TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler and coming to you today from a very special location.
I am in Arlington, Massachusetts, the site of the latest project of the 37th season of This Old House. And today is the final day of production and we are here, right in the midst of all of the craziness – the cameras, the sawdust, the people – to bring you the story of this amazing home and its renovation by the awesome team at This Old House.
And an amazing home it is. The transformation of this home from a plain Jane Arts and Crafts home, where you could barely tell what the style was, to what they’ve brought you today is absolutely amazing. So you’ve got to follow along at ThisOldHouse.com. You can watch the first eight episodes there. You can also, of course, watch them on your local PBS station. Just check for local listings or follow them on social media @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHArlington.
Coming up this hour, we’re going to get all the details straight from the This Old House team. Plus, we’re going to talk to the design pros that helped bring the vision to life.
Well, each project taken on by This Old House has very unique characteristics. And this home certainly does, as well. It was built in 1909 in a style called Arts and Crafts. To learn more about the home and the style it embodies, we welcome a guy who certainly embodies style in all his work and in his flammable shirts: Norm Abram.
NORM: It’s good to be here.
TOM: It’s so great to have you back again. First of all, 37th season. Let’s let that sink in.
TOM: That’s a lot of years.
NORM: That’s a lot of years.
TOM: You have inspired millions of people with your work on This Old House and Ask This Old House and Yankee Workshop. What keeps you going?
NORM: I guess it’s the fans.
NORM: I walk into a grocery store and someone comes up to me and says, “You’re Norm Abram?” And I say, “Yeah.” And they say, “Oh, we watch your show all the time.” And they just start these conversations and they’re also grateful for what we all do.
You know, I think they respect the brand and they watch the shows. They obviously know what’s going on. And so that’s a good feeling to have that going. It doesn’t feel like 37 years.
NORM: I mean I realize it’s over half my life so far. And that was kind of a shock.
NORM: But it’s an interesting process. I love construction, I love building things and I love sharing the information with the public.
TOM: Now, this home is built in a style called Arts and Crafts. And I understand that Nick and Emily – we talked with them earlier. Emily actually figured that out with a Google search, which is how we do things today.
TOM: But Arts and Crafts was actually a pretty common design to this particular part of the country, right?
NORM: Yeah. Well, it came – I think there’s a lot of Arts and Crafts influence across the country, actually. And here, in the Northeast, you see it but you see it on a different form than most people expect it to be.
NORM: And that’s what happened with our house. In the first shoot that we did here – and Kevin came up and I said, “Oh, what’s the style?” I said, “Arts and Crafts.” He goes, “That’s not an Arts and Crafts.” I said, “Yes it is.” It’s an early version of Arts and Crafts. It’s much more influenced by the English.
Arts and Crafts really started in Europe, in England, and it was really – came about because it was a transitional period between the Victorian era and very fancy and detailed things to be more about craftsmanship.
NORM: It’s about how things are done and how well they’re done.
TOM: I thought it was ironic that in England, they saw Victorian homes as factory-made.
TOM: Factory-made rubbish.
NORM: Well, that’s right. Right, right. That’s one of the distinguishing factors is that Arts and Crafts was just the opposite of factory-made.
NORM: It was all handmade and there was individual craftsmen working on it. Our house here is very subtle in terms of craftsmen style. The cement on the gables, the half-timbers on the gables and the steep pitched roof and little bit of the overhang and brackets. And as Richard Duffy, who’s our expert here in this town, has a treasure trove of all styles of houses.
NORM: He said, “It’s subtle but it’s there.”
NORM: So we went on a little tour. And I don’t pretend to be an expert about Arts and Crafts but I learned a lot from him. He took me to a house that represents Arts and Crafts in a way most people would picture it. So he said, “What makes this Arts and Crafts? The large overhangs, the steep roof pitch, the boxed-out bay window.”
NORM: And that house had an entrance door that was a little different. And I challenged him on that and he said, “Well, this is a New England thing.”
NORM: This is definitely a New England-period entry. So sometimes we call this Craftsman New England.
NORM: But then he said, “I can show you something that most people will recognize as Craftsman style, which is a bungalow.” And that’s what most people think.
NORM: You’re out in California, you see all these Craftsman-style homes. I personally love a lot of the features of the Craftsman-style homes.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
NORM: The shed dormers. In the later ones, you see these porches where the roofline comes down and it encompasses the porch, as well. And you see columns made out of stone that are tapered and nice window details. That’s when you start to see what most people think is Arts and Crafts.
And he took us to another one, which was sided, much like ours. It had the cement and the half-timbers on the gables. But what gave you a signal that it was an Arts and Crafts is that the roofline – rooflines are often very steep and they start from the very top and they come all the way down to the first floor.
NORM: It sometimes has that slight, little curve.
TOM: Right. It’s almost like a ski jump or something.
TOM: It shoots all the way down from the top, yeah.
NORM: Right. So they’re very subtle. And they also – on that house, the windows – you can look at – the windows sometimes are a cue to Arts and Crafts. The top third of the window will be divided lights, the bottom third is a single pane of glass. And so it’s all these little things that you start to see.
But where you really see it is when you go to a house and you go on the inside and you see the inside of the house. We took us to the Paine Estate where there’s a house there that we just spent our time on the inside. And what was interesting about that is that really brought out the fact about craftsmanship.
NORM: That was a house that was designed by H. H. Richardson. It was built in 1886. And when we went up to the fireplace, there were these very intricate carvings that went down each side of the fireplace to support the mantel. And you have to really look at it closely but they weren’t the same. But they were close to the same.
NORM: And he said, “Well, the idea was that you brought in all these craftsmen and they were given a certain amount of freedom to show their own style.”
TOM: So each one was made by a separate craftsman?
NORM: Right. You look at even small turnings on an area where there’s a seating area for a rail.
NORM: They’re all slightly different.
NORM: And that just gives you the sense that these were done one at a time and it’s all about the quality of the work that gets done.
TOM: Well, one thing that’s so special about This Old House is you let those homes tell the story, just as every one of those pieces tell the story.
I want to segue here to a new partnership that you guys have formed with Mike Rowe.
TOM: You and Mike have gotten together and I’ve talked with Mike about this, about the skills gap.
TOM: The fact is that there are more jobs out there than there are young people to fill them. And you’ve really taken a bold step forward with a campaign called Generation Next. Tell us about it.
NORM: Right. Well, Generation Next is really a way that we want to give and make available the opportunity and encourage people to look into the skill trades as an occupation.
And it’s interesting. Ever since we’ve announced this initiative, I have people coming up to me saying, “I had no idea.” And when you tell them the story and you say, “Look, there’s millions of jobs out there that are not being filled.”
NORM: And we need to teach people how to fill those jobs. Because if we don’t do that, who’s going to take care of your home? Who’s going to do your plumbing?
NORM: Who’s going to do the electrical? Not everyone needs a four-year education and as Mike Rowe says, he doesn’t put any – doesn’t short-change education but we want to be able to raise money that we can put into Mike Rowe’s foundation, mikeroweWORKS. And then those will be given out by him for scholarships to people who qualify.
TOM: And actually, your project house, for one of the project homes for next season, well, the entire profit on that is going to go to the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and you’re going to feature some of those young craftsmen working side by side with the masters.
NORM: Absolutely. We want to set the course and we want to do a lot of profiles. There’ll be a lot of stuff – a lot of things on the web. We want to profile people who have gone into the trades and love it.
TOM: Norm Abram, thank you so much, again, for all that you do, all that you’ve done over 37 years of This Old House.
NORM: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler on location today in Arlington, Massachusetts, on this, the wrap day, the final production day of the 37th season of This Old House. We’re witnessing the rebirth of a beautiful 1909 Arts and Crafts home.
Well, just as important as what happens inside this beautiful 1909 Arts and Crafts home is what happens outside. The property itself needed attention and vision, which came in large part from landscape architect Kimberly Turner, who joins us now.
TOM: So you had quite a project here. I read on your bio that you believe strongly in the power of collaboration in the design process. That includes both the clients and the landscape. Do you try to have everybody sort of talk to you in their own way and bring it all together?
KIMBERLY: I do. And that goes to landscape contractor, the client, the architect, everyone who’s involved in a design way with the house.
TOM: So what did this project say to you when you first saw it?
KIMBERLY: The project needed a lot of work.
KIMBERLY: It was a landscape that had been not tended to for quite a long time. So there was a lot of overgrowth, overgrown Forsythias, a lot of encroachment of the plant beds and just sort of needed to be tidied up a bit.
TOM: There was a landscape underneath all that but it was a little hard to see because it was so overgrown.
KIMBERLY: That’s right.
TOM: And so, the design here really encompassed both the land, in terms of the trees and the plants that you added, but also sort of the structural elements with the patio and the steps and all of that elevation. Is working on a lot that’s this hilly kind of a challenge?
KIMBERLY: It is a challenge but it’s one that I really enjoy. You can create a lot of spaces just by moving the topography around. So, we have, you know, a few different levels out there now where there was sort of a consistent slope. We’ve moved the grades around to create plateaus here and there that sort of define the spaces.
TOM: So if someone who’s listening has never really considered working with a landscape architect, tell us about the process. What do you sort of bring to that first meeting?
KIMBERLY: Sure. So, my job is really to marry the architecture with the landscape. So if there is an architect or an interior designer involved, they like to talk about how the views from inside the house will work with the outside of the house, how you’re going to enter into the landscape and really sort of expand your living space.
TOM: With this particular property, what do you think was the most challenging aspect?
KIMBERLY: There are a few things. Again, it was very overgrown. We needed to kind of create more open space for their dog and their child to be able to run around and play.
There are some budget considerations that we had, as well, and also some regulatory considerations, as well. There were some things that we couldn’t do because we needed to go through a permitting process that we just didn’t have the time for.
TOM: Now, you had to take out a beautiful, large tree here. You had to put new trees in. When you’re doing a design like that, what are some of the considerations that would help you kind of go through to find the right combination of trees and shrubs and so on?
KIMBERLY: So I studied the microclimate of the landscape.
KIMBERLY: I like to sort of study where the sun patterns are, what’s done well there, historically. And then I choose my plant palette based on native plantings that also sort of fit with the unique microclimate of this particular site.
TOM: How long have you been doing this in this area? Has it always been a passion for you?
KIMBERLY: It has.
KIMBERLY: I mean I’ve been interested in it since high school. I’ve been doing it for over probably 15, almost 20 years now.
TOM: Yeah. Well, it’s fantastic and you really did an amazing job here at the transformation. I’ve seen a lot of these and sometimes, the landscape doesn’t get as much attention. But this really was a very big contributing factor to the beauty that we’re seeing here today, because you really have resculpted the land here to create something that was sort of underlying but it needed to have sort of the mud and the dirt and the overgrowth sort of pulled away. And what you’ve left behind here is really, really beautiful.
KIMBERLY: Thank you.
TOM: Kimberly Turner, the landscape architect on this This Old House project, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
And remember, you can follow the progress on your local PBS station and at ThisOldHouse.com. Plus, you can get details and behind-the-scene photos by following @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHArlington.
Well, the craftsmanship that this home exudes includes not only the building itself but the substantial amount of work done by This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.
And Roger, looking at the before and after of a home like this, I’ve got to say you are more of a very talented sculptor in the way you have shaped this property. It really is a pretty spectacular transformation. Welcome.
ROGER: Thank you.
TOM: You know, I was kidding you before. Sometimes, when I see you on these projects, I ask you what you did. And it’s like, “I threw down some sod.” But you did a heck of a lot more than that on this one, buddy. You really made some major changes. Let’s talk about some of the work. What were your first impressions when you saw this place?
ROGER: It was a treed lot.
ROGER: And my first thing was that I saw a potential.
ROGER: But there are a lot of trees in the way of that potential. So the first thing we did was to clear the lot of a lot of dying and diseased trees. And that really opened everything up.
TOM: Yeah. And one of the things that you cleared was a beautiful silver maple. That was a massive tree and a big project, wasn’t it?
ROGER: Well, it wasn’t beautiful. It was massive. It was full of disease and rot and typical of silver maples.
ROGER: And it had to go. And that was one of the first trees we took out. It was huge.
ROGER: It was absolutely huge.
TOM: Yeah. And you did it strategically by sort of disassembling it from the top down. What a great job.
ROGER: Well, it was interesting. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tree fall up.
ROGER: And that’s what happened with all these trees. The company came in and set up a 80-foot crane, I believe, and just picked them up, lifted them up in the air, dropped them at the chip truck. They went through the chip truck, all gone, bye.
TOM: Done, right? And amazingly quick, too.
ROGER: Two days.
TOM: Wow. Now, let’s talk about some of the masonry work that you did here, especially this patio. That was quite a big project and it’s really impressive. You used a herringbone design for that.
ROGER: Yeah. It is challenging, especially when it comes to the cuts.
ROGER: And that’s when I think people have to realize when you do a herringbone on a 45, that when you get to the end, you’re going to have lots of little pieces. And fortunately, we discovered a new saw, which doesn’t emit any dust. It all cuts sucked back into the saw. It makes our job a lot easier.
TOM: Yeah. Because very often, when you see those saws working, there’s just a cloud of dust. And it’s got to be not a very pleasant environment to work in.
ROGER: Right. And it’s very hard to do your best work when all that dust and water and everything else is flying around. So this saw eliminates the water and it just sucks all – it has a vacuum and it sucks all the particles in. And it just makes the person doing the work more comfortable. Makes for a better job.
TOM: And the transformation of the front of this home, where you had different changes in the elevation, were pretty significant. You worked this all together to create kind of a stone almost retaining wall and beautiful steps up. I mean when you do that kind of a job where you’re regrading everything, is there a process to make sure it’s all really solid before you start building on top of it?
ROGER: Everything we do is only as good as the bases. So it all starts with a base. In most cases, we dig down 3 or 4 feet. Or if we hit gravel, we know we’re in good shape. And then from there, we start building up sub-grade. And usually, that’s ¾-inch stone, which is compacted to 6 inches below grade. And then we start putting stones for the stone wall in or the base for the walkways.
TOM: And invariably, when you see a failed set of stones like this or a failed patio, it’s just that the original builder just didn’t really do the complete job when it comes to prepping that base.
ROGER: Right. It’s easy to make something look good. It’s hard to make it last. That’s what we want to do is we want to make everything so when we come back 10, 15, 20 years, the whole patio is still here, the wall is still here, the walk is still here.
TOM: Now, you also, in terms of – you talked about removing all of the trees in landscaping. You went tree-shopping with these homeowners to try to find some new trees. What are the things that you’re looking for when you go into a nursery like that, you’re trying to select trees for a project like this? What are some of the things people should be thinking about?
ROGER: I don’t know. It’s hard for me because I’m like a kid in a candy store. I’ll take one of those, one of those, one of those.
ROGER: You want to know what you’re looking for. It’s like anything. You go to buy a car, you want to know the specifics. Do you a tree that’s going to get big and tall, wide and fat, flower? You know what you need for specifics. Trust your nurserymen who’s going to be working with you and go through and find two or three trees that fit the bill and then pick the one you need.
TOM: Roger Cook, the landscaping pro on This Old House, thank you so much for, again, being a part of The Money Pit and an amazing transformation here.
ROGER: Thanks for coming out.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show broadcasting today from a beautiful Arts and Crafts home in this, the 37th season of This Old House in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Just ahead, generations of families have lived in this home since 1909. And now, generations of general contractors have helped restore it. Up next, we’re going to talk to Charlie Silva, the nephew of This Old House’s own Tommy Silva, about his role in the project, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler. And you can catch The Money Pit on air and online at MoneyPit.com, where you can also subscribe to The Money Pit podcast.
And I’m coming to you today from a very special location. I am in Arlington, Massachusetts, where I’m enjoying the rare pleasure of watching the master tradesmen of This Old House finish up another amazing transformation of a home. It’s a 1909 Arts and Crafts home in this, their 37th season.
Now, you can catch the next episode of This Old House on your local PBS station or catch all the prior episodes on ThisOldHouse.com. And if you want to get some inside details and behind-the-scene photos, you can follow This Old House on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHArlington.
Well, in any project like this, it takes a very good general contractor to keep everything on schedule and on track. My next guest did just that and he’d better or I bet his uncle would have a few things to say about it. It’s Charlie Silva. He is the nephew of Tommy Silva.
And welcome to The Money Pit, Charlie.
CHARLIE: Thank you very much, Tom.
TOM: Now, I guess since your uncle is Tommy, what’s it like to kind of follow in his footsteps? You’ve been probably doing this for a while.
CHARLIE: Well, it’s been a real long time we’ve been together. It’s been around 35 years.
CHARLIE: So way back then.
TOM: So he’s going to keep you, huh?
CHARLIE: Yeah. I’m going to stay.
TOM: Alright. That sounds good. So you really were the general – a part of the general contractor in terms of organizing all the troops and keeping this project on track, on budget. It’s an amazing transformation.
So let’s kind of start at the beginning. You had a lot of demolition to do. And one of the things I thought was fascinating is that when you guys take a house apart, you don’t just throw the parts away. You moved a lot of the material that you took out into a recycling center. Let’s talk about the concrete recycling. What happened with that?
CHARLIE: Well, the concrete recycling was just that. It obviously got demo’d and you can’t keep – whether it’s boulders and large debris with it, rebar. A lot of times, some places will separate it at the place. But you just can’t have construction material in it because then it’s not worth it to them.
CHARLIE: So it’s hauled to that site and then that’s where they do the crushing.
TOM: So it’s totally crushed. So I saw these huge slabs of concrete go into a machine and come out the size of ¾-inch pebbles.
CHARLIE: It’s fascinating to actually think about what the machines can do. But it is recycling in the best of forms because if you think about it, that material, what good is it if it’s not recycled?
TOM: Right. And you can bring it back to a site like this, you can use it for a base in the driveway or any other purpose like that when you need that kind of material.
TOM: Yeah. Pretty interesting. Another thing that was interesting about this house is the foundation. I’m a big fan of this system. It’s called “insulated concrete forms.” And essentially, what these are are large foam blocks. I kind of think they’re Lego blocks for adults, right?
TOM: Talk about how that system works.
CHARLIE: It’s a great system. I mean just starting from the foundation of the hole in the ground, you pour your typical footings.
CHARLIE: And exactly what I call them. I call them Lego blocks.
CHARLIE: And you literally follow the plan and you snap them together.
TOM: And so these have two sides, both with a couple of inches or so of foam on either side. So once you fill the middle in with the concrete, you have a very tight, insulated, draft-proof wall there, right?
CHARLIE: Absolutely. And then there’s other benefits on the inside. It comes with a rib system inside it, so you don’t – if you want to put a wall up or drywall or paneling or whatever, it already has, basically, a studded wall within the form that you can screw your plywood to or drywall.
TOM: So you can attach directly to the form, which is something you couldn’t certainly do with concrete. You always have to have an additional furring strip or something like that. But it’s internal, if you’re setting the structures. So you can attach right to that foam, in this case.
CHARLIE: Yeah. And if you’re going to attach right to the concrete, it’s not going to be insulated. Now, it’s insulated. It creates a thermal break in itself and it’s a great system.
TOM: Now, you also did a lot of work on the porch of this house. And I think it’s important to note that the outside face of this building has completely transformed as a result of the excellent work that you guys have done. But that porch really needed a lot of demolition and then a lot of reconstruction. Can you kind of explain what happened with that to our audience?
CHARLIE: Well, when we started here, first conversations with the customers were about this front porch, because it’s the first thing you see when you pull up.
CHARLIE: And there were different plans, different thoughts that went into it. But we took our time and we thought about everything from saving the roof structure, building within it. When we kept to the plan that they originally wanted – with the sloped, curved roof and flares on the bottom – we’ve really got to take it down.
TOM: So it went down completely down, completely off the building. And also, it was extremely high. You had, I think, 10 steps to get up to it. You’ve been able to raise the grade on it. And I thought it was also interesting that the original porch didn’t have any footing. I guess they didn’t believe in footings back then, huh?
CHARLIE: Back then, they didn’t have – we have a stone foundation in the existing house.
CHARLIE: And there weren’t any footings. It’s just a couple of stones with some wood columns on them.
TOM: So now, you did a precast footing in that – on that porch and that went down 4 feet, correct?
TOM: So it’s now a solid, beautiful porch. You’ve got a standing seam of copper roof on it. You’ve got these huge, flared columns and beautiful staircase. It really added a lot of personality to the front of the house.
CHARLIE: It did. And we unveiled it the other day and it’s the first thing you see when you pull up and it’s really great looking.
TOM: Now, another big part of this renovation was the addition you put on the backside of this. And like many old homes, it consists of a lot of small rooms. It was hard to get a good flow in this room. But by putting this bump-out addition on, you really completely opened that space up. And you were able to do that through some ingenious use of structural steel. And you have a very, very long beam that you had to set for that. And that must have been some process.
CHARLIE: That was probably our biggest challenge in this is to support the entire back section of the house. The steel beam was able to span the entire width of the kitchen, posts down to the existing stone foundation. And it carried the whole backside of the house and including the two additions above.
TOM: And you used the steel to frame the roof, as well?
CHARLIE: We did.
TOM: Well, that’s fantastic. Charlie Silva is the general contractor on this, the 37th season house – project house – for This Old House.
Again, you guys did an amazing transformation. I’ve been to many of these homes over the years and everyone is beautiful but this one, from a before-and-after perspective, spectacular. Congratulations, Charlie.
CHARLIE: Thank you very much.
TOM: You have been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming to you from Arlington, Massachusetts, on wrap day for the 37th season of This Old House.
And still ahead, remodeling a fine, old home like this isn’t just limited to the structure. This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron had his share of updates to tackle in this home. And I’ll bet you may have some of these projects to do in your own. We’ll be back with those details, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler coming to you today on location from Arlington, Massachusetts, the site of the current project on this, the 37th season of America’s most popular home improvement television show, This Old House.
Well, we love old houses but they do have challenges when it comes to the mechanical systems and that includes the electrical system. And updating that fell to This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron.
SCOTT: Hi, Tom. Thanks for having me.
TOM: So you were a busy boy on this house. You know, when we see these old 1909 homes, I guess the original wiring on these homes, which really was the first centrally wired system, was probably knob-and-tube. Is that right?
SCOTT: Yes, it was. We found a lot of knob-and-tube in this home. And the first thing we had to do was remove it.
TOM: Yeah. And let’s talk a bit about knob-and-tube because I think a lot of folks still have that around their home. They don’t know exactly what it is but we’re talking about the type of wiring where it’s strung on ceramic insulators and it’s held sort of off of the beams. And they do that because it has to be air-cooled.
SCOTT: That’s right. So the knobs are the insulators that kind of wrap around – the wire wraps around them. And then the tubes are when they drill through the wood members. They string it through the tubes.
TOM: And of course, that means you can’t insulate it because you would be – it’s supposed to be air-cooled. You can’t put insulation on top of it.
SCOTT: Yeah. That’s the problem with it. So when it was installed, it was installed by these craftsmen, these electricians that just had this art of running the wire through the bays and on the rafters. And they just did a wonderful job installing it. It was never made for insulation. It has an impregnated – some of that was cotton-based with a material that just wasn’t made to be exposed to insulation. It was made to air out just in an open environment.
TOM: And that was just one of the many projects that you did on this house. But a big one was what you had to do with the main service-entry cable. Now, in a beautiful neighborhood like this, a very dense neighborhood, the wires that feed these homes were typically run overhead. And of course, that exposes them to icing damage and other types of failures. You had an opportunity here to move that wire underground but that was a big project, wasn’t it?
SCOTT: Certainly. The wiring runs overhead, feeding all the stations, substations and streets. You see it along the roadways. But in this instance, Arlington is a very old town. There’s a lot of old trees that hang over the power lines.
SCOTT: So the first thing that happens when we have an ice storm or snow or wind, it pulls the wires down and that’s not good. So we were able to get about almost 300 feet of it underground, which was a big asset for this home.
SCOTT: So it’ll protect a good portion of it.
TOM: What’s that process like? Do you have to get permission from the utility company?
SCOTT: We have to get permission from the town first, then the utility company. And then we do special street-opening permits where we call utility-marking companies to notify us where everything is. This 100-and-something-year-old house that had a lot of stuff put in the ground. So you had to find everything, get an excavator out here, dig and put the pipe in the ground from the telephone pole, all the way underground to the house, 2 feet under.
TOM: And because nothing is easy with these projects, you also had a big, old silver maple that was in the way, too.
SCOTT: Oh, that silver maple, boy. So we got the tree down but then we had the root system that was still in there.
SCOTT: So that was removed. Once that was all removed, we were able to get the pipe in the ground pretty easily.
TOM: We’re talking to Scott Caron. He is the electrical contractor on this project for This Old House.
And Scott, you also did, of course, wiring throughout the house but I did see a segment where you did some wiring in the bathroom. And I want to talk a little bit about that, because we get a lot of questions from our audience about the issues of mold and mildew and those sorts of things that happen in the bathroom. And you put in a state-of-the-art bathroom exhaust fan that helps to deal with some of that.
SCOTT: Certainly. It’s a building code that we’re responsible for and kind of enforcing, making sure that we bring it up to the attention of the homeowner or the builder that every bathroom does need a ceiling fan now. Of course, one of the big, long problems we have is: is the thing going to get turned on?
SCOTT: People think the old ones were noisy. They were forgetful, they didn’t really care.
SCOTT: So we made it completely automated now. All you have to do is walk in the bathroom, it comes on and it also stays on a very low cycle so that it moves the air all the time, which is good for a healthy house.
TOM: Yeah. Because most of the time, people leave the bathroom and they turn off the lights, they turn off the fan and then all that moisture hangs in the air.
SCOTT: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
TOM: And it leads to mold growth on the tile and mildew and mess and really increases the cleaning-frequency need, as well.
SCOTT: That’s right. You know, the mold and the mildew is half the product, obviously. It smells, (inaudible at 0:34:54) fumigate and that bathroom being right close to the kitchen. It was a great application for a 110 CFM fan, which is pretty high on the scale.
TOM: Now, there’s a lot of exterior work done in the yard and the landscaping here. If somebody’s doing exterior wiring or that sort of lighting, are there special precautions they have to take?
SCOTT: Mm-hmm. The whole voltage landscape lighting only needs to be down below the grade about 6 inches. So it’s a very good homeowner application where they can do it pretty easily and get away with it. It’s only 12 volts, too, so it’s very safe.
TOM: So that’s one of the DIY jobs that somebody perhaps having tackled electrical work before could do. I would say replacing the main service-entry cable is probably on the other side of that spectrum.
SCOTT: Certainly. You just hit them both. It’s a good way to get into working with copper wire and kind of getting your fingers’ dexterity kind of wise.
TOM: Scott Caron from This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
SCOTT: You’ve got it, Tom. Always a pleasure.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the set of the 37th season of TV’s This Old House. Follow all the progress at ThisOldHouse.com or @ThisOldHouse on Twitter and Facebook, #TOHArlington. I’ll be back with more, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
And production is wrapping up here in Arlington, Massachusetts, on the final day of the 37th season with This Old House. And I’m so happy to have a guy sitting with me, right now, who’s been here for almost – have you been here for all those years? Every one of them?
TOM SILVA: Thirty-one.
TOM: Thirty-one of thirty-seven.
TOM SILVA: Thirty-one. I turned them down the first three years.
TOM: Playing hard to get. Tommy Silva, I’m glad you didn’t play hard to get with us.
Tommy, what a job here. I mean we’ve been talking about it for the entire program. The transformation here, so incredible. All the work you guys do is great but this one really lets your craftsmanship shine.
TOM SILVA: It’s a beautiful house, the Arts and Crafts style. I love the Arts and Crafts style but we mingled a little bit of the Martin in with the Arts and Craft inside. But the detail outside is perfect. We matched it perfect on the addition. You can’t tell the marriage where it began and where it ended.
TOM SILVA: And that’s the key to a good addition.
TOM: Yeah, to look like it always used to be designed this way, right?
TOM SILVA: Yes, exactly. And the thing is the house had good bones but it was in big trouble, from the siding to the kitchen.
TOM: Right. And it seemed as soon as you pulled off layers, you found more issues. You found this foundation that was failed, for example, by exposing that.
TOM SILVA: That’s pretty typical of these old places.
TOM SILVA: Let’s face it: we’re caretakers of these houses. And when you have a house of this era and you can see it’s grandeur somewhere in there and you can bring that back, that’s the best, smartest thing that you could do. You do it right so it’ll last forever.
TOM: Yeah. And you guys did do it right here. You took a house that was incredibly inefficient, from an energy perspective. It was crowded, it was dark and you really opened the whole thing up. You made it efficient, you made it comfortable. Emily and Nick now have a home that’s going to last for generations.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Generations. We hope they stay here for a long time. They’re from this town anyway and they want to stay here.
It’s funny when you say we made it more energy-efficient. I think they had – Nick had his own oil truck.
TOM SILVA: Delivered oil once a week. It was amazing.
TOM: Yeah. Sadly, the oil company would be very disappointed in the work that was done here.
TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah. Well, we took out all the old radiators. New radiant heat, state-of-the-art furnaces and boilers now. It’s the way to go.
TOM: Yeah. So 37 years. What do you think has kept this show going?
TOM SILVA: Honesty. I think that the show is real because they understand that there’s no pretenders here. And we pour our heart and soul in doing things the right way – always have, always will – and never cut a corner to make it any other way.
TOM: Yeah. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s been a privilege to work with you guys over these last several years that we’ve been doing these broadcasts.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. And fun.
TOM: And I tell you folks, what you see is what you get. These guys are as skilled and as honest and as engaging as they are on television. Every time I come and meet you guys, I’m always blown away by who you are and what you create.
TOM SILVA: Thank you very much. It’s nice to hear.
TOM: Now, this house was built in 1909 but you guys added some bling to it. You’ve got a lot of copper on the outside here, right?
TOM SILVA: A lot of copper. Homeowner wanted to see copper. And we got the copper downspouts, the copper gutters and that amazing copper roof over the front porch.
TOM: Yeah. Talk about a roof that’ll last forever. It’s standing-seam copper roof. Just so traditional and so magnificent and it literally will never wear out.
TOM SILVA: Never wear out. Can’t go wrong with copper.
TOM: I tell you, Tommy, we can’t go wrong with you.
I mean one thing that I like about coming here, folks, is that these guys are as skilled and honest and engaging as they are on television. It’s always such a privilege to be here with you and see your transformations one after another. We’ve been doing this for a bunch of years now and it’s always fun to hang out with you guys.
TOM SILVA: It’s always fun, Tom. Thank you for that.
TOM: Alright. Thank you, Tommy Silva.
And I’ll tell you what, you’ve got to follow this entire project, folks. Go to ThisOldHouse.com. Catch up with the back episodes. Check your local PBS station to watch the new episodes. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @ThisOldHouse, #TOHArlington.
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.)