Assessing the Floors
"You never know what you'll find when you rip up an old carpet," said Tom Silva, eyeing the filthy beige wall-to-wall that covered the living room and dining room floors. His hope was that there would be gold underneath: strip oak floors, which were popular in 1920s Colonial Revivals like the Winchester house. So he lifted a corner in the front hall, and with a wipe of paint thinner dissolved years of grime and old wax to find glowing oak underneath. "I know we'll have to replace some boards, and put in some patches," he said. "But after a light sanding and a couple of coats of finish, this will be beautiful."

Radiant Heat Prep
Before master plumber Ronald Coldwell could retrofit radiant heating under the first story's floors, he had to get one thing out of the way. Well, actually, hundreds of things: sharp-edged cut nails, used to install the original flooring, that were poking through the bottom of the floorboards right where the heating's plastic PEX tubing was to run. It took Coldwell a full day to cut the 400 nails with an angle grinder. As he put it, "Some days my job is lots of fun. Others, it's a real grind."

Sizing a TV Screen
Planning the media room in the refurbished basement of the Winchester house is more than just wiring the room for sound. Kim had to consider the size of the TV screen, because that dictates how far away the seating should be for optimum viewing. (A good rule of thumb: Viewer distance from the TV should be equal to twice the diagonal measurement of the screen.) So Kim marked the wall with the outlines of five different sizes of flat-screen plasma televisions and then measured recommended seating distances. In the end, she and Bruce settled on the smallest, a 42-inch screen, which gave them cozy seating that makes good use of the tight space. "The cost was also a plus," she says. "The bigger the screen, the higher the price tag. There may be optimum seating distance, but we were also thinking optimum checkbook balance."
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