Episode Descriptions

newton centre house project before

This Old House, Newton Centre Project

This project premieres on PBS Saturdays at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Also in prime time exclusively on PBS Thursdays in the first half of The This Old House Hour at 8pm ET (check local listings).

Program #2901
Newton Centre Project, Part 1 of 16
Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
The 30th anniversary season of This Old House opens with the crew beginning a small but sophisticated addition to a 1915 Dutch Colonial Revival that includes a new kitchen, home office, and family room. Homeowners Bill and Gillian Pierce love their old house but it lacks family space, flow, and a modern kitchen. Architect Paul Rovinelli presents his plan for the addition, while problems are identified in the old house, both in the basement and in the landscape. Host Kevin O'Connor visits a similar house in the neighborhood that has been opened up and expanded, while general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram arrive to begin the demolition with Bill. By the end of the day, the three-season porch has been removed, and work is well underway.

Program #2902
Newton Centre Project, Part 2 of 16
Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
Master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva remove the old vinyl siding from the exterior of the house, exposing not only the original wood clapboards underneath but also lots of repair work that needs to be done. Inside, architect Paul Rovinelli takes host Kevin O'Connor and homeowner Gillian Pierce through the plan for the new kitchen, which calls for a modest expansion, building as Gillian puts it, "just what we need," and nothing more. One early proponent of that style of thinking was architect and author Sarah Susanka, so Kevin travels to her own "Not So Big" home in Raleigh, North Carolina, to see some smart ideas for restrained remodels that won't break the bank. Back in Newton Centre, landscape contractor Roger Cook breaks up the old porch slab to make way for the foundation for the new addition.

Program #2903
Newton Centre Project, Part 3 of 16
Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
Host Kevin O'Connor and general contractor Tom Silva discuss the homeowners' decision to stay in the house during construction, and they agree it won't be easy. Homeowners Bill and Gillian Pierce are already living out of boxes and coolers, because today their kitchen will be gutted back to the studs. In the basement, the laundry room can stay for the time being, but the entire heating system is also coming out today, as plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey goes straight to work with a reciprocating saw and a sledgehammer. Outside, Tom shows Kevin how he's extending the old windowsills with wood and epoxy to replicate the historic "ears" of the sill that were cut off by the vinyl siding contractor years ago. Gillian sets up a temporary kitchen in the basement, while Kevin gets some bad news from master electrician Allen Gallant. The exterior service components are water-damaged beyond repair, and due to some hidden (and ungrounded) knob-and-tube wiring, nearly ninety percent of the old house will have to be rewired to meet building code. Out back, Tom uses interlocking, insulated concrete forms to form the foundation for the new addition, just before the concrete truck arrives for the pour.

Program #2904
Newton Centre Project, Part 4 of 16
Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
Host Kevin O'Connor meets general contractor Tom Silva in the kitchen to see some bizarre and inadequate framing that he recently discovered in the old kitchen ceiling. As a result, they have to reinforce and level the entire ceiling using an angle iron, a laser level, and multiple new LVLs. Then, Kevin visits Long Island, New York with architect Russell Versaci to learn about the origins of our house style, the Dutch Colonial Revival. Back in Newton Centre, master carpenter Norm Abram leads the effort to frame up the first floor platform for the new addition.

Program #2905
Newton Centre Project, Part 5 of 16
Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
Homeowner Gillian Pierce shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress—the first floor family room is entirely framed in, and up above, general contractor Tom Silva is building the gable-end wall for the new addition. Kevin climbs up top and lends a hand with the wall raising. Out front, master electrician Allen Gallant prepares to upgrade the service from 100 amp to 200 amp, but first he sets up temporary jobsite power by making up a new main connection from the street—with live wires. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin how he's using a composite pipe made up of PEX and aluminum to run new lines to the old radiators. Out at the new addition, Tom walks Kevin through the complex roof framing, and they get a sense of the new library and home office space for the first time.

Program #2906
Newton Centre Project, Part 6 of 16
Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
Work on the Dutch Colonial Revival continues as master carpenter Norm Abram recaps the progress on the addition, then turns his attention to the kitchen where general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O'Connor are working to reframe the existing walls to accommodate new door and window openings. Upstairs, Tom installs a large new window in the library that is really six individual window units grouped together, while downstairs, kitchen designer Tamara Raymond helps homeowner Gillian Pierce envision her new kitchen with the help of paper mock-ups. Kevin pays a visit to former This Old House architect Treff LaFleche to see how he renovated his 1906 Gambrel-style Victorian to achieve superior energy efficiency and a LEED green building certification.

Program #2907
Newton Centre Project, Part 7 of 16
Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
Landscape contractor Roger Cook welcomes certified arborist Matt Foti to Newton Centre to prune all of the existing hemlock trees on the corner of the house, and along the driveway. Inside, master electrician Allen Gallant installs a bath fan in the new powder room that looks like a recessed light, but it has hidden ventilation capabilities built in. Host Kevin O'Connor travels back to Austin, Texas to revisit our first certified green building project—a 1920s bungalow that was expanded to accommodate a family of four. Nearly three years later, the homeowners and their builder report back on how the house is performing. Back in Newton Centre, general contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how he's roofing the new addition to match the existing house using an architectural asphalt shingle.

Program #2908
Newton Centre Project, Part 8 of 16
Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 1:30pm ET
(check local listings)
General contractor Tom Silva replicates the old exterior trim details around the new windows in the addition using cellular PVC that will never rot. Master carpenter Norm Abram installs the pre-hung Douglas fir exterior door for the back entry. Architect Paul Rovinelli takes host Kevin O'Connor on a tour of a recently renovated Dutch Colonial Revival that makes the most of its small footprint. Back at the house, Tom gets some help from homeowner Bill Pierce and his dad, Bill Pierce, Sr., as they remove the old bookshelves and plaster wall to gain entry into the new library addition.

Program #2909
Newton Centre Project, Part 9 of 16
Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

General contractor Tom Silva enlists homeowner Gillian Pierce to help him fabricate the new decorative bracket that will support the rear entry porch roof. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress on piping the old radiators, and the challenges he is facing in providing heat to the new kitchen space. The solution is two different applications of radiant heat, a portion installed above the subfloor, and a portion installed underneath. In a renovated church downtown, interior designer Lisey Good shows Kevin how she created a beautiful new kitchen and a combination home office/library space (both with smart storage solutions). Back at the house, Kevin helps master carpenter Norm Abram use new red cedar clapboards to patch in the old exterior siding at the back of the house.

Program #2910
Newton Centre Project, Part 10 of 16
Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

To replace the stairway he removed from the old kitchen, general contractor Tom Silva builds a brand new stairway to the basement. Then, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor how to select a good quality faucet—discussing function, finish, construction and valves. Inspired by an existing arched door opening, Tom shows Kevin how he's making a vaulted ceiling in the hallway that connects the front of the house to the new addition out back. At the end of the day, insulation contractor Tony Trigler arrives to install spray foam insulation in the new addition.

Program #2911
Newton Centre Project, Part 11 of 16
Saturday December 19, 2009 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Host Kevin O'Connor arrives at the house and finds that preparation for the exterior paint job is well underway. Homeowner Bill Pierce reveals that he has selected a new kind of paint that promises homeowners that they'll "never paint again." General contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram install custom copper half-round gutters that the architect specified for the rear of the house. Inside, Kevin finds the wallboard up, and plastering contractor David Crawford and his crew putting up a base coat of veneer plaster. Back outside, Kevin meets painting contractors Mat Giovanello and Pat Foley to learn more about their product—a system that relies on proper surface preparation, proprietary bonding agents, and an acrylic paint containing ceramic beads to create a lasting finish. Kevin learns that just a few weeks before the end of the project, Bill has decided to have Tom rebuild his entire one-car garage. Wasting no time, Tom gets to work removing the old garage.

Program #2912
Newton Centre Project, Part 12 of 16
Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Host Kevin O'Connor lends a hand as general contractor Tom Silva builds a new small deck that will serve to connect the kitchen to the patio. Then, landscape contractor Roger Cook works with homeowner Bill Pierce to lay concrete pavers for the new patio. Tile specialist Catherine Mitchell shows Kevin the range of options available in selecting white subway tile for the kitchen backsplash. Then, in the new library, flooring contractor Patrick Hunt shows master carpenter Norm Abram how he's installing new oak flooring to match the existing flooring in the house. Kevin checks back in with Roger as they finish the patio by applying polymeric sand, compaction, and finally, water, to lock it all in place.

Program #2913
Newton Centre Project, Part 13 of 16
Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


Host Kevin O'Connor arrives at the house to find that landscape contractor Roger Cook has removed the old driveway and has begun putting down the the new asphalt. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram finds the new cabinets on site, and lends general contractor Tom Silva a hand as he begins to install them. In a nearby showroom, Kevin meets up with lighting specialist Bob Joyce to see the latest in under cabinet lighting, including some new energy efficient LED options. Then, back at the house, Kevin observes how painting contractor Anne Brady strips off two layers of old wallpaper from the front entry hall. With all of the kitchen cabinets installed, Tom and Norm work to trim out the bank of windows in the back corner of the kitchen. Program #2914
Newton Centre Project, Part 14 of 16
Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


Landscape contractor Roger Cook and homeowner Gillian Pierce visit neighbor and gardener Cathy Schneider to take her up on her offer to share some of her plants that need dividing. Back at the Pierce home, painting contractor Anne Brady gets started on the prep and painting of the dining room, first explaining how to patch and spot prime a water-damaged ceiling. Then, Anne teaches host Kevin O'Connor a method for repainting the ceiling in 3'x3' patches that allows her to do two coats at once while always keeping a wet edge. Kevin checks on the progress of the kitchen and then meets up with countertop fabricator Danny Puccio to see the latest offerings in countertops at an off-site showroom. Out back, they see how the tops are fabricated both by machine and by hand. Inside, Kevin finds general contractor Tom Silva constructing the new built-in bookshelves for the formal living room. Kevin lends a hand fabricating the boxes and mounting them to the wall. Program #2915
Newton Centre Project, Part 15 of 16
Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


Host Kevin O'Connor arrives at the project house to find a bustling jobsite and the finished countertops arriving. Inside, homeowner Bill Pierce reviews the tight clearances around the kitchen island before the tops are permanently installed. Landscape contractor Roger Cook takes homeowner Gillian Pierce shopping for plant material for the yard, focusing on dwarf specimens to fit the scale and size of her lot. Back at the house, master carpenter Norm Abram welcomes back wood countertop fabricator Paul Grothouse to install the butcher block island top and to review other wood top options. Outside, Roger and Gillian review the site prep and put the new plants in the ground. Upstairs, Norm and general contractor Tom Silva continue work on the new library by fabricating and installing the face frames for the base cabinets and gluing and installing the new oak tops for the window seat. Back in the kitchen, tile contractor Mark Ferrante installs and grouts the subway tile backsplash using a new pre-mixed urethane grout that promises faster installation time, greater stain resistance and no additional sealing.

Program #2916
Newton Centre Project, Part 16 of 16
Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


In the final show from Newton Centre, host Kevin O'Connor drives up to find all hands on deck for the last few days of the project. Landscape contractor Roger Cook mulches in the last of the plants and lays sod around the new patio. Inside, flooring contractor Pat Hunt shows Kevin the prep for the new oak floors and how the color is achieved through layers of dye and stain to match the 100-year-old floors in the rest of the house. Down in the basement, Kevin meets plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey to see the final heating installation and how he made smart use of some old radiators to heat the basement space. In the kitchen, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant installing the new LED under-cabinet lights that use a fraction of the energy of traditional lights. On the final morning of the project, master carpenter Norm Abram meets up with architect Paul Rovinelli to see the finished exterior elevations, and inside, the dramatic new library and furnished home office space. Homeowner Bill Pierce shows Kevin the finished living room, with plenty of new built-ins for books, and the new family room that is already being used by the kids in the house. The highlight of the whole project is the new kitchen, where homeowner Gillian Pierce is already happily at work preparing food for the wrap party. Highlights include a new 30” range with burners up top, and two ovens below, and plenty of space for the family to gather around to keep her company. Lead by general contractor Tom Silva, the modest project (with a modest budget) succeeded in its goals of tightening up the old house, while adding on just enough space to achieve better flow and living space for the family. At the wrap party, friends and family arrive to celebrate another This Old House job well done.