TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
And we are here in Newton, Massachusetts today, broadcasting with our friends from This Old House because they’ve invited us to be a part of the final production day of this project as they complete this, the 39th season of This Old House. And today’s broadcast is presented by HomeAdvisor.com, your source for finding top-rated home pros you can trust.
And with 39 seasons under their tool belts, This Old House has been a favorite for many generations of families. And this season’s project is all about building for the next generation. It’s a 1700-square-foot home originally built in 1879 and moved to the present site in 1890. The homeowners, Liz and Joe, have a young family and they’ve inherited the home from Liz’s mom. But what makes this project extra 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, thanks to a very special program created by This Old House called Generation NEXT.
Coming up this hour, we’ll get all the details straight from the This Old House team, including Tom Silva, Norm Abram and Kevin O’Connor. Plus, we’ll hear from some of the very talented apprentices who, after a nationwide search, were selected to work side by side with the expert tradesmen of This Old House on the project. Plus, we’ll meet the lucky homeowners hoping this house will be with them for generations to come. And we’ll talk to the design pros that helped bring the vision to life.
So let’s kick it off this hour by talking to general contractor Tom Silva and apprentice Bailey Beers.
Welcome, Tom and Bailey.
TOM SILVA: Well, thanks, Tom. Nice to be here, as usual.
TOM: Yeah. So, you know, This Old House projects are always amazing. But what I think is different about this season is that they’re also inspiring when you see the impact the experience has had on these apprentices. So, how’d they do?
TOM SILVA: I think they did great. I think they had fun, I think they learned a lot of stuff. They were not complainers at all, which is always good on a job site.
TOM: I guess that was a good thing.
And Bailey, this must have been like going to school for you. This was sort of a very special opportunity to attend This Old House University.
BAILEY: Yeah, it was pretty awesome to be able to come down here and learn some new stuff.
TOM: What was it like learning from the masters?
BAILEY: It was awesome. I mean I watched them when I was a kid, so being able to learn from them was extra special.
TOM SILVA: Well, you’re still kind of a kid.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. You haven’t graduated yet.
Now, you have just completed your first year of college in the building-construction trades. It’s a program in Maine. Tell me about that program.
BAILEY: So, it’s a community college and we have a building-construction program. We also have fine woodworking and we start off our first year and we build a house, right from start to finish. And then now that – I’ve done the first semester of my second year and we did some commercial stuff and some stairs. And I’m excited to move onto the next semester and do some cabinetry. And we’re doing right start to finish on these houses.
TOM: And you’ve seen a lot here from start to finish that you’ll be able to take forward and share with your fellow students in that program.
Now, Tom, one of the things that I liked about this season, which was a little bit different, is because you had the apprentices, you had the ability to kind of create segments, in and of themselves, that were sort of basic lessons. And the first one I saw you do was an explanation of all the tools that they were going to need, straight through to and including the tool belts which, by the way, look a little bit different now that you’re done than when they started.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. As we get them started with basic stuff – and I said to them, right at the beginning, that this may not be something that you prefer or like. And you’ll find, over time, that you’ll go with your own belt or your own tools. And you’ve got to be comfortable with what you’re working in, because it’s attached to you all day long.
TOM: Absolutely. Now, one of the projects that you had the apprentices work on early on was to completely rebuild the porch. Now, that’s a project that most folks that own older homes have to do sooner or later. Those porches wear a lot quicker than the rest of the house and they start to fall away and sag and rot. And that was what was happening here. But it was a pretty big job for first time out of the gate.
TOM SILVA: It was a big job. And you’re so right: porches wear out over time. Whether they’re beaten up, they’re – this one had a roof over it but it wasn’t enclosed on the side. So it still gets beaten up pretty good, the sun in the morning. Those are the enemies. But we had structural issues, so we had to reframe the whole underneath. But the big deal was the demolition and the jacking and the supporting. They learned to do that and they ripped everything out and got ready for a new framing. And we went through the framing lessons and they put it all back together.
TOM: And Bailey, when you heard that you guys were going to take on that project, did it feel a little overwhelming at first?
BAILEY: A little bit at first. And once we got in, we found lots of issues that we weren’t necessarily expecting. But I definitely learned a lot and it will be helpful with any renovations I do in the future.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, absolutely. We found a lot of insects.
TOM and BAILEY: Yeah.
TOM: Well, they need a place to live, too, but just not this porch, thank you very much.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely.
TOM SILVA: Not this porch, not this ceiling, the wall and the sill.
TOM: And the …
BAILEY: Oh, not the beam, either, holding up the house.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Then there’s that, right?
TOM: Now, one of the things you guys tried to save, initially, in the porch was the columns. And that’s something we all appreciate: the architecture of 100 years past, where you have these beautiful columns. You couldn’t do that but I think you didn’t know that until you really took it apart. And I noticed that you were struggling because the porch was out of level, it was out of plumb, it was out of everything. And you were trying to build it, originally, so you can get those columns back in.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, we were trying to get the columns back in but the columns, unfortunately, were just too rotted on the bottom. You know, if the column is solid, then you could turn a new base and turn it on there and all this. But being built-up columns, segmented, it’s pretty hard to salvage them.
TOM: And you ended up using a polyester column that was reinforced with marble chips.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, right. And you never have to worry about that rotting. Those are great columns. We use them a lot.
TOM: Yeah. It looked just like the real thing.
TOM SILVA: Can’t tell the difference. They’ll just be there forever, though.
TOM: Now, as is typical of a lot of older homes, a lot of the work you did was renovating to open up walls, including those that were bearing in that new addition. And that’s a topic we’re asked a lot about. Not an easy thing to do and you had some issues with floors being out of level here.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, well, the homeowners had an addition put on. Liz’s mother, I think, had it put on, oh, 20-plus years ago. New kitchen. But unfortunately, when it was framed, we found out that the foundation was out of level and out of square. And they built the floor to it. So, there was a transition point from the family room into the dining room that was a step. And the step was an inch-and-a-quarter. And then, if you slid over to the kitchen, the transition from the family room into the kitchen was actually a ramp, so …
TOM: Wow. You have opposing forces there to deal with.
TOM SILVA: Yep. We had definitely opposing forces. And it was typical construction where it was built to code, so it was pretty light and the floor had a little bit of bounce in it. We ended up – something that we didn’t plan on doing was taking the whole addition down, restructuring the floor, new walls – the walls had to be made higher, anyways – and making a second floor for the master suite.
TOM: And now it looks fantastic.
Another project that you did was you installed a suspended concrete floor. Now, that’s something we see a lot in commercial construction but I think it’s got to be pretty rare for residential.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: And that was to provide the base for the wood stove. We saw you frame that, drop in some corrugated steel panels and man …
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Those panels were heavy. It actually – that was a little bit of overkill but we had some material left from another job and we said, “You know what? We might as well use it. It’s not going to hurt. I’d rather overbuild it than underbuild it.”
TOM: Yeah. Another unique lesson for you, Bailey, right? Something that you wouldn’t see every day.
BAILEY: Right. Absolutely.
TOM: So what’s next for you now that you’ve completed your apprenticeship here with these guys?
BAILEY: I’m going to finish school and graduate in May. And I’m looking for jobs in the area possibly working for a builder, possibly working for a lumber company doing some designing and estimating on houses.
TOM SILVA: That’d be cool.
TOM: Well, I guess – I bet you I know one guy that’d give you a good letter of recommendation. A few people now.
TOM: Tommy, Bailey, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Congratulations on a great project and a great experience.
BAILEY: Thank you.
TOM SILVA: It’s always great to be here, Tom.
TOM: 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 ThisOldHouse.com.
You’re listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com coming to you today from Newton, Massachusetts.
Just ahead, have you ever dreamed that this could happen to you, that your home renovation could be completed by the very finest tradesmen in America with every moment captured for television? Well, that’s what happens to each and every homeowner of a This Old House project house. And we’re going to talk to the latest members of that very exclusive club, Newton homeowners Liz and Joe Delfino, after this.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler and on location today 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 ThisOldHouse.com 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, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com.
Well, for many homeowners, having a renovation completed by the team at This Old House was a dream come true. And that’s exactly what happened to Liz and Joe Delfino, the owners of this beautiful home that was completed today. You guys must be two very happy people right now.
LIZ: I just can’t believe it.
TOM: Right? After all of these weeks, to see it all come together must be overwhelming.
JOE: Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean we’ve been thinking about this house for so long and to actually walk through it and have it finished it’s …
TOM: Right. To see it done, right?
TOM: Yeah. Liz, tell me about the backstory on this house. I understand you grew up here.
LIZ: Yes, I grew up here. I moved here when I was two.
LIZ: Actually, the same age as my oldest daughter, so that’s kind of funny.
TOM: Wow. That’s weird, right? Yeah.
LIZ: Yeah. And I lived here through high school and then moved out for college. And two years ago, we lost my mom and inherited the house. And it just seemed like a no-brainer to move back in.
TOM: Oh, yeah. And it’s a beautiful house. It’s a beautiful neighborhood. I was looking at all the buildings around. Saw some beautiful Queen Anne’s out there on Lincoln Avenue and just a gorgeous place.
TOM: Now, you had some kind of weird problems with this house you dealt with, right? And one of them was a very strangely-placed fireplace.
LIZ: Oh, yeah, the fireplace.
TOM: I guess that was there when you were a kid. Did you ever even use it?
LIZ: Oh, we did, yeah.
LIZ: We would light it for different parties. I got to roast a few marshmallows.
LIZ: Santa would come down the chimney and we’d have our stockings there. But really, it was freezing.
TOM: Yeah, yeah.
LIZ: Even with the fire, I think it was even more cold.
TOM: Yeah. And also, Joe, you had a dated kitchen here. I made a note that the 80s called and they wanted their kitchen back, right?
JOE: Yep. Yep. It served its purpose for many, many years but it was time to fix it up and refresh it and …
LIZ: Yeah, the cabinets were kind of pulling out of the wall by the time …
TOM: Yeah. It was time, right? Yeah.
TOM: Now, you worked on some projects yourself. Let’s talk about some of those. Joe, I know that the wood stove was an important project for you.
JOE: Yeah. I grew up having a wood stove and it’s just such a nice thing to have in the living room and have that nice heat and I just – I really wanted to – that was one of the first things that we decided about this is we were going to do work on it. We wanted to put a wood stove in.
TOM: And those wood stoves today are a lot more efficient. They’re a lot safer to do and you can put them in more places.
JOE: Yeah, yeah. Our stove is actually a catalytic stove, so it’s similar to a catalytic combustor in a car. It re-burns all the exhaust and it’s really efficient.
TOM: And Liz, you actually took a stained-glass class, right – a stained-glass window class – and built a window for this house?
LIZ: I did, yeah. I returned to this instructor, Michel – I’m going to butcher his last name – L’Huillier.
LIZ: And I had taken a class with him 10 years ago and did a window in our Somerville house. And then I decided we really wanted to do something like that here in Newton. And the best way to do it was to take his class. And it was mostly a studio with a lot of guidance and there are people who had done a lot of work in stained glass.
LIZ: So, I had a lot of time and was able to complete it on time.
TOM: That’s fantastic.
And Joe, you got to work with the master himself – Norm Abram, master contractor – and actually got to hang a bunch of doors. You used old doors. I know recycling and repurposing was important to you and you actually reinstalled some doors, from different parts of the house, up here with Norm.
JOE: Yeah. He had me chiseling out the openings for the hinges and everything.
JOE: And we – it took a little tweaking but we got them all to close properly. And that’s one of those things that – it’s one of my pet peeves. I really can’t stand doors that don’t close properly, so it was exciting to be able to get with him.
TOM: I bet that door closes perfectly now. And I can tell you it will for generations, right?
TOM: So, you guys must be excited about now this house is really ready for your daughter and all the generations to follow, right?
LIZ: Yeah. Yep. It’s unbelievable that we get to live here and just so blessed. I don’t know.
JOE: Yeah, yeah. It doesn’t seem real, you know?
JOE: It doesn’t seem like we’re actually going to move in and live here but we are in a week so …
TOM: Yeah. Well, alright. Well, congratulations. It’s a beautiful home. So glad you’re able to have it restored now for the next generation with the help of This Old House and their very talented apprentices. So, good luck.
LIZ: Thank you so much.
JOE: Yeah. Alright. Thank you.
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 ThisOldHouse.com or follow @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHNewton.
Well, it takes a trained eye to make sure what starts as concrete, lumber and drywall becomes a beautiful, stylish home. And that’s the task of the design team. To learn more about the design work that went into this home, I’m pleased to welcome designer Chloë Rideout.
TOM: So, I understand that your firm did both the architectural plans and the design work. Now, as a designer, that’s kind of unique and it’s kind of cool because sometimes, by the time you get to the job, all these decisions were made for you, right?
CHLOË: Right. Well, we have a great sense of communication in the office since we have the architects and the designers in the same space. So, in a sense, it really opens up the realm for possibilities during the construction phase. You have a good sense of what’s going on. If you have any questions that arise during construction, it’s very easy to communicate with everyone. It’s a really good system, we find.
TOM: So the earlier the designer’s involved, the better for the final result.
TOM: That’s great.
Now, one of the things that you worked on a lot was the tile choices. And one of the products you recommended was cement tile. That’s not as well-known as other types of tile. Can you talk about that?
CHLOË: So, cement tile is great and has a lot of customization. You can – there was the episode where we got to customize the tile in the mud room and we got to pick everything from color to the pattern and really make it their own. Really great material for that, which I’m sure Leslie knows.
TOM: And you actually were using an online tool where you could pick not only the color of the tile but the color of every piece of the pattern and see it sort of painted in front of you. Now, that’s pretty cool because I’m sure you, over the years, have spent many hours in tile showrooms just looking at every piece of ceramic or marble or whatever that’s out there to find that perfect tile. And even doing that, by the time you get it to the house half the time, it doesn’t feel the same. You’re actually doing it right from scratch.
CHLOË: Right. That’s sort of how we started the journey. We were looking at what was available in a tile showroom for cement. And then we were like, “You know what? This isn’t really exactly what we want.” And that’s where we came across this brand that let us customize using the online software, to make sure that the end result was really what the homeowners and we wanted.
TOM: Now, Chloë, I saw that you worked in the kitchen a lot. There were a lot of elements to the kitchen. And what I think was interesting about that process is that you started with a piece of china that was interesting and important to Liz, the homeowner.
CHLOË: Correct. Right. It belonged to her grandmother.
TOM: And that’s not unusual. People get overwhelmed by the choices when you say, “Well, what do you like?” “Well, I like this plate. Can we start building from that?” That’s a great technique for people to kind of figure out what colors and patterns and feel they want for a room.
CHLOË: Right. And because this house was so much about her family, we thought it was a really good jumping-off point, for the kitchen design, to take the element of blue and a dark blue and displaying the china and really incorporate that into all the visual elements of the kitchen.
TOM: So, Chloë, before I let you go, I’ve got to ask you one question. And we get asked this all the time. Folks have bathrooms with well-built tile, mud walls but the colors are awful. We’re talking about the lavenders and the avocados and the sunflower yellows from years ago no longer in style. How do you decorate around that without replacing the tile?
CHLOË: So I think one of the best things to do is to embrace it and do something a little fun with it. You can bring in some neutral patterns in there. You can maybe switch the plumbing fixtures so you’re doing a fun finish on that, maybe some satin brass. But a lot of the bathrooms that we’re seeing now are really embracing some of those mid-century, modern design elements. And a lot of those have those older colors, like the avocado, the lavender, the pink. More and more, you’re going to be seeing an embrace of those funky color choices.
TOM: So, if you wait long enough, it’ll come back in style. Fantastic. Chloë Rideout, the designer for This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
CHLOË: Thank you.
TOM: Hey, if you’d like to learn more about this project, 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 ThisOldHouse.com.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show broadcasting today from a beautiful 1890s multigenerational home in Newton, Massachusetts. And it’s where the This Old House team has invited the next generation of skilled tradespeople to help restore it.
For the answers to your home improvement questions, you can call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com.
Just ahead, we’ll be joined by master carpenter Norm Abram and find out about the projects he took on in this home to get it ready for the next generations. Plus, we’ll meet more of the apprentices who were working side by side with Norm and the team and inspiring millions more to become the next generation of skilled tradespeople at home. We’ll be back with that and much more live from the This Old House project in Newton, Massachusetts, after this.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com coming to you from Newton, Massachusetts today, where the team at This Old House is restoring an 1890s family home to ready it for the next generation. And they’re doing this with the help of the next generations of skilled tradespeople. You can catch the next episode on your local PBS station or follow along at ThisOldHouse.com.
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, every season on This Old House, we see amazing transformations of homes. But this is a season devoted to more than that. Because what we’re seeing is the beginning of what we hope will be the transformation of lives. And that’s thanks to a very special program created by This Old House called Generation NEXT. To learn more about the program and the work being done here in Newton, I’m pleased to welcome Norm Abram and apprentice Nathan Gilbert.
NORM: Hey, Tom.
NATHAN: How you doing?
TOM: So, Norm, this is a home that’s being built for the next generation of this family. But it’s also being built by the next generation of skilled tradespeople. It’s the 39th season. You’ve been around for most of that. I guess it’s about darn time you got some help, right?
NORM: Well, yeah.
TOM: What’s the experience been like for you?
NORM: Oh, it’s been great having the apprentices here. We have been thinking about this whole Generation NEXT and the big skills gap. And all of us who work in the trades here as carpenters and plumbers and electricians are pretty passionate about what we do. And we also realize that there’s a serious problem across the country and that there’s not enough people filling these jobs.
TOM: You’ve been working a lot with Mike Rowe’s foundation to raise a lot of money, not only having these guys here but you guys have raised over a half-million dollars so far.
NORM: Right. Mike was fabulous. We didn’t have a foundation in place with This Old House, so Eric Thorkilsen, our president, made an approach to Mike. He talked to me. He said, “What do you think about Mike Rowe?” And I said, “I think his mission is global, even bigger than ours. And he would be a perfect fit, I think, if he’s willing to do it.”
So I went out to Colorado, met up with him. And it was – he was on board right away, which was great. And he’s already got, as you said, a half-million dollars scholarship money. We’re raising more now to give him probably – in January, at the Builders’ Show, we hope to do it again.
TOM: Well, that’s fantastic.
Now, Nathan, you’re one of the first beneficiaries of this program. You’re a second-generation finish carpenter, third generation Navy Seabee. What’s it been like to learn from the masters around here?
NATHAN: I say that it’s been incredible. It’s like a dream come true. You grow up watching the show, right? To finally work next to them, it’s almost surreal and almost kind of flies by. I was talking to one of the other people who works for Charlie Silva – Mike – and it’s almost like you can’t really enjoy the situation because it’s like it’s not even real. But to work next to them and learn what they have to offer and be here every day on a job of this caliber has been incredible.
TOM: And Norm, for most of this season, we’ve seen you guys sort of holding classes for the apprentices. I thought that was very interesting because in the past, we’ve always seen you do pieces – “I’m going to trim this door” or “I’m going to fix this squeak” or whatever it is – but this season, we got to see you guys actually hold a class on how to frame a wall, for example.
NORM: Sure. We had these classes. Tommy did several. One of the ones that I did was Framing 101.
NORM: So we got the three of them together and we were up here on the second floor of this house and building a cross-wall that would define part of the bathroom and the master-bedroom closets. So, what I really wanted to do is just pick out the important things from a perspective of step by step.
NORM: So let’s lay out where it’s going to go, learn a little bit about laying out the spacing of the studs and how you mark the pieces as you go. And the one that I really was concentrating on the most – I wanted them to understand the use of a plumb bob rather than a level and to use the plumb bob to set the marks on the ceiling.
TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.
NORM: And that’s also the way I was taught to do it. It’s foolproof. I don’t think it gets used enough and so I try to pass that along. And then when it came to cutting, there’s a lot of different techniques. Some carpenters will stack up a dozen 2-bys on edge and mark them and gang-cut them. Well, I figure they’re not – probably not at that level and I was never that kind of a carpenter, because I think I go for a little more accuracy.
NORM: So I showed them how to make a basic stick, so they didn’t have to measure every single piece. And if by making one marked speed square, they would get a nice square cut. So we nailed it together, we put it up. And that’s what it’s all about. You start with a pile of lumber, you learn how to lay it out, cut it, put it together and put the wall up.
And you can do it once, you can do it 1,000 times, there’s still something about it that’s very satisfying.
TOM: Absolutely. I mean that’s – when you see the walls go up on a house, a lot of folks think, “Oh, gosh, we’re almost done,” you know? They have no idea how much work follows those frames – that frame.
NORM: Right. Yeah, that’s right.
TOM: But now Nathan is a finish carpenter. Framing was probably something that you didn’t do as much. What did you learn from these guys?
NATHAN: Like Norm said, you can do it in mass quantities or you can take your time in the attention to details, which I do see in doing trim work and finish work. But you need to be just as accurate framing as you do with finish work because it – one thing is just another layer. It all layers on itself.
NATHAN: And to take the time to do it right with a plumb bob and make sure each cut’s accurate, that’s – it’s the root of everything and it’s very important.
TOM: Norm, what surprised you about working with the apprentices? A lot of times we assume things that we do every single day. But sometimes, you’re surprised with something that they find amazement in.
NORM: Well, I think what amazed me the most about this group of three that we’ve had here is – when I was working with my father, we used to get the top graduate out of the Worcester Tech School.
NORM: And they would come on the job site and they had a bit of an attitude. It was kind of like, “I went to school. I know how to do all this. I want $25 an hour.”
NORM: It’s like whoa, wait a minute. Learning at school is great. I didn’t go that route. I had a father who was a carpenter and did it differently. But learning at school is great but where you learn the most is on the job site, in the job-site conditions.
And I was pleased to see all three of them, in some interviews that they did with our director, all say that they understood that it was a learning process. And that really made me feel good.
NORM: Because if they understand it’s a learning process, they’ll take that throughout their whole career. And that’s when they’re going to become great craftsmen.
TOM: Fantastic. Norm Abram and Nathan Gilbert, thanks so much, guys, for stopping by The Money Pit telling us about this amazing experience. You’ve done amazing work here. You’ve got a very bright future in front of you, young man, thanks to guys like this and the rest of the team at This Old House.
NATHAN: Thank you very much. Thank you.
NORM: Thanks, Tom. Great to talk to you again.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com coming to you today from Newton, Massachusetts on the wrap day for the 39th season of This Old House.
For the answer to your home improvement question, you can call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com.
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. I’m Tom Kraeutler on location today in Newton, Massachusetts at the site of the current project on this, the 39th season of America’s most popular home improvement television show, This Old House.
Now, we get to see this program one episode at a time, one perfectly polished episode at a time. But the work that goes into this starts many, many months before you actually see it on air. And it involves a lot of time on the part of my next guest. Chris Wolfe is the executive producer of This Old House.
CHRIS: It’s great to be here.
TOM: Now, producing a show like this, where you’ve got to deal with not only a construction schedule but a production schedule for the TV show, is a whole new set of challenges that most remodelers don’t have to face.
CHRIS: That’s certainly true, yeah. It is quite an effort for us to make sure that our television-production schedule lines up with a construction schedule. But it is the construction schedule that comes first. All of our projects are real-world projects that would be happening. And our goal is to try to follow those projects, to chronicle them in much the way that they would have happened whether we were filming or not.
TOM: And that’s a key to your success with 39 seasons. Many shows write the show first and then they fill in the scenes with what’s going to happen. You don’t do that. The scenes are happening and it’s your job to let the house and the work and the tradesmen tell the story.
CHRIS: Absolutely. And that idea – that mission, if you want to call it that – has been with us from Day One on our show. This Old House has always put the work first. It is about – whether it is something very specific, that it’s a miter that Tommy’s cutting, he’s showing you exactly how to get that tight and to have it look right or it is the whole project across the whole board, the work comes first. And we try to take all of our cues from what the craftsmen are telling us, what the contractors are telling us, what the project needs and what the construction schedule demands.
TOM: And this particular project is very special in a sense that you’re not only restoring this house for the next generations of the owners’ family, you’re creating an opportunity for the next generation of skilled tradespeople by including apprentices in this project.
CHRIS: It was a huge part of this project for us to use this project, this house as an opportunity for us to bring a couple of apprentices – more than a couple, actually. We’ve had three apprentices that were here with us full-time through the summer but we’ve had a host of other apprentices, in other trades, come through at different times. This project and our show, in a sense, really are an opportunity for us to teach those apprentices the skills that they will need in their careers coming up but also to demonstrate, to our audience, what it’s like to work in the trades.
And to some extent, we’ve always done that. But it’s especially important now we model what it’s like when you’re starting out in the building trades. What is it like on a job site? What skills do you need to learn? Specific skills but also general skills about running a business, about being on a job site, being in any professional setting.
TOM: Now, Chris, in addition to giving the apprentices that worked on this project an opportunity to enhance their skills, you guys have actually raised over a half-million dollars in scholarships for folks around the country that want to get into the skilled trades.
CHRIS: We have. And that’s another really important aspect of our Generation NEXT campaign is to fund scholarships for people who want to enter the building trades. We need more carpenters, we need more plumbers, more electricians. And that’s what those scholarships are meant to do.
TOM: Well, well done. I know there’s a lot of folks that really appreciate that, as well as the viewers that have had the opportunity, the privilege to watch the 39th season of This Old House.
Chris Wolfe, Executive Producer, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
CHRIS: Happy to do it.
TOM: 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 ThisOldHouse.com.
Up next, Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, joins us with the story of a program that’s helping folks who took some very wrong turns in life find new success in the trades. And for the answer to your home improvement question, you can call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com, the fast and easy way to find a home service pro you can trust. You can read reviews, compare prices and book appointments online.
We’ll be back with more from the team at This Old House in Newton, Massachusetts, after this.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler coming to you today from Newton, Massachusetts where I’m very pleased to be on site with the entire cast of This Old House as they wrap up on this, their 39th season.
And I’m joined, once again, by Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House.
And Kevin, I can tell that this must have been a very fulfilling project for you guys. You’re making a real dent to close the skills gap and helping a lot of young people find opportunities in the trades.
KEVIN: Yeah, it really got us energized to have a lot of young folks come onto the job site. I think they really enjoyed working next to Richard, Tom, Roger, Norm and those. But seeing their energy, seeing their enthusiasm, it’s kind of contagious and it does actually make you feel hopeful that there is another wave of people who are dedicated to the trades, who are going to do what they have to do to learn these skills so that that knowledge can be passed on.
TOM: Now, one of the trips that you took was to kind of see a Generation NEXT success story, sort of live and in person. It was in Baltimore and it was a program called Project JumpStart. And the students there had taken some wrong turns early in their life. Talk to us about that.
KEVIN: It is a program set up for, as you say, folks that have maybe gone left or right, taken that wrong turn. But they’ve decided that an opportunity for them to get back on the straight and narrow is going to be provided through the trades. And that’s not always an easy step to take.
And so Project JumpStart is there to do a couple of things. They’re there to actually give them an education, so they’re in classes and they’re learning things that are important, such as math and writing and those types of things. But they’re also learning a trade, so they had guys out on the floor learning how to drill through the studs, to run the plumbing pipes, how to actually wire electrical boxes. Different skills for different trades.
And most importantly, they are being taught what the employers actually want from these kids. Because they’re going to be placed in jobs and they’re going to be given good jobs and actually careers, in most cases, when they get out of the program.
TOM: Well, talk about transformation. I mean we say they took wrong turns. These folks are recovering drug addicts, they’re non-violent offenders. These are folks that have been in and out of jails for a good part of their life, in some cases. And they’ve really gotten their act together with this program. And the program really sort of holds their feet to the fire, doesn’t it?
KEVIN: Yeah. Because I think if you made those decisions, it’s very difficult for an employer to take a chance on you.
KEVIN: And so Project JumpStart is trying to show the employers, who they’ve got good relationships with, that these kids are qualified, that they’ve made changes in their life. And the interesting thing is the employers, what they’ve told the program is, “You know what? I’m not actually that concerned with their ability to wire an electrical box or to plumb a house.”
KEVIN: What they really want is they want a good attitude. They want somebody who’s going to show up on time. And they want somebody who’s going to stay there and work hard. And it is a very rigorous program. If you do not show up two or three times for class, you’re out.
TOM: You’re out. That’s it. Yeah.
KEVIN: You’re done. And they just need to know. And they learn that very quickly that a lot of this is about great attitude and getting there to the job site without being late, because that’s what employers want.
TOM: Well, great project, great initiative. If there are folks listening that would like to get involved in the trades, what advice would you give them?
KEVIN: Well, I think, you know, it’s something that people should consider. There’s been a stigma, I think, that’s been bad for the trades. So they should realize that there are a lot of very smart, talented people with very good careers. There’s a lot of jobs out there that exist that are unfulfilled. So think about it as a viable alternative for college.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, great work this season, my friend. Thanks so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Thank you for having us. Always a pleasure to be here.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from Newton, Massachusetts and the home of the 39th season of TV’s This Old House. I want to take an opportunity to extend a very special thank you to the entire team of This Old House for welcoming us here today. But if you’d like to learn more about the Newton Project or the Generation NEXT Initiative, visit ThisOldHouse.com 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.
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