Episode Descriptions

auburndale house project

This Old House, Auburndale 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 #3001
Auburndale Project, Part 1 of 16
Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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This Old House opens a brand new season by helping the Sharma family renovate their 1940's house on Boston's famous Charles River. Out front, the home's bland exterior will receive a curb-appeal makeover thanks to the creative ideas of architect Chris Chu. On the inside, the house will get a new, larger kitchen, updated baths and loads of new windows to take advantage of the spectacular views out back. General contractor Tom Silva conducts a structural investigation and cites concerns about a new EPA law affecting all contractors dealing with lead paint in 2010. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey finds asbestos in the usual spots in the basement, but with the help of asbestos inspector Glenn Potter, it's also discovered hiding in the ceilings, walls, under the kitchen sink and even in the joint compound. Work gets underway as landscape contractor Roger Cook puts erosion control in place to protect the flood plain, while asbestos abatement contractor Brian Fitzsimons begins what will be nearly two solid weeks of asbestos removal.

Program #3002
Auburndale Project, Part 2 of 16
Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Landscape contractor Roger Cook preps for the new foundation of the entry hall by removing the old overgrown and badly pruned yews. Out back, host Kevin O'Connor finds general contractor Tom Silva and lead paint specialist Ron Peik demolishing the sun porch within the limits of the new national EPA lead law that now affects all contractors working on houses from 1978 or earlier. Master carpenter Norm Abram and homeowner Allison Sharma learn more about the grand estate that once occupied the neighborhood by visiting its original gatehouse, which is now a private home. Tom shows Kevin the progress on the excavation out front and out back, where Tom has transferred the load from the rear wall of the house, inbound, to a series of three temporary walls so work can begin. A team of concrete cutters arrives to set up and begin the process of cutting through the 10" thick concrete foundation walls. After the final cuts are made, they drop out a 16-foot section of the rear foundation wall to make way for the new family room addition.

Program #3003
Auburndale Project, Part 3 of 16
Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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The morning starts with the arrival of a 17-foot-long steel beam that weighs 900 pounds. It will carry the load of the house over the 16-ft. opening that was made in the rear foundation wall. Because the site is so hard to access, general contractor Tom Silva uses a crane to lift it up and over the house and place it carefully on a temporary wall near the installation site. Then, host Kevin O'Connor and Tom's crew lend a hand installing it. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets with product specialist Bill Gaines to see the insulated concrete forms being used not only for the foundations, but also for the above-grade walls on the new additions. Inside, Kevin welcomes Chris Kimball from America's Test Kitchen, to help us understand the "time capsule" of a kitchen that we have from 1940 and where the new design is headed for our homeowners in 2010. Back outside, the forms are complete and the concrete truck arrives to pour the foundation and walls. At the end of the day, Tom and Kevin discuss how the new lead laws affect interior work and how to properly test for it. Using proper protocol, the kitchen is gutted and the wall to the dining room comes down.

Program #3004
Auburndale Project, Part 4 of 16
Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find most of the demolition complete, and the house entirely opened up. General contractor Tom Silva shows him the progress and then they get to work taking the dip out of the old kitchen floor by working from below, down in the basement. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram frames up the new mudroom and powder room on the first floor using Tom's preferred method of framing up new walls: cutting all of the stock to length; assembling the walls on the floor; and standing them up one at a time. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey meets Massachusetts State Director of Flood Control, Bill Gode, to see how the Charles River has been literally formed and shaped by several major engineering projects over the years, including three major dams. Back at the project house, as Tom contends with the termite-damaged sill out front, Kevin welcomes pest control expert Todd McNamara to see his "eco-friendly" plan to address the termites and also the carpenter ants out back.

Program #3005
Auburndale Project, Part 5 of 16
Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Master carpenter Norm Abram meets homeowner Allison Sharma to review progress and see the new front entry and framed up kitchen. At the garage, he helps general contractor Tom Silva turn the flat roof into a pitched roof with the help of some prefabricated trusses. Kitchen designer Donna Venegas and homeowner Raveen Sharma review the layout of the new kitchen with the help of a paper mock-up. In the backyard, landscape contractor Roger Cook and urban ecologist Peter DelTredici show host Kevin O'Connor the native and non-native species taking over the flood plain. Norm and Tom review the layout for the new back deck and walkways and get to work setting 12 new footings to support them. Later, they frame up the floor of the new sunroom using engineered lumber.

Program #3006
Auburndale Project, Part 6 of 16
Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Work continues on the Auburndale project, as general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram frame the flat roof over the new sunroom. To shed water, the roof will be pitched slightly. Tom accomplishes this by tapering both the LVLs and the roof rafters. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Norm an expensive change order in the basement bathroom, and he also shares the news that the homeowners have decided to add air conditioning. Meanwhile, host Kevin O'Connor visits the Boston Public Library to learn about the former resident of the home, one of Boston's most famous street photographers, Jules Aarons. At the library, Curator Aaron Schmidt and son Phillip Aarons share their perspectives on the man and his work. On the second floor, Richard shows Kevin the progress on the rough plumbing and explains the layout of the new back-to-back bathrooms. Out on the future roof deck, Kevin finds Tom finishing up installing the underlayment on the flat roof. He lends a hand gluing down the rubber membrane, overlapping the sections, and caulking the joints.

Program #3007
Auburndale Project, Part 7 of 16
Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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In the basement, host Kevin O'Connor finds plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey finishing up the installation of the floor-warming radiant heat that will be in the slab under the new family room. A concrete pump truck arrives to pour all of the concrete on the basement level, including the footings for the new deck, and a team of concrete finishers works to create a smooth and level new basement floor. In a tile showroom at the Boston Design Center, Kevin and homeowner Allison Sharma meet interior designer Melissa Gulley to begin making aesthetic decisions for the entire project. Melissa gets a feel for Allison's style by looking at images she loves, pulled from books and magazines. Back at the house, general contractor Tom Silva is busy installing the new energy efficient, vinyl clad casement windows in what was formerly one of the darkest corners of the house. He cuts in new window and wall openings to reveal the spectacular views of the Charles River for the first time in that corner.

Program #3008
Auburndale Project, Part 8 of 16
Saturday, November 27, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Halfway through the renovation in Auburndale, master carpenter Norm Abram lends general contractor Tom Silva a hand patching in some sidewall shingles on the front of the house. Down in the basement, host Kevin O'Connor finds plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installing the ductwork for the new hydronic heating and cooling system, chosen for its flexibility in duct sizes, which are installed in the ceiling over the family room to feed the sunroom above. Next door, in the kitchen, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant finishing up the rough electrical, and also using something new— 4-inch, dimmable LED recessed light units with a light source that will last 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Back out in the hall mudroom, Norm and Tom accommodate another change order (and finish up the rough framing) by installing a pocket door kit that you can get at a local lumberyard.

Program #3009
Auburndale Project, Part 9 of 16
Saturday, December 4, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find work on the exterior progressing in the front, while out back, general contractor Tom Silva uses an acrylic stucco system to make the new basement addition blend in with the poured concrete of the old walkout basement. Inside, Kevin welcomes Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen back to the show to see the final layout of our kitchen and to get his opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the design. Back outside, Kevin finds Tom up on the roof, working to waterproof the valley where the flat roof meets the pitched roof of the new entry addition. Insulation contractor Tony Trigler arrives with crews to install four different kinds of insulation throughout the house for four different applications including, eco-friendly batt insulation, cellulose, and both open cell and closed cell spray foam.

Program #3010
Auburndale Project, Part 10 of 16
Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Host Kevin O'Connor meets landscape designer Jen Nawada Evans to see her plan for opening up the front yard while also creating perennial beds that can be added to over time. Inside, plaster contractor David Crawford shows Kevin how he is blending the old work with the new. Certified arborist Matt Foti shows landscape contractor Roger Cook why the Norway maple out front cannot be saved and demonstrates how his crew is taking it down safely, being mindful of its entanglement with the power lines. Down the river from our project, Kevin and master carpenter Norm Abram take some time to see the Charles River through the eyes of its most colorful tour guides—the "conDUCKtors" over at Boston Duck Tours. They take a tour through the city streets and then "splash" into the river as the tour bus becomes a tour boat, revealing some of the best views in Boston. Back at the house, Kevin meets up with general contractor Tom Silva and painting contractor Mauro Henrique to see how his crew is removing paint from the old shingles and how they will use a solid body stain to let the texture of the cedar shingles show through.

Program #3011
Auburndale Project, Part 11 of 16
Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find landscape contractor Roger Cook overseeing the crew that is setting the footings for the new pergola, while also preparing to give the concrete stoop a makeover using fieldstone veneer on the riser and a bluestone cap on the top. Inside, master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva begin trimming out the first floor windows, starting with the 16-foot bank of windows in the sunroom. The trim details will match the originals, using a build up of unadorned profiles created with a moulding machine. With the pergola on the way, Roger takes homeowner Allison Sharma to the Arnold Arboretum to see several different kinds of vines and select one that is appropriate for her front yard conditions. Back at the house, Norm surveys the progress on the second floor and sees how tile contractor Rob Raps is using pitching sticks to create a mud job at the base of the new shower.

Program #3012
Auburndale Project, Part 12 of 16
Saturday, December 25, 2010 at 1:30pm ET
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On site at the Auburndale project, the transformation of the back of the house is almost complete. Up on the deck, general contractor Tom Silva is putting down a new generation of composite decking—it is made from the same recycled plastic bits and wood waste that we’ve used before, but this time it has a durable new proprietary finish that carries a 30-year warranty. The manufacturer also provides a hidden fastening system and a prefabricated railing. Inside, painting is underway, and we’re using a product that promises richer colors, but also low VOCs—so master carpenter Norm Abram heads over to the factory to learn what goes into a quality can of paint. Painting contractor Mauro Henrique shows host Kevin O'Connor what he likes and doesn’t like about how the paint performs. In the living room, Tom shows Kevin how he’s making a few simple modifications to the fireplace mantel that will update its style to better fit in with the rest of the newly renovated house.

Program #3013
Auburndale Project, Part 13 of 16
Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find landscape contractor Roger Cook getting ready to install nine tons of rustic Pennsylvania fieldstone for the new entry walkway. Inside, general contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how to recognize a quality cabinet, and they assemble the kitchen island that has been sent in pieces from the manufacturer. Upstairs, Kevin finds tile contractor Rob Raps working in the kids' bathroom to install the new black and white tile scheme. Then Kevin lends a hand while master carpenter Norm Abram boxes in the ceiling beams in the sunroom, finishing them off with crown moulding. In the front entry hall, Tom shows Kevin the interior MDF two-panel doors the architect has specified, as well as a beefier version for the front door, from the same manufacturer, just as it is being painted a color called "audacious" red.

Program #3014
Auburndale Project, Part 14 of 16
Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find pergola contractor Mark Bushway and his crew installing the new custom pergola in front of the house. Inside, general contractor Tom Silva modifies the turnouts at the base of the main staircase, which are now too large given the open floor plan. He modifies the structure, tread, riser, and scotia to be both smaller and more squared-off to better match the details in the rest of the house. Landscape contractor Roger Cook preps the beds for planting as nurseryman Peter Mezitt delivers a 12-foot tall river birch tree that was grown in a 25-gallon container instead of the ground. This allows for better root system retention and seasonal availability. With proper care – teasing out the roots and using adequate compost and water – the results will be better than using field-grown specimens. Next-door neighbor Sue Hickey provides some of her extra perennials to round out the garden, and then, in the basement, Tom installs a new click-together laminate floor over the new concrete slab.

Program #3015
Auburndale Project, Part 15 of 16
Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find the wood island top being installed, and fabricator Paul Grothouse is on hand to show how he achieved the distressed finish. General contractor Tom Silva installs the "his & hers" closet systems that were designed online by interior designer Melissa Gulley and picked up at the local home center. Security system specialist Jack Basset installs the new wireless security system that cannot only detect opened windows and broken doors, but also the sound of breaking glass. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin the high-efficiency two-stage air conditioning system, and an equally efficient system for heat and hot water thanks to a condensing boiler and an indirect hot water tank. Countertop contractor Danny Puccio installs the kitchen window stool his shop made out of marble, as well as the "leathered" granite countertops – a look that's achieved by using metal brushes rather than diamond polishing pads. Tom installs the exterior hardware and shows how the new "smart lock" can be re-keyed anytime without the help of a locksmith. Landscape designer Jen Nawada Evans oversees the planting of the neighborhood trees in the community island, and the sod going down on the project, which is just about finished.

Program #3016
Auburndale Project, Part 16 of 16
Saturday, January 22, 2010 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)


In the last episode of the Auburndale project, master electrician Allen Gallant finishes up the exterior low-voltage lighting, while inside, lighting designer Susan Arnold shows off the installed lighting plan and how she's made a house with low ceilings look more spacious. Upstairs, host Kevin O'Connor meets plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey in the kids' bath to see the water-saving plumbing fixtures, and a bath fan that will turn on automatically when it senses humidity in the room. Interior designer Melissa Gulley shows Kevin how a small custom rug factory in Fall River, MA, is making the carpets for the house using both old and new world technology. Out front, landscape contractor Roger Cook shows master carpenter Norm Abram the hops vines that will be planted to grow on the pergola in the spring. Architect Chris Chu is on hand to review the overall effect of the changes to the front of the house and general contractor Tom Silva shows Norm the new composite shutters that add low-maintenance character to the front of the house. Inside, kitchen designer Donna Venegas shows Kevin the finished kitchen and the appliances that she specified, and then kitchen consultant Chris Kimball drops by to give Kevin his final thoughts on the space. Melissa shows Norm the challenges of furnishing an open floor plan on the main level, while upstairs, it is a master bedroom retreat, where homeowner Allison Sharma joins to reveal the master bedroom and luxurious bathroom. Down in the basement, it is all about family and function, as we see the family room, new bath, and laundry with Raveen Sharma and the kids. The entire team wraps up seven months of hard work with the traditional "wrap party" from our Auburndale project on the banks of Charles River.