Episode Descriptions

the essex project

Season 32: The Essex 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).

Episode 26
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Finale: A Home for Mom and Dad, Part 11 of 11
Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Norm and Kevin round out the Essex experience with a visit to one of its most iconic antiques shops, The White Elephant. Back at the house, the 2nd floor is nearly complete as Kevin finds Tom working on the interior screens for our signature casement windows. Downstairs, the last big project is installing the Dutch door that was late in coming for the passage between the kitchen and sun porch. Outside, electrician Allen Gallant shows Kevin how he's lighting the way with sconces at the entry, LED fixtures in the trees for general lighting, and wall washers at the masonry walls for safety and effect. He's also installed an oversized generator that can power the entire house in an emergency. Richard gives homeowner John Corcoran an orientation to his basement and all of the cool new technology down there. Homeowner Julie Corcoran shows Norm the design choices she made for the caregiver suite. Downstairs, interior designer Keith Musinski shows host Kevin O'Connor the finished and furnished first-floor living area, where the accessibility is virtually invisible. Cozy, stylish and incorporating many principles of universal design, the living is easy for homeowner Julie Corcoran's parents, who arrive to join the family at the end of the day.

Episode 25
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Design for Everyone, Part 10 of 11
Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Richard gives Norm a recap of the whole process of installing the geothermal heating and cooling system for our accessible in-law house, and his son Ross Trethewey explains how the whole system comes together with the heat pumps in the basement. Upstairs, the heat has already warmed up the floors, and another tradesman's son is hard at work. Tile installer Mark Ferrante introduces Norm to his son Erik, who has been a helper for years, and is now putting down antique marble tiles in the mudroom/entryway. Kevin travels to Seattle, Washington to meet architect Emory Baldwin and tour the house he designed to suit the ages and abilities of every member of his family, both now and in the future, by employing principles of universal design. Back in Essex, we have an open floor plan as well: Kevin catches us up on the kitchen layout as Tom oversees the soapstone countertops arriving and going in. Interior designer Keith Musinski shows Kevin the custom tile he had created in England, as tile contractor Mark Ferrante installs the custom hand-painted window trim pieces. Finally, Tom brings in the island base—a modified antique farm table—and they place the last piece of soapstone as its top.

Episode 24
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Tiling, Floor Stains, Part 9 of 11
Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Kevin points out the finished details on the exterior and how they flow right into the sun porch interior to make it feel like an indoor/outdoor space: shingles on the interior walls and barn board on the ceiling. Tile installer Mark Ferrante is laying 24-by-24-inch black slate tile on the floor, using the same slate to fashion a custom baseboard detail. Mason Kevin Vieira is parging the top of the brick chimney mass using structural stucco that's reinforced with fiberglass to achieve the rustic plaster look of the original chimney. While that sets up, Kevin meets Tom and flooring contractor Steve Dubuque using a combination of aniline dye and stain to achieve a deep chestnut color on the 4-inch quarter-sawn oak flooring we're using throughout the house. Norm travels to upstate New York to see how preservation carpenter Brian Cooper helped music icon Daryl Hall assemble and restore an 18th century-era estate where he records the Live From Daryl's House show, which is an internet and cable sensation. Back at our house, Kevin Vieira finishes off the chimney stucco now that the mantel is finished. Mark Ferrante uses a traditional mud job as a bed for the antique hearth tiles, installed against a wood frame so they're flush with the floor: both barrier-free and beautiful, an homage to the original fireplace.

Episode 23
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Shiplap Walls, Finished Yard, Part 8 of 11
Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Wooden boatbuilding put Essex on the map. Norm meets shipwright and designer Captain Harold Burnham to see how he's keeping the tradition alive, one ship at a time. Back at our project, Kevin helps Tom with some "shipbuilding" of his own, putting up 8-inch pine shiplap barn boards on the walls at the entry. As winter closes in, Kevin meets Roger and landscape architect Kellie Connelly to see the finished patio and plantings for the first time. Walks, courtyard and patio all function together to create access that will be manageable for anyone. In nearby Winchester, Kevin meets architect Sally DeGan to see how she added a few basic accommodations to make Dan Wegner's house livable for him as he navigates the changes that come with ALS. Back at our house, Kevin finds interior designer Keith Musinski laying out the hearth tiles, salvaged from the original house, for the fireplace. Then, Kevin lends a hand as Tom builds and installs the mantel from a 2-inchpiece of reclaimed oak.

Episode 22
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Rustic Plaster, Advanced Septic, Part 7 of 11
Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Inside our Essex cottage, insulation is in and drywall is going up. Tom shows Kevin the progress and they meet drywall installer Brian Jones to see his method for boarding ceilings using a panel lift and scaffolding for the high cathedral ceiling in the kitchen. Upstairs, the plastering is well underway. Tom shows Kevin the rustic/Old World effect the homeowners want and how plastering contractor Bob Bucco achieves it using rounded corners and the rough/base coat plaster as the finish coat. At a third-party testing facility in Falmouth, MA, Richard meets George Heufelder for a brief history of septic innovation and a look at new technology that is on the horizon, and already here. One of them uses "membrane bioreactor" technology, and we're going to try it out in Essex. George's group approved the system, and it is a true leap forward in wastewater treatment. Back at our house, manufacturer Ingo Schaefer helps show Kevin how it works. We got the septic in before the cold weather, and now Roger is trying to do the same for the hardscaping. He shows Kevin the decorative bands that will make up the border for the (future) asphalt parking court, with granite strips and cobbles making up the pattern. Back inside, Norm brings out the decorative timbers that must go up in the kitchen before the plaster can continue. Tom is reusing old oak beams to simulate collar ties and rafters, and he and Norm fabricate the final joint and install the pieces.

Episode 21
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Standing-Seam Roof, Lighting Rods, Part 6 of 11
Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Kevin and Roger dig the Essex clamming scene out on the flats, then are regaled with some world-famous fried clams where they were invented a century ago: Woodman's of Essex. Norm drives up to the project house to find the infrastructure work (finally) settling down outside, and reminds us that we're designing for one-level living. Inside, on the day before spray foam insulation, he reviews the floor plan while Richard provides an update on rough plumbing and ductwork progress. Challenges include running vents to the backside of the house and getting ducts up into the steeply pitched roof spaces. Radiant floor panels are going down on second floor. Back outside, Norm finds roofer Dennis Gannet and his daughter Sarah Gannet installing the standing seam metal roof. Back on the front side of the house, Kevin finds Roger halfway through the front walk. He's created a flush condition at the front door with a Chelmsford granite slab, then a bluestone patio near the outcropping that then transitions to Rockport granite at the walk. It provides a rustic woodland look, while maintaining a safe and stable surface for the older folks who will be living here. We see how stone is cut with a trace chisel vs. a saw to create a broken edge. Being on a hill and having a metal roof don't make us as vulnerable to lightning as as much as being near the water does. Kevin meets Parker "PJ" Willard Jr. to see how he'll protect the house with a lightning rod system that is aluminum based vs. copper so as not to react with our aluminum roof. We see the three main components of the lighting protection system: air terminals, bonding and grounding.

Episode 20
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Cottage Style, Part 5 of 11
Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Norm arrives to find the new windows on site and largely installed. Tom shows him how they matched the original casement details and the operation features. Exterior trim is also going on the building, and Tom walked Kevin through the options the other day. Tom shows Kevin the stock exterior window trim choices available at the local home center, and then an option of making your own (that will last longer) out of cellular PVC if you want a slightly more custom look. They gather supplies to bring back to the Essex house. Norm has the PVC stock glued up, and Tom runs the sill profile on his moulding machine. Richard brings Kevin up to speed on the geothermal installation. The work begins with the drilling of two 350-foot deep wells or "bore holes" using the same rig that drilled our water well last time. The next step is to insert the loops into the closed loop system and grout them in place. Tom shows Kevin the detail for the cedar sidewall shingles that were pre-dipped for longevity and are being installed over cedar breather. We learn how to weave shingles around interior and exterior corners and into the flashing around the windows Tom trimmed out earlier. Roger & Kevin with see how the 5-foot trench for the geo pipes has hit ledge, and what dynamite can do about it. The blasting crew drills 5-foot deep holes into the ledge, fills them with explosives, wires them together and the show ends with a bang!

Episode 19
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Water Feature and Geothermal, Demolition, Part 4 of 11
Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Roger meets aquatic systems specialist Yorgos Gregory to learn about our existing and neglected water feature and to see what it takes to restore it to good condition and function. Kevin meets Richard to learn the anatomy of a water well and how we can revive ours. Drilling expert Roger Skillings arrives with a drilling rig to diagnose and treat the problem. In the backyard, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant working on a 100-yard trench from the house to the street down below. Excavation revealed that the service was once buried, but then put above ground again in the 1960s. Today he's reburying it 18 inches down with PVC conduit that follows the contour of the land thanks to a PVC heater. At the end of the day, Kevin finds the drilling rig still on site as renewable energy specialist Ross Trethewey explains why this is an ideal site for geothermal heating and cooling and how it will work.

Episode 18
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | One-Level Living, Part 3 of 11
Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

With the main framing complete, Tom shows Kevin where water infiltration has damaged the house, what he's doing to repair it, and how he'll prevent it from happening again. Landscape architect Jade Cummings shows Kevin the plan for the side patio and how it's designed for ease of entry into the house, but also for dramatic effect and proper drainage. Then, Roger shows Kevin how he's adding a fieldstone veneer to the concrete retaining walls to give them the rustic look of a dry laid wall. In Bucksport, Maine, Norm meets architect John Gordon to see the house he designed for his physically challenged daughter, Jessica. Back in Essex, Norm and Tom replace a rotted sill, while Roger adds granite veneer to carry the look of the old foundation around the rest of the house.

Episode 17
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | Human Centered Design, Demolition, Part 2 of 11
Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Kevin heads downtown to Boston to the Institute for Human Centered Design to see how good design can make living easier for people of all ages and abilities, not just those who are disabled. Back in Essex, Tom and Roger are underway with site work so that our doorways can eventually be level with the ground, requiring no steps. Inside, demolition is underway, and on the second floor, it has revealed bizarre and unsafe framing from a previous renovation that will need to be fixed. At the small kitchen bump out, excavation is complete, and the footings are in progress. Architect Sally DeGan shows Kevin that in her practice, accessible homes don't have to be institutional, they just need a short list of key considerations—one-floor living, room to get around, good lighting, no thresholds, and barrier free showers. Back in Essex, a few weeks later, the foundation for the addition is complete, as well as the first floor platform and gable end of the kitchen. Before work can progress, Norm, Tom, and Kevin need to remove the bad shed dormer. They make quick work of it with careful demo and a 60-foot boom lift. Meanwhile, Roger shows the progress on the retaining walls that will support the new patio. Then, Norm, Tom, and Kevin frame up the steeply pitched roof of the kitchen addition starting with the ridge beam and then all of the rafters, one by one.

Episode 16
The Essex 2012/13 Project, Essex | A Cottage in the Woods, Part 1 of 11
Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

The second project of the season finds Norm and Kevin back on Cape Ann, this time in the scenic riverside town of Essex, Massachusetts. Not far from the antique shops and clam shacks downtown is a 1935 English-style cottage in the woods that homeowners John and Julie Corcoran hope to turn into an accessible in-law residence for Julie's aging parents. Norm finds lots of deferred maintenance, rot, a failing roof and windows, and some strange architectural choices, like the giant shed dormer that is out of sync with the rest of the cottage. Inside, Julie shows Kevin what she loves about the house and how she plans to make it comfortable and accessible for her parents, with all the necessary amenities on the first floor. Outside, Richard shows Norm the oil tank that's in the way of the new kitchen and why he might like to abandon oil altogether to pursue geothermal heating and cooling instead. In the basement, they will have to contend with ledge, well water treatment, and the unknown status of the current septic system. John shows Roger the large yard and how they'd like to keep the many trees, shrubs and perennials, while getting rid of the ratty vegetable garden and runaway forsythia. Architect Sally DeGan reviews the renovation plan with Tom and Kevin with the help of a highly detailed 3D model. Roger gets to work clearing small junk trees and the forsythia, while a specialist is brought in to properly remove the oil tank so Tom can begin work on the addition.