This Old House Team Crew
Photo: Anthony Tieuli
This Old House Weston Project: Sixteen New EpisodesProject I: Fall 2008-09
This Old House partners with custom homebuilding company, Bensonwood, to build a new timberframe home that will look like an old barn, while featuring sustainable products and state-of-the-art technology.
Brand new episodes of the This Old House Weston Project will premiere nationally on PBS Thursday, October 2, 2008. (check www.thisoldhouse.com/tvschedule or your local listings)
Building a New Prefab Timberframe Home
The town of Weston, about 20 miles west of Boston, was a vibrant farming community when it was founded in 1713. Over the years, as Weston expanded into a suburb, the farmhouses, fields, and agricultural barns were slowly lost one by one. Today, almost 300 years since the first barn was raised in town, only a few proud survivors remain. It's the utilitarian spaces, period details, and rustic character of these old barns that are the inspiration for the Favat family's new home.
Despite being located on a main thoroughfare, the family loves their property, much of it on wetlands, with its active wildlife and bubbling brook. In recent years, however, Pete, Amy, and their children, 15-year-old Cian and 12-year-old Juliette, have found themselves outgrowing their modest 1970's-era home. After a year of trying to donate the existing house to charity, there were no takers, so the next best solution for them was to deconstruct their old house to make way for a new timberframe home.
Modern innovations and ideas layered over a traditional timberframe will create a dream home for the Favats. To achieve this goal, This Old House is calling upon long-time friend and show collaborator Tedd Benson and his team at Bensonwood, a company mainly responsible for reviving the art of timberframing, now largely using contemporary prefabrication techniques.
The Favat's prefab, eco-friendly home is being built to look and feel like an old barn with very industrial elements.
Creating a living space for the Favats that totals nearly 3,800-sq.-ft.
Designing an open floor plan on the first floor that includes an entry, kitchen, bathroom, tv room, sitting area, great hall, and computer workspace.
Planning a second floor with two children's bedrooms, each with their own loft, bathrooms, guestroom, laundry room, and master suite.
Increasing functionality in the basement with storage, a workshop, media room, half-bath, mudroom, and kitchenette.
Using very industrial elements in the kitchen, such as black painted cabinets, concrete countertops, and stainless steel appliances.
Featuring distressed painted wall finishes throughout the home, along with salvaged white oak flooring.
Utilizing neutral colors for walls and carpeting, along with functional materials like concrete for countertops.
The sensitive deconstruction of the Favat's existing 1,900-sq.-ft. home was done by the ReStore, a non-profit organization based in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The ReStore's professional deconstruction crew carefully dismantled the house using hand tools and small equipment, salvaging 85 percent of the home for reuse or recycling.
Many materials recovered from the Favat's home, including lumber, flooring, doors, and insulation, will be used over the coming months in the construction of two separate Habitat for Humanity homes in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Remaining materials will be sold at low cost at the ReStore's retail location in Springfield.
Building at Bensonwood, Combining The Art of Timberframing With The Science of Prefabrication
As both the architectural firm and prefabricator on the project, Bensonwood will build 75 percent of the house in a controlled workshop environment. Entire wall systems and room modules will be built, outfitted for plumbing and wiring, with windows and finishes added, in many cases, right in the workshop. Additionally, the timberframe will be created using traditional hand-craftsmanship, as well as the latest computer-aided woodworking technology, providing a level of structural integrity that will last hundreds of years. Many of the home's components will be assembled on site.
Prefabricating all timberframe components of the Favat's home, including exterior walls, floor systems, and roofing. Types of timberframe include: Douglas fir, live oak and Eastern white pine rafters.
Using massive salvaged Douglas fir quarry timbers, which were taken from a granite quarry in Vermont, and ships' timbers recovered from the local Charlestown Navy Yard to make up the main timbers in the home. The ribs and the derrick will both be sawn at Bensonwood's own sawmill.
Building a prefabricated foundation made of high strength concrete from Superior Walls. At 5,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), it is higher than a standard foundation and only puts concrete where needed, creating a more efficient wall.
Utilizing post and shear wall hold-downs to attach the Favat's new home securely to the foundation. This engineering complies with the newly adopted state building codes, which specify higher design wind speed loads.
Prebuilding roof panels/gaskets, cupola roof, boards, and soffit boards. Selecting structural insulated panel roofing.
Fabricating 50 Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) into roof sections that have interior ceilings installed inside and sheathing ready to receive shingles on the outside.
Installing exterior window trim and windows. Interior trim is prefabricated at the shop and prepared for easy installation on site.
Some of the wiring was installed at Bensonwood, however for electrical elements that could not be installed in the workshop, steps were taken to ensure this wiring could be easily connected on site.
Pre-wiring parts of the building with a new plug and play wiring system.
Installing electrical panels and subpanels, as well as outlets, switches, and their related wiring, at Bensonwood.
Pre-installing chases and wiring for alarm and data cables.
Prepping for on-site connection by using quick-connect devices that allow panelized sections to be completely wired then rapidly connected in the field.
Plumbing and Heating:
The drainage plumbing and hydronic radiant heating can only be installed in horizontal floor panels so when the building is erected on site the mechanical contractors can run the vertical piping to "connect the dots."
Building a "boiler room in a box," which contains all piping and hangers to be shipped in one piece to the project site. This box allows for a controlled environment where the temperature and humidity is consistent.
Installing rough plumbing in the bathroom module.
Creating a solar powered hot water system, which features evacuated tubes that are mounted into a manifold and then installed on the south side roof on the project site. These evacuated tubes will work with the solar hot water heater in the boiler room. They have a unique performance characteristic in that they work extraordinarily well in cold weather and on cloudy days. Any excess hot water can be used to supplement the radiant heating system.
Pre-plumbing solar heating system for easy installation of "boiler room in a box" on site.
Maximizing eco-friendly characteristics with solar power system that deliver approximately 65 to 70 percent of the building's domestic hot water load. Efficiencies for this type of equipment are between 90 and 96 percent.
Insulating walls with closed cell urethane in spray booth.
On the Job Site in Weston:
Once the structural components of the house were brought on site from Bensonwood, general contractor Tom Silva and his team from Silva Brothers Construction began to add many of the key finishes indoors and out.
Installing paperless drywall, including fire code drywall in the garage and storage room.
Adding wainscoting, trimboard, and baseboard.
Laying reclaimed white oak floors on the first floor, modular carpet tile squares on the second floor, and shock-absorbing rubber floor tiles in the basement.
Creating a herringbone tumbled stone entryway inside the front door, and in the garage level mudroom.
Laying handmade Trikeenan tile in the master bathroom and in the two upstairs bathrooms.
Installing custom cabinetry in the kitchen and built-ins for the first and second floors, and in basement media room.
Fitting concrete countertops for the kitchen and first and second-floor bathrooms. The bathroom in the basement will be outfitted with a countertop made of old sheet metal.
Designing floor tracking for the large, heavy dining room table. This will allow it to be easily rolled into different places in the room.
Blocking for and hanging interior and exterior doors throughout the home.
Creating a platform in the media room that will accommodate four reclining chairs. Installing ventilation systems in the bathrooms and kitchen.
Putting in the air conditioning system on site. The house will have small, individual units instead of a central system. The bedrooms and other rooms in the house will each have an individual unit, which operate with minimal ductwork in the ceiling. This allows for savings on energy as the units can be individually turned on and off.
Adding hook ups and vents for the washer and dryer on the second floor.
Running gas lines to the stove, cooktop, and heater.
Installing a 3.2kW photovoltaic system (solar panels) on the rooftop that could provide as much as 75% of the Favats power needs.
Hanging decorative light fixtures and recessed lighting.
Applying a natural stone veneer for the interior fireplace wall as well as the exterior chimney, columns, and foundation wall.
Using shingle and barnboard siding for the exterior to achieve the old barn feel. Installing maintenance free man-made decking for the two entry porches. The decking is made from partially recycled materials.
Preserving Nature By Creating An Eco-Friendly Landscape
The Favat home rests on just under one acre of land, but only 5,000-sq.-ft. is outside of the wetland buffer zone, which requires the landscaping team to work closely within the Federal State and Town wetland laws. First, the landscaping team has the land surveyed to identify Stony Brook's border of vegetated wetland. Per state regulations, any plans must work around a 25 ft. no touch zone, and also need clearance for anything within 100 ft. of the protected areas. The team also must gain the approval of the Conservation Commission with an environmentally friendly and overall green approach.
Making minor changes to the grades in the buffer zone, minimizing the chances of destabilization and detrimental erosion.
Using compost-filled hemp tubes to control runoff and erosion.
Implementing a rain collection system (rain barrels and storage cistern) which can provide irrigation for the gardens. The system overflows into a rain garden, which also filters and infiltrates the storm water runoff, protecting nearby Stony Brook.
Adding an orchard and developing the existing vegetable garden area into a key focus of the backyard.
Removing invasive plant species and replacing them with native species adaptable to site conditions. These native species include: Trees—hawthorn, swamp white oak; Shrubs—serviceberry, fothergilla, summersweet, highbush blueberry, sweetspire, silky dogwood, swamp azalea, inkberry, and arrowwood viburnum; Perennials—sneezeweed, beard tongue, coneflower, goldenrod, and ironweed.
Selecting native stone and plants for landscaping or transplanting/reusing existing plant material and hardscaping features.
Creating native field stonewalls and steps with a new entry step that takes homeowners from the parking area to the front door.
Choosing porous pavers to allow water to infiltrate directly into the ground. Creating a Goshen stone terrace under a pergola in the front of the house and a second stone patio in the rear of the house.
Building a sound barrier along the busy road with a berm, a solid wood fence, and planting to make the front yard safer and more usable.
Relocating existing bocce court to the front yard.
On the Road with This Old House:
Host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram open the new season with a visit to Gateways Farm, the largest and most architecturally significant barn complex in Weston. The timberframe 18th century barn, along with its 20th century gambrel addition, is an inspiration for the Weston project.
To obtain materials for the Weston house, This Old House maintains its eco-friendly theme by staying local, using products from some of New England's finest companies. In that spirit, This Old House visits Land's Sake in Weston—an organization that works to promote healthy forests by harvesting trees which otherwise might succumb to natural disaster, disease, or pests. The trees are felled and milled into timbers on site. This Old House pays a visit to choose timbers for use in the Weston project roof rafters.
In New Hampshire, Norm meets third generation lumber and paneling expert Tom Bingham at Bingham Lumber to see how he is making custom wainscoting, chair rail, and horizontal wall boards for the Weston project. The two take a closer look at the lumber selection and milling processes, as well as the six-part distressed finish painting, a process designed by a folk artist in residence. While in New Hampshire, Norm visits Crown Point Cabinetry to take a look at kitchen and bath vanities. He also travels to Northcott Wood Turning where he meets a father-son team that turns over 50,000 timber pegs a month. This duo will make all of the white oak pegs to be used in the Favat home.
For a Look Behind-the-Scenes:
Thisoldhouse.com will feature progress of the Weston project 24/7 through four Webcams powered by EarthCam. Visitors to www.thisoldhouse.com also will be able to access other special features, such as a "before" photo gallery, project overview, and time-lapse archive where an in-depth look at the project's progress may be tracked once the transformation has concluded. This Old House magazine will feature the Weston project starting with the September 2008 issue.
This Old House Crew:
Host Kevin O’Connor
Master Carpenter Norm Abram
General Contractor Tom Silva
Plumbing and Heating Expert Richard Trethewey
Landscape Contractor Roger Cook
Founder Tedd Benson
Architect Chris Adams
Project Manager Tony Poanessa
Landscape Architects Tom and Wes Wirth
Plumbing Contractor Lynne Keating
Master Electrician Allen Gallant
This Old House Production Team:
Vice President, Television Operations Michael Burton
Senior Producer and Director David Vos
Producer Deborah Hood
Associate Producer Jennifer Wells
Production Coordinator Heath Racela
Senior Editor Gary Stephenson
Editor Adam Bush
Cameraman Stephen D’Onofrio
This Old House Productions, Inc., for This Old House Ventures, Inc., and presented on PBS by WGBH Boston
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