Season 28: East Boston
The East Boston House
This project premieres on PBS
October 5, 2006
For the first time ever, the experts at This Old House gathered house proposals via www.thisoldhouse.com, and now find themselves working with two single female homeowners in the dynamic neighborhood of East Boston. The challenge for this new season is to renovate their 1916 two-family house on a modest budget. While the house needs new wiring, plumbing, and insulation — the homeowners hope to spend most of their money on stylish new kitchens and baths. Downstairs, homeowner Liz Bagley wants an open, contemporary look, with a new back porch. While upstairs, her aunt, Chris Flynn, prefers a more traditional approach that includes adding a new bath in the attic, and greatly expanding her kitchen. After a thorough inspection, host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram discover additional problems with the roof, heating systems, and an aggressive vine that's engulfing the house.
Host Kevin O'Connor meets local architect Craig Buttner to see how he saved money on this own renovation by doing the work himself and by using salvaged materials. Craig agrees to draft some plans for the East Boston house, while general contractor Tom Silva meets historic masonry specialist John Lambert for a closer look the stucco exterior of the project house. In a perfect world, the 90-year old stucco would be replaced, but the homeowners might only be able to afford a temporary patch and paint job. Out front, landscape contractor Roger Cook shows Kevin how a street tree might be strangling the sewer pipe with its roots, causing backups in the basement. Options include removing the tree, and/or replacing the pipe, so to find out how bad the damage is, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey uses a snake equipped with a tiny video camera to investigate.
Landscape contractor Roger Cook puts homeowner Liz Bagley to work removing the dead privets on her property. Architect Craig Buttner walks Liz through three options for opening up her kitchen, the last one calls for a radical reorganization that would address some traffic-flow problems, but it could also be a budget breaker. Master electrician Allen Gallant shows master carpenter Norm Abram that although the panel boxes have been updated in the basement, much of the original knob and tube wiring is still active and in need of replacing. In preparation for demolition, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey drains the heating systems and begins removing radiators that will be saved and reused. Environmental consultant Sam Covino discovers asbestos in Liz's kitchen that will need to be professionally abated, but that does not stop general contractor Tom Silva from showing Liz and friends how to demo the old cabinets, plumbing fixtures and ceilings to make way for the new.
Landscape architect Stephanie Hubbard shares her strategies for creating a "bold and simple" urban landscape in East Boston. Abatement contractor Brian Fitzsimons and crew remove asbestos-laden flooring and mastic from the first floor kitchen. Upstairs on the second floor, general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram carefully remove the original mouldings that will be saved and reused if possible. Then, host Kevin O'Connor lends them a hand knocking down the partition wall that currently separates two bedrooms, to make space for the new kitchen. City contractors arrive outside to excavate the sewer main and lateral to the house — they discover both are chronically choked with tree roots, and in need of repair.
Despite both of their kitchens being gutted, aunt Chris Flynn and her niece Liz Bagley are still bunking in together in the upstairs unit, getting by with just a refrigerator and a hot plate in the dining room. Kitchen designer Kathy Marshall shows Kevin and Liz two possible schemes for Liz's new kitchen in the first floor apartment. Master plumber Bill Kane shows plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey a new pipe relining system that will line the old cast iron sewer pipe lateral with a new, continuous pipe made out of resin to protect against future tree root infiltration. On the second floor, host Kevin O'Connor lends general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram a hand hauling in and installing a new carrying beam that will allow for an open floor plan. Master electrician Allen Gallant shows Kevin how he's snaking new wires through the old walls using a fishing system and a flexible steel drill bit
Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey and homeowner Chris Flynn haggle with salvage expert Harry James as he prepares to remove antique plumbing fixtures from the house. To make way for the new kitchens, Kevin and the homeowners lend general contractor Tom Silva a hand taking down the central chimney from the top, brick by brick. Master carpenter Norm Abram visits the jobsite of the first art museum to be built in Boston in nearly 100 years, the Institute of Contemporary Art, which features a dramatic glass cantilever and a tight construction deadline. Back at the house, kitchen and bath designer Kathy Marshall shows Norm how she plans to squeeze a new, no frills, full bathroom into the attic for Chris. The new bathroom will be built first, before demo takes place in the old second floor bathroom, so the homeowners won't have to move out.
Homeowner Chris Flynn takes host Kevin O'Connor to the highest point in East Boston to see the spectacular view of downtown, and a national religious shrine featuring a 35-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary. General contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin some of the problems with rot on the front porch, and failures in the old stucco exterior, while landscape contractor Roger Cook enlists the help of the homeowners to remove all of the ivy that is engulfing (and damaging) the building. Kitchen designer Kathy Marshall shows master carpenter Norm Abram the design and finish choices for the upstairs unit's kitchen, while plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey roughs in a new full bath in the attic space on the third floor. On the first floor, flooring contractor Patrick Hunt pulls back the old wall-to-wall carpeting to discover a fir floor that needs to be replaced, and two rooms worth of valuable long leaf pine flooring in beautiful condition. In the basement, demolition contractor Bob Gagliard breaks up and removes the old cast iron boiler.
Host Kevin O'Connor opens the show at Piers Park, a waterfront park in East Boston that gives its residents access to the water and free sailing lessons to city youth. Even though they plan to live in the house during the renovation, homeowners Chris Flynn and Liz Bagley pack up most of their belongings into a portable storage unit so work can progress. Liz helps general contractor Tom Silva dig holes for the footings for her new deck using a compact utility loader. To resist weather and frost-driven uplift, Tom uses a one-piece ultra high-density polyethylene footing form. Fire inspector Bill Honen helps Kevin locate the new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, while master electrician Allen Gallant installs them. On the exterior of the house, masonry contractor Mark McCullough patches the worst of the crumbling stucco.
Master carpenter Norm Abram and host Kevin O'Connor open the show steps away from the project house at a little-known monument to a local pilot who sacrificed his life to save the neighborhood in 1954. Kevin helps general contractor Tom Silva pull up the second floor front deck to examine the structure and make the necessary repairs. They find extensive rot, colonies of active carpenter ants, and insufficient structure due to years of misguided repairs. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installs new thermostatic valves that will allow the homeowners greater flexibility and control of their heating systems. Norm shows homeowner Chris Flynn how to remove a broken stained glass window, while Kevin visits the Brookline studio of stained glass artist and restorer Emanuel Genovese to see how the window is repaired. Landscape contractor Roger Cook brings in certified arborist Matt Foti to prune the street tree both up and down, in order to allow more light and water views into both the first and second floor apartments.
Out front, the porch story continues as general contractor Tom Silva shows host Kevin O'Connor how he is replacing the old rotting wood trim boards with new rot-resistant PVC material. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows homeowner Liz Bagley why her aging oil tanks need replacing. The new double-wall tanks are seamless galvanized steel on the outside, and high-density polyethylene on the inside to resist corrosion and leaks. Master electrician Allen Gallant shows Kevin why he is using IC rated recessed lights, as well as how to properly install them. To experience a day in the life of the East Boston waterfront, Kevin accompanies a state-of-the-art tractor tugboat on a mission to guide a container ship safely through the harbor. Back at the project house, roofing specialist Rich Kline shows Kevin the reinforced elastomeric membrane roofing system going down on the front porch roof.
Homeowner Chris Flynn shows master carpenter Norm Abram how she is making do with the makeshift bathroom on the third floor. General contractor Tom Silva offers Chris reasons why she needs to replace her old basement windows, and host Kevin O'Connor lends a hand installing them in the existing jambs. In the basement, as an alternative to using direct vent oil appliances, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Norm the new stainless steel double wall chimney that will be used to vent the heating equipment. On the other side of town, Kevin meets developer David DuBois to see how he fulfilled an urban fantasy by renovating an 1865 East Boston firehouse into an over-the-top dream home. Tom shows homeowner Liz Bagley how he'll insulate behind her existing walls using familiar spray foam insulation, but this time it will be poured into the wall cavity through a series of small holes, so as not to disturb the old plaster.
The ninety-year-old slate roof could not be saved, so roofing contractor Sean Green and his crew strip off the old slate, and lay down new asphalt the proper way. General contractor Tom Silva shows host Kevin O'Connor how his crew is hanging 5/8 fire-rated wallboard on the ceiling with the help of a handy wallboard hanger. In the second floor bathroom, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installs a new custom copper shower pan and drain. In the basement, master electrician Allen Gallant shows homeowner Chris Flynn the new, updated service panels and the new external whole house surge suppression system that will protect all the household appliances and electronics from power surges and lightening strikes. Kevin lends Tom and Richard a hand getting the cast iron tub into homeowner Liz Bagley's first floor bathroom.
Work begins on the exterior of the building, first by cleaning any old cracks, and then by applying a flexible polyurethane caulking that is blended to match the texture of the old stucco. Master carpenter Norm Abram repairs and updates the original front doors to the house, which were recently discovered in the basement. Inside, plastering contractor Karl Gross uses a reinforced plaster mix, mesh tape, and joint compound to patch the old plaster and prevent future cracks. Nearby, landscape contractor Roger Cook visits a colorful East Boston community garden. While back at the house, coatings specialist Scott Bennung shows host Kevin O'Connor how he's applying an elastomeric coating, rather than paint, to the stucco that will seal out water and provide a fresh, clean look for the house.
While homeowner Liz Bagley works to strip paint off the front door trim, general contractor Tom Silva creates a wood inlay to patch her kitchen floor with material salvaged from other parts of the house. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress in the basement, and the anatomy of the new boiler for the first floor unit. Kevin visits Boston Symphony Hall to see how they are using custom milled maple and steel cut nails to replace the 100-year-old original stage floor, without altering the renowned acoustics of the hall. In the second-floor bathroom, Tom shows Kevin how he's milling up custom PVC mouldings to trim out a window that is in a shower well, and therefore vulnerable to water damage.
Landscape contractor Roger Cook removes the rest of the old plants and dead lawn to make way for the new, while homeowner Liz Bagley and interior designer Lisey Good show off their plans for decorating the more modern downstairs unit. Upstairs, cabinet installer Oliver Earl shows master carpenter Norm Abram the new cabinets going into the kitchen. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey visits nearby Boston Light, the site of the first lighthouse in the country, to see its newly restored Fresnel lens. General contractor Tom Silva shows host Kevin O'Connor how he's expanded the back porch using composite decking with a hidden fastening system, and how he's repairing an old pressure treated railing, rather than replacing it. Flooring contractor Patrick Hunt shows Norm a new dust collection system that attaches to a standard floor sander, separates particulate matter through a cyclone, and then funnels the dust to a canister that can be kept outside, leaving the jobsite dust free.
Host Kevin O'Connor visits Suffolk Downs ? the oldest horseracing track in Massachusetts. Landscape architect Stephanie Hubbard fills Kevin in on some changes to the landscape plan, as the decorative trellises go up against the neighbor's garage. General contractor Tom Silva replaces the old, ivy-stained aluminum trim with new material. Homeowner Chris Flynn lends painting contractor Buzz Zimmerman a hand painting the walls in her kitchen, as master carpenter Norm Abram builds her a custom banquette at the New Yankee Workshop. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin the new PEX water supply lines, the automatic water shutoff in the third-floor laundry, and the custom radiator covers going in on the first floor.
Host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram arrive to find the landscape coming together with a new fence, sod, and plants. General contractor Tom Silva fabricates and installs a laminate countertop for the laundry area. Kitchen designer Kathy Marshall shows homeowner Chris Flynn how to design a bathroom on a budget, as she takes her tile shopping at a local home center. Tile contractor Joe Ferrante gives homeowner Liz Bagley a lesson in installing subway tile in her new bathroom. The flooring contractors apply polyurethane to the longleaf pine floors on the second level, while Norm installs the custom banquette in Chris' kitchen. Countertop contractor Jason Keefe installs engineered stone tops upstairs, and black granite downstairs.