Kevin O’Connor is the host of the Emmy Award-winning series, This Old House, the Emmy-nominated series, Ask This Old House, and Inside This Old House. Kevin also serves on the editorial board of This Old House magazine.
Norm Abram was an everyday carpenter until he built a barn for This Old House’s creator and became a do-it-yourself celebrity. A second-generation carpenter, he lives with his wife in a classic Colonial home that he built himself.
Born and raised in Dedham, Mass., Richard Trethewey learned about heating and plumbing from his father by working summers and school vacations. He lives with his wife and two sons in a Boston suburb in an 1865 Victorian that he has extensively remodeled.
A long-time landscaping specialist, Roger Cook became a permanent fixture on This Old House in 1988, during the Lexington Bed & Breakfast renovation. Roger lives with his wife and two children in a suburban cape home, which they continue to renovate.
Renovating houses since he was a child, Tom Silva’s first major project was installing a basement fallout shelter beneath his family’s 1787 Colonial in Massachusetts. Tom lives with his wife, daughter, and son in a 19th-century house he is renovating in a Boston suburb.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find homeowner George Mabry moving out and general contractor Tom Silva moving in. With a building permit in hand, Tom starts with the carport, dismantling it piece by piece on order to gain better access to the house. Kevin meets landscape architect Gregory Lombardi to evaluate the existing landscape. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets project architect Will Ruhl at another modern house he recently designed on the island of Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. Will presents his design for George's house with the help of computer renderings and a 3-D model. The new house will still be modern, but tempered by a warm palette of natural materials. Certified arborist Greg Carbone arrives to begin clearing the lot of the overgrown and dying trees.
A week of rain from a springtime Nor'easter hasn't stopped work on the house, nor on the lot. Landscape contractor Roger Cook shows host Kevin O'Connor the progress after the trees are cleared, the access road is in, excavation for the new foundation is complete, and the form work is underway. General contractor Tom Silva discovers extensive rot and termite damage on the Eastern elevation. Master carpenter Norm Abram finds problems with under-structured framing from two previous renovations. Homeowner George Mabry gets Norm's opinion on the exterior materials he's thinking of using; stucco and stone with accents of wood siding. In nearby Lincoln, Massachusetts, Kevin meets educational director Peter Gittleman to see the modern house Walter Gropius designed and built for his family in 1938.
Host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram get a feel for the neighborhood by visiting the independently owned neighborhood shops of nearby Huron Village. Back at the house, landscape architect Gregory Lombardi presents a plan for the front yard featuring stone walls and courtyards organized around a water feature. Certified arborist Jack Kelly shows landscape contractor Roger Cook a treatment of horticultural oil that will protect the property's hemlocks from a fatal infestation of wooly adelgid. Down the street, Kevin meets curator Nancy Jones for a tour of the legendary Longfellow House. Built in 1759, the Georgian-style home has been lived in continuously for 250 years by luminaries such as General George Washington and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Master carpenter Norm Abram shows host Kevin O'Connor the newly discovered problems at the project house, most of them caused by the poor workmanship of a previous contractor. Pest management expert Dan Fleicher shows Kevin the extent of the termite and carpenter ant damage, and suggests possible treatment options. Landscape contractor Roger Cook reveals the anatomy of new landscape walls; they'll be natural stone veneer over reinforced concrete. Kevin visits Six Moon Hill, a utopian neighborhood of modern houses created by The Architects Collaborative in 1948. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin on of the challenges he's fcing in this minimalist modern house - no place to hide necessary ductwork.
Master carpenter Norm Abram and host Kevin O'Connor open the show at Cambridge Common — the city's oldest public open space and a center of rebel activity in the early years of the American Revolution. Back at the project house, Kevin lends Norm and general contractor Tom Silva a hand framing in the "not quite flat" roof above the library. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Kevin a new software program that allows him to design the HVAC system on a laptop and run heat loss scenarios for the house while changing variables like windows, insulation and various kinds of ductwork and heating. Landscape contractor Roger Cook brings homeowner George Mabry to one of the largest stone yards on the East coast to begin selecting hardscape materials for the landscape.
Host Kevin O'Connor finds master carpenter Norm Abram and homeowner George Mabry discussing the recent water damage in the old kitchen, and George's new inclination to renovate the entire space. Master mason Lenny Belliveau gives Kevin a lesson in block work while he builds up the lower landscape wall to the proper height. Kevin travels to the west coast to see a classic Los Angeles home that once belonged to Hollywood legend Gary Cooper. Back in Cambridge, in the entry to the library, general contractor Tom Silva shows Kevin how he's using fir two-by-fours turned sideways to frame for the future pocket door.
Host Kevin O'Connor opens the show around the corner from the project house at Formaggio Kitchen - a world-class gourmet food shop that also has a cheese-ripening cave in the basement - the first ever to be installed in a retail store in the USA. Back at the project house, Kevin finds stone specialist Jason Buechel installing natural quartzite veneer on the landscape walls. At three dollars more per square foot, it's more expensive than fake stone, but worth it to homeowner George Mabry for its authenticity. Designer Todd Tsiang shows Kevin how obscure glass, custom shoji screens and low-E coatings will work together to provide privacy, UV protection and lower energy bills. On the roof, general contractor Tom Silva oversees the installation of the low slope EPDM roofing system. Kevin meets up with George and kitchen designer Amy Leonard to review a few possible layouts for the new kitchen and wet bar.
Landscape architect Gregory Lombardi shows host Kevin O'Connor the final design for the entry courtyards and water feature, and landscape contractor Roger Cook explains the formwork, rough plumbing and rough electrical on the structure. General contractor Tom Silva removes the old single-pane steel slider in the living room and replaces it with a more energy efficient, insulating glass unit with a low E coating. Master carpenter Norm Abram travels to Keene, NH to meet artisan tile manufacturers Stephen & Kristin Powers for a tour of their showroom and factory. Custom pool specialist John Fitzgerald shows Roger and Kevin how his eight-member crew forms the trough of the water feature out of gunite.
Host Kevin O'Connor and heating and plumbing expert Richard Trethewey visit a local restaurant and discover the "This Old House" hamburger. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets with exterior coatings specialist Dan Rourke who explains the stucco application process. Then, general contractor Tom Silva discusses the difficulties associated with the chimney installation, and Kevin helps him with the demolition of the old staircase.
Landscaping contractor Roger Cook takes host Kevin O'Connor on a tour of a local cemetery that is full of century old trees. Master carpenter Norm Abram explains some of the engineering challenges facing the crew in the master suite and bathroom. Then, Kevin helps general contractor Tom Silva build a deck off the third story guest room.
Host Kevin O'Connor tours a metal fabrication shop to see homeowner George Mabry's one of a kind stairway being made. Then, he meets with reclaimed wood specialist Richard McFarland to discuss the redwood being used for the exterior siding. Landscape contractor Roger Cook starts installing the blue stone and meets with finish specialist Bob Snay and crew to apply the finish for the water feature.
Host Kevin O'Connor helps landscaping contractor Roger Cook install a trench drain in front of the garage then meets with plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey who is finishing up the radiant heating and air conditioning systems. Later, Kevin travels to MIT to continue his study of modern architecture.
Host Kevin O'Connor tours Harvard University with Capital Projects Manager Elizabeth Randall to discuss past and present restoration projects. Landscaping contractor Roger Cook explains the elaborate drainage system being installed in the background and the garage floor gets an epoxy treatment. Then, master carpenter Norm Abram travels to a custom mill shop in Rhode Island to see the library shelving and stairway treads being manufactured.
Host Kevin O'Connor arrives to find general contractor Tom Silva meeting with building inspector Michael Grover. At the front door, Tom shows Kevin how he's installing the brushed nickel mortise lockset on the custom oak door. In the basement, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows master carpenter Norm Abram the mechanical room - highlights include a gas fired boiler, three different temperatures of radiant heat (for ice melt, under floor, and over floor), an HRV for fresh air, and a fine mist humidifier to add a touch of moisture to the building. In the kitchen, Norm finds carpenter Charlie Silva installing the custom cabinetry and scribing the base trim to the irregular bluestone floor. Out back, irrigation system specialist Ed Marchant shows landscape contractor Roger Cook the features of the new irrigation system. Kevin sees the new modern closet systems from Italy being installed in the master suite. Norm travels to a fine furniture shop in Auburn, Maine to see some of the modern cherry furniture being made for the house. In the basement, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant and audio/visual specialist Dan Chadwick installing a complex electrical landscape that employs more than 6 miles of wire to support whole house automation and lighting control.
With only a week left on the project, master carpenter Norm Abram finds general contractor Tom Silva at work on the dramatic 3-story stair. With the teak treads and bronze balustrade finally in, Tom can work on installing the teak handrail. Audio/visual specialist Dan Chadwick shows host Kevin O'Connor how he's concealing a 61" plasma TV in the living room, and adding acoustical panels to enhance the sound in the room. Designer Todd Tsiang shows Kevin the modern fireplace mantle, tile, plumbing fixtures, and the fully decorated master suite. Tom reveals the private roof deck off the master bedroom as a new modular steel railing system is installed. Landscape contractor Roger Cook visits a 500-acre sod farm in Rhode Island to see how sod is grown and harvested. In the wet bar, tile contractor Joe Ferrante shows Norm a "bubbly" glass tile being installed on the backsplash.
In the garage, master carpenter Norm Abram finds specialist Joe Ferraro installing a new custom garage system. Inside, host Kevin O'Connor and homeowner George Mabry meet kitchen designer Amy Leonard for a look at the finished kitchen and state-of-the-art appliances. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Norm the central vacuum system and modern plumbing fixtures on the first floor. Upstairs, the stainless steel washer and dryer and the luxurious master bath round out the master suite. Chimney specialist Mark Schaub installs new vented gas logs in the corner fireplace of the library, as general contractor Tom Silva installs custom shoji screens from California. Instead of rice paper, the panels are made of an environmentally friendly textured polyester resin. On the second floor, another kind of window treatment is going up - mail order custom shades. Specialist Cindy O'Reilly shows Kevin how easy they are to install. On the final day, minutes before the wrap party, audio/visual specialist Dan Chadwick shows Norm the finished media system and whole house automation. Lighting designer Susan Arnold and designer Todd Tsiang show Kevin how they have illuminated and decorated the house that George has been dreaming of for 13 years - a glowing, minimalist home that is clearly modern, but yet comfortable and warm.
In this episode of This Old House, Kevin and Norm get a first look at their new project house in Washington D.C.
East Boston Project, Part 4
Landscape architect Stephanie Hubbard shares her strategies for creating a "bold and simple" urban landscape in East Boston. Abatement contractor Brian Fitzsimons and crew remove the asbestos-laden flooring and mastic from the first floor kitchen. Upstairs on the second floor, general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram carefully remove the original mouldings that will be saved and, hopefully, reused. Then, host Kevin O'Connor lends a hand knocking down the partition wall that currently separates two bedrooms in order to make space for the new kitchen. City contractors arrive outside to excavate the sewer main and lateral to the house: both are chronically choked by tree roots, and in dire need of repair.