This Old House TV heads to Rhode Island
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: Welcome to this hour of the program, coming to you today from the coastal New England community of Barrington, Rhode Island. We’re on-site today with our friends from This Old House, as the team completes renovation on a very humble cottage here. It’s a smaller project but it packs a big punch. And with the expertise of the This Old House cast and local craftspeople, the 1,500-square-foot original structure was transformed from a simple beach house to what is now a stunning, year-round family home.
LESLIE: And if your home has ever been impacted by weather like high winds and rain, there’s a lot to be learned from this project. Rhode Island is, in fact, known as “The Ocean State,” and being near the sea air and saltwater absolutely had a hand in how this renovation was planned.
We’ll learn directly from the home’s architects and the general contractor about that, like how building to specific codes for high wind and driven rain can help assure that a home can stand up to nature’s most severe conditions.
TOM: True. And the house actually has already been through one of the worst hurricanes to hit the Atlantic seaboard in decades: Hurricane Irene has already stopped by to pay a visit. It closed roads, it took down power lines but it didn’t halt production. And now the house is ready for whatever Mother Nature can dish out.
And we’re going to be answering your questions about your old house this hour. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And today’s broadcast is presented by Icynene. Icynene has a line of spray-foam insulations and coatings that both insulate and seal out drafts in cracks and gaps in your home.
LESLIE: And we’ll also be announcing the winner of our Stay Warm with Icynene at the end of today’s program, who will receive a $500 Visa gift card, which they can use towards the purchase of Icynene insulation, at the end of the show. So make sure you stick around to listen for that. You can also visit Icynene.com for more information on their product.
TOM: Now, this home was built in 1925 and as Leslie and I know from personal experience, owning an older home is great but also full of constant maintenance and even upgrades on major systems. I mean just think about what you went through with your air-conditioning project.
LESLIE: Oh, God. Don’t ask.
Definitely, guys. So if you have an older home, we’d particularly like to hear from you this hour by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to our Community section or on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
TOM: First up, though, the team that planned this renovation from floorboards to shingles: architects Mary Brewster and Patrick Connors from Brewster Thornton Group join us now with their backstory on this project.
PATRICK: Good to be here.
TOM: You must be very happy that this day has arrived.
MARY: We’re thrilled.
TOM: Now, tell us how you got started on the project. What kind of challenges did you foresee here, Mary?
MARY: Well, we started on this project from the very beginning. We were working with Geoff and Michelle before they bought the house. We came through to look at it with them to see if it had the potential to become the project that they were looking for.
MARY: This Old House wasn’t in the picture. We looked at a previous house and it didn’t really have a good layout that would lend itself to the house they were talking about.
MARY: When we saw this house, we knew …
TOM: It had all the pieces of the puzzle and you kind of saw what it could be.
MARY: We knew we could make something out of it.
PATRICK: We had to add a couple pieces but yeah, it had potential.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, well, let’s talk about some of those pieces. What were some of the elements that were missing right from the get-go that you knew had to be done, Patrick?
PATRICK: Well, we knew the second floor really needed to expand. Geoff and Michelle knew they wanted three bedrooms and this was originally a two-bedroom house with only a half-bath upstairs. So their – what they were hoping for was a bedroom for their daughter, their bedroom and a guest bedroom and hopefully with views to the water, so …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you really are in a prime location for a vacation home. Were there any challenges in turning something that had traditionally been a beach cottage into a year-round home?
PATRICK: Yes, certainly. Square footage.
LESLIE: The pause says everything.
PATRICK: Square footage and some of these older beach houses, they’re on really kind of tight lots. So right from the get-go, we – anything that we were going to do to expand the footprint or the envelope, we had to get zoning approval. So, that was kind of job one: what our tact would be with zoning, how much we were going to ask for.
TOM: Right. And zoning is particularly complicated when you’re on this type of a property along the water, correct?
MARY: Well, there’s a couple of layers. We needed to get zoning first and then we went to the Coastal Resources Management Council and got approval for what we were going to do. We didn’t add a great deal of square footage – possibly 60 square feet – but they want to see all construction that’s going through. So, there’s just a process of permits that have to be applied for.
LESLIE: And given the proximity to the water, were there any special sort of circumstances that you had to look at for types of materials being used, how they were being used because of environmental impact?
PATRICK: Yeah, certainly. Obviously, you want something weather-resistant. We’ve got high winds and rain here can come horizontally. So, this system or the skin of the building, it’s traditional shingles but behind it is what we call a “rain screen.” It’s a product that once moisture starts getting potentially through the shingle, we’ve given a path for it to travel down a drainage plane and dry out. All the trims that we’re using are PVC; they’re synthetic so we’re not …
TOM: Not worried about, yeah, wear and tear moving forward. Yeah.
LESLIE: So that’ll really stand up.
PATRICK: Right, right.
MARY: You have to track the movement of moisture through the house and make sure that the systems handle it appropriately so that there aren’t places where the moisture gets trapped and prematurely rots.
TOM: We’re talking to Mary Brewster and Patrick Connors from the Brewster Thornton Group. They are the architects behind the current season’s This Old House project in Barrington, Rhode Island.
Now, Patrick, you mentioned when you saw the house, initially, it was missing a few pieces of the puzzle. Now, automatically, what are the things that would force you to decide not to improve a house? Is there anything so severe that you would look the other way?
PATRICK: I guess it could just be the size of the lot. If you need to expand, if you’re planning to expand, if you’re thinking you’ve got a good existing footprint, maybe a solid foundation. And I mean I think sometimes when we meet clients initially, we try to gauge how much are they up for. We have clients that – you know, they want to wholeheartedly gut and remodel and just really maximize something.
Like particularly, this project – got such a beautiful view. We were kind of opening up the playing field there to really be able to capitalize on what’s exposed here, looking out at the bay. So the missing piece here was a little corner infield that was on the southwest corner here of the house, which just expanded that main-floor living space, gave us a little elbow room to get the two bedrooms and the two – the three bedrooms and the two baths upstairs. So …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Having a similar-sized home myself, you’ve really well-managed the 1,500 square feet that it feels very roomy; nothing feels overly crowded. You’ve laid out the spaces in sort of – the open area on the first floor, for gathering – very, very well. The house came out beautifully.
TOM: We’re talking to Mary Brewster and Patrick Connors, the architects on the current This Old House project in Barrington, Rhode Island.
We’re going to ask you guys to stick around a little bit. We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, I want to talk about and maybe tap you guys for some tips on how you can improve the weather resistance of an existing home. Many of our listeners have faced leaks and things of this nature and maybe you can give us some tips on how you can kind of track those down.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We are coming to you today from the site of the current This Old House renovation.
TOM: Up next, the joy of owning an older home: a lot of charm and a lot of calls to the plumber, unless you plan ahead. Find out why, 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.
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: 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 the beautiful seaside community of Barrington, Rhode Island, the site of the most recent renovation from This Old House. The guys from This Old House took on a pretty neglected beach house built in 1925 and transformed it into a beautiful, year-round home.
LESLIE: That’s right. And before the gang from This Old House got their hands on it, the house was last updated in 1970. This house is 87 years old and with that comes a host of older-house problems. This home had to be toughened up to handle the severe weather this area often dishes out.
We’re joined again now by the architects Mary Brewster and Patrick Connors, from Brewster Thornton, who worked on this project.
And if you have a home that’s been impacted by heavy weather like coastal storms or even the kind of threats those, say, in the Midwest face, like tornados, are there some basic rules of thumb to follow when you want to improve an older home to be more resistant to such severe weather?
PATRICK: Well, I think weatherization and insulation – with this house, one of our main strategies was we’ve got a roof that’s tight. We’re not venting it as a traditional attic might need to be vented, so we don’t have soffit vents, we don’t have a ridge vent.
PATRICK: We don’t have openings where you’ve got wind-driven rain that can infiltrate. What code allows you to do now is with the expanding foam insulation, we can do away with venting that attic. So, we don’t have that typical vent penetrations on the outside.
And on the same – on the other side of the coin, we’ve got an insulation, Icynene, which is in filling every crack and void. So that stripping – wind infiltration – that’s potential in this exposed site, we’ve eliminated.
TOM: So what would you say would be the basic rules of thumb to follow if you’re concerned about severe weather?
PATRICK: Well, siding, good flashing systems, a good window manufacturer that can – has got a good – we’re required to have a DP rating here, of the windows, at 50 in our exposure. Those elements are going to keep the chinks in the armor tight, so …
TOM: Got it. So really, it’s a system that has to all work together.
And Mary, one more question before we let you guys go. If you are faced with a big project, does it make sense to pull in a professional for an opinion?
MARY: Well, what we do as architects, when we come in, is be able to evaluate the spaces that are there. And we’re used to looking at the bigger picture and knowing what the opportunities are. A little bit of planning can often save you a lot of money. And with a neutral, experienced eye, you get the feedback you need to get off on the right foot.
TOM: Good point. Mary Brewster, Patrick Connors, thanks so much for being with us today.
PATRICK: Great. Thanks, guys.
MARY: Thank you.
TOM: You are listening 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: We are in The Ocean State today, Rhode Island, at the site of the latest renovation by our friends at This Old House. This is a charming, old, seaside cottage that’s been transformed from a summer bungalow to a really spectacular, year-round family home. And we’re talking to the This Old House team about how that all happened.
LESLIE: That’s right. This is a really great house. It’s a small cape with amazing views of the Narragansett Bay. And this is the first time that This Old House chose property right smack on the open water. And just saying “beachfront property” makes tons of homeowners drool but it actually requires extra thought and planning.
TOM: We’re joined now by a guy who’s put a lot of thought and planning into this project: Andy Tiplady, the general contractor here in Rhode Island, who helped make sure this old home could withstand the sometimes tortuous winds and heavy rain.
ANDY: Nice to be with you today.
TOM: So I guess you’re very happy you’re at the end of this beautiful project. You had a lot of excitement as this thing came together, didn’t you?
ANDY: Yeah, we sure did. Mixed emotions, though, you know?
ANDY: We’re glad it’s coming to a conclusion but working right here on the beach has been a real pleasure.
TOM: So why don’t you …
LESLIE: And you know it’s going to withstand a hurricane.
ANDY: Oh, absolutely. We built it strong.
TOM: So give us an overview of the project.
ANDY: Well, what we started off with was pretty much an old-style Cape, substandard according to the code that we have today.
ANDY: So when we opened it up, we had to add quite a bit of steel to it to carry all that open first floor, a lot of shear-wall work, which means that we had to block the walls and nail them off properly so that it would withstand, in our area or in a wind zone that is 110 miles an hour …
TOM: Alright. And when we talk about “shear,” the way to imagine that is sort of the side-to-side movement of a house.
ANDY: Exactly. Right. So if you took a square panel and if it turned into a trapezoid, that would be a bad thing.
TOM: Right. Yeah, that would be a bad thing.
ANDY: Yeah. So we want it to stay square.
ANDY: So when we build the wall, we put blocking in and nail it off, sometimes even glue it and screw it.
ANDY: It depends on what the engineer calls for.
LESLIE: So when you started working on this home, did you just take it all the way down to the studs and pretty much start from scratch?
ANDY: We did. And that actually wasn’t the original plan. We were going to leave some of the sheetrock up but it just got to the point where we really needed to open up and see what was here. And we came across a couple of things: we noticed that the – or we found that the house had a fire at one time. So we had to take out a bunch of the framing and replace it with (inaudible at 0:14:36).
LESLIE: Could you tell just by scorch marks? How did you know?
ANDY: Oh, that the lumber was completely torched.
TOM: Oh, structurally damaged to the point but just had never been – yeah.
ANDY: Yes, it was. Somebody had repaired it but there was still some of it that was left that they just left in.
TOM: Right. Always a lot of surprises when you open up any house, young or old, sometimes, right?
ANDY: For sure.
TOM: And that was one that you ran into here.
Now, when you build along the ocean, it’s a very corrosive environment. What special considerations does one have to take if you’re building in an environment like this, to make sure that the fasteners are not going to rust out and that sort of thing?
ANDY: Big thing around here is using stainless fasteners or hot-dipped galvanized: something that won’t corrode over time. You don’t want to have a fastener that you can’t see go away on you, because then it’s just going to cause problems down the road.
ANDY: Things will start to shift and move and pull away from a building. Putting a deck on the building needs to be really bolted and secured. You hear about decks and people getting hurt because the deck falls off. Well, here we’re using stainless-steel fasteners for that, using copper flashing so that it doesn’t deteriorate.
ANDY: So it really – you have to put those things into perspective so that you are building it right and it will stand the test of time and this saltwater environment.
LESLIE: And I think it’s important, also, in addition to all of this structural and safety and code items that you need to sort of check off the list, on the exterior of the home, the style in which you put the shingles on – and particularly up at the roof line, you’ve got that beautiful sort of fish scale; I don’t even know how to describe it.
ANDY: Oh, the wave. The wave pattern, yeah.
LESLIE: The wave.
TOM: Yeah. Of the siding, mm-hmm.
LESLIE: It’s beautiful.
ANDY: Yeah. And on – rather, behind the shingles, I mean the shingles look beautiful as they are. But behind them, we put a cedar breather, if you will, behind it so that it’s a rain guard.
ANDY: So that if any water should penetrate those shingles, which we really try to prevent – but if water should get back there, that cedar breather between the house wrap and the shingle will let the water drain out and will continue to keep the – keep it dry in …
TOM: It’ll drop? Right. Right.
LESLIE: So that sort of protects the inside from any moisture infiltration but also protects the shingles themselves, as well, right?
ANDY: Absolutely. It lets the shingles breathe so that they don’t rot or cup or what have you.
TOM: We are in Barrington, Rhode Island, the scene of the current This Old House renovation. We’re talking to Andy Tiplady, who is the general contractor on this project.
So, Andy, what was it like working around a television crew?
ANDY: Well, it was interesting (inaudible at 0:16:56), yeah.
ANDY: They were great, though. I can’t express how much we appreciated the professionalism of the crew. We really got along very nicely. They’re a great group of people. Working with the talent like Norm and Richard and …
LESLIE: Were you just so excited?
ANDY: Oh, yeah, yeah. I would say close to a childhood dream, if you will.
TOM: Yep. Yeah.
LESLIE: Right. I grew up watching This Old House with my dad and I can remember the first time we had an opportunity to come to one of these site visits. And I was a kid in a candy store. I was like, “That’s Norm. That’s Tommy. Oh, my God.”
TOM: And they really hate every time you remind them.
ANDY: Yeah, you have that situation where – “Man, I don’t even know if I’m worthy enough to carry Norm’s tools, you know?”
But no, he was a pleasure and he had some great tips. And anyway, sharing the knowledge that he has has been great.
TOM: Andy, I want to pick your brain about the deck – the beautiful deck – that you built here. One of the tragedies that we hear about all the time – all across the country, every summer, usually around a holiday be it Memorial Day or Labor Day – is when somebody has 100 of their closest personal friends over and you get a deck collapse. Now, in a lot of these seaside houses, you’ve got a lot of decks, you’ve got a lot of parties. What are some key things to look for to make sure your deck is in good condition and can really stand up?
ANDY: Well, what we try to do is put fasteners on there that are going to really hold up really well, joist hangers that are properly sized, hold-downs – but specifically that the deck is engineered for a certain amount of weight.
And the deck itself, this particular one, it’s a good-sized deck and we know that people are going to be on it and there’s going to be a lot of weight.
ANDY: So, we take that in consideration, make the beams nice and beefy so that …
TOM: And probably real important to do a – if you – for your own deck, to do an annual inspection to make sure you’re not getting deterioration of any of those key components, right?
ANDY: Well, that’s a big key, for sure.
TOM: Andy Tiplady, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House: The Barrington Project. Thanks so much. Congratulations. Fantastic job.
ANDY: Thank you.
TOM: Can’t wait to see the final show.
ANDY: Very good. Thank you for your – for the interview.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, coming to you from Barrington, Rhode Island. Still ahead, taking on a fixer-upper comes with a mountain of concerns and your fair share of migraines, as well. But is it worth it?
LESLIE: That’s right. We’re going to talk to a couple who took a chance on this small Cape Cod and really wound up with a beautiful This Old House masterpiece, right on the water, next.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Welcome back to the program, coming to you today from the beautiful, New England seaside community of Barrington, Rhode Island, the site of the latest renovation by the team at This Old House.
LESLIE: That’s right. And this house is a Cape Cod-style home that sits right smack on the Narragansett Bay. But it didn’t always look this beautiful. We are getting a first look at what you will soon see on television. This Old House has come a long, long way.
TOM: And even though it had many problems that needed fixing, when our next guests – they said, “That’s the one.” We are joined by the couple who gets to live here: Geoff Allen and Michelle Forcier.
So, was buying this place a total leap of faith for you guys?
TOM: No? You knew it? Like you knew it instantly?
MICHELLE: I knew it. Riley and I used to play and practice walking on the stairs in front of the house and it was abandoned and forlorn. And we would play and say, “Why is no one in this beautiful spot?”
MICHELLE: And my very wonderful husband was online daily, looking for new properties that would come up that would sort of speak to us.
MICHELLE: Because we’ve been looking for, what, two years?
GEOFF: Two, yeah, a year-and-a-half, two …
TOM: It’s quite a process when you’re looking for a house.
TOM: First of all, it’s a big decision to make the decision to actually buy the house.
TOM: I mean that’s a big moment, right? And then once you do that, starting the process is rather exhausting, is it not?
GEOFF: Oh, absolutely. Especially we had just moved here from Chicago and so we weren’t sure where in Rhode Island we wanted to live.
GEOFF: We were thinking Providence; we were thinking Barrington, East Greenwich, that sort of thing.
LESLIE: Now, you guys had teamed up with your architects rather early on and they sort of helped you in the home-selection process, I should say, right?
MICHELLE: Yes, absolutely. We had them come and take a look at the structure and say, “Can you work with this?”
MICHELLE: Because we knew we needed to add a little bit of room for Riley and for guests.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. How old is Riley?
MICHELLE: She’s four.
TOM: Wow, that’s terrific.
Now, were you not turned off by the volume of work that this place needed?
GEOFF: I don’t think we appreciated the volume of work that it needed.
GEOFF: Really, all it – when we bought the house, when we were looking at the house, we just said, “OK, we need to open up the kitchen a bit and we need to put one bedroom over the garage so we had a total of three. One for guests.”
TOM: Right. Right.
GEOFF: And then it just kind of took off.
LESLIE: And did it take off because This Old House came knocking at your door or was it already on its way to getting out of your hands?
GEOFF: Well, Mary, our …
MICHELLE: It was. It was on our way – getting out of our hands, yeah.
GEOFF: Yeah, by the time this – yeah, Mary, our architect, says the one thing that an architect is good at doing is spending money.
GEOFF: And she just came up with great ideas.
LESLIE: Well, it’s not her money.
GEOFF: Yeah, well, that’s the – yeah.
MICHELLE: Yeah. It’s a good plan.
TOM: Yeah. Right.
GEOFF: She listened to what we want and then she sort of blew that up and then she said, “Well, I’ll give you this grand package and you start cutting back.”
TOM: Right. You know what …
GEOFF: And we said, “That’s a great package.”
TOM: Yeah, yeah. You know the four most expensive words in home improvement?
GEOFF: What’s that?
TOM: “While you’re at it …”
GEOFF: Well, that would be it, yeah.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s – go ahead.
LESLIE: So now, you guys must have a pretty good peace of mind. Most homeowners don’t know moving into the coast how their house is going to fare in a hurricane. You guys actually had a hurricane, so you must sleep pretty confidently after tonight here.
GEOFF: Well, we did. And the house was half open and Andy, our builder, said, “It’ll be fine.” And it was and I – Michelle went to New Bedford to stay with her sister. I stayed in the place we were renting just down the beach and checked on it from time to time. And it held up great.
GEOFF: But yeah, we were a little scared because we thought it might just take off like an umbrella and wind up in someone else’s yard.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, then it would have been the present season and then next season’s This Old House project, as well, right?
GEOFF: Exactly. Right. Yeah.
MICHELLE: This House Again.
LESLIE: It’ll be This Old House Insurance Policy, This Old House Again.
TOM: Right. Now, let’s talk about some of the – fill in the parts of the renovation. Tell us about the kitchen, for example.
MICHELLE: Oh, well, the prior kitchen was just a dark hallway where the wall was actually blocking the entire view of the bay.
LESLIE: Well, you don’t want to be distracted while you’re cooking.
MICHELLE: Oh, I do. I’m a terrible cook, so it’s fine for me to be distracted anyways.
GEOFF: It’s actually kind of dangerous to let Michelle be distracted, so I think I’ll be doing the cooking after this.
TOM: Yeah. And how was it to try to actually work with the team at This Old House? Was that very exciting for you guys?
GEOFF: Well, This Old House was looking for a project in Rhode Island – it was the first time they’ve done it in this state – and so they contacted a number of builders and architects.
GEOFF: And our architect, Mary Brewster, wrote back. You know, she asked us can we send in the info and so we said, “Sure.” And …
MICHELLE: Figuring that, of course …
TOM: It would never happen, right? Yeah, not in a million years.
LESLIE: “Not going to be us.”
GEOFF: Yeah. No. And they came by and they said, “Well, this is OK.” And then they left and then they came back. “Well, you guys are still on the list.” We said, “OK, whatever.”
TOM: Right. Yeah.
GEOFF: And we kept moving up the list and then they called and said, “You’re it.”
TOM: Right. Wow.
GEOFF: And we said, “Oh. Yeah, what’s with that?”
MICHELLE: Oh, yeah. No, we were like super-pumped.
TOM: Yeah. So were you really psyched?
GEOFF: We were psyched. We were absolutely psyched.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s great.
GEOFF: Because we had really tried to downplay our expectations. And when they finally said yes, our expectations took off.
LESLIE: And what about your builder, Andy? Did he run for the hills or was he excited?
MICHELLE: He had final say.
MICHELLE: He had final say on whether we were going to do the project. Because the project, really, we knew that he would be taking a lead both on the building, as well as interacting with the TV process. So if he said no, we liked Andy enough that we would say no.
TOM: Right, right.
MICHELLE: He needed to be comfortable. And he’s great. I mean he’s just photogenic, dynamic, calm with …
TOM: Yeah. Perfect fit.
MICHELLE: Yeah. And he has this great, small crew of these young guys that have just been so wonderful to be around.
GEOFF: Yeah. And they’re all actually very good people and – as are the This Old House people. And when they were finishing up at one of the days this past week, they were all just sitting around our kitchen island, just having a beer and just …
TOM: Hanging out, right?
GEOFF: Yeah. They were – they’re the best of friends. They are two good groups of people coming together.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah.
TOM: Yeah. And you’re very blessed, I guess, to have that fantastic group of contractors and producers working on this project.
MICHELLE: Oh, yeah.
TOM: You must be very excited.
TOM: This is the wrap day; this is the final day of production. So, congratulations, Michelle, Geoff.
MICHELLE: Thank you.
GEOFF: Thanks. Thanks very much.
TOM: And thanks for allowing us to be part of the fun and excitement here with The Money Pit.
GEOFF: Oh, it’s our pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. Up next, when you sign on to be owners of an older home, you will quickly learn that you need to find a team of experts to figure out what they can do and can you really trust them?
TOM: Well, that’s unless one of those experts is This Old House master carpenter, Norm Abram. Then you know you’re in good hands. We’re going to talk to Norm about his work on this gorgeous seaside home, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Here today in Barrington, Rhode Island, the home chosen to be the next renovation featured on This Old House.
LESLIE: That’s right. We’ve been telling you about adorable seaside home and of course, it came with gorgeous views and a whole host of problems. It hadn’t been updated since 1970 and it really just needed help to stand up to the sometimes brutal weather that can come right off of the Narragansett Bay.
TOM: But This Old House master carpenter, Norm Abram, is no stranger to a challenge and he joins us now to tell us about his role in this transformation.
NORM: Hi, Tom and Leslie. It’s great to see you again.
TOM: Well, there was a lot of work that went into this house. Let’s start by talking about the woodwork.
NORM: Well, we have exterior and interior woodwork we had to deal with. On the exterior, we used some nice, red cedar shingles, which are very durable in this environment. And in order to have longevity and low maintenance, we went with PVC trim.
NORM: It looks great. White is a very common color on these seaside cottages, so you don’t have to paint it if you don’t have to; you can just keep it clean. And we used decking material that we had not used before. It’s in the family of ipe but it’s a lot cheaper. It’s called “garapa.”
LESLIE: Oh, OK.
NORM: And as Andy, our contractor, says, “Don’t confuse it with the drink, grappa.”
And I like the way it looks. It’s weathering nicely.
TOM: Yeah. So it’s a combination of synthetic and natural materials that really are designed to both work together and stand up to this tremendous weather here on the water.
NORM: Right. That’s right. That’s right.
LESLIE: Now, on the exterior of the home, you mentioned it’s a cedar-shake shingle. Now, you’ve got this trim work that doesn’t need any maintenance other than cleaning. What is the maintenance with the cedar shake given where we are?
NORM: Right. Well, the thing about seaside homes and here in New England is that you really don’t want to have to do anything to the shingles. Some people do stain them but for the most part, you just let them weather. And the salt air actually adds to the weathering. It’ll make it go a little more silvery-gray. You will get some areas that’ll be darker. Whites turn grayer a little bit better than reds.
TOM: Right. Reds turn a little blacker, don’t they?
NORM: Yeah, they’ll turn black, especially if there’s a lot of splash-back areas.
TOM: Right. Right.
NORM: But the good thing is is that they don’t shrink as much, so they’re a much tighter barrier to the weather. Because especially here, we’re right on the water and when the wind blows, it rains horizontally here. So you want to have joints and everything nice and tight.
TOM: So you’re really an advocate of kind of “set it and forget it” when it comes to cedar shingles. You don’t put any linseed oil on them, you don’t stain them. You just do a great job with the installation and kind of walk away?
NORM: Right. The only thing I would suggest – some people would like to see them gray a little sooner than others. And on a couple projects we’ve done, both with white and red cedar, we put a bleaching oil on it. And what it does is it’ll accelerate that graying a little bit. And with the reds, it actually helps minimize that black that you’re talking about.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s really interesting. So is that something that would work in any climate or is that really a good application for a seaside home, if you’re trying to rush the aging process?
NORM: Now that – right. That’ll work in any climate.
TOM: We’re talking to Norm Abram, master carpenter on This Old House, about his work on this beautiful seaside project. The Barrington project is the project that was tackled this season on This Old House.
Norm, we’re going to take some calls now. You up for a couple of calls?
TOM: The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s up?
LESLIE: Alright. I’ve got Sue from California who’s got a question about an older home.
Sue, what can we help you with?
SUE: Hi, guys. I have an old Mission-style home in the Sacramento area.
SUE: It has beautiful, detailed molding throughout the whole house. Problem is they’ve all been painted a million times. How would I get them back to their natural state?
TOM: Yeah, that’s a really common problem with these older homes, because there’s such history to them. And sometimes, the paint stops protecting and starts just covering up what you really want to see.
NORM: Right. Well, Sue, I feel sorry for you a little bit because if it’s a Mission-style home, it means that a lot of that woodwork may be white oak. Because that’s what typically was used in those types of homes and it might have had a clear finish on it.
To strip the paint off, you’ve got several options. And the tricky part with the oak is because it’s a little bit porous, it’s going to be hard to get it really perfectly clean, to get every speck of paint off of it.
TOM: Because it sits deep into those open grains, right?
NORM: That’s right.
NORM: So, you know, you could chemically strip it. You could …
LESLIE: And is that something you can do while it’s up or is it best to remove the molding?
NORM: Well, I would try to do it if – when it’s in place, if possible. Because removing it means that you could cause more damage to all of these moldings. You could send them out to have them dip-stripped but dip-stripping sometimes adds too much moisture to the wood. And oak doesn’t like a lot of moisture; it likes to turn black if you get it too wet.
NORM: So, I would try to do it in place. That style house, it doesn’t have the molding detail that you might find like in a Victorian-type home. There will be some detail and you’ll have to strip that carefully. I would recommend a liquid or a paste-type remover/stripper and something that’s environmentally-friendly and not too harsh. You want to have good ventilation regardless. Put it on, let it sit, take it off carefully.
The other way to go is to go with an infrared. You could rent an infrared device, which you just hold it on for a certain amount of time. It loosens up the paint and you can peel it off. But the one thing I don’t want to forget is that check it for lead first.
TOM: Good point.
NORM: Because if you have lead paint, that breaks up – that brings up some other problems. You don’t want to heat it up too much because you’ll get fumes; you can actually get lead poisoning.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, wow.
NORM: So then you do want to go with the chemical strippers rather than heat.
LESLIE: And with the chemical stripping agents, that doesn’t sort of expose the lead through the removal process?
NORM: Well, what it does is you’re not making dust. The thing about lead paint is you don’t want to sand it or scrape it because it’s the dust …
LESLIE: Because the particulates get really fine.
NORM: And they’ll get all over your house if you’re not careful. And if you have young children and they get into that, it can be a problem.
TOM: Really? Terrific. Norm Abram, you are a wealth of knowledge. That’s a question that many, many people face across the country. And I think the answer is: there isn’t an easy answer.
NORM: That’s right.
TOM: But it’s always generally worth it when you do take the time to get that project done.
Norm, congratulations. Another great project here in Barrington, Rhode Island.
NORM: Thank you.
TOM: Still ahead, we’re going to talk to the two people behind the scenes of This Old House that make sure you get to see all the transformations as they happen. Senior Series Producer Deb Hood and Director Tom Draudt join us with their angle on This Old House, next.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: On location in Barrington, Rhode Island today, where our friends at This Old House have taken on the challenge of transforming a house on the open water. And today’s broadcast is presented by Icynene.
LESLIE: That’s right. And Icynene is a line of spray-foam insulation that will expand to fill all of those cracks and crevices. And then it allows your home to really be insulated and sealed at the same time. And this past month, we’ve been running a fun giveaway with the winner of the Stay Warm with Icynene receiving a $500 Visa gift card, which they can use towards an investment in Icynene insulation. And the big winner will be announced at the end of today’s show.
TOM: You can also visit Icynene.com for more info on their product. That’s Icynene – I-c-y-n-e-n-e – .com.
We’re joined now by two people who make sure the work is done on time and that you get to see it all: This Old House Series Producer, Deb Hood, and the show director, Tom Draudt.
Hey, guys. Welcome to the program.
DEB: Hey. Welcome back.
TOM DRAUDT: Pleasure to be here.
TOM: You’re always happy to see us, because you know your project’s just about done when we show up.
LESLIE: Hours away from the party.
TOM: Now, Tom, this is your first season in This Old House. Was it trial by fire?
TOM DRAUDT: Pretty much, yeah.
LESLIE: Now, let’s see: a hurricane, water issue.
TOM DRAUDT: That’s right. Well, we started up in the Bedford project and it’s been a really interesting process. I’ve learned a lot.
TOM DRAUDT: I also direct the Ask This Old House series, as well, so there’s a lot of days back to back. Big learning curve. There’s a lot of things to know.
TOM DRAUDT: It’s a very dense show. I think that when you watch it back, you’re probably thinking this happens very easily but I know now that that’s not the case.
TOM: Of course. Because we all make it sound that way with a magic television or radio.
TOM DRAUDT: But we try to make it look that way.
TOM DRAUDT: Deb has been very good to me as to show me the way and – as well as Jen and everybody on the crew. And this project has been wonderful because I was at it – on it from the very beginning.
TOM DRAUDT: But this is a great project.
TOM: Deb, is this the first time you guys ever produced through a hurricane?
DEB: Yeah, we were quite – we were actually trying to shoot the hurricane.
DEB: You know, it was just when it came ashore, we were trying to get here if we could. And it came ashore in the middle of the night and so it just wasn’t safe for us to get here. If we had had sort of six hours to come and – but we certainly filmed the aftermath – the preparation and the aftermath. This neighborhood got slammed by that hurricane.
LESLIE: Oh, I can imagine.
TOM: Yeah. But what a great testimony to the strength of the construction and an example of why, when you live this close to the water, you really have to be very, very careful about how you put your buildings together.
TOM: Very unforgiving.
DEB: He actually was pretty masterful in that the house was wide open to the elements and he decided to leave it open and let the wind blow through it. If he had tried to tarp it or tried to fight the wind, it wouldn’t have worked. So he went with it, let the storm blow through the house. And then the high winds actually dried out the rain, so it was the right solution and didn’t cause any problem.
LESLIE: Now, this was the first time you’ve ever filmed in Rhode Island, correct?
DEB: Yes. We shot remotes here before but our first Rhode Island-based project, absolutely.
LESLIE: And was it just that you were getting so many applications from the state that you decided to come and visit? Or was there just something so amazing about this property?
DEB: It certainly is our neighboring state and so – and we’ve actually – it’s a function of the fact that we’ve changed our production schedule where we now – we used to shoot in the winter, so we’d have to travel to the southern states. But now that we’re overlapping, we can get to New England. So we’ll, I hope, tic off the New England states one by one.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s great.
TOM: So, Tom, have they scared you off or are you going to stick around for a while?
TOM DRAUDT: No, I actually think I’m going to go for another round of the craziness, as crazy as that sounds.
TOM DRAUDT: But I think what we’ve learned this year – we’re always trying to evolve the show a little bit as we go. And there’s new methods that we can apply and I think, going in the next season, we’re very excited about maybe going to a different region, as well, for the out-of-town show. But what I find really the most interesting thing is that the unit works as – all the guys have been working together.
TOM DRAUDT: Most of the people are – have been here a lot longer than I have and we work really well together.
TOM: Right. Terrific. Deb Hood, Tom Draudt, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and congratulations. Another beautiful project well done.
DEB: Thank you.
TOM DRAUDT: Thank you.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, coming to you from the set of This Old House. Be sure to check 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.
END HOUR 1 TEXT
(Copyright 2012 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.)