Ask This Old House TV // Season 15 // Episode 10

Ask TOH | Workshop, Light Switch

Coming up on the next episode of ASK This Old House

Tom heads to Chicago to transform a one-car garage into a carpentry workshop. Scott installs a wireless light switch. Richard gives a history lesson on antique bath fixtures.


How to Set Up a Garage Workshop

Tom is in Chicago to turn a garage into a woodworking shop. 

For the folding workbench, Tom built a frame out of 2x4 lumber approximately 4 feet long by 3 feet wide.  The frame included two additional 2x4s for center supports and was attached with hinges to a 2x4 leger that attaches to the wall.  2x4s were also attached using hinges for the legs.  3/4” plywood was used for the top surface.

To attach the leger to the brick wall, Tom used a masonry drill bit and concrete screws made by Tapcon.  When the table is not in use, a gate latch attached to a spacer block on the wall keeps it out of the way.

To organize tools for easy access, Tom hung a piece of peg board on the wall, also using concrete screws.

To help with ventilation, Tom mounted a box fan in the window opening.  He attached a 2x4 to the window casing and hung two hooks off of the bottom. He drilled two holes into the box fan which received the hooks. 

Tom laid down interlocking, foam pads on the concrete to make for a softer work area. 

All of the materials for the workbench, peg board, ventilation, and flooring systems including lumber, hardware, a box fan, and foam pad floor tiles can be purchased at a home center.

Tom added a table saw stand to the homeowner’s existing table saw to get the saw at a proper working height, both made by the same manufacturer, in this case, Dewalt.  


Tom also added several vital tools to the new workshop, including:

  • 12” Dual-Bevel Glide Miter Saw with Gravity Rise Miter Saw Stand
  • 1 HP Colt variable speed electronic palm router combination kit
  • 3 1/4” Planer
  • 12V MAX Barrel-Grip Jig Saw
  • 5” Random Orbit Sander
  • 12V MAX 3/8” Drill Driver
  • 12V MAX Impact Driver Kit

All of these tools were provided by Bosch Power Tools

Tom also added a pocket screw jig for simple, fast joinery, which was provided by Kreg.



The Story Behind Antique Bath Fixtures

Richard gives a history lesson on antique bath fixtures and piping. 

Where to find it?

Richard explains the current system most homeowners have in their bathrooms. It’s a bath, waste and overflow system. There is a drain which includes a stopper, activated by either a lever or a foot pedal in the drain. The system also includes an overflow. That is a hole above the drainage pipe in the side of the tub. If the tub ever gets too high, the water will begin to seep down the drain and not flood the house. Richard then shows Kevin the P-Trap. A bit of water sits in the trap at all times to keep sewer gas from flowing into the house. 

Next, Richard goes back in time to see how one of the first plumbed bathtub functioned. The spout, hot and cold valves sat on a claw foot or Essex tub. Richard shows Kevin how the drain worked by pulling up a stopper at tub level. 

Richard then shows Kevin a drum trap. The drum trap works on the same principle as the P-trap. A bit of water stays inside to prevent sewer gas from coming back inside. However, it was so large and inaccessible, hair and other debris could fill up inside. Using a snake would not be able to clear it out either. A drain snake may actually pope a hole in the lead-based drum trap because lead is so soft. Richard goes on to explain the fittings on the drum trap were also made with lead and actually melted and hardened onsite in the homes. 

Finally, Richard shows off old piping. Lead pipes were once very common in plumbing. Lead was followed by brass fittings and eventually the more modern copper and PEX tubing. 


How to Install a Wireless Light Switch

Scott helps a homeowner install a wireless light switch. 

Scott installed a LevNet RF wireless switching system, which included a Line Voltage receiver wired into the light fixture and a wireless remote switch.  The whole system is manufactured by Leviton.  

He also replaced the existing light fixture with a Jefferson 4in Semi Flush light, which is manufactured by Rejuvenation.


New episodes are available Sundays at 8pm Eastern on, or check your local listings for a broadcast time near you.


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