Season 27: Washington, DC
The Washington, DC House
This project premieres on PBS
February 9, 2006
Master Carpenter Norm Abram and host Kevin O'Connor travel to Washington, D.C. to help non-profit developer Mi Casa Inc. renovate an abandoned 1879 rowhouse. The group attempts to preserve economic diversity in transitioning neighborhoods by selling renovated houses to low-income families at below market costs. Architect Genell Anderson envisions a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that features exposed brick, dramatic lighting, new windows, and updated amenities. With only $200,000 to work with, general contractor Mahyar Mahvi is hoping to save as much of the original house structure as possible. Norm and Kevin agree that the fire-damaged shell is going to need a lot of work, and that the budget must be spent carefully.
Host Kevin O'Connor visits the National Mall to see how the National Park Service is finishing up nearly 10 years of renovation at the Lincoln Memorial. Back at the project house, master carpenter Norm Abram finds the house has been almost completely gutted. General contractor Mahyar Mahvi had hoped to save many of the floors, studs, millwork, and plaster—but water damage had ruined them beyond salvage. In the basement, the news is better—a new slab has been poured, electrical service has been updated, and the new water service is underway. Out at the street, master plumber Robert Major replaces the 3/4" lead water-service pipe with 1" copper tubing. Up on Capitol Hill, landscape contractor Roger Cook meets garden designer Kevin Cordt to see how he designs beautiful, low-maintenance urban gardens on small rowhouse lots. Surprised by the radical changes at the jobsite, architect Genell Anderson has no choice but to go back to the drawing board.
Host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram grab breakfast with the crew at Saints Paradise Cafeteria, a non-profit church kitchen in the neighborhood. Back at the project house, framing is almost complete. Architect Genell Anderson's new design features a more open floor plan and the addition of a small first-floor powder room. Upstairs has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a laundry area. Norm meets with preservation planner Steve Callcott to review the procedures for working in the Mt. Vernon historic district. The restoration of the façade will require approved specialists in architectural ironwork, brickwork, and roofing. Restoration contractor Danny Palousek shows Norm how he will begin repairing and rebuilding the brick on the front of the house. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey visits the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall where university students compete to design and build houses powered entirely by the sun.
Host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram open the show at the most visited destination in the Nation's capital—DC's newly restored Union Station. Back at the project house, restoration contractor Danny Palousek has begun work on the exterior brick, while inside, general contractor Mahyar Mahvi shows Kevin the progress—the building has been insulated with expanding foam insulation, wallboard is going up, the stairs are under construction, and the new windows are going in. Norm meets millwork specialist David Baldwin at his shop in Millersville, Maryland to see how they are replicating new wood casings from originals found in the house. In the basement, HVAC contractor Michael Bonsby finishes installing the new high-efficiency, two-stage gas furnace. Although over budget due to items like the curved staircase and the additional powder room, project director Elin Zurbrigg feels she's still on track due to the 10 percent she set aside for overages.
Restoration contractor Danny Palousek shows master carpenter Norm Abram how he's repointing and rebuilding the decorative brickwork on the facade of the house. Host Kevin O'Connor ventures to the industrial waterfront of southwest Washington to see architectural ironwork specialist Fred Mashack's rehabilitation work on front entrance stairs. Inside, the drywall is up, taped and mudded, and cabinet installer Oliver Earl installs the new maple cabinets. Out back, garden designer Kevin Cordt shows Kevin his plan for the backyard—a functional urban landscape that features parking for two cars, natural wood fencing, a small shed, and a low-maintenance garden.
Host Kevin O'Connor meets local Rick Lee for a tour of the most famous block in the neighborhood, the "U Street Corridor," which includes stops at Ben's Chili bowl and the historic Lincoln Theatre. Back at the project house, work begins in the backyard as fencing specialist Phil Brennan and his crew install a neighbor-friendly shadowbox fence and saltbox shed, while landscape contractor Dan Barry preps the planting beds. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram finds the curved stair coming together and interior trim going up. Countertop fabricator John Huzway makes templates for the new engineered quartz kitchen counters using state of the art computer technology. Norm takes Mi Casa's project director, Elin Zurbrigg, to Washington's premier architectural salvage yard in search of a fireplace mantle to replace the one that was stolen. Owner Ron Allan shows them several period-appropriate options. Without a homeowner to work with, interior designer Kate Dieterich beings selecting paint colors by taking her cues from the architecture.
Landscape contractor Roger Cook brings host Kevin O'Connor to the United States Botanic Garden — it's at the base of the Capitol and serves as the nation's greenhouse boasting 4,000 living species and 26,000 different plants. Back at the project house, Roger finds garden designer Kevin Cordt and his crew bringing in steel edging, pea stone, and plant material for the new backyard garden. Inside, general contractor Mahyar Mahvi shows master carpenter Norm Abram how he's sealed the exposed brick and started the tile work on the second floor. Custom stair manufacturer Jeff Glass and his crew fabricate a laminated railing for the new curved staircase. Interior designer Kate Dieterich shows Norm a new linoleum flooring for the kitchen that's homeowner friendly — it comes in panels with a cork backing, and clicks together without glue. In nearby Anacostia, Kevin meets park ranger Eola Dance for a look at the ongoing restoration work at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Upstairs in the back bedroom, flooring contractor Ralph Santos installs a traditional pre-finished strip oak floor.
Day before the wrap party, master carpenter Norm Abram and host Kevin O'Connor visit the Jefferson Memorial. Architect Genell Anderson shows Norm the archival photo that inspired her design for the replacement roof turret, and Norm meets roofing contractor Tony Constantino to see how the structure is coming together. The finish materials are low maintenance — synthetic slate roofing, a high-density urethane cornice, and a shiny copper finial — all approved by the historic board. In the parlor, Norm applies a few coats of wax to enhance and protect the newly-stripped and salvaged mantle. Garden designer Kevin Cordt adds teak furniture and blooming annuals to the backyard, creating a true urban oasis. The next day, Norm arrives to find general contractor Mahyar Mahvi finishing up an elaborate tile medallion at the entry way, while his crew attends to the last details. Architectural ironwork specialist Fred Mashack installs the newly rehabbed iron and steel entry stair, while inside, interior designer Kate Dieterich shows Kevin her strategies for decorating an urban row house. Out front, thanks to a talented team of restoration contractors, the renovation is complete. The team assembles on the front steps, as Washington, DC, Mayor Anthony Williams arrives to officially open the house with a ribbon cutting and good wishes for the future homeowners.