Live from This Old House Generation NEXT House, Part 1 #0205181

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    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler and we make good homes better.

    On the road today for a very exciting show because we’re coming to you from Newton, Massachusetts, the site of the latest project for this, the 39th season of This Old House. And today’s broadcast is presented by, your source for finding top-rate home pros you can trust.

    Now, today is the final day of production and we are right here, inside the house, surrounded by the cameras and the sawdust to bring you the story of a very special home and a very special project by the spectacular team at This Old House. And this season’s project is all about building for the next generation. It’s a 1,700-square-foot home originally built in 1879 and moved to the present site in 1890. The homeowners, Liz and Joe, have two girls and they recently inherited this home from Liz’s mom.

    And there was a lot of work to do. The This Old House team is expanding and renovating the house to accommodate three generations now with a garage addition and an in-law suite above. Plus, the house is getting a kitchen expansion, a new mud room, a laundry room and a master-bedroom suite. We’re going to get all the details on this project straight from the This Old House team, including Kevin O’Connor, Tom Silva, Norm Abram, Roger Cook and of course, Richard Trethewey.

    But what makes this project very special is that the home is not only being renovated for the next generation of Liz and Joe’s family, it’s also being renovated by the next generation of skilled tradespeople. And that’s thanks to a very special program, created by This Old House, called Generation NEXT. With me to explain is our friend, Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: It’s great to be back. Good to see you.

    TOM: So tell us about the Generation NEXT Initiative, how this all came together.

    KEVIN: Well, I mean as you’re aware, there is a real shortage of people – skilled people – going into the trades. And this is something that the guys on our job site have been experiencing for years. And in their opinion, it’s getting worse. And so we decided that we would do a couple of things.

    First, we’d like to call attention to the problem, to make sure that the rest of the country is aware of that. And a great way to do that was partnering with Mike Rowe. You know him from Dirty Jobs but he has been one of the most eloquent and outspoken people in the country about this problem. So we’ve teamed up with him to deliver the message, let people know that there’s a shortage of people going into the skilled trades. But we’re also – we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re trying to show folks that this could be a good job, that it can be a viable career alternative to college.

    And so, with Mike, we did a national search. We actually found some young apprentices. We invited three of them to come to our job site. We put them up and we had them work next to our guys. And we’re kind of turning them into TV stars. We’re putting them on camera and we’re going to let them talk. And we’re going to show the process of them going through all the steps that someone would go through to be an apprentice on a job site.

    TOM: That’s fantastic. I had a chance to see some of the early episodes and I saw that Tommy is paired up with Bailey Beers. Now, she’s just completed her first year of college as a building-construction student. And you’ve got Richard working with Austin Wilson. And this is interesting. He graduated high school and the next day hopped on a plane, for the first time, to come out here and work with you guys. And then you’ve got Norm with Nathan Gilbert, who’s a second-generation finish carpenter and a third-generation Navy Seabee. And Roger is with Corey Forester, a Marine Corps reservist who got into college but figured out it just wasn’t for him.

    So I need to point out we’ve got Tommy, Richard, Norm and Roger with apprentices. Where’s yours?

    KEVIN: Well, the truth is I’m just irreplaceable. There is no apprentice for hosting, as you know, Tom.

    TOM: Yeah, of course, of course.

    KEVIN: No. No, no, they would never let anybody shadow me.

    TOM: All kidding aside, you made some great selections. What was the response like to the nationwide search?

    KEVIN: It was big. And what was funny was that we asked them to submit not just an application but a little video. And there were hours and hours of reviewing the videos. We almost sort of questioned our decision to do that, because we all watched these things. A lot of people really wanted to do it, which was encouraging that the message got out there.

    TOM: Yep. Yep.

    KEVIN: Obviously, a lot of people want to work for This Old House but more importantly, there’s a lot of people out there that are thinking about this.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: They’ve heard enough stories from their friends or their siblings about “I spent four years going through college. I didn’t get what I thought I was going to get” or “I’ve got the debt and I can’t find a good job.”

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And now it feels as if a little bit of the message is starting to turn.

    TOM: Yeah, well, going to college and getting that degree is not the end-all for everybody. And there’s darn good jobs not even going to college and working in the trades. And actually, I want to mention that to help, in addition to this program and bringing on the apprentices, you guys raised a heck of a lot of money – a half-million dollars – for scholarships for these kids.

    KEVIN: A half-a-million dollars to start. And we actually are giving that to the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, because he’s done a great job of setting up scholarships for kids going into the trades. So that is part of us putting our money where our mouth is. And we did it through the help of some very generous sponsors who we work with. And so we hope that the message gets out there, that the money gets out there and kids start going down this path.

    TOM: And this was a great project for it: 1,700-square-foot home built in 1879 with a family that wants to make sure it’s here for the next generation.

    KEVIN: And we need young people to come onto this job site and continue this legacy of high-quality craftsmanship, good information and repairing these old homes.

    TOM: Kevin O’Connor, 39th season. You’ve been here for most of those. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Quite an accomplishment. You guys should be very proud.

    KEVIN: My pleasure. Thanks for having us.

    TOM: You’ll find This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station. Plus, for more details and behind-the-scene photos, visit

    You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at coming to you from Newton, Massachusetts.

    Up next, we’re going to talk to This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook about what it took to get the property ready for future generations. Plus, it takes a talented general contractor to keep a project like this on track. And that responsibility falls to Charlie Silva. We’ll find out how he was able to complete the project while handling the homeowners, the apprentices and of course, his dad, Tommy. We’ll be back with more from Newton, Massachusetts, after this.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you today, on location, in Newton, Massachusetts, the site of the current project on this, the 39th season of America’s most popular home improvement television show, This Old House. You can follow the progress online at and catch the latest episodes on your local PBS stations.

    And if all this talk of home remodeling has you thinking about your next project, you can call in your home improvement question now to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by

    Well, while well-built homes can survive multiple generations, their landscaping needs a lot more care to do that. And that’s the task that fell to This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Well, it’s great having you back on The Money Pit. Now, you had a lot to do on this project to make sure it was really ready for the future. And you had the help of some apprentices to get that done. What was that experience like?

    ROGER: Well, it’s pretty neat, you know, to see him with a gleam in their eye and eager to learn and taking criticism properly, the way it’s meant to be given, and just picking up on everything.

    TOM: Was there anything that surprised you about the apprentices? Something that maybe they didn’t know that they learned or a reaction to a project?

    ROGER: Particular, one who worked with me, Corey, loves stonework.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: I don’t know why, out of all the disciplines we’re involved in, he picked that out of all of them to really sink his teeth into.

    TOM: Yeah. And you really had a very impressive stone project. You built a stone retaining wall.

    Now, yards that slope can be a lot less useable but the way to restore that or correct that is with a retaining wall. You had a stone retaining wall but this was not one that you built on site. I understand that you brought it in in sections. Tell me about that.

    ROGER: Right. This is a company that builds these sections of stone wall offsite, brings them on the job, sets them together. And when they’re done, you cannot tell that they are separate stones.

    TOM: Right. Really.

    ROGER: I could take you out there now and you couldn’t pick out which one was which.

    TOM: And they’re real stones? They’re not fake stones?

    ROGER: No. They’re real stones with a concrete interior. And then they build and attach to that and swing the whole thing into place.

    TOM: Now that, of course, makes it a lot quicker to build a project like that, a wall like that.

    ROGER: A lot quicker. You don’t have 4 to 10 ton of my stone laying around the whole site all the time while I’m picking through it.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ROGER: So it’s all nice and clean and they work in the same place every day. It makes it real easy for them to pump out some good footage.

    TOM: And that’s a good point. Because when you build those walls, I’ve seen you do it and you do spend a lot of time finding – every time you want to place a stone, it’s got to be just the right size to – based on – to fill in where you left off, right?

    ROGER: Right. Yep, yep. It’s really an art form that my guys have learned over the years. And it’s like a good day and a bad day: some days, every rock you pick up fits; other days not so much.

    TOM: Not so much, right?

    Now, this project is all about the next generations and you did an interesting project with Corey when you transplanted some roses that had a family history. Tell me about that.

    ROGER: They were Liz’s mom’s roses. And she remembered them as when she was a kid. And it was a good thing as we dug them all up, actually brought them to my house and kept them over the summer and brought them back and put them in again. So, hopefully, next year – I know she’ll have plants. How many flowers next year, I don’t know. But eventually, they’ll restore themselves to their original grandeur.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that Liz mentioned that her mom used to plant new roses on her birthday every year, so that’s really pretty cool.

    ROGER: Yeah. Right. And they flowered on Liz’s birthday, so that was pretty neat.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    One of the projects that you did with the apprentices is you actually did a road trip. And you went to the Minuteman Tech Vocational School and did a restoration project at the National Park.

    ROGER: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    TOM: So here you were working with a whole group of future landscapers and horticulturalists. What was that like?

    ROGER: They’re all eager to learn. I guess that’s the biggest thing I discovered. Every one of them wants to pitch in, get in and be part of the whole process.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: And it’s good because they push each other a little bit, you know?

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: And some of the work we were doing was dividing perennials, mostly daylilies. And they really learned really quick how you can take one daylily and make it four. And that’s a big accomplishment because now you have more you can use to cover or give away to someone.

    TOM: Right. And has it been a challenge for your industry, like others, to find students that want to learn the business?

    ROGER: Oh, it’s the hardest thing. The harder – everyone, every business has the same thing. I could do much more if I could just get employees.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you did a lot to help change that with the Generation NEXT project.

    I want to ask you about – one more part of this job was the tree. You had a Norway maple. And I know it breaks your heart to see a tree that has to come down. But this one did come down and you were able to replace it with some new landscaping. Tell me about that.

    ROGER: Yep. We always try to make a good evaluation of a tree before we cut it down. Unfortunately, sometimes they’re either dangerous or you know there’s no future for them the way they are.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: So, in this case, we took down, ground the stump and then around it, we planted three fruit trees. I believe there were two apples and one peach. And they’re going to fill in that corner and it’ll give them some screening but also some edible fruit.

    TOM: That’s fantastic. Roger Cook, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. What a great experience you guys have had here in Newton.

    ROGER: My pleasure.

    TOM: And you’ll find This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS stations. Plus, for more details and behind-the-scene photos, visit or follow @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHNewton.

    Well, generations of our homeowner’s family have lived in this home since 1890. And now, generations of general contractors are helping restore it.

    Charlie Silva, welcome to The Money Pit.

    CHARLIE: Thank you. Nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, you had your work cut out here for you. You were managing the homeowners, a group of brand-new apprentices and your Uncle Tommy. He probably was the one that didn’t listen to you much.

    CHARLIE: No, it takes a lot for him to listen to me.

    TOM: Now, you guys have been doing this for so long. It’s kind of like a finely-tuned machine. What was it like bringing on a whole new group of apprentices?

    CHARLIE: Well, to be honest with you, knowing we were going to be first getting three apprentices, number one, they’ve never met each other, all come from different parts of the country. And then we had them for 10 weeks. So, one of my first things was trying to think what am I going to do with them for 10 weeks?

    TOM: Right. Sure.

    CHARLIE: Not knowing their actual skill levels, our tasks on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis, right? So, whether you have bad weather, good weather, you want them to have a good experience.

    TOM: Of course.

    CHARLIE: So that was probably my biggest concern: that they had a good experience, they learned and we all worked together well.

    TOM: Yeah. Because you guys are such a tightly-woven group here. You’ve been working together for so long. You know what everybody’s thinking. You each know what your job is and that’s really important on a job site. So this was really a new mix that could have changed the whole formula.

    CHARLIE: Absolutely. Absolutely it could have.

    TOM: Now, one of the jobs we see the apprentices do right off the bat was rebuilding the porch. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that project. How did they do?

    CHARLIE: Truthfully, they did spectacular. And now I say that, I meant in all aspects as far as giving them tasks to do, nobody shying away from the grunt work.

    TOM: Right.

    CHARLIE: Which, in our world, you really have to learn the grunt work to get to the other levels to be good at it. And not one of them ever shied away from it and progressed right through the whole process.

    TOM: So, what did they learn? I mean what did they learn that maybe surprised them? What were you surprised at? So many times, when we work in a business, we take things for granted, things that we know just inherently. Like I saw your dad teach Bailey, I think it was, how to swing a hammer. It’s something you don’t – you probably haven’t thought about that for most of your life, right?

    CHARLIE: Yep. Yeah, that’s correct. But you know what? Some of the best were their attitudes. You can’t teach attitude. So they – I think they all came with an attitude to learn and to want to learn and to work. Well, we’ve all done things and maybe have – where we’ve come from or worked with other people, maybe have a certain way of doing things. But they didn’t shy away from learning the new way or learning a different way and listen, ask questions. So, I think that was – their attitudes were, truthfully, great.

    TOM: Do you think, going forward now, you might consider bringing on apprentices as a regular part of your crew, even if you’re not filming an episode or a season of This Old House?

    CHARLIE: Well, in my business, we do bring on apprentices. It doesn’t mean we have a new one every year.

    TOM: Right.

    CHARLIE: But hopefully, they want to stay. And whether you get one out of five that wants to stay in the business and learn, it’s good. But I’ve been saying it for many, many years: it’s tough to get the kids into the trades.

    TOM: Right. Yeah, well, it absolutely is.

    Now, one of the things that you did, which I thought was so important, is that you took them on the jobs with you. Not just this job but other jobs.

    And you’ve got a lot of projects going on. You’re a very well-known and experienced contractor or remodeling company in this area. I think a lot of folks that are in the trades think that because they can swing a hammer, they can run a business of hammer-swingers. And they never really learn sort of the back end: the customer service, the follow-up, the warranty, the planning, the getting the materials there on time and that sort of thing, scheduling, the weather, how it impacts things. You took the time to take each one of these apprentices with you to show them what it was like to learn the business side of remodeling.

    CHARLIE: That’s correct. I really wanted them to have that full experience, going back to what am I going to do with them for 10 weeks. So I took each one of them a couple of times to different job sites. And in that process, when we were going there, whether we talked about – I had to go to the lumberyard to pick up material for one job, to hit another job, go see a customer, talk to subcontractors on what they needed to do for different tasks coming up, scheduling. We talked about the weather, like you said, planning ahead. I always told them time is money. If my guys are losing time on my subcontractors, we’re losing money as a team.

    So, you really need to think ahead, watch the weather, snowstorm coming in. Or this job is winding down. What do you have for the guys for the next job? Make sure your permits are pulled. And it is a mental grind to pay attention of – to keep everybody busy. And it is truly the toughest part of the business of really – and once again, it’s working as a team. Someone might say to me, “Boy, you did a great job.” And I say, “No, we did a great job on that.”

    TOM: Yeah, yeah.

    CHARLIE: I might be the guy in the orchestra pit with the stick, just pointing when everybody is supposed to play their tunes, but we work together as a team.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah. And well, I tell you what, it was a fantastic experience for you. And of course, it was an amazing experience for these apprentices.

    Charlie Silva, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Well done.

    CHARLIE: Nice to be here.

    TOM: You’ll find This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show broadcasting today from a beautiful 1890, multigenerational home in Newton, Massachusetts. And it’s here where the This Old House team has invited the next generation of skilled tradespeople to help restore it. For the answer to your home improvement question, you can call in now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by

    Just ahead, we’ll find out what it took to make this 1890 home comfortable and energy-efficient. Then we’ll talk to the challenges that new heating-and-cooling technology is bringing to the industry, with This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey.

    Plus, we’ll meet the first of our This Old House apprentices: a young lady who has found her passion in a very non-traditional field because she’s learning to become a mason. We’ll be back with more from Newton, Massachusetts, after this.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Coming to you from Newton, Massachusetts today where we are enjoying the rare pleasure of watching the master tradesmen of This Old House finish up another real beauty of a project. It’s an 1890 multigenerational home in this, their 39th season.

    You’ll find This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS stations. Plus, for more details and behind-the-scene photos, visit or follow @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHNewton.

    And today’s broadcast is presented by HomeAdvisor. It’s the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project.

    Well, one of the projects completed by the team at This Old House this season was a brand-new master-bath suite. And a good part of that fell to This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey, who joins us now along with apprentice Austin Williams.

    Welcome, Richard. Welcome, Austin. Good to see you guys.

    RICHARD: Nice to see you or hear you.

    AUSTIN: Hello. Good to see you, too.

    TOM: Yeah. So, Richard, this was a whole new experience for you guys and it gave you the chance to turn the job site into a classroom. What was that like?

    RICHARD: So it was so exciting. You know, we were talking about this issue of not getting enough good people into the skilled trades for years. And so, this whole Generation NEXT thing really was a great thing to do. We did a competition. Austin was one of the guys that – we got guys and gals that we got from all around the country. And it really gave us a chance to teach these guys a little bit. But it was also a way to try and sell the whole idea about using your hands, for a career, to parents and to kids out there not knowing.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    RICHARD: This whole paradigm about going for a four-year degree and coming out with no job – we’ve been thinking it, we’ve been talking about it but this was our first year to really celebrate it. So, it was great.

    TOM: Yeah. And college isn’t for everybody.

    RICHARD: Yeah, that’s right.

    TOM: Austin, I read a bit about your background. I understand you graduated from high school and the very next day, you got on a plane for the first time ever, flew to Boston and ended up with these guys.

    AUSTIN: Yeah.

    TOM: That must have been a crazy experience.

    AUSTIN: It was. It was a big rush hour. My first plane flight ever.

    TOM: Yep.

    AUSTIN: Right after my first graduation of high school and only. So, it was definitely a rush but it was a great experience overall. It definitely helped me grow up, too, as some people may say.

    TOM: Yeah.

    AUSTIN: I had to learn how to be on my own without my mom.

    TOM: That’s right, yeah.

    AUSTIN: Just being here with the program, unexplainable how thankful I am of being able to win.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah.

    TOM: Well, it seems like you had an incredible experience and I think it’s pretty cool that you’ve been at the trades now since age 12. You were involved in a program called Kids Making It. It’s a woodworking program.

    AUSTIN: Correct.

    TOM: And now you’re going to go back and help some of those new kids learn some of the skills that you learned this past summer.

    AUSTIN: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I’m all about helping people out. I’ve always just known that I love to work with my hands, with wood, build different things. Even when I was, I guess, a little toddler, I had Legos and would always just try to build a castle or something, a house out of it.

    TOM: Right. Yeah. And look at you now, right?

    RICHARD and AUSTIN: Yeah.

    TOM: And now look what happened.

    AUSTIN: Yeah.

    RICHARD: I tried to sell him on plumbing but he was not touching the water.

    TOM: Well, speaking of selling him on plumbing, Richard, we’ve always seen, over the years, you tackle bits and pieces of different projects. And I thought what was interesting this season was that you actually turned roughing a bathroom, for example, into a classroom.

    RICHARD: Right.

    TOM: You had all the materials laid out. You basically took these guys from soup to nuts. “Here’s how we do this entire project.” And not only did you teach your apprentices but you really taught the audience at home.

    RICHARD: Right.

    TOM: That was very unusual for you.

    RICHARD: That’s exactly the point that we love, that this whole idea about Generation NEXT is we can take some license with the normal format we shoot in.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: Normally, we say, “Here’s what we’re doing.” But this was a chance to say, “Look into the apprentices.” But really to show, when you walk down that aisle at the home center and you see a million different bins with all the different fittings, what are the choices? What are the transition fittings? And we got to show that and it was really, really well received as far as “Hey, I didn’t know that there were that many angles,” and stuff like that. So, yeah, it was great.

    TOM: And I’ve got to ask you about – it was one part of the project that I thought was fascinating. Of course, the job of an HVAC professional is to make sure you have enough heat, enough BTUs going to the rooms that need them.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: You had a second-floor apartment here over a garage. You decided to use the garage floor to supply that heat. Nice luxury at the same time.

    RICHARD: Right, right. Well, I’ve never seen a concrete slab I didn’t think deserved to have radiant in it. So, if we’re going to pour new slab – they had this fabulous grid system that’s insulation and a thing to hold the tubing. You just snap it down like a – it’s like a game. You snap it in, pour it over. And then you run mild-temperature water. You heat the thing for peanuts.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: So not only are we going to help the in-laws to be warmer but when the cars will pull in, melt the snow off it, it’ll be great.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: And there’s another big premium – and the premium is that not extraordinary if we already have a heating boiler or always already – all we’re doing is taking a little manifold and some tubing.

    TOM: Right. Yeah, you just choose the distribution for that space.

    RICHARD: Yeah, that’s right.

    TOM: Well, Richard Trethewey, Austin, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit, telling us about your experience here.

    Congratulations to you, young man.

    AUSTIN: Thank you.

    TOM: You’ve got a bright future in front of you. I think I know at least one guy who’ll write you a letter of recommendation for your next job.

    RICHARD: You bet. You bet.

    TOM: And Richard, well done.

    RICHARD: Thank you.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at We are in Newton, Massachusetts today, the site of the 39th season project for This Old House.

    And for the answer to your home improvement questions, you can call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by

    Well, still to come, now that it’s winter, you may be enjoying sitting in front of a warm fire. But that only happens if the fireplace and chimney are properly designed and safe. And that was a project taken on by the This Old House team here in Newton. We’re going to talk to mason Mark McCullough and meet his apprentice: a young woman who is moving full steam ahead to learn the business of bricklaying. We’ll be back with more, after this.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    We’re on location today in Newton, Massachusetts, the site of the current project on this, the 39th season of America’s most popular home improvement show, This Old House.

    Now, one of the challenges this home faced was a rather oddly-placed fireplace. Restoring this, as well as adding a wood stove, was the job of This Old House mason Mark McCullough, who joins us now with his apprentice, Krysten Poulin.

    Welcome, Mark and Krysten.

    MARK and KRYSTEN: Hi, Tom.

    TOM: Nice to have you guys here.

    So, Mark, I want to hear about the fireplace work. But first, I understand that you were a pretty early adopter to the idea of hiring apprentices and getting them on your crew. And you started working with Krysten, actually, long before the project started. Tell me about that. How did you guys get together?

    MARK: We go through a hiring process. Krysten came in one day with someone else and they signed up for the – with the application and we started from there.

    TOM: But what about having an apprentice is important to you? Why do you use apprentices?

    MARK: Well, one of the main reasons is basically to keep the trade going. The chain of events – again, starting with the apprenticeship in a school – obviously leads to employment. We’re lucky enough to have a semi-pipeline of people that have been educated in the craft before coming to us. And again, that kind of gives everybody – them and us – a leg up on getting them involved in the trade.

    TOM: And Krysten, as a young woman learning to become a mason, it’s a rather non-traditional profession. What attracted you about the job?

    KRYSTEN: I actually started it when I was in high school.

    TOM: OK.

    KRYSTEN: We go through different trades, seeing what we like. And it was actually – wasn’t what I first wanted to do. But when I did end up getting into the shop and learning about everything, I actually ended up really enjoying it and I surprised myself.

    TOM: Well, that’s great. And now you’re surprising a lot of the guys, I bet, right?

    KRYSTEN: I try.

    TOM: Especially when you tell them what you do for a living. What’s this experience been like working with Mark and working on the This Old House project?

    KRYSTEN: I’ve learned a lot.

    TOM: Yeah?

    KRYSTEN: Coming out here, it’s – I never thought there’d be so much into masonry that I have actually – been actually learning now.

    TOM: Yeah, a lot of times when people look at a trade – and you probably see this all the time, especially when you tell people how much things cost, right?

    MARK: Sure.

    TOM: “How much to do what?”

    MARK: Yeah.

    TOM: You know, they don’t realize how much work is behind creating that brick wall or building that chimney or getting that wood stove ready to – for its first fire.

    MARK: That’s true. I mean even – everybody thinks they can labor and move brick and it’s kind of a bull trade.

    TOM: Right.

    MARK: Which, at the beginning, it probably is. But then, of course, once you learn how to lay the brick and the craft, it becomes a finesse situation. And again, from an artistic point of view, it’s a great way to, again, experience some artwork with the construction. We’re excited – very excited – to get new people in and kind of continue the tradition, if you will.

    TOM: Well, you’re right: it’s a form of sculpture.

    MARK: Sure. No, that’s the way we look at it.

    TOM: Now, one of the – I want to talk about the house. One of the projects you guys did is you worked on this chimney. Had a really sort of weird-shaped fireplace. It was tucked into an alcove. I don’t see people kind of sitting around that on a snowy night. What did you do with that?

    MARK: Well, again, first thing we saw and the first thing we noticed, it was just built way out of place. We really couldn’t figure out if it was an addition at one point or – definitely no rhyme or reason for it being where it was. So, again, with no purpose, we decided to take it right down and relocate the hearth. And it has another heating apparatus attached to it right now but we just moved it out of that space and (inaudible).

    TOM: Bremish (ph) just disassembled it – couldn’t be saved – and moved it somewhere else.

    MARK: That’s right.

    TOM: Yeah.

    MARK: As a matter of fact, Krysten and I pretty much did the whole thing together, brick by brick.

    TOM: Good. Took that whole chimney down right from the top, didn’t you, brick by brick?

    KRYSTEN: Yes, we did.

    TOM: Well, that’s pretty cool.

    Another project that you did, which I think was pretty unusual – kind of special, probably for you to see this, Krysten – was the garage slab. And it was unusual because how many people have a heated garage floor?

    MARK: Yeah.

    TOM: But when Richard Trethewey is on the job, that’s what you get, because he wanted to push some heat up to the apartment above. You guys built that garage floor in a very unusual way. You had insulation, you had PEX piping.

    MARK: Yep.

    TOM: Is working on that kind of floor different than a regular garage floor?

    MARK: Well, absolutely, for everything that you just said. But just like anything, you take the time, prep the area properly. We made a bunch of bridges so we didn’t step on the PEX and damage this PEX. And again, we were able to pour on top, if you will, as opposed to getting on our hands and knees and doing it that way.

    TOM: Yeah, you usually don’t have to insulate around a garage floor but that’s pretty much what you were working with.

    MARK: That’s what we were – that’s exactly how it broke down, yeah.

    TOM: And Krysten, what’s next for you? Going to keep working in this trade? You’re going to – are you still in school? What’s next for you in this business?

    KRYSTEN: No, I – so far, I’ve graduated high school a couple of years ago.

    TOM: OK.

    KRYSTEN: I do enjoy this trade. I do just want to work my way up and finally become a mason and get that title.

    TOM: Well, you’ve got a great teacher and a great experience.

    Mark, Krysten, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the set of the 39th season of TV’s This Old House in Newton, Massachusetts. You can watch the progress, as it happens, on your local PBS station or follow along online at, #TOHNewton.

    If you’ve got questions about your home improvement projects, you can call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by, the fast and easy way to find a home service pro you can trust. You can read reviews, compare prices and book appointments online.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler. We’ll be back with more from This Old House, after this.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the set of TV’s This Old House, which is now a newly-transformed 1890 home in Newton, Massachusetts. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    And one of the nicest luxuries in remodeling a bathroom is the opportunity to add a heated floor. And that was made possible thanks to the materials provided by Schluter Systems. With me to talk about that is Tim Roy. He’s the Schluter Systems Territory Manager.

    Welcome, Tim.

    TIM: Thank you for having me.

    TOM: So, warming a floor is usually something that’s very expensive and very time-consuming. But you guys have broken this down into a very simple system, which makes it go faster and cost less. Tell me about it.

    TIM: Correct. So what we have is a universal uncoupling membrane that’s designed to receive a wire.

    TOM: OK.

    TIM: Keeps it thinner. Faster to put in, which is obviously going to save you money as far as labor is concerned.

    TOM: And avoids the problems associated with wires that crack and break when the floors move, too.

    TIM: Correct. So the membrane itself is designed to keep a long-lasting, crack-free floor. And it’s also designed so that the wires snap right into it, tiled right over it.

    TOM: Stopping that tile from cracking is a big part of what you guys do. I mean your products are sort of legendary in the tile business. A lot of homeowners don’t necessarily know about the product but if you’re a tile pro, you sure do know about it. Because so many times, we see tiles that are put in over substandard floors or without the right membranes in it. You guys have a membrane called DITRA that stops a lot of the movement and isolates the tile from those cracks.

    For those that are not familiar with that step in the tiling process, tell us about it.

    TIM: So, what DITRA is is a universal uncoupling membrane. Essentially, it is your subfloor. It’s designed to prevent cracking in the floor. It’s going to separate your floor from the substrate. So your tile can expand and …

    TOM: So that’s why it’s called “uncoupling” because, basically, the tile assembly floats over the floor. It’s not attached to the subfloor, therefore you have less movement in that sense.

    TIM: It’s bonded but through an open rib structure that allows it to work independently from the substrate beneath.

    TOM: OK. Kind of like a shock-absorber, in a way.

    TIM: That’s the best way to put it.

    TOM: Does the house expand and contract without breaking the tiles in the process?

    TIM: Correct.

    TOM: And so, that’s something that I think folks should know to ask for if they’re going to have tile projects done. Because I think it’s not always done.

    TIM: No, it’s not. Yeah, if a homeowner’s having tile done in their home, it would definitely be a good way to prevent cracks. The nice thing about a DITRA Uncoupling Membrane is that it also can be waterproofed relatively easily. Tape the seams, you now have a waterproof floor. It can be used for vapor management, low distribution. It has a lot of benefits to it over traditional underlayment.

    TOM: We hear from homeowners that have tile that’s been – that’s moving, loose, coming up, cracking. And they want to know how they can fix it. Well, really can’t. If it wasn’t done right to begin with, everything you do to that is not going to change that from the top side. It’s got to be redone and redone with products like DITRA.

    TIM: Correct.

    TOM: Now, you also have a product that helped them build a shower seat in this project so that it would be sturdy and waterproof. Talk about that.

    TIM: Yep. So, in this particular project here, they use a product we have called KERDI-BOARD. It’s a dimensionally-stable Styrofoam board. We have it in a variety of different thicknesses, so they can use it for their wallboard, tile over that. They can use it to build their benches.

    A big advantage of it: it’s non-absorbative (ph). It won’t absorb water, it won’t rot. It’s dimensionally stable, easy to work with, et cetera.

    TOM: Fantastic. Tim Roy from Schluter Systems.

    If you’re going to do tile in your house, make sure your contractor is using products from Schluter Systems. They do great work.

    Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TIM: Thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you today from Newton, Massachusetts where we’ve enjoyed the rare privilege of watching the team at This Old House complete the final production day on this, their 39th season on a beautiful 1890s home.

    I want to take this opportunity to extend a very special thank you to the entire This Old House team for welcoming us here today. And if you’d like to learn more about the Newton House project or the Generation NEXT Initiative, visit or follow @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHNewton.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler. Remember, you can do it yourself but you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2017 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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