then it was lath and plaster on top of that. Well, I had to rip that all out, put 2×4 walls inbound. And then I put lath – I mean a steel rod – through the 2×4 wall into the lentils and over the windows and into the windowsills. And I was able to pull the whole wall back into place.

    TOM: Now, another area of the house where you had a challenge you had to deal with was the basement. Like most older homes, it wasn’t very tall. You actually had to lower that floor.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. The floor was actually pitched quite a bit. It was higher on the right side when you come in from the street, with very little ceiling height. So we actually dug down. We actually had to dig a trench, first of all, because we wanted to change the sewer line that went across the ceiling and put it under the ground.

    And when we did that, we realized that there’s very little digging left so we might as well just dig it down enough to make the basement floor level and give them enough ceiling height so that it could become legal if she ever wanted to put a bedroom or an office or some type of room down there.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: We had to have a certain ceiling height. So we dug it down, put radiant heat in there, new plumbing underground. And then we put a special epoxy over the floor and gave them a finished floor.

    TOM: Yeah. And it looks terrific now.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think what’s so interesting is when you come from the street level, you see that cute, little half door, which is your entrance to the basement.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And then when you enter the home on what is, I guess, the first floor, there’s apparently no entrance to the basement. It’s like almost sneaky.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Well, I hid a door.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s amazing.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. We put a paneled wall and in that wall, I pushed a – I put a two-way door. So, you push the door – it’s like a bar door; it swings on a hinge and it locks into center position. And so if she wants to – in case someone wants to go down there and carry laundry or carry something in their hand, they just push on the door, walk by, it closes. Come up the door, come up the stairs, push on the door and it opens the other way.

    LESLIE: It’s beautiful.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. So they just will hang a picture on the wall and you’ll never know.

    TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva. He’s the general contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    And Tom, this is a special season for you guys: the 35th season. And you’ve been here for 28 of those, as I understand.

    TOM SILVA: Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, anyway. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    TOM: Did you ever imagine you’d still be sitting here working on these projects almost 30 years later?

    TOM SILVA: No, I remember years ago when ’75, I built the first television show – the set for the first television show was the Crockett’s Victory Garden show.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: And when we built that, they asked us if we’d be interested in doing a television show on houses. And at the time, my dad goes, “I don’t know.” My dad was the type of – “Just get to work. Keep your mouth shut and work.”

    TOM: Yeah, right. Keep working.

    TOM SILVA: And well, three years after that, we got a call saying that they thought of a show and they’re going to do it and wanted us to do it. And my dad says, “Well, I’m kind of busy. I can’t do it.” So we turned them down the first year and the second year and the third year. And Russ kept calling. And then he called me in a way that – he says, “I want to – I really want you to try it.” So I said …

    LESLIE: He went around your dad.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. He went around and got right to me. And he said, “I really would like you to do this show. I need your help. I need your help.” And I said, “Well, alright.” I said, “I’ll try it for a year and if I like it, I’ll continue on.”

    TOM: And here we are 28 years later.

    TOM SILVA: So, I’m still in that year.

    TOM: You’re still in that first year.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

    TOM: Tom Silva, I said this to Norm and I’ll say it to you. One of the reasons I think this show has survived all these years is because America trusts you. They trust your advice and trust your expertise. Thank you so much for bringing 35 years of great television to us and really teaching us along the way.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. Well, it’s fun. Been a lot of work but it’s fun. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    LESLIE: Now, whether you have an old house or a newer one, getting rid of mold is no easy task. So, preventing it is your best bet. There are five places in your home where mold is most likely to lay down roots and we’ve got tips for keeping those hot spots free of unwanted growth, presented by Concrobium Mold Control.

    TOM: Now, moisture and porous surfaces make bathrooms the most popular mold hangout. So keeping drywall, grout and caulk mold-free boils down to one thing: proper ventilation. You want to make sure you install and run a bath fan to reduce humidity in that space. Now, consider a dehumidifier for every thousand square feet in your home.

    Wood is another mold food source. It’s porous and highly susceptible to moisture and that leads to mold. So, consider treating the exposed wood surfaces with a mold cleaner.

    LESLIE: Now, mold also likes to take a hold on fabric. So to keep it from overtaking your wardrobe, make sure that your clothes are completely dry before you put them away in closets and drawers.

    Next, head outside and wipe any standing water from another mold magnet: outdoor plastic. Keeping your outdoor furniture and children’s toys free of dew and rainwater helps to control a mold-breeding environment.

    TOM: Finally, keep your home’s exterior mold-free by patching any damaged mortar joints before scrubbing or pressure-washing brick and mortar. This is going to prevent water from getting into and behind the walls. Just be sure to let fresh mortar dry for at least a week before you pressure-wash.

    These tips are presented by Concrobium Mold Control. Fight mold like a pro and without harsh chemicals. To learn more, visit CureMyMold.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, while I love to see the guts of a home brought up to the current standards, my favorite part of a This Old House makeover is the finishes and the fabrics that really show the personality of both the homeowner and the house.

    TOM: The team’s interior designer on the Charlestown project joins us next with tips on what you can do to bring that same style and charm into your old home, when The Money Pit continues, after this.

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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.

    TOM: We are in Charlestown, Massachusetts today where the entire This Old House team is getting ready to wrap up another successful renovation in this, their 35th season. Now you can watch the transformation on your local PBS station. Just check your local listings.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But today, you are getting a behind-the-scenes look at the project in one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods: Charlestown. And one thing about this team, they are so great to work with that many pros come back again and again, like our next guest: interior designer Kathy Marshall.

    Welcome to the program, Kathy.

    KATHY: Hi. Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: This is your fifth go-around with the team?

    KATHY: My fifth project.

    TOM: Wow. They must like you.

    KATHY: It’s been an unbelievable experience.

    TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    KATHY: My first project that I started was the 25th anniversary in Carlisle, so it’s been 10 years.

    LESLIE: OK. So you had the milestone years. They must really like you.

    KATHY: I know. It’s just a cool – it was just – this has been an incredible experience, really, honestly. I mean from starting out really hired as a kitchen designer and working with bathrooms – and I went on to East Boston, which was an interesting project where it was a two-family. I had a – and I did a lot of the – not the interiors but space planning on that project. And then, after that, I moved over to – I did the Bedford House project, Cambridge and then Charlestown.

    So, it really is a big family. And I think, when you work on different projects outside of This Old House – sometimes I’ll work on – and I’ll work with a team and then it ends. But with this group, it’s family.

    TOM: Right. Now, let’s talk about this house. What was challenging about this house? Built in 1850, Greek Revival. And you had a homeowner that had a very healthy palate of tastes. There’s a lot in this house in terms of the design. Every room is unique. Every room is very special but every room is different.

    KATHY: Right. And my big challenge was – is to make it all make sense. So it needed to be really balanced. And I have a – I love antiques, so we – Angela and I – really shared that. So, making sure that the kitchen was warm and inviting and flowed, the colors – and really, she originally thought that she was going to get rid of a lot of her furniture. But repurposing it, putting it in different rooms really makes a huge difference.

    LESLIE: And I think your background as a kitchen designer and spatial planning really helped you with this project. Because it’s a small space and you have so many interesting built-ins and interesting cabinetry that are beautifully designed, well-crafted and they really solved a problem, I’m guessing.

    KATHY: Thank you. Yeah, I’m finding that it’s been this great evolution, honestly. From being really classically trained for being – and I also think the advantage of working with Tommy’s teams. Because when you’re a kitchen designer, you have to work with the blueprint, originally, with Sally DeGan. So, architecturally – so I had this really intimate, deep knowledge of what was – how this space was going to work. So I think that’s an advantage for me, because I have that background to be – to take the interiors to another level.

    TOM: Kathy, for folks that are not familiar with what an interior designer does, can you kind of give us sort of an overview of where you fit in the project in the scheme of things?

    KATHY: Yeah. It’s unbelievable. As far as just the details that you have to choose – the door hardware, all the hardware, hinges, paint color – it’s really not about propping pillows and buying furniture. It’s about working together with the homeowner, understanding where she wants to go, her visions, incorporating it. It’s not my trophy house. It’s her home, so I need to make sure that I get that balance. And to be able to basically interpret what – her visions with the background that I have.

    TOM: So many people struggle with that. You know, we see them in the paint aisles looking at the paint chips and the color charts and trying to think, “Will this color go with that color? And which hardware should I choose from aisle 12?” And trying to really pull it all together, that’s overwhelming for so many people.

    KATHY: Oh, definitely. I mean sometimes – I won’t lie to you, with the red room, seriously, I knew it was going to be good in my head. But I was thinking, “Oh. I’m either going to be a hero or a zero.” That’s like …

    LESLIE: Well, I was about to say I think it’s important – as your role as a designer, here – is to help the homeowner take a risk. And your red living room, down on the second floor, is a risk.

    KATHY: Definitely.

    LESLIE: Everything is the same color, same sheen: walls, trim, ceiling.

    KATHY: Definitely.

    LESLIE: And it’s a knockout. It’s beautiful.

    KATHY: Oh, thank you. That’s great. I am glad you liked it. But if you notice, if you start seeing – you want to have a little bit of a tiny little thread flowing through each room – the teals, the aquas – and then it just it should tell us a story.

    LESLIE: Kathy, what I think is so interesting – and it’s something that I, as a designer, have not touched on – and I love what you did here where some of the rooms, everything is the same color, like the red room, like this dressing room that we’re in. Your trim, your ceilings, your wall color, all the same tone. And it really allows the furnishings and the pops of color that you bring in to really be the star. And it’s beautiful.

    KATHY: Oh, thank you. Angela has a lot of interesting pieces, so those bergère chairs up here are just – I want – they’re lovely. So those objects should just be that object. And I do think it does make it feel serene.

    TOM: It’s beautiful work. Kathy Marshall, the interior designer for This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KATHY: Thank you so much.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from Charlestown, Massachusetts, where the team from This Old House is putting the finishing touches on the latest project in their 35th anniversary season.

    LESLIE: The inside of the house is not the only thing that gets a makeover. Up next, we’re going to talk to Norm Abram about the major considerations given to the home’s exterior and how to take care of your old house, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are broadcasting today from the site of the latest This Old House renovation. We are in a historic Charlestown neighborhood in Boston. And we’re helping celebrate their 35th anniversary season and we want to wish the team here many, many more.

    LESLIE: That’s right. The current project involves restoring and reviving an 1850 Greek Revival row house. Now, our owner has lived with some of the issues for 10 years and was finally ready to bring the house into the 21st century and of course, with the help of the This Old House team.

    TOM: Well, old houses have a ton of charm and character but what old houses don’t have is a lot of insulation. And that’s something our next guest knows a lot about. Tony Trigler is an insulation contractor who’s worked on many This Old House projects. And he joins us now with tips to help keep your old house warm, as well.

    Hey, Tony.

    TONY: Hi. How are you doing?

    TOM: So you’ve worked on over 10 This Old House projects across these 35 years that these guys have been doing this.

    TONY: Yes. At least 10. I believe I’ve seen more but …

    TOM: Yeah, is that right?

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: When old homes were first constructed, insulation wasn’t really a concern, was it?

    TONY: No, not really. The cost of energy, obviously, wasn’t very high.

    TOM: Right.

    TONY: And the way they constructed the homes, they were so leaky, in the first place, that it really didn’t matter.

    TOM: So if you have an old house and you know you don’t have enough insulation, you’re trying to decide where you should put your money, in what order should you really try to make the home better insulated? Do you start in the attic always?

    TONY: Yes. The attic is the most critical – it’s like when you’re putting on a hat in the wintertime, it keeps you warm. Then, obviously, you want to go the side walls. But before the side walls, you should even consider the windows beforehand.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: After the windows, try to insulate the side walls and then maybe the basement area if it’s possible.

    TOM: Now, you can’t – you can get to the attic, generally speaking, but you can’t really get to the side walls. What about the box beam: that area underneath the walls, across the outside perimeter of the floor from the basement?

    TONY: And what I’d recommend there is use spray foam and seal it off.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TONY: You know, fiberglass used to be the product that went there. But fiberglass, you can’t really secure it properly on the rim joist, so you spray it and seal it off, give it a nice air seal.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, this old house that we’re in, right now, is no exception. This needed a lot of insulation work. What did you tackle here?

    TONY: Well, basically, here we did the entire shell. We used spray foam in the roof, we used a combination of spray foam and blown cellulose on the exterior walls and we also used spray foam in the basement. And we also did some soundproofing between floors, with a combination of thermal fiber, cellulose and spray foam.

    TOM: Interesting. So, it’s not just one type of insulation. You really pick the right product for each and every area of the house. Tony Trigler, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TONY: Thank you.

    TOM: Well, for 35 straight seasons, our next guest has delighted viewers with his skills as a master carpenter, crafting both beautiful homes and beautiful furnishings to fill them since the very first episode of This Old House, as well as The New Yankee Workshop. We’re very pleased to welcome Norm Abram to the program.

    Hey, Norm.

    NORM: Hey, Tom and Leslie. It’s great to be here.

    LESLIE: Hey, Norm.

    NORM: Welcome to Charlestown.

    TOM: It’s nice to have an American icon in the broadcast.

    NORM: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Now, one of the challenges you tackled with this house was an under-structured roof. Pretty common to old homes.

    NORM: Yeah, it is, especially in these old homes. And when you try to modernize them and make them a little bit more spacious, you have to deal with the structure that is not sufficient enough. And in this case, the house had been altered earlier by a dormer being installed on the back side. And they actually tried to stiffen up the beam but they didn’t put enough into it. So we had to add a couple LVLs to it before we moved forward with the work we wanted to do on the front.

    And the trick here is we’re in a row house. We’re butted up against the neighbors. There’s only about two bricks on each side of us that we can work in. How do you get a fixed beam in there and get enough bearing? Well, if you take a brick out on each side, you gain about 8 inches. So, you only need about 2 inches or so of bearing when that beam is installed. So you cut it long enough so that you can slip it in one side and then pull it back and set it down on those brick pockets.

    TOM: You didn’t use the beam structure for that, huh?

    NORM: No, no. We don’t – well, it’s a little hard to stretch those LVLs, you know?

    LESLIE: And I imagine you have to be careful because you’re sharing a wall with your neighbor.

    NORM: Oh, sure.

    LESLIE: You have to make sure, for fire issues, I imagine.

    NORM: Well, yes. And you have to cut that beam at an angle. So the top of the beam should be basically flush with the wall – the inside face of the wall. And it angles back to where it’s sitting on that pocket. The reason for that is that if there ever was a fire and that beam were to burn, it can fall out without pulling the wall down, which could cause the fire to go into your neighbor.

    TOM: Makes sense.

    NORM: Right. Now once we had that structure done, we were able to raise the roof of the front of the house, because the room was almost useless because of the way the pitch of the roof came down. And now, Angela has a wonderful room here. And one other structural thing we did is we added footings in the basement that were adequate to support all the low points in building.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Our coverage of the wrap of Season 35 on This Old House continues.

    Up next, while Norm Abram has successfully tackled many projects in his 35 years on This Old House, there’s one that he’s yet to accomplish. We’ll tell you what that is, next.

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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.

    TOM: Coming to you today from Charlestown, Massachusetts where another successful season of This Old House has wrapped up. In fact, Season 35 to be exact, which has just started airing on PBS. So check your local listings for information on where it is in your neighborhood.

    LESLIE: And you can also listen to the team from This Old House each week on The Money Pit. We’ve got several years’ worth of segments online, by cast member. Just visit MoneyPit.com and click on the Radio and Media tab to hear those.

    TOM: Joining us now, once again, is Norm Abram who’s been on This Old House since the very first episode.

    Did you ever imagine, 35 seasons ago, you’d still be sitting here?

    NORM: Not in a million years. Really. It’s just been a great ride.

    TOM: How was it that you got the call?

    NORM: I was building a house in Nantucket for an architect that I had met a few years earlier. And one day, he brought Russell Morash by the job site and said, “You’ve got to see this guy. He has the smallest scrap pile I’ve ever seen.” And Russ was like, “Yeah, sure.” So he brings Russ and Russ said, “Hmm. It was impressive.”

    So, Russ, being one who likes to save things and not waste money decided that, possibly, there would be something in my future, I guess. Because it was a short time after that, while I was building a barn – actually part of what became The New Yankee Workshop – that he approached me and said, “I’m thinking about doing a show about renovating houses. What do you think?” And I’m like, “I don’t know what a TV producer does. I have no idea what you really do. But I’m not sure about this.”

    TOM: “I’m just a guy with a hammer.”

    NORM: So it kind of passed for a few weeks and then he came back to me and he said, “Well, why don’t I take you over to the project?” That was 1978 And the project was going to start in ’79. The economy was terrible. He brings me over to the project, shows me the house and says, “What do you think?” And I said, “I guess I could do this.” And I thought I was being hired as a builder, not as TV talent.

    TOM and LESLIE: Right.

    NORM: So, long story short, we start shooting the show; it was going to be 13 episodes. And one day, he tells the audio guy, “Put a mic on Abram.” Like what? “Put a mic on,” he said. I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, you’re going to go up there on the scaffolding, you’re going to tell Bob Vila how – what went wrong, why it’s all rotted out, how you’re going to fix it and why you think it’s going to last longer.” And I said, “OK.”

    So we went up there and did it. I was a nervous wreck.

    TOM: Yeah.

    NORM: It was about 20 degrees out. I don’t know if I was freezing or just shaking.

    TOM: Right, right.

    NORM: And it’s amazing. That was sort of the beginning for me. And I learned real quickly that Russ wouldn’t let anything go by unless he was making us look good.

    TOM: Yeah.

    NORM: So, the rest of it is history. That became sort of the model and we’ve been doing it ever since.

    TOM: If I had to choose one reason for your success, it’s the trust that you’ve earned with America. People trust you, they trust This Old House, they trust your expertise, they know you don’t cut corners and you’re educational and you’re fun.

    NORM: Right. Well, the whole team, you know?

    TOM: Yeah.

    NORM: Our team, we’re very passionate about what we do. We come from backgrounds that are in the trades and in the building industry and we’re happy to share your knowledge with the folks who watch the show. And it’s always nice when someone says to us that they’ve learned something and it helped them in their project.

    TOM: And finally, just recently, you got to present Russ Morash, the original producer, with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

    NORM: Lifetime Achievement Award. He is considered the creator of how-to television and that couldn’t be more true, from Julia Child right through This Old House.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    NORM: And just think about it: do you think there would be an HGTV or DIY network today if it hadn’t been for Russ? I don’t think so.

    LESLIE: I don’t think so.

    TOM: Absolutely not. And there wouldn’t be a This Old House if it wasn’t for Norm Abram.

    Norm, thank you so much for stopping by.

    NORM: You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure, always.

    TOM: Coming up next week on The Money Pit, have you been frustrated by a home that’s drafty but you can’t quite figure out where the leaks are getting in? We’re going to have tips, a tool that can locate leaks with pinpoint accuracy so they can be sealed and help save on your energy costs.

    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.)

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