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S20 E11: Holiday Projects

In this episode, Jenn explains how to identify and care for holly plants; Richard explains how dishwashers work and how to troubleshoot them when they don’t drain properly; Tom and Kevin turn Christmas ornaments.

Previous episode: S20 E10 | Next episode: S20 E12

In this episode:

It’s the holiday season on Ask This Old House, and the team is together to tackle projects homeowners might stumble across during their celebrations.

First, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada explains how to identify and care for holly plants and incorporate them into a landscape. She notes that many holly plants keep their distinctive dense, glossy leaves all year, making them an excellent foundation plant for your garden design.

Jenn explains that there are more than 480 varieties of holly, but two are popular—Ilex Meserveae (Blue Holly) and Ilex Crenata (Japanese Holly). Blue holly is a hearty variety that looks similar to the classic European holly associated with Christmas because it produces red berries in the fall. Japanese holly resembles more of a boxwood than a Christmas decoration. Instead of spiny, prickly leaves, the crenata has small, spineless convex leaves with a deep green color. Their berries are deep purple or black and often hide under their leaves.

Then, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey breaks down all the connections on a dishwasher, how they work, and how to troubleshoot them when they aren’t draining or drying correctly. He explains how the holidays can take a toll on your hardworking appliances, especially the dishwasher.

If necessary, Richard recommends checking and replacing parts, specifically the dishwasher hose and the water hammer arrestor. Not all dishwashers have a water hammer arrestor, but it’s something to consider installing. Appliances with a quick-closing valve, like a toilet or washing machine, can cause the water pressure to increase momentarily, which shakes the pipe and causes an alarming sound. He also recommends regularly cleaning your dishwasher’s filter and cleaning the tub to keep it functioning well.

Lastly, general contractor Tom Silva turns the barn into Santa’s Workshop and asks Kevin, Richard, Jenn, Mark, Mauro, and Ross to help him turn, paint, and hang Christmas ornaments out of scrap wood.


All About Holly Bushes

Landscape contractor Jenn Nawada explains how to identify and care for holly plants and incorporate them into a landscape.

Where to find it?

Jenn tells viewers about holly species, highlighting the Ilex Meserveae (blue holly) and Ilex Crenata (Japanese holly). The Ilex Meserveae thrives in USDA growing zones 5-8, while the Ilex Crenata does well in USDA growing zones 5-9. Both species can are sourced at garden centers.

Stonegate Gardens provided expert assistance with this segment.


How to Maintain Your Dishwasher

Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey breaks down all the connections on a dishwasher, how they work, and how to troubleshoot them when they aren’t draining or drying correctly.

Where to find it?

All of the dishwasher components Richard called out, including the filters, the water supply, and the drain line, are all standard parts that can be found at any home center or appliance repair shop.


Build It | Christmas Ornaments

Host Kevin O’Connor meets general contractor Tom Silva in the workshop playing with his new favorite toy—the lathe. Tom demonstrates how he uses it to turn custom wooden holiday ornaments perfect for the tree or give as a festive gift.

Where to find it?

Tom turned the Christmas ornaments using scrap wood he had from other projects, though he suggests that any pieces of wood that’s square will be easy to turn into an ornament.

Tom used a REVO 12|16 110V, which is manufactured by Laguna Tools.

The tools Tom used to actually turn the rolling pin can be found at any specialty woodworking store.

To sand the ornaments, Kevin used a combination of 220 grit sandpaper and a 12|16 ½” 120V midi lathe manufactured by Rikon and can be found at most specialty woodworking stores.

The rest of the team painted the ornaments and hung them to the tree using hook eyes. Both of these items are found at most craft stores.

Woodcraft provided expert assistance with this project.

Original Air Date: Dec 23, 2021, Season 20; Ep. 11 23:42


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