Episode Descriptions


Season 17: Salem, MA
This project premiered on PBS
October 7, 1995
18 half-hour episodes; program #1501-1518

Program #1501
The show opens the season with a tour of Salem, Massachusetts—the Witch Trials Memorial, the town's formerly bustling waterfront, the residential grandeur of Chestnut Street, the House of the Seven Gables, the Peabody-Essex Museum and the old town hall. Convinced that this is the town the show should work in, our host tours two houses that are for sale with realtor Betsy Merry. While one is in too fine shape, the other needs a lot of work. It's an estate property on the market for $239,000. We meet a couple who is considering making an offer on it—they have two children and one on the way and only six small rooms in their current house. Meanwhile, our master carpenter and general contractor check out the property. Their conclusion: Lots of repairs needed, mostly the result of neglect, but essentially the building is sound.

Program #1502
Their bid of $205,000 accepted, the Guinees take possession of the house. Our host meets their banker, who explains some of the financing of the deal. Deborah walks through her wish list for the house: a kitchen, master suite and some way of getting off-street parking. Meanwhile, our master carpenter has begun work on the old window sash in the dining room. He removes the stops, loosens the paint- and caulk-encrusted lower sash, removes it and begins the process of taking out the glass. Scraped of loose paint, the broken wood is epoxied back into a strong unit and primed. Museum curator Dean Lahikainen gives us a tour of the Peirce-Nichols house, Salem architect Samuel McIntire's first commission. Built in 1782 and remodeled in the Federal style in 1801, it is one of America's finest late-colonial buildings.

Program #1503
We visit the island of Nantucket, where architect Ann Beha's firm is expanding and renovating the historic Atheneum, the town library. She agrees to help out in Salem. In Salem, the crew erects aluminum pump jack staging—a safe and efficient system, especially when many trades will be working on the exterior. We tour a couple of paint jobs with painting contractor Mike McManus and asks him to squeeze our house into his schedule. The guys finish reglazing the old window sash, using old-fashioned mouth-blown restoration glass. In the basement, Richard Trethewey points out an inefficient electric water heater that currently handles both sides of the house, and an oil heater that could use some tuning up. Our master carpenter points out "cooked," degraded old clapboards on the upper third of the building and recommends replacing them.

Program #1504
On a hot July day, the crew gut the existing children's bath and future master bath. They discover a flooring system that probably can't support the heavy load of two bathrooms' worth of china and tile, and decide to beef it up before starting the rough plumbing. Up on the roof, mason Lenny Belleveau reflashes and repoints the chimneys, replacing a poorly built cricket and sealing it with a rubber membrane. Painting contractor Mike McManus powerwashes the building, and architecture students measure the building to prepare "as-built" drawings for the architects to use. Architect Pamela Hawkes visits the site and considers a suggestion of cutting through the house's rear ell with a porte cochere to gain access to the back yard and solve the parking problem.

Program #1505
Tom Silva shows us the reframed bathrooms, with floors stiffened by flipping the original joists and sistering on reinforcing members. The bathtub arrives, and the crew horses it upstairs, where plumber Charlie Cashin is rough-plumbing the new children's bath and master bath. Restoration painter John Dee uses dental tools to reveal the finest of the portico's details. Before he could get to that stage, however, he had to painstakingly remove about 20 layers of built-up paint, aided by a paint stripping gel. We see wood restorer John Stahl use an epoxy repair system to work on the historic windows on the first floor. The Dutch system replaces rotted wood with workable epoxy and uses a flexible silicone for glazing compound. Architect Ann Beha presents some possible color schemes to homeowner Deborah Guinee, and later, after painting some samples on the building, she chooses the colors (blue body, white trim, black shutters) that she will present for approval to the Salem Historical Commission.

Program #1506
The crew insulates the exterior wall of the kids' bath with blown cellulose. Tom Silva shows a paint-on bathtub protector that peels off after construction is complete. We meet roofer James Shea, who has three options, with prices, for repair of the slate roof. Since the roof can be seen from the street, the Historical Commission will need to approve one of the options: slate repair, replacement of rear hip with fiberglass shingles or replacement with artificial slate. Then we're off to Frankfurt, Germany to visit ISH, the world's largest plumbing and heating exposition. Back in the bath, the crew puts up drywall, using a quick-setting joint compound.

Program #1507
We arrive to find Mike McManus and his painting crew continuing their prep work, dry scraping and hand sanding, per Board of Health regulations. The new staging now has safety nets, protecting passersby from falling tools or debris. Inside, our master carpenter shows us how to lay out and install tile in the kids' bath, using both a stationary and a hand-held wet saw. We revisit the Maitlands' colonial farmhouse in Acton, to see how they're liking it. Back at the house, homeowner Deborah Guinee shows us the drawings of the covered carriageway the architects have put together; she'll have to take them in front of the Historical Commission to see if they will approve the scheme.

Program #1508
The crew assesses the condition of the clapboards on the back of the building; patching presents a large investment of labor, while total replacement will be a big materials hit. Our host promises to take the issue up with the homeowners. Meanwhile, painter Mike McManus and crew apply the first coat of tinted primer—and they like the way the new paint goes on. We then attend the Salem Historical District Commission meeting, where architect Pamela Hawkes presents the carriageway drawings, commissioners ask questions, neighbors voice opinions and the commission votes to approve the concept, asking for more details of the door. The guys grout the new bathtub wall. The tile floor is in, but before it went down they had to install a premade underfloor tubing system for heat and a cementitious underlayment. Outside, restoration painter John Dee is putting the final coat of paint on the portico. In preparation, he used a wood filler known as Swedish putty to smooth out the surfaces to a nearly mirror-like finish.

Program #1509
We arrive to hear some troubling news: Some of the neighbors—not pleased with the Historical Commission's approval of the carriageway plan and worried about traffic flow, fumes, and the change to the facade—are thinking of appealing the decision. Upstairs, however, work on the kids' bath proceeds,with the installation of a new vanity, solid-surface counter with bowl, and lighting sconces. Our plumbing and heating specialist puts in a new sink faucet and shows us an electronic valve that shuts down when the clothes washer is off, reducing the chances of leaks. Downstairs, architect Ann Beha walks Deborah Guinee through the proposed new kitchen. After the bathroom mirror is installed, a crew arrives to fabricate and install a wire shelf system for the bathroom closets. Finally, the crew begins demolition for the new kitchen.

Program #1510
Our host recounts the latest Historical Commission meeting, in which the original approval of the carriageway was sent aside and the whole issue reconsidered. Because of discrepancies between the drawings and the actual house, the commissioners vote to visit the jobsite, see a mock-up of the carriageway, and vote on its appropriateness at a later meeting. Kevin Guinee expresses his frustration at not knowing whether or not that part of the project can move forward. Around back, the crew is replacing the crumbling wood side with a cement-based clapboard that's 60% the cost of cedar. Up on the roof, our host watches as roofer James Shea pulls out and replaces a broken slate; 100 more to go. He also is replacing the old zinc hip flashing with copper fastened with brass screws. The guys review progress in the rebuilt kitchen shed addition, in which Tom Silva used a keyed system of engineered beams to carry the weight of the exterior wall above over a wide span. They install two skylights in the kitchen. Finally, the Ferrante brothers install a Victorian-style tile in the master bathroom and shower stall. It will match the clawfoot bathtub that is to be reconditioned off-site.

Program #1511
The City of Salem's tree-planting program puts in a Callery pear (pyrus calleryana 'red spire') in front of the Guinees' house. In the kitchen, the guys examine the new windows—custom-made with sills and casings to match the existing ones on the house. They feature glass recycled from the original kitchen windows, which were too big to accommodate the countertops. The guys recall the scene earlier when Historical Commission members and interested neighbors visited the site to see a mock-up of the proposed carriageway. Roger Hopkins arrives to realign the granite steps, and Tom Silva puts a time capsule underneath, containing a TOH shirt, a Silva Bros. shirt, and a copy of TOH magazine. Upstairs, the crew cuts through a wall to reconnect the guest room to the Federal for the first time in 120 years. Our host takes the old clawfoot tub to a company in Ludlow, Massachusetts, to get it refinished.

Program #1512
Lighting designer Josh Feinstein shows Deborah lighting treatments for the kitchen and living room, while electrician Jeff Perry works to fish wires for the spots that will highlight the mantelpiece. Kevin Guinee reviews the progress so far and how much money remains in the Guinees' war chest (answer: only about $30,000 out of an original $110,000). We check the state of the new plumbing with plumber Charlie Cashin, then see the new high-velocity forced hot air heating system for the upper two floors. Finally, the guys remove wide pine boards from the attic for use in the new master bath.

Program #1513
Our host arrives with news from the latest Historical Commission meeting: a decision on the issue of the carriageway will be made in three weeks. The Guinees asked for a continuance because the corrected drawings arrived only a day before the meeting and they wanted everyone, themselves included, to be fully up to speed on the details. Despite the continuance, public comment was heard, and a lot of it was against the carriageway. Out back, our master carpenter begins to build a trash shed that will allow the Guinees to store their trash cans and recycling bins. The crew uses engineered lumber to stiffen the floor of the boys' bedroom. Our host visits the Andrew-Safford house, a 1819 late-Federal that is part of the Peabody Essex Museum, that's been renovated by a local charity as a designer showhouse. Back at the house, a slow-expanding insulation foam is injected into the walls, the shed is finished off, and the guys compare the merits of two types of storm windows: one-piece interior and triple-track exterior.

Program #1514
Our host arrives to see a wallboard delivery truck in action, while inside the wallboard/plaster crew works in the dining room. Upstairs, the guys address the out-of-square conditions in the guest bedroom by rejiggering the door casings for visual appeal. Our host uses a personal computer program to help Deborah Guinee work on the design of her kitchen-to-be, and he pays a visit to wallpaper expert Richard Nylander at the Harrison Gray Otis house in Boston, home of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, to get a tour of the Federal home and pick up samples of wallpaper for Deborah to consider in her historic rooms.

Program #1515
Homeowner Kevin Guinee tells us that, for now, they have withdrawn their petition to build a carriageway, citing lack of time to build, lack of remaining funds, Deborah's pregnancy and the highly charged atmosphere in town surrounding the issue. The Guinees will finish off the room where the carriageway may someday go as a simple family room. Richard Trethewey arrives with a stainless steel flue liner to prevent condensation from the highly efficient gas furnace from forming in the old chimneys, leaching through and damaging both the mortar and surrounding ceilings and walls. We meet a representative of the regional electric company, who shows us a new, more-efficient water heater being installed on the rental side of the building and explains the company's position on heating water with electricity. The guys fabricate a run of seamless aluminum gutter, and a crew installs a protector that keeps leaves from collecting in the gutter while still allowing water to be collected. We then visit the local shop where Roger Hedstrom and crew are building our kitchen cabinets and carving woodwork to fill in the missing areas in the old McIntire rooms. Back on site, homeowner Deborah Guinee uses small paint samplers from the hardware store to experiment with colors for the interior spaces.

Program #1516
We meet artist Don McKillop, who is painting a portrait of the Guinees' house, while across the street a new brick sidewalk is installed in front of the house. Inside, floor man Jeff Hosking finishes the rough wide pine flooring in the master bathroom, while painter Mike McManus uses a high-volume, low-pressure sprayer to paint the fine woodwork in the guest bedroom. We take a tour of a replica village that recreates Salem's earliest days as a fishing settlement in 1630. In the backyard, a children's playset goes up to the approval of the Guinee boys. Our host reviews with James Shea the completed roof job—fiberglass shingles on the back slope, repaired slate on the front, new copper flashing throughout—with roofer James Shea, and Charlie Silva puts up a hybrid storm window system: single-pane interior units for the historically sensitive front facade windows; high-quality triple-tracks for the rest of the building. Finally, the guys begin to install the newly painted kitchen cabinets.

Program #1517
A historically inspired Federal-style fence is installed to replace the rotting pickets in front of the house. Tom Silva installs a new mortice lock in the front door using an automatic morticing tool. In the kitchen, we meet with Julia Clay, who is painting a diamond pattern on the floor, while in the powder room decorative painter John Parsons is creating a mock library on the walls. We then visit Salem's Peabody Essex Institute for a sampling of its collection, which includes artifacts from the city's maritime past and original records from the witch trials of 1692. Back on the site, our master carpenter installs a new, full-light patio door in the family room to allow more light in, using a new kind of adjustable screw to set the jambs. The crew hauls the newly restored bathtub upstairs to the master bathroom, where it matches beautifully with the new toilet and pedestal sink. Our plumbing and heating specialist has found antique-look chrome bath fixtures that comply with modern code. To make hot water, he has installed a basement gas-fired boiler that fulfills three functions: domestic hot water, hot water to supply heat to the upstair hot-air system and warm water for the underfloor heating tubes in the upstairs bathrooms. Finally, Norman St. Marie and Lynn Parker show us how to hang the historic reproduction wallpaper in the McIntire living room.

Program #1518
The final days. We arrive after a snowstorm to find the front hall floor finished with a faux marble treatment by decorative painter Julia Clay. In the kitchen, Tom Worthen installs a "man-made slate" countertop. It's a dense composite of Portland cement and a mica-like mineral, often used in laboratories, but suitable for domestic applications. Upstairs, Michael Griffiths installs a dense carpet made from recycled soda bottles. In the McIntire room, historical goods merchant John Burrows supervises the installation of a historically accurate carpet, and we visit the factory in England where it was made on a narrow loom whose design has remained much the same since 1790. Then we check out the new alarm system, complete with low-temperature sensor. Josh Feinstein gives our host the tour of the new lighting. The guys examine a pop-up ventilator for the new modular cooktop and we see period-reproduction furnishings in the living room and guest bedroom, where we meets the latest addition to the Guinee family—two-day-old Madeline. At the final party, artist Don McKillop gives Kevin Guinee the completed painting of their new old house.