Episode Descriptions


Season 26: Carlisle
The Carlisle House
This project premieres on PBS
October 9, 2004
Programs #2401-2426

Program #2401
This Old House celebrates 25 years of home renovation by going back to its roots. The season opens with host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram taking a look at the first This Old House project in Dorchester, Massachusetts — a house the show bought, renovated, and sold in 1979. This season we'll be homeowners again, with some of the proceeds from the sale of the 25th anniversary centerpiece project endowing a new scholarship for the building arts. To find just the right house, Norm takes Kevin to Carlisle, Massachusetts, a beautiful New England town 20 miles outside Boston. After looking at several properties, This Old House decides to take on an 1849 Greek Revival-style farmstead that's big on charm, but needs a lot of work to be comfortable for a modern family.

Program #2402
Have house, will renovate! Thanks to an accepted bid, This Old House is now the proud owner of a classic New England farmstead in Carlisle, Massachusetts. To be sure that the house will have all the right amenities, host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram meet with a local real estate agent Laura Baliestiero to see what buyers are looking for in Carlisle. Then Kevin asks architect Jeremiah Eck to do the design work, and also checks in with the town's Board of Appeals to understand the bylaws affecting our project. Former resident Eleanor Duren shares photos and memories of her years growing up on the farm.

Program #2403
Host Kevin O'Connor finds landscape contractor Roger Cook clearing land for a much-needed job site parking lot. Architect Jeremiah Eck walks master carpenter Norm Abram and Kevin through a 3-D model of his proposed design. Highlights include dramatic reuse of the existing timberframe barn as a "living hall," an updated floor plan incorporating the kitchen and dining room in the new connecting ell, and an addition containing a generous master suite. General contractor Tom Silva brings in a barn jacking crew to lift the 65-ton barn two feet off the ground so his crew can repair the foundation and replace the first floor deck. Demolition contractors arrive to knock down the failing ell, which will be rebuilt using structural insulated panels.

Program #2404
General contractor Tom Silva brings in an excavator fitted with a hoe ram to jackhammer away the ledge standing in the way of our new basement. Using a 3D model, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey explains the anatomy of a septic system, and what we'll have to do to bring our system up to code. Under the jacked-up barn, master carpenter Norm Abram shows the state of the existing rubble stone foundation. For inspiration, Kevin travels to Vermont to meet Ken Epworth of "The Barn People," a group that rescues, restores, and relocates old timber frame barns. Ken shows Kevin how the old barns come down in the field, and how they go back up as restored barns and dramatic living spaces.

Program #2405
Host Kevin O'Connor visits Great Brook Farm State Park, a 1,000-acre park and the last working dairy farm in Carlisle, Massachusetts. General contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how he created a custom crushed stone footing for the foundation using a "stone slinger" — a high-speed conveyor that projects stone as far as 75 feet. Master carpenter Norm Abram oversees the installation of a new insulated foundation system that's pre-cast in a factory and then trucked to the job site. Certified arborist Matt Foti shows Kevin and landscape contractor Roger Cook how to relocate the septic tank without harming an old catalpa tree that might be worth saving.

Program #2406
General contractor Tom Silva uses laminated veneer lumber to make up 40-foot beams that will support the first floor deck of the barn. Host Kevin O'Connor meets panelized construction specialist Jim LeRoy to watch the I-joist floor panels for the new ell swinging into place with a crane. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets structural insulated panel expert Frank Baker to see the SIPs wall system go up. After discovering that several of our old trees are sick with the fatal diseases Dutch Elm and Ash Yellows, certified arborist Matt Foti brings in two crews with bucket trucks to safely remove them. At the end of the day, Tom and Norm are surprised to learn that the barn was built with one side shorter than the other — a quirk that will cost them time and money.

Program #2407
Detectorist Bob Phillips discovers a cannonball at the job site that may be a souvenir from the war of 1812. Master carpenter Norm Abram shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress on the framing of the old Greek Revival house and the new connecting ell. General contractor Tom Silva introduces Kevin to two carpentry students that are part of the This Old House 25th Anniversary apprenticeship program. Then Tom explains how he's built up all ten posts on the short side of the barn by using scarf joints to make the connections. Kevin travels to New Haven, Connecticut, to visit the Yale Building Project, a graduate class that requires Ivy League architecture students to learn by doing as they design and build a stylish urban home in a low-income neighborhood. Back at our project, Norm meets structural insulated panel expert Frank Baker to see another application for SIPS technology — it's a fast way to install an insulated structural floor.

Program #2408
Host Kevin O'Connor and landscape contractor Roger Cook meet landscape architect Stephanie Hubbard to review her latest plan for the property, which features the rural simplicity of open spaces, low stone walls, hedges, and a few new elm trees. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installs a new 2,000-gallon dual-compartment septic tank and formulates a plan for the rough plumbing. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets architect Jeremiah Eck to learn how his modern window selections will update the New England farmstead vernacular. In Park City, Utah, Kevin visits a house that's all about windows, and a whole lot more. General contractor Tom Silva brings in specialist Kevin Kirkland to treat the new construction with a non-toxic borate solution to protect against future insect infestations.

This Old House, 25th Anniversary Season

Program #2409
Saturday, December 4, 2004 Host Kevin O'Connor drives up to find landscaping finally underway and the house full of 100 newly arrived windows. Stone wall expert Nick O'Hara shows Kevin why he has to send back an entire truckload of fieldstone — it's lacking the character necessary to build a traditional New England farmer's wall. General contractor Tom Silva gives Kevin a lesson in how to properly flash a window. In the future kitchen, Kevin and master carpenter Norm Abram wonder if the kitchen is too big and enlist the help of certified kitchen designer, Kathy Marshall, to help define the space. Kathy shows Kevin a dream kitchen that she recently created for a family of four, as well as a cabinet showroom where the design process begins for the Carlisle kitchen.

Program #2410
Saturday, December 11, 2004 Landscape contractor Roger Cook shows host Kevin O'Connor how he's reusing the old foundation capstones as granite steps to connect the two driveways. Mason Mike Lapitsky explains to Kevin how he selects, chisels, and dry fits old New England fieldstone to create a farmer's wall. Inside the barn, master carpenter Norm Abram shows Kevin how the "living hall" is taking shape — all of the windows are in, all three of the floor decks are in place, and the rough plumbing is complete. Entomologist Ron Schwalb treats the old timbers for insects and mold using a borate-based solution. For inspiration, architect Jeremiah Eck takes Kevin to see a dramatic great room and Rumford fireplace at a home he's recently designed in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Kevin lends Norm and general contractor Tom Silva a hand as they raise the ceilings in the future kids' room three inches to achieve much-needed headroom. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey brings in well contractor Dave Hayes to test the flow and capacity of the existing well — with surprising results.

Program #2411
Host Kevin O'Connor finds general contractor Tom Silva milling up exterior window casings that look like wood, but are actually made out of cellular PVC material that is resistant rot. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installs PEX water supply lines throughout the house. In the barn, chimney specialist Mark Schaub shows master carpenter Norm Abram the final design of the Rumford fireplace and chosen materials — granite hearth, fieldstone surround, soapstone firebox, and recycled oak lintel. Kevin welcomes senior design consultant Alexa Hampton to the show by visiting a ten-thousand square-foot French Neoclassical home that she's working on in New Orleans. Kitchen designer Kathy Marshall presents her plans for the kitchen using cardboard mock-ups of the proposed cabinetry.

Program #2412
With the house just about to go on the market, real estate agent Laura Baliestiero shows host Kevin O'Connor how she plans to present the renovated farmstead to potential buyers. Roofing contractor Mark McNicholas shows Norm how his crew is putting down a traditional 30-year, black 3-tab shingle to achieve a crisp black roofline. In the barn, chimney specialist Mark Schaub works with general contractor Tom Silva and landscape contractor Roger Cook to design and install the new fieldstone hearthstone. Outside, Roger cuts down the 500-pound stone, while inside Tom scribes the wood sub-floor to accept the new hearth. Carpentry apprentices Joe Langlais and Laura Cyr begin installing pre-finished cedar shingle panels on the barn, while Kevin visits Minuteman Regional High School to see what the apprentices do when they are not on the jobsite. At the end of they day, Kevin helps the crew roll the finished hearthstone into the barn on a system of PVC rollers. Thanks to Tom's accurate templates and Roger's precision cutting — it's a perfect fit.

Program #2413
Host Kevin O'Connor opens the show in Concord, Massachusetts where dozens of stately elm trees once lined Main Street — until Dutch Elm disease nearly destroyed them all. At the project house, elm tree specialist Roger Holloway plants two three-inch caliper Princeton Elms — a disease-resistant cultivar that is helping return the elm to the American landscape. Well contractor David Haynes begins prospecting for water in the side yard, while master electrician Allen Gallant shows master carpenter Norm Abram the challenge he's facing with wiring both the SIPs and the timberframe barn. Lighting designer Susan Arnold shows Kevin some creative lighting solutions at another renovated barn in Reading, Massachusetts. General contractor Tom Silva installs pre-finished cedar shingle panels that go up six times faster than individual shingles and carry a 35-year warranty. As darkness falls, the new well is already 200 feet deep, and counting.

Program #2414
General contractor Tom Silva reports that after two days of drilling, the well contractors finally found water — 700 feet down. Master carpenter Norm Abram shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress in the future garage and how the space can be heated with up to five zones of radiant heat in the slab. In the barn, Norm finds mason Tony Martin creating a veneer for the fireplace surround out of fieldstone and mortar. At a stone supply yard in Woburn, Massachusetts, Kevin learns how to select granite countertops from granite specialist Susan Tuller and interior designer Alexa Hampton. Paint color specialist Bonnie Krims shows Kevin historical paint color schemes for the project house. For the benefit of the paint job (and his crew) painting contractor Jim Clark sets up shop in the heated basement to paint the fiber cement siding before it goes up.

Program #2415
As part of our 25th anniversary season, host Kevin O'Connor returns to the show's first timber frame barn project, the Concord Barn, to see how the building has held up over the last 15 years, and to learn from homeowners Lynn and Barbara Wickwire what it's really like to live in a barn. Chimney specialist Mark Schaub oversees the prep and pour of a new flue for the living hall fireplace. Back in Carlisle, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin the anatomy of the new submersible pump that will be 400 feet underground inside our new well. Master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva show Kevin how to work with the latest generation of pressure treated lumber while building the front entry porch.

Program #2416
Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor how the utility company will make a new gas connection to the house. Landscape contractor Roger Cook brings in paving contractor Don Sloan to lay the basecoat of the lower driveway. Master carpenter Norm Abram shows Kevin how carpenter Charlie Silva is installing pre-painted fiber cement siding to the exterior of the house. Kevin meets in-home media specialist Todd Riley at a showroom in Braintree, Massachusetts to see what's available today in home automation and media systems technology. General contractor Tom Silva reveals the engineering behind the stringer-less staircase that will extend from the garage to the third floor of the barn.

Program #2417
Nurseryman Peter Mezzit arrives on site with a truckload of plant material, and (with frost on the ground) it's not a moment too soon. Landscape contractor Roger Cook unloads the plants while landscape architect Stephanie Hubbard reviews the placement of the new birch trees. Inside the barn, Norm finds Tom overseeing the insulation of the barn with a water-blown expanding soft foam insulation. To learn the language of Greek temple architecture and how it influenced the American Greek Revival period, architect Thomas Gordon Smith shows Kevin a full-scale model of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee and an ornate house called "Rattle & Snap." Back in Carlisle, in the master bathroom, Norm finds plasterer Stephen Norton hanging wallboard — made out of a new product that's non-combustible, moisture resistant, and mold resistant — an important innovation as mold problems continue to plague the building industry.

Program #2418
Despite freezing temperatures, landscape contractor Roger Cook lays down sod in the front yard. Inside the Carlisle farmstead, plastering contractor Stephen Norton gives host Kevin O'Connor a lesson in the fine art of plastering. In the lower driveway, master carpenter Norm Abram finds garage door specialist Keith Tate and installer Dave Ferguson finishing up the installation of the custom garage doors. Then, Norm travels to upstate New York to meet architect Gil Schafer for a look at a new house that was designed to feel like a period Greek Revival. Back in Carlisle, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin the new radiant floor heating system going down in the barn.

Program #2419
Host Kevin O'Connor finds landscape contractor Roger Cook and his crew finishing up the bluestone terrace and retaining wall under the protection of a heated tent. Generator specialist John Barros shows Kevin the new standby generator that will restore power to the house is less than 30 seconds in the event of a power failure. In the barn, general contractor Tom Silva shows master carpenter Norm Abram the new parging on the chimney, and how he's recreating the look of the old barn loft on the new barn ceilings. Kevin visits one of the largest antique lighting restoration houses in New England to see if they can save our old barn fixture. In the master bath, Norm finds tile contractor Joe Ferrante laying out the recently arrived handmade tile. On the third floor of the barn, Kevin finds plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installing the air handler that will provide cool air for the living hall, as well as a hydro-air unit that will provide both heating and cooling to the guest suite.

Program #2420
Master carpenter Norm Abram learns how the seamless, clog-less gutter system for the barn is fabricated and installed. Flooring contractor Patrick Hunt shows host Kevin O'Connor how to install a pre-finished engineered cherry floor throughout the first floor of the house. General contractor Tom Silva builds the railing system for the barn stairway, while plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey visits a new product design and testing facility for the plumbing industry. Wine cellar contractor Michael Galvin shows Kevin a 3-D fly-through animation of the future wine cellar. At the end of the day, cabinets for the kitchen, pantry, wet bar, and laundry room arrive on a truck from Pennsylvania.

Program #2421
In the barn, master carpenter Norm Abram meets up with chimney specialist Mark Schaub to determine if his oak lintel above the fireplace is truly safe, and if it will meet code. Host Kevin O'Connor meets interior designer Alexa Hampton for a sneak peek at the furniture and fabrics for the dining room. Kevin meets millwork specialist Mark White at his showroom that specializes in high-density polyurethane trim, and back in Carlisle, general contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin what it's like to work with. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey walks Kevin through the anatomy of the mechanical room. Back in the barn, there is a surprising twist — just a few hours into it, the fireplace has already failed the safety test and Norm breaks it to Mark that he must swap out the wood for a masonry lintel. Cabinet specialist Marlene MacDonald shows Norm the newly installed cabinets in the office, kitchen and pantry. The day ends with the much-anticipated arrival of the built-ins for the library.

Program #2422
On the back porch, installer Steve Primack shows master carpenter Norm Abram the new motorized screen system. Closet designer Marcy Weisburgh shows host Kevin O'Connor the mudroom and master closet, and shares strategies for smart closet planning. General contractor Tom Silva installs the custom-made interior double doors and oil-rubbed bronze hardware. Furniture maker Robert Hanlon shows Norm how he made the hand-planed African mahogany wood countertops for the kitchen island and home office. In the guest bath shower, Kevin finds Tom installing solid-surface shower walls instead of tile. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey travels to New Bern, North Carolina to see how our dishwashers are made by one of the leading appliance manufacturers in the world. The completed wine cellar is presented, and wallpaper blocks are applied in the master bedroom.

Program #2423
Master carpenter Norm Abram meets lighting designer Susan Arnold for a look at the modern (but practical) cable lighting system in the kitchen. The limestone tub deck is installed in the master bath, while plumbing & heating expert Richard Trethewey installs an undermount sink in a freestanding vanity in the kids' bath. Norm finds garage system specialist Christopher Hubbuch installing a new workshop storage system in the basement of the barn. Designer Beth Ferencik shows landscape contractor Roger Cook the handcrafted teak furniture and accessories she's selected for the terrace. Richard shows Norm the last pieces of the HVAC story — the condensers (that use a refrigerant that won't delete the ozone layer) and the heat-recovery ventilators (that will bring fresh air into the sealed-tight house.) Alarm specialist Don Martini shows Norm the latest innovations in his field — an access keypad that unlocks the front door with the swipe of a key tag, while keeping a log of comings and goings on the household computer. Finishing specialist John Dee shows Norm how he's going to stain the pine stair treads to match the engineered hickory flooring.

Program #2424
The designer show house begins as interior designer Mally Skok welcomes master carpenter Norm Abram to the dramatic entry hall. In the barn, senior design consultant Alexa Hampton discovers the decorated loft space and guest suite. General contractor Tom Silva shows host Kevin O'Connor how he's creating saddle thresholds out of oak. Kevin meets kitchen designer Kathy Marshall for a look at the completed kitchen. Kevin pays a visit to the New Yankee Workshop to see Norm's progress on the TV hutch for the living hall. Designers Charles Spada and Hilary Bovey reveal their designs for the classical library and the whimsical breakfast room.

Program #2426
Host Kevin O'Connor and senior design consultant Alexa Hampton continue to explore the designer show house through the work of designers Gracyn Whitman, Lisa Newman Paratore, and a company that produces furnishings especially for teenagers. General Contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how he's going to extend the sliding barn door to make up the difference lost in the barn jacking. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Alexa the new 6-foot whirlpool tub and walk-in shower room in the master bath. Designer Frank Roop gives master carpenter Norm Abram a look at his Mediterranean-inspired master bedroom. Painting contractor Jim Clark finishes up the last of the trim, and Alexa gets to show off her own space — a formal dining room featuring damask upholstered walls and clean, classic furnishings.

Program #2426
On the last day of the project, host Kevin O'Connor joins architect Jeremiah Eck for a look at the finished house. The show house continues as garden designer Richard Magnuson shows landscape contractor Roger Cook the rustic barn court. Senior design consultant Alexa Hampton meets Christine Welch for a look at the sophisticated library hallway, and Robin Pelissier shows master carpenter Norm Abram how she brought a little glamour to the screen porch on backside of the barn. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey drops in on designer Katy Flammia to see her fun and luxurious first-floor laundry room. In-home media specialist Dave Tovissi shows Kevin a flat screen wireless LCD TV and the state-of-the-art media alcove. In the barn entry, designer Kathleen Kennedy shows general contractor Tom Silva how she worked with the barn timbers (and not against them) to design her space. As the wrap party approaches, designer Eric Cohler reveals the finished two-story barn "living hall" as a complete destination for family and friends. Outside, the team marvels at how Tom Silva and the entire crew completed a high-quality, two-year project in less than one year; it's quite possibly the greatest accomplishment in the show's 25-year history.