TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And The Money Pit is on the road today. We’re coming to you from Season 36 of This Old House: a beautiful Victorian in Belmont, Massachusetts, where a couple is getting not only their dream house but it’s being renovated by the dream team.
LESLIE: Yeah, seriously. You know, after more than three decades of bringing old houses back to life, these guys are the experts that you want renovating your house, for sure. We’re going to hear from the team and the homeowners a little later this hour about what the last few months have been like here.
TOM: Plus, we’re going to get advice on how to move shrubs and plants from one location to another, which had to be done to make way for a beautiful front porch right here: a very Victorian detail.
LESLIE: Roger is always moving something.
TOM: He sure is.
LESLIE: And as we check out this home from the past, we’ll take a look at the home of the future with tips on how you can make your home a smart home, which will help save money and energy along the way.
TOM: Well, 36 seasons later, he’s still here. Up next is Norm Abram, the one and only original cast member who’s been on the scene since day one of This Old House.
NORM: Glad you’re here.
TOM: I guess you hear this all the time: could you ever have believed, 36 seasons ago, that you’d still be doing this?
NORM: No way. No way at all. It’s hard to believe that 36 seasons – 36 years – have gone by. I mean I guess a little bit of a tip to me that it has been 36 years is that I used to be able to go back and name every single project and what town we were in. And as I get older, it gets harder and harder to do.
TOM: Right. Yep, exactly. Yeah, it’s like we were starting, we had 12 stations. We knew every single one of them.
NORM: Yeah. It’s crazy.
LESLIE: I think it’s interesting. You guys have been doing this forever. I can remember my dad calling me into the den as a little girl – I was five when the show started – and coming in and watching you build things and just being fascinated and seeing then you learning and adapting. Now, all these years later, are you still being challenged? Are there things you don’t know yet or you’re learning?
NORM: Oh, sure. You’re always learning. There’s a different way to do things. There’s new materials out there. There’s new adhesives out there. There’s a lot of things in the building industry that have changed. I think, for a long time, the building industry was very static. It was reluctant to change.
But in the last 20 years, I think it’s started to change more and more. And the energy codes have caused us to change. We now have to build houses differently. It’s getting more and more complicated, so there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of new technology, a lot of new products that have to be incorporated that we never thought about before.
TOM: Now, as many new products and new technologies that are available to you – doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to use all that. And in this particular home – one of the tendencies that people do when they have old homes is they rip out the old windows. They just feel that they’re completely not salvageable. To have a single-pane window today is a foolish thing to do. And so, they usually rip them all out. And despite the fact that it’s a beautiful Victorian from 1895, it’s got maybe vinyl-frame windows.
You took a different approach here. You actually restored the windows. We saw you in an episode with Dave Greenwood take these windows apart, step by step, and put them back together. Talk about that.
NORM: Yeah. We’ve been along that line for a long time. If you come to an old house and the windows are as in good a condition as they were here – solid, no rot; the frames, the jambs, everything was in good condition – you look at that and you say, “OK. What can I do? I can rip them out, put in new windows or I can refurbish them.”
Single-pane glass is never going to have any issues with losing the gas or the insulating glass space that’s in there and fog up on you.
NORM: So you’ve got good glass. You put in new weights. There’s better weather strips now that you can incorporate into these old windows. So you get a nice, tight window. And if you have a storm window on it, you know what? The difference between that and the average, insulating glass window is not all that great.
LESLIE: Now, the pulley system for the windows, is that something that’s easily available or are you modifying old ones to make them good as new?
NORM: Well, again, the thing that fails on the pulley systems is generally the rope. The pulleys almost always stay intact. I’m sure you can go to any salvage yard that’s been taking these things apart and pick up similar ones that would work. The weights hardly ever break and usually, you can find piles of those in the salvage stores.
And it’s really a choice of you might want to change from rope to chain, because that’s another system. We didn’t go to chain here because the homeowners didn’t want to have the noise.
NORM: There’s a little more noise when the window goes up and down.
So, you can find the parts. That’s not a problem. There’s still plenty of houses out there and there’s a lot of salvage yards who don’t throw it away. There’s a big pile of iron sitting there and you just find the right weight for your window.
TOM: Now, this is not the first time you’ve been to Belmont. You were here 20-something years ago.
NORM: Yeah, 20 years ago.
TOM: Did you get a good chance to go back and look at that project and see how it’s survived all these years?
NORM: Yeah, we did go back. One of the early shows, we looked at different periods of Victorians. And as part of the end of that tour, we said, “You know, we did one here 20-something years ago. Let’s go take a look.” When we pulled up, I was like, “You sure this is the right house?” Because they had painted it totally sort of blue-purplish. The color blue it was like, “Wow. That’s a big difference.”
TOM: Oh, boy. Yeah.
NORM: And of course, we had footage where we flashed back when the homeowners gutted the kitchen. And we had wood shingles to replace on the outside, so we showed the homeowner how to pull a wood shingle out and how to put a new one in and tap it into place. It was really – they were really nice people to work with.
And of course, there’s a new owner there now. And he invited us in and the kitchen was still the same way it was when we left. And it was still in good condition. And we said, “Oh, the Frawny (sp) boys did a great job on the countertops. I remember this. This was a really a worn-down area and the homeowners – the original homeowners – wanted to keep the wainscoting that was in there, so we saved that for them.”
So, it was so nice to go back and see a house that was in its second time of ownership since we had done the project and see it so well cared for, except for the paint color.
LESLIE: But I think that’s a sign of excellent workmanship. You guys really know what you’re doing. And if that’s done well, then it’s going to last from owner to owner and they’re going to recognize that.
NORM: Well, there’s – yeah, there’s two pieces to that, I think. Even if it’s done well, there’s still a responsibility of the homeowner to maintain it. Because no matter how well it’s done, if you don’t properly maintain your home, it’s going to deteriorate quickly.
TOM: We’re talking to Norm Abram, Season 36 of This Old House.
After all of those years, Norm, is there a project that you’ve always wanted to do that you’ve not been able to find yet? What’s on your wish list?
NORM: Well, we’ve talked about working on a masonry-type house: a house that was all brick. Because I grew up in a house that my father built that was a brick ranch. We’ve done a little bit of work around those but I don’t think we’ve ever done one that’s put an addition on a brick-style house. Now, that would be one. Boy, I don’t know. You kind of fall upon these projects and then you get – you fall in love with them.
TOM: Well, if you’re thinking that you’ve got that house that Norm wants to remodel, they’re looking for new projects, right now, for Season 37. And you can submit those at ThisOldHouse.com/PickMyHouse.
Norm Abram, thank you so much for being a part, once again, of The Money Pit and for sharing your extensive knowledge with us.
NORM: Happy to be here.
TOM: Well, from homes of the past to the home of the future, if you want to cut your energy bills, you might want to consider a home improvement that’s getting a lot of attention right now. And that is home automation.
LESLIE: Yeah. There’s lots of interest right now in smart-home products. And it’s not surprising because we’re all getting more tech-savvy. Add that to the widespread availability of Wi-Fi connectivity and home automation really becomes an affordable reality.
TOM: Now, for many homeowners the idea of home automation can seem a little bit overwhelming. But if you think about it, there’s some really easy ways to get started on creating that smart home.
Now, just like any other project, the best approach is really just to take one step at a time, kind of break it down.
LESLIE: Alright. But before you go and buy any smart-home products, you’ve got to figure out what problem you’re trying to solve or what task you want to make easier around your home.
For example, are your energy bills too high? Does your family leave lights on around the house all the time? Those are questions to ask.
TOM: Yeah. Or for example, your house is using way too much water. Do you want to check in on the house or be alerted if something’s wrong, even if you’re not there? Once you’ve answered why you’re looking at these automation systems, check out the smart-home products that are designed to help you reach that specific goal.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Home Automation Tip, presented by The Home Depot, the destination for smart-home solutions and technology, with a huge variety of brands and expansive platforms both in store and online at HomeDepot.com.
TOM: Yep. Like the Kidde 2-in-1 Wireless Smoke and CO Alarm with Voice Alerts. Check the alarm and get alerts on your smartphone. Check it out at The Home Depot and HomeDepot.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, we’re going to hear from This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook, who’s joining us with details on how to add curb appeal with your exterior landscaping.
TOM: And today’s broadcast is presented by STANLEY Mechanics Tool Sets. Doesn’t matter if your project is automotive, recreational or home improvement, you can rely on STANLEY Mechanics Tools for versatility, durability and to get the job done right.
We’ll be back with more from the set of the 36th Season of This Old House in Belmont, Mass, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And welcome to a very special edition of The Money Pit. We are in Belmont, Massachusetts where This Old House is wrapping up another successful season of the program.
LESLIE: That’s right. The current season is running, right now, on PBS. You can check your local listings. But we are giving you a sneak peek, so to speak, of the finished home.
TOM: And as with every This Old House project, details count. And that most certainly includes a solid landscaping plan, something Roger Cook knows all too well.
Roger, welcome to the program.
ROGER: Thanks for having me up.
TOM: So, you had quite a bit to do here. And part of which involves saving plants that had to kind of move out of the way and then be replaced later to kind of bring back the curb appeal. Talk about that.
ROGER: Well, it was an interesting thing that we’ve done on other projects before – is you get to a house and there’s going to be a lot of construction. Sometimes, the yard is big enough to store the plants that we would save and bring them back in. In this case, there’s no room to do anything here.
LESLIE: No, it’s a small yard.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
ROGER: It’s a postage stamp. So, we selected what we thought were some really nice specimen plants that would be worth the money of digging up, balling and burlapping. We transported them to my house and I watered them for the summer. And then we brought them back in and it’s an instant landscape.
TOM: So kind of you had some adopted children – yeah, you had some adopted children for the seasons.
LESLIE: I mean those trees got really good care.
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah. Out every night with a hose to make sure.
TOM: Exactly. Taking care of them.
ROGER: Yeah, yeah. But it’s a great way to get instant height, too. There were some good-size plants that we were able to save and put in the landscape.
LESLIE: The mature ones always look the best.
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah. It makes a huge difference. We can’t always afford a lot of mature trees, either.
ROGER: And this is one way that saved a little bit of money.
LESLIE: Now, it seems like the backyard space is a very large tree. It probably gets pretty shady back there in the summer months, yes?
ROGER: Yes. In (inaudible at 0:12:03), I did a plan for the back of the house and did a great job with stepping stones and groundcovers in there. It’s the best food that will grow in shade areas. Shade is tough but then you add in the root system of that maple tree and you get double tough.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
LESLIE: Seriously. You can’t go anywhere with that.
TOM: No, there’s a lot of competition for those nutrients.
ROGER: That’s why the irrigation system we put in will really help out there, because it’ll be consistent water to help those perennials get established.
ROGER: But you will have to water them. Or what we do with cases when we see they’re starting to suffer is we’ll go around with a spade and cut around the perennial. And literally, all we’re cutting are the roots of the tree that have grown around the perennial and try to give it …
LESLIE: That’s amazing.
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah.
TOM: So if we have a shady backyard, what are some good shade plants that would work for groundcover?
ROGER: We like to stick with the things that are tough, because if it’s shady it’s usually dry. I know she used Vinca. There’s Baltic ivy, which some people don’t like. There’s all courses of perennials that will do fairly well in the shade. You got hosta …
LESLIE: Hostas are great and Vinca’s interesting because it gets a beautiful, purple flower.
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah.
LESLIE: And I think people really seem stuck when they think of shade. “Oh it’s going to be green or dark or I’m not going to like it.”
ROGER: No, not at all. And the colors you can get in either hosta or astilbe, bleeding heart – things like that that will really jump out at you with that dark background. A little bit of color really goes a long way. In the Vinca, you can get now in a purple and a white flower if you want, too.
LESLIE: It’s so pretty. Shade gardens are my favorite. They always have that sort of moonlit aspect to them. And I feel like all the flowers have that almost that lavender-y blue tone. I love them.
ROGER: Yeah. And when everything grows together and it just becomes a mass of just color, like you said, where everything goes off, it’s like fireworks going off. It’s pretty.
TOM: We’re talking to Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, about the work that was done at this 1895 Victorian in Belmont, Massachusetts, here at Season 36 of This Old House.
Roger, I noticed there was a large area of sod that was added. If you’re thinking about restoring a lawn or creating a lawn in your own home, what’s the cost-benefit analysis of doing sod versus just planting from scratch? How do you make that decision?
ROGER: It’s based on your wants, your patience and your pocketbook.
TOM: OK. Like everything in life.
ROGER: OK. Well, it is, right now, too late to seed. If we had put seed down, it would’ve been a mud bath all winter long and no one could live with that.
What I usually do to introduce people to the difference from sod to seed is I grab a piece of sod and I walk over to the house and I go, “You see this piece of sod? It’s growing under perfect conditions for 16 months. Then it’s cut up and shipped and put in your front yard. Can you duplicate that? Can you give it all the water, fertilizer, mowing and everything it needs to become to that piece of sod?”
ROGER: And they rationalize. You’re buying time, I guess, is the best way to put it.
TOM: Right. Right.
LESLIE: But that really requires a lot of prep. You want to make sure that it’s going to, well, adhere, I guess, for lack of a better word.
ROGER: The prep is the same for seed or sod. It’s just the very top coat that you change.
ROGER: You rototill, you add compost, you add sand, you analyze the soil and find out what micronutrients it might need. Then you rake everything off perfectly smooth and then there’s your choice. You either put down the seed or you put down the sod. So, the prep is always the same. The more you prep, the deeper you prep, the deeper the root system will go, the stronger it’ll be.
TOM: And I think if you think about it, there’s a theme here: with home improvement, the key is always the prep.
LESLIE: It’s got to be prep.
TOM: Whether it’s landscaping or painting or anything, that’s the secret. Roger Cook knows the secrets.
Roger, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and congratulations on another beautiful project here in Belmont, Massachusetts.
ROGER: Thank you.
TOM: Well, there’s probably no one more excited about this day finally being here than Katherine and Murat Bicer, the homeowners of this old house.
Katherine, Murat, welcome to the program.
KATHERINE: Thanks for having us.
TOM: Congratulations. You’ve finally reach the end of this amazing restoration. Lots of credit to you guys for having the vision to make the decisions that you did in this house. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
KATHERINE: Thank you so much.
TOM: How did you find This Old House? How’d you guys connect up? People always think this is a fascinating story. It’s usually happenstance.
MURAT: Yeah. So, the painter of the show, Moro (sp), was here to just give us an estimate because we were getting started with our renovation. When he saw the house, he basically said, “Guys, this is the perfect house. It’s the exact right scope, the right town. Timing is great. You’ve got to apply.”
KATHERINE: And we’ve been big fans of the show for a long time and we had been joking amongst ourselves that we should apply.
KATHERINE: And then we just said, “Well, we’re never going to get it, so what’s the point?” And then when Moro (sp) sort of – he sort of emboldened us a little bit.
KATHERINE: And so we, literally, applied through their online process.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And they’re actually looking for projects, right now, for 2016. Yeah, we were just thinking, “Hey. We might be in your house in 2016 if you apply today. Who knows, right?”
MURAT: That’s right.
KATHERINE: That’s true.
LESLIE: Now, did you always have the foresight to sort of bring this Victorian back to her original beauty or was this something that sort of evolved as you got in it with This Old House?
KATHERINE: As we were shopping for houses – we’ve only just owned this house for a little over a year. And as we were shopping for houses, we knew we wanted something that had a lot of old-world charm.
KATHERINE: And Victorians are one of our favorite types of architecture, so we did know that we wanted to bring a lot of the life back into this house through – from a Victorian lens. And we had found an architect who really saw that vision along with us.
TOM: And what’s your favorite part now that the home is nearing completion? What really surprised you about this renovation?
MURAT: Quality is amazing. I mean Tommy and his guys are just really the best at their jobs.
TOM: Second to none, yeah.
MURAT: Right. I think, overall, we are very, very pleased. But the front porch has definitely been my favorite. It’s just – it changed the façade of the house completely. It made a huge difference.
TOM: You see yourselves spending many a summer evening sitting out there now?
MURAT: I think so, yeah.
KATHERINE: We have a pretty active, social street. So I do think that we’ll be able to. And for …
LESLIE: It really changed the whole stance of the house.
LESLIE: It just took up a whole different footprint. It’s beautiful.
KATHERINE: That’s right. And now it matches in with the rest of the neighborhood. Before, it was kind of a little bit of a recessed house. It didn’t have a real presence or personality of its own. And now, it really – it does stand on its own in the street.
TOM: So the porch wasn’t there. You guys added that. Let’s talk about something that was here that you decided to keep: the clawfoot tub and the marble counter in the guest bath?
KATHERINE: Mm-hmm. Right. So, there were a lot of really beautiful things already in the home and we both love clawfoot tubs. It was in kind of rough shape. And so when we had the opportunity to refinish it, it just seemed so perfect that we could sort of keep something that was original to the house and that had been used and loved by many other people through its history. But that it was now in a great shape for us to be using it for our 30 years that we’ll live here.
TOM: Right. Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what, beautiful job. It’s just such a spectacular renovation. We’re so pleased to be able to come here and share this day with you. Katherine, Murat, thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
KATHERINE: Thank you.
MURAT: Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, the finishing touches, fabrics and features are like the icing on the cake of a home renovation. We’re going to hear from the designer on this project, when The Money Pit continues from the set of This Old House in Belmont, Massachusetts after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Coming to you today from Belmont, Massachusetts, where the cast and crew of This Old House is celebrating three words today: it’s a wrap.
LESLIE: That’s right. Season 36 just wrapped up and we are here getting an exclusive look at the finished product.
Now, major renovation of a Victorian home was their project that they undertook this year and Icynene has made it possible for us to be here. Makers of Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation, the evolution of insulation.
TOM: Now, the last part of any makeover is the details: the fabrics, the furniture, the finishes and the colors. It’s kind of the ooh and the ahh factor.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? The details are really what will make this house a home. So, here to tell us about all the beautiful details in this Belmont project is interior designer Amanda Reid.
AMANDA: Thank you.
TOM: So, what did you keep in mind when designing this house? What kind of specifics were these homeowners looking for?
AMANDA: Well, they wanted to put back a lot of the Victorian charm and details into the house, so that was very important. The homeowner, Katherine – you know, they had salvaged some architectural elements that needed to be worked into the design.
AMANDA: Yet we also wanted it to make it feel fresh and updated and functional for a modern family.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean there’s so many choices and beautiful materials to choose from. And I think there’s a lot of really great, standout pieces. It’s like I’m in love with the tile that you used up on the third-floor bathroom. I love the paint detail that you did in the master bath. What was the journey to sort of pick out those really beautiful, jeweled pieces of the house?
AMANDA: Right. Well, it’s a collaborative process with the homeowners. That’s how I always work with clients. For the finishes and materials, we wanted to make selections that could’ve been original to the house, so…
TOM: Right. So kind of trying to stay true to the period of 1895.
AMANDA: Exactly, exactly. So that’s why we selected marble for the master bath and for the powder-room floor. But yet, we also needed to have function in mind.
AMANDA: And it’s porcelain tile, for example, in the mud room. And for the – are you talking about the custom wall finish in the bedroom?
LESLIE: I love that custom wall finish. My goodness. I stared at it for a good, long time before I realized it was not wallpaper.
AMANDA: Yeah. Right, right. Well, the suite – the whole master suite is fairly large but this actual sleeping area – the bedroom – is quite small. So I thought it needed something really special. And we could’ve done wallpaper, which would’ve been nice, but this is a totally custom treatment. It was designed by an artist. I worked with her to come up with a concept and then she hand-painted it onto the wall.
LESLIE: It’s so beautiful. And I think what you’ve done to really bring out the period elements, like the ceiling medallions down on the first floor – one of them was just taking it back to a slightly pinky, aged detail, which really just sets off so much in that room.
AMANDA: Right. Well, that was actually – we left it as it was.
LESLIE: Oh, really?
AMANDA: Yes. But before, the lights were kind of semi-flush and they were – a lot of the medallions were covered by the old light fixtures. So, the light-fixture selection that – we chose things that were more pendants to help the medallions shine.
TOM: Yeah. And back in the late 1800s, you didn’t have bright lights. You had sunshine; that was your bright light, right? Everything else was kind of muted. And so, with these colors, you have to choose lights that don’t really overwhelm them, right?
AMANDA: Mm-hmm. Exactly.
LESLIE: Now, I think people get a little lost or nervous when they want to even contemplate working with a designer. I don’t know if they always know what they’re getting into when they get in with a designer. Do you have any advice for somebody who might be looking to find those finishing touches for their home but really don’t know where to begin?
AMANDA: I would say think about what their goals are. I know my first step for working with clients is I have a new-client questionnaire that really helps to define the scope, project goals, preferences. And it’s really helpful as a first step. And that’s what I always use as a first step for a project.
TOM: Because people tend to get overwhelmed by just the sheer volume of choices and they’re afraid to make the wrong choice, right?
AMANDA: Sure. Right. Yeah. There’re so many choices out there.
AMANDA: And that’s why people will often want a designer. Because that’s my job: to weed out those choices and present what I think are the best options, based on this particular client and their lifestyle and their preferences. Images are also very helpful. So most clients now will use different – there are different websites, so they’ll either create these idea books to show me spaces that they like or even don’t like.
AMANDA: So the questionnaire images, those are immensely helpful to start a design project.
And then, I guess, the last tip I would give about working with a designer is don’t be afraid to take risks and go a little bit out of your comfort zone for some items.
AMANDA: You’re hiring this professional for a reason, for their expertise. And sometimes in the end, if you go with them, a lot of times that will be the element that you like most.
TOM and LESLIE: Right.
TOM: Yeah, I think there’s – you’re providing the safety net. Because, certainly, as we’re doing this on our own, we might consider taking a risk. But if the risk is something that’s sort of endorsed by the designer, you know that you’re not going to go too far off the field, right?
AMANDA: Mm-hmm. Right. Exactly.
LESLIE: I think it’s really great. You’ve done such a beautiful job in this home. And the use of these soft, muted sort of accent colors that carry throughout – there’s hints of these lavenders and hints of these grays. And it really plays so wonderfully to the scope of the house. Were the homeowners delighted in the whole process with you?
AMANDA: Oh, yeah. They were great to work with. As far as the color palette, I love to have a color palette, you know, for an entire house. I think it establishes design continuity. Even if different accent colors are introduced in other spaces, it doesn’t have to be the exact same colors in each room and the same amount of that color in each room. But it’s nice to have something that carries all throughout the house, so it feels like a home and one space.
TOM: And it certainly does right here. Amanda Reid, the designer here on the Belmont project of this season of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, things get real when TV deadlines and construction deadlines collide. Coming up, we’re going to talk about what it takes to produce a season of This Old House.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, reality TV is a term we’ve learned is used pretty loosely, except when you’re talking about a production like This Old House. This is about as real as it gets.
TOM: Yep. And dare I say that This Old House was certainly the first reality home improvement show. And they’ve been doing this time and time again for 36 seasons. But now we get to talk to sort of a newcomer to This Old House. John Tomlin is the senior series producer.
And John, is this your first TOH production?
JOHN: This year is the first time producing. Last year, last season, I directed a few episodes. So I’ve sort of eased into the project.
TOM: So they tried you out. It worked out OK and decided to keep you, huh?
TOM: So, talk to us about what it takes to put a show like this on the air. How do you sort of marry the production deadlines and the construction deadlines and kind of make it all come together?
JOHN: Well, it’s – the way you look at it is: what does it take to build a house?
JOHN: What are the steps that are involved? And you sit down with the guys who are doing the work and say, “Well, when are you going to do that? When are you going to put the board and plaster up? When are you going to do the rough plumbing?” And you work out a schedule and of course, you never live by it.
JOHN: But every week we will talk to Tommy and say, “What’s going to happen this week? Are we really going to put board and plaster up?”
LESLIE: Adjust and re-adjust.
JOHN: “No, we can’t do that because the inspector needs to do so and so.”
JOHN: “What else can we do instead?” So…
TOM: Right. So the key is being flexible and having a good plan and then having a second plan.
JOHN: Exactly. Right.
TOM: A backup plan.
JOHN: Exactly. Right.
LESLIE: And a backup plan to the backup plan.
LESLIE: Now, how does this work? I mean you’re dealing with production deadlines because you’ve got a TV series to put out, obviously.
LESLIE: And you’re also dealing with construction deadlines. And how do you marry the two to meet that end goal?
JOHN: Well, we only pick projects that we are pretty darn sure are going to finish when we need them to finish.
TOM: Or if there’s going to be surprises, they’re manageable surprises that will add to the program, right?
TOM: Not ones that will throw it off the rails.
JOHN: Exactly. So, we – and we give ourselves a little pat so we know we’re going to end the show at the right time – end the number of episodes at the right time.
JOHN: And we work backwards from there.
TOM: So Season 36, you must feel an awful lot of responsibility carrying this brand forward, huh?
JOHN: I do. And for me, coming in, I had to learn their language, you know?
JOHN: They’ve been doing this. They started doing this show when handheld video cameras were brand new. Nobody had them before.
TOM: Oh, is that right?
JOHN: And these guys started using them. They were one of the first shows that did that. And so, they created their own language for how to do things.
JOHN: So, coming in here – I worked on many, many shows over my career but coming in here, I had to learn their language and their way of doing things. So, for me, it’s been a great learning experience.
LESLIE: This is really phenomenal. I bet you probably get asked a lot by friends, family. Are they now looking for you for construction advice? Or what are they asking about the show?
TOM: Yeah. Are you giving them home improvement tips?
JOHN: They’d be making a mistake if they did is all I can say.
LESLIE: But what are they asking?
JOHN: People want to know, “Will you come and work on my house?”
JOHN: That’s the first thing that everybody says. But everybody – it’s all about what’s local. What’s the problem in their house? “Can you tell me about if there’s an electrical problem? Can you help me out with that? I’ve got water in the basement. What do you do about that??
TOM: So here’s the key: have you actually been able to give anyone good advice based on your experience here?
JOHN: I never give people advice about that stuff. I say, “I know who to talk to but don’t ask me.”
TOM: So, what would you consider sort of the highlights of this project, from your perspective, as the director? What really made this special to you?
JOHN: It’s the transformation. This was a tired, old house and the kitchen was – it was beat.
JOHN: And the front of the house was really plain and not very interesting. And if you see what happens seven months later, it is amazing.
TOM: Yeah. And you can see that right now. The episodes are rolling out on your local PBS stations. I caught one last night. Just amazing. Saw you working on that front porch. What an amazing detail.
JOHN: Yeah. The front porch to me – they spent weeks building that and just the detail that went into it. I don’t know if you noticed but it has these columns that flare out and they have wooden shingles on them.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Beautiful.
JOHN: It took one carpenter a full day to do one of those.
JOHN: And – I don’t know – there must be 12 of them.
JOHN: So, that’s the kind of detail that went into that porch.
TOM: And that’s the kind of detail you would’ve gotten in 1895 when materials were expensive and labor was cheap.
TOM: And that’s why you have so many of these beautiful homes that are available for this level of restoration.
JOHN: Right. Exactly.
LESLIE: And that’s why you really partner with This Old House.Because you’re not going to find – well, you’re not going to every day find a contractor or a builder or an artist who’s going to put the love and detail into that. And you know that’s what you’re getting with this team.
JOHN: Well, Tommy knows his stuff. The way – just watching him work and the way he figures things out how to do things. And it’s just amazing to watch and it’s really a lot of fun.
TOM: Now, you had a lot of structural issues here that had to be addressed, right? Were they tricky to shoot to tell that story?
JOHN: Absolutely tricky because a lot of them – they’re inside the wall, they’re inside the ceiling. It’s very hard to show and so we had to figure out ways to do it. We did a lot of animation and things like that to help.
TOM: Right. Yeah. Are you using pinhole cameras or GoPros and stuff like that to kind of …?
JOHN: We use GoPros a lot. Just anything we can think of. We use drones. We use anything we can think of to help us tell the story.
LESLIE: To get the right shot.
LESLIE: It’s really amazing what unfolds every day here on your set, which is essentially a construction site. It’s just a massive amount of challenges, I imagine.
JOHN: That’s what it is.
TOM: Yeah. So what’s next for you and This Old House?
JOHN: Well, we have a project on the North Shore of Boston. And it’s a unique project for us because it’s not an old house. It’s a house that was designed and built in a factory to look like an old house.
JOHN: And so we’re going to follow – it’s actually new construction from beginning to end, which the show has never done before, so …
TOM: Benefits of both old-world home and new technology to make it super energy-efficient.
TOM: John Tomlin, the senior producer for TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
JOHN: Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. More from Belmont, Mass and the 36th season of This Old House,when The Money Pit continues after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you’ve been listening to a very special edition of The Money Pit today, coming to you from Belmont, Massachusetts where the cast and crew of This Old House is wrapping up Season 36. And today’s broadcast has been made possible by Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene, the evolution of insulation.
LESLIE: You know, Tom, I’ve got to tell you, there’s so many beautiful details in this house. And I think that’s really what makes this Victorian such a stunner. And they’re just so authentic and beautiful. I love all the stained glass. Everywhere you turn, the glass is either seeded or has some sort of unique sort of off-ness to it that really makes it authentic.
TOM: I think the details are really what made this project really kind of come alive. And I think that’s an important lesson, because they are so many of those small details that we can do in our own homes. And just because you can’t do it all doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be attacking this in small pieces.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Some.
TOM: For example, did you see the bathroom floor on the third floor? Peer at the tile?
LESLIE: I’m in love with it.
TOM: The tile is amazing and now this is just a …
LESLIE: So it’s sort of like a Moroccan sextant shape. It’s a cobalt blue that looks almost like over-saturated. It’s stunning on the floor. And in the master bedroom? That’s not wallpaper. It’s a beautiful, hand-painted detail on the wall with this really lovely, soft-lavender wash. And from across the room, even in front of it, I think it’s wallpaper. It’s gorgeous.
TOM: So, the lesson is even if you have one wall in your bedroom or a 4×6-foot section of the bathroom floor, you can tackle these small projects. You can do them once, do them right, do them well and then add to that over time.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean really, it’s about finding these moments and that’s truly what it is. Everywhere you turn in this house, it’s beautifully designed and there’s moments that really just transport you to the beautiful era that this home once was. And I think that’s really important for every homeowner to sort of walk away with this. Create a moment, create a vignette. Make that a special, beautiful spot. And then you’ll really love your house more every day.
TOM: So give me one moment that you created in your house.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. I have this beautiful moment over my mantle. I have this big, starburst mirror and I have a series of different sort of candle holders and fossilized shells and things that I swap out, depending on the season of the year. And that’s sort of an evolving moment quarterly. And I try to make that always happen.
In the spring, there’s a lot of green and orchids and moss. And in the fall, it’s more rich and autumn-y. I really want that to stand out. And so that always is changing for me but that’s a consistent moment in my home.
TOM: So, of course, your moment is very décor-inspired.
LESLIE: Of course.
TOM: Mine is going to be very structural-inspired.
LESLIE: What’s yours?
TOM: My moment was the Douglas-fir floor that we found when we pulled up the carpets in our house. The original floors were there. You look at them, you think they’re hardwood but they’re really softwood. And you really know because right where the doorways are, they were physically worn down just from 100 years of people walking from the dining room to the kitchen and so on.
TOM: And so that material, of course, wasn’t available. We were able to find the actual raw wood and had to mill replacement planks. And we did it in such a way that we used sort of a finger-joint technique to kind of wind in …
LESLIE: It blends it perfectly.
TOM: Yeah. Well, the thing is it didn’t blend perfectly when we first put in down. Because you put new wood against 100-plus-year-old wood and …
LESLIE: So, colors are completely different.
TOM: The new was kind of a reddish and the old was sort of auburn-ish. And the thing was, though, give it a year of the sunshine just getting to it and it all kind of melted together. And you cannot tell where the old and the new are separated today.
So, find your moment in your house and make that possible. And if it turns out you got a ton of moments and you’d like to have the guys from This Old House stop by and help you out, they’re actually looking for projects right now. The search is on for 2016 projects for This Old House. So if you’re thinking about doing a major renovation, this is an opportunity. They’re looking for all sorts of homes. It doesn’t have to be an 1895 Victorian. It could be …
LESLIE: They want all styles, too.
TOM: All styles. It could be rural. It could be in the city. If you think you’ve got an interesting project, send it in to the folks at This Old House.
LESLIE: And you know Norm wants to do a brick house.
TOM: Yeah. He did. He mentioned that. See, they have a leg up on that.
LESLIE: So, if you’ve got a brick house and your dream is to meet Norm, this is – we’re just handing it to you right now.
TOM: Yeah. It’s easy to do. You just go to ThisOldHouse.com/PickMyHouse. That’s ThisOldHouse.com/PickMyHouse. Hey, who knows? We might be broadcasting from your house one year from today.
Hey, coming up next time on The Money Pit, if you need extra space, you might want to think about looking under your feet. We’ll have advice on how you can tackle a popular project, finishing your basement, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2015 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.)