Season 23: Manchester, Massachusetts
1883 Shingle Style
This project premiered on PBS
September 22, 2001
26 half-hour episodes; Programs #2101-2126
Steve and our master carpenter approach the latest project house by water, finding a convenient dock at the base of the property. They meet Janet McCue, who is busy supervising the family's move out of the house for the duration of the project, and her husband David, who gives them a tour around the inside of the rambling building. Steve meets architect Stephen Holt, who shows a picture of how the house looked 100 years ago. For inspiration, they visit a classic Shingle-style home, built in 1881 and lovingly maintained ever since. Back at the subject house, Richard Trethewey and Tom Silva pull up in their own boat to begin a mechanical exam of the house with our master carpenter. Their verdict: a solid, well-plumbed structure to build on. The McCues describe their hopes for the project: better communication between house and yard, a relocated and improved kitchen, expanded master bath and bedroom, and a new great room for music performances and relaxing.
The day starts off with the landscaping works of Roger Cook. He and his crew have cut down a few trees that were threatening the house, have moved a dozen or so rhododendrons and azaleas that are in the way of the new addition, and are preparing to move a 25-foot evergreen and a 20-foot dogwood by balling the roots and using a large excavator. Inside, architect Stephen Holt shows a model of the proposed renovation to homeowner David McCue and Steve. Essentially, he hopes to restore the building to its former architectural beauty on the outside, while overcoming some floorplan problems to make it work better for the McCues inside. Part of the interior rearrangement includes putting the kitchen front and center in the house, something that wouldn't have been found in the original Shingle style building. To prove it can be done, Holt takes David and Steve to a nearby house, of a similar vintage, where he accomplished just such a change for the client. Back at the house, our master carpenter and Tom work to gently dismantle and save one of the few original fragments left in the building: a marble and copper butler's sink.
Steve sees the seaside public rotunda and "chowder house" our subject property looks out on, with Manchester Historical Society president John Huss as guide. At the house, nearly four dumpsters worth of gutting has occurred, and Steve, our master carpenter and Tom take a tour of the building to see what has been revealed of its renovation history and to discuss what is planned for this job. Architect Stephen Holt and homeowner David McCue continue to discuss options available to give the McCues the feeling of space and light they crave for the kitchen and living room — some are radical and expensive, some rely more on minor but clever changes. One thing they can't include is a change in footprint: the concrete has arrived for the footings for the new addition and porch. In the basement, the start of an oil leak in one of the old steel tanks has forced Richard Trethewey's hand, and he's brought in two new polyethylene-lined tanks from Europe, guaranteed never to rot. Finally, Steve learns from Manchester Conservation Commissioner Betsy Rickards the purpose of and regulations concerning the staked and lined haybales encircling the project.
With the new concrete walls poured, it's time to damp-proof them, just one more in a series of tasks that adds up to nearly $30,000 for the new foundation — which is simply the cost of building to code. Reviewing the immense amount of demolition done, and the work left to do, Steve asks the obvious: wouldn't it be cheaper, faster, and better to simply bulldoze this tired old building and build a fresh replica? Our master carpenter and Tom have done the math, and while it might be simpler, it would cost about $1 million more than the planned renovation. Besides, adds Tom, we are saving the old place, which is worth something. After taking a tour of one of the great surviving Shingle style buildings, H. H. Richardson's Stonehurst in Waltham, Massachusetts, Steve comes back more convinced than ever that saving what little is left of the McCues' house is the right thing to do.
The foundation has been backfilled and carpenters are busy putting up the forms for the new terrace. Inside, the area for the new kitchen and family room has been completely opened up, thanks to a 3800-pound steel and laminated lumber beam Tommy and crew engineered and inserted through the side of the building. Within the new space, kitchen cabinet designer and builder Ted Goodnow works with David and Janet McCue to begin to lay out the new kitchen, pantry and office. Ted takes David and Steve to a nearby kitchen built by his firm to get some more ideas about design features and materials. Back at the house, Tommy and our master carpenter investigate some archeology revealed during demolition: original fabric of the building, including the roof, a dormer and a gabled sidewall. The original wood roof shingles are an important factor as our master carpenter begins to consider roofing choices with roofing contractor Mark Mulloy and product rep Steve Miller, who shows them a treated shingle of southern yellow pine that carries a 50-year transferable warranty.
Steve finds our master carpenter in the new jobsite office trailer, complete with secure storage — good for keeping paperwork safe from the work going on inside the house and for keeping track of delivered materials. Tom shows Steve the progress on the job, including the restored dormers, straightened floors and an ingenious method of raising the kitchen/family room ceiling by shaving 2" off the joists and stiffening the remaining structure with engineered lumber and steel to form flitches. Window specialist Jay Harman shows our master carpenter three different windows to consider for the renovation: pine, aluminum clad, and Alaskan yellow cedar. Each has its own qualities (and price point), but for maintenance by the water, the choice may very well be the clad. Finally, kitchen cabinet designer and manufacturer Ted Goodnow and homeowner Janet McCue show Steve a full-size mock-up of the kitchen they're considering.
Steve tries his hand at driving the jobsite forklift, successfully (if shakily) delivering a load of plywood to the third floor. Inside, he and Tom discuss their concerns about the planned kitchen, office and gameroom, and Tom shows Steve an alternate location for the latter: the now-spectacular dormered third floor. In preparation for residing our old house, our master carpenter learns the finer points of red cedar shingles and bleaching oils from specialist Rick Farrar. Steve takes a harbor tour with architect Steve Holt to see what has happened to some of the town's great old houses — everything from total restoration to total removal. One of the notorious removals was that of Kragsyde, considered by some to be the greatest example of the Shingle style — it was demolished in 1929. Though it's gone, an exact replica has been built by a couple in Swan's Island, Maine, and Steve visits them to see their remarkable achievement.
Our new roof is going on, and our master carpenter talks to roofing contractor Mark Mulloy about the system: decking, bitumen membrane covering every surface from eave to ridge, a three-dimensional nylon mesh to allow air to flow beneath the shingles, and finally the shingles themselves — pressure-treated southern yellow pine with a 50-year transferable warranty. Tom shows Steve how to cut studs quickly when building a partition wall beneath a bowed ceiling, while our master carpenter takes viewers to the Bend, Oregon, factory where our new windows are being made. Finally, specialist Mark Schaub assesses the state of the chimneys; surprisingly the relatively new one, built in the 1970s, is not up to snuff.
Steve sees the progress on the new addition, including a roof joist system of 1 x 12 LVLs, necessitated by the room's high ceiling height. Inside, Tom and our master carpenter show him how they are stiffening up a bouncy third floor by sistering 1/8" steel sheets to the floor joists from below. Richard Trethewey checks out a software program that computes heat loss for our building, as well as projecting heating and cooling costs with various insulation, window, and power plant configurations. One remarkable finding: with the current, inefficient heating plant and standard insulation and double-pane windows operating costs for 30 years would be around $220,000; with expanded-foam insulation, low-e windows, and super-high-efficiency heating equipment the cost would be $75,000. Our master carpenter takes viewers to Portland, Oregon, where a couple has turned a passion for period-perfect Victorian restorations into a fledgling business. Finally, the first of the new sliding glass doors goes in.
Steve begins the show in a municipal parking lot in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where once stood a beautiful 250-year-old Georgian home. Later in the show, he takes viewers to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, where the house — and the lives of the many families that lived there — have been recontructed. At the jobsite, mason Lenny Belliveau builds the new addition's exterior face from water-struck brick, while inside our master carpenter checks out Dan McLaughlin's use of an insulating chimney system made from pumice. It goes up quickly and keeps the chimney stack warmer, preventing the buildup of the column of cold air that normally dumps out, spreading smoke into the room. Tommy shows Steve his method of putting in a wooden floor over concrete that was previously outdoor patio space; his scribing technique is one Steve's never seen before. Finally, architect Steve Holt shows our master carpenter his design for the new fireplace inglenook, based in part on old photos taken before the original addition was torn down.
From the shoreline, Steve sees the rapidly improving look of the house, which has now regained its missing wing and dormers and is starting to have its new front porches put on. Tom and our master carpenter take a progress tour, whose highlights include the new wood roof, tricky roof detailing on the new addition, and a look at the newly dormered third floor. Landscape contractor Roger Cook, landscape architect David Hawk, and homeowner Janet McCue discuss plans for the new landscape, with special consideration given to the idea of changing the size and location of the current driveway. The kitchen design has been finalized, and designer Kevin Finnegan takes Steve through a full-size mock-up.
There's been major progress on the job, as Steve sees the new bays and porch deck on the sea side of the house and Tommy and our master carpenter begin shingling with red cedar shingles predipped in bleaching oil. Steve and landscape contractor Roger Cook meet with Manchester conservation officer Betsy Rickards to learn what the regulations say about thinning a dense copse of trees down by the water. As we begin to think about our house's interior finishes, Steve takes viewers on a visit to a home that is all about interiors: Beauport, a 40-room fantasy that was the passion of interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper, who worked on it from 1907 to his death in 1934, fitting each room out in a different theme. Back on site, our master carpenter checks in with roofer Mark Mulloy, who is fashioning a lead-coated copper roof for the bell-shaped bump-out on the music room. Finally, Steve gets a glimpse of plumbing's future as Brian Bilo shows him the simple and quick installation of plastic water piping.
Roger Cook and crew have begun to tear up the old asphalt driveway in preparation for a newly configured one. Painter John Dee shows Steve his approach to restoring the turn-of-the-century portico: some stripping of existing features, and some replacement of those decorative elements — brackets and capitals — that are simply not salvageable. Homeowner David McCue tells Steve about his desire to install an outdoor hot tub, for his two boys to enjoy alone or, importantly, with him, and Steve takes him to see the one Steve installed in his own backyard for the exact same reasons. Back at the site, Tom and our master carpenter use — and approve of — polyurethane exterior trim, while Steve joins acoustical consultant John Storyk as he works with David to tackle some of the sound issues in the new music room. Our master carpenter and Tom discuss the state of the original diamond-paned bumpout, its usefulness as a place for plants, and the possibility of replacing it with a proper greenhouse. To research the concept, architect Steve Holt shows Steve around a nearby guest house he designed, complete with a very high-end conservatory.
Our master carpenter sees how the faulty east chimney has been fixed by specialist Mark Schaub and his crew: the game room fireplace is bricked over, but the guest room above gets a new hearth, firebox and gas "coal grate." Richard Trethewey shows Steve how he's using a beat-up airhandler to provide dry, clean temporary jobsite heat and gives an overview on how he plans to heat and cool the house — radiant floor heat on the first floor, flat-panel radiators for the second and third, and a/c only in select rooms on the second and third. Steve finds Roger Cook out back, where he's been denied Conservation Commission approval to cut down trees near the ocean, though he is allowed to limb them up for a better view. Out at the auto court, Roger shows Steve how he cuts 2" thick granite in a curve. Steve and homeowner Janet McCue visit a garden shop to see how various paving options look before she commits to buying materials for the hardscape. Back at the house, architect Steve Holt describes a mid-job design change — a decision not to give the second-floor bays walkout decks — and Tom and our master carpenter carefully pull up a hard-pine floor for use elsewhere in the building.
The last of the ipe decking has arrived, and Steve and our master carpenter check out the installation method on the front deck: pressure-treated sleepers spiked into the concrete slab, with the ipe held down with marine adhesive and a few stainless steel finish nails. The wood itself is so dense that it takes oil with difficulty — it's fine to leave it unfinished. Our master carpenter finds out how homeowner Janet McCue has fared in her attempt to strip the diamond-paned curved sash of the historic bump-out. It was an arduous process — an alternative would be to send them out for stripping, but that would necessitate reglazing and repainting the entire sash, even though only the exterior needs it. Steve sees the expanded foam insulation going in and talks to the company president about its relatively high cost (2 to 3 times that of fiberglass), its performance, and its environmental record (which is excellent). Richard Trethewey shows our master carpenter aluminum-clad PEX tubing used for plumbing the radiators, as well as some quick-connect fittings for attaching it to the copper lines in the basement. Steve learns the finer points of finish plastering from Jeff Sullivan. Finally, Janet and Steve visit a Boston tile showcase to work on the final selections for the house.
The last of the wallboard has arrived, including 1/4" bendable board for the music room's curved ceiling. Lighting designer Susan Arnold shows Steve the many choices in recessed downlights, including the ones picked for the kitchen, which electrician Peter Woodbury is installing. In the basement, Richard Trethewey explains the plumbing setup to homeowner David McCue, who is eager to understand which part does what and what he should and should not do when interacting with his house's heating plant. Painter John Dee shows Steve the progress on the portico restoration project; his latest achievement is making a mold to cast missing pieces of the decorative plaster. Roger Cook shows Steve the three patios he and his crew have built, then takes Steve to a nearby nursery where he and landscape architect David Hawk lay out, at full scale, David's proposed planting plan for the turning island in the new driveway. Back at the site, Tommy and our master carpenter put up a new porch column made from expanded polyurethane and given bearing strength by a core of steel tube.
Steve drives down to the house, checking out the newly opened vistas of the house and yard through the newly bare trees along the road. Inside, the study and dining room are shaping up, with blueboard on the walls and the old fireplace rehabilitated. In the music room, the dramatic coved ceiling is getting the first part of its acoustical plaster system: fibreglass panels coated with plasterlike coating that's invisible to sound, allowing the panels to absorb unwanted echoes while maintaining a traditional look. Acoustician Peter D'Antonio explains the multi-coat system to Steve. Our master carpenter checks out the new aluminum half-round gutters manufacturer Augustin Crookston and his crew are hanging from the roof shingles. Steve sees John Dee's slow but steady process on the portico restoration; today he's installing new plaster brackets to replace the originals, which were too deteriorated to salvage. Steve takes viewers to the Chicago factory where they were made, the same way they have been for 100 years. Finally, Roger Cook shows off the new back patio, made up of massive pieces of Goshen stone.
The new spa arrives on the back of a truck; placed on concrete pad, plugged in and filled with a hose, it's soon open for business. Tom begins installing the beautiful new wood portico columns, using an ingenious jig to fashion two of them into engaged columns up against the house. Our master carpenter visits Alcott House in Concord, Massachusetts. Home of Little Women author Louisa May Alcott and her transcendentalist father Bronson, it is a mecca for thousands of visitors, and preserving it intact is a high-priority but tricky job. Back at the house, our master carpenter helps finish carpenter (and former TOH homeowner) Dick Silva trim out one of the windows in period detail.
Roger Cook and crew enclose the new spa in veneer stone, while inside homeowner Janet McCue has roped two friends into helping her complete the stripping and reglazing of the half-round bump-out windows, no small job. The music room receives its final, finish coat of acoustical plaster, and our master carpenter checks out a new four-oscillating-head sander that flooring contractor Pat Hunt is using. Richard visits Kohler, Wisconsin, to see how one company has used computer-aided engineering to design a toilet "engine" that meets the challenge of using only 1.6 gallons per flush. Back at the house, Tom shows Steve a flexible molding that bends around the radius of the kitchen bay and matches perfectly with the wooden moldings on the straight runs. Finally, our master carpenter takes measurements for the music room inglenook, making a set of layout sticks he can use in the workshop to accurately reflect conditions in the field.
An asphalt grinder makes quick work of the old driveway, turning blacktop into a gravel mix that will serve as a bed for the new, reconfigured drive. Inside, Mark Schaub shows Steve the new sealed gas fireplace in the guest bedroom; a last-minute discovery of a Massachusetts-only code prevented the use of the open unit we had hoped to use. Nonetheless, the new solution is a handsome unit, remote-controlled, with a period English tile surround and hearth and with a mantel made from pieces of the the old master bathroom fireplace, which was taken out. Landscape architect David Hawk walks Steve along the rapidly developing new driveway, which gives an entirely different arrival experience than the old 16-foot-wide straight approach it replaces. Richard Trethewey shows off a new energy-recovery ventilator that not only changes the house's air (essential, given how highly insulated we've made it) but harvests heat and moisture from the exiting stale air in the winter, adding both to the incoming fresh air, doing the same with coolness and dryness in the summer. Homeowner David McCue visits our master carpenter in the New Yankee Workshop to help in the making of the inglenook, priming the raised panels. Back at the house, Tom puts up beadboard made from sheets of medium-density fiberboard, showing Steve a trick involving a baseboard rabbet.
Roger Cook mulches the planting areas around the finished spa; busheswill give it some privacy. In the dining room, Tommy puts up the final pieces of an elaborate, 11-piece ceiling molding that replicates the house's original detail, while our master carpenter meets cabinetmaker Tom Perkins, who is using a software program to specify the exact components of the many built-ins. He will email a numerical code to a shop in the Midwest, which will efficiently cut all the pieces and ship them to him to assemble and install. Steve gets a lesson in paint preparation from painting contractor Jim Clark, who reveals the many steps necessary to obtain the smooth finish that is he and his crew's trademark. Richard Trethewey shows Steve the latest generation in radiant-floor-heat technology: accordianlike panels that quickly unfold to cover 10 square feet and accept radiant tubing. Finally, Joe Ferrante shows off his tiling work in the master bath, whose steam shower is done up in limestone and marble.
In the music room, our master carpenter begins to install the first pieces of the inglenook, while Steve gets a look at the wiring, fuse panels, and emergency backup power unit for the house with electrician Pete Woodbury. Steve continues his painting training with contractor Jim Clark, this time spending a few hours preparing the master bedroom bay windows for final coats. Outside, Roger Cook and arborist Matt Foti decide the fates of an unhealthy ash tree and a split-fork oak that is overhanging the east end of the house. Tom shows Steve the system he's using to make mahogany panelling in the music room; one of its key components is a fastening technology that uses plastic "bow ties" to hold wood to wood. Our master carpenter and Tom get a lesson in its use from a factory rep.
Mud season has arrived early in Manchester, and Steve pulls our producer out of the mud to start the show. In the mudroom, Joe Ferrante lays 6 x 6 Chinese slate, while our master carpenter checks out the newly arrived kitchen cabinets. Their light mahogany will contrast with the painted "furniture-look" of the islands. Other cabinetry for the house was measured up for on site, cut in a factory in the Midwest, and sent as parts back to cabinetmaker Tom Perkins' Massachusetts's shop. Our master carpenter visits him there to see how the job's progressing. Back at the house, painting contractor Jim Clark gives Steve a lesson in painting complex trim using an HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) sprayer, and lighting designer Susan Arnold shows him how she plans to meet the challenges posed by the music room. Our master carpenter and Tom check out the new quartersawn oak floating floor contractor Pat Hunt and crew are installing — this is a good product that has only gotten better over the years. Finally, homeowner David McCue and Tom install a bumper system David's company manufacturers that will ensure that the garage walls will no longer take bites out of the McCues' car doors.
As our completion deadline draws near, the house is abuzz with activity. Flooring contractor Pat Hunt installs a laser-cut wood floor medallion in the shape of a compass rose, while our master carpenter continues to assemble the various pieces of the inglenook on site. Today's elements include curved flanking benches perched on turned legs, while Steve got to try his hand at the New Yankee Workshop. Our master carpener also shows Steve a trick carpenter Dick Silva discovered to handle the curved trimwork around the inglenook: he passed flexible expanded polyurethane planks, the same as we used on the exterior trim, through a molding machine to give it the right profile, and bent it into place. Plumbers Rich Trethewey and Richard Bilo show Steve that getting the old oval sink running again is no simple task. The kitchen is nearly complete, and project manager Doug Kutz gives Steve a tour as the last large piece of honed green granite gets put into place. The glass conservatory roof has arrived and is assembled in place on top of the old half-round bumpout, bringing abundant light into the east end of the kitchen/living room. Finally, Tom shows our master carpenter how he's making curved crown molding the old-fashioned way — pulling the profile in plaster.
A last arrival by boat reveals to Steve and our master carpenter how far we've come from the plain shingled box we found on Day 1 of this project, and Steve declares he'll be satisfied if, as other boaters float into Manchester harbor over the years, they'll look at the McCues' home and say what a nice old building it is (even though most of what they'll see is new). Inside, painter Jim Clark shows our master carpenter how he's using tung oil to give the music room's mahogany paneling its final, rich look. David McCue gives his new kitchen a test drive with the help of demonstration cook and appliance expert Jane Scammon; together they make Steve lunch and show off the kitchen's many cutting-edge appliances. Our master carpenter helps Tom install an interior mortise set, in tarnish proof brass, into one of the house's many new MDF doors, while Steve checks out part of the new audio system with designer/installer Bob Domus. Rich Trethewey gives Steve a tour of the new master bath, carpet expert Jerry Arcari shows how the front stair runner is going in, and acoustician John Storyk and David McCue hear how John's design for the music room's acoustics panned out.
The final days in Manchester begin with a look at the smoke detectors — specialist Greg Smizer explains to Steve maintenance obsolescence issues, and points out that the ones he's installing also detect high and low temperatures. In the master bathroom, Richard Trethewey sees how the frameless glass shower door is going in, while our master carpenter and Tom go over the few items remaining on the punchlist, and Steve looks at the new master closet system as it goes in. Outside, Steve recalls the rather forlorn building we began this project with and takes a final look at the restored facades. Inside, homeowner Janet McCue and her interior decorator, Leslie Tuttle, take Steve on a tour of the house, ending in the magnificent music room, where the wrap party is underway.