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Newton, MA 11 - Recap

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Norm introduces the topics of this episode, and shows how the painters have replaced the “green monster” look with a palette of softer beige tones more appropriate to a shingle-style house. They’ve finished on the second floor, but must return for the first floor later, after the construction there has ended.

Kevin walks the backyard, where Roger has completed installation of the bluestone steps and patio, which will be a real centerpiece of the yard. From the patio, Kevin points out the transformation of the back wall and especially the detail work of the red cedar shingles on the porch columns. Tom himself discusses trim detail: moldings and frieze boards and how the windows flow into the moldings creating a unified look. He’ll need to replicate that look in the new molding out back.

The molding will also be Western Red Cedar, which paints well and withstands weather nicely. Tom also demonstrates how he’ll make the door trim waterproof with rabbits and caulk. Even though under the roof, wind-driven rain hazards mean there is a need to keep the joints waterproof.

On the third floor, Norm is in the “man cave” with restoration plaster expert Rory Brennan. Removing the wallpaper to expose the plaster revealed a number of cracks, and Rory has come to the site to fix them. Often, the plaster has separated from the lathe at the point of these cracks. Once, people used ceiling buttons – special flanges held with screws – and mesh tape to cover the crack. Joint compound over that sealed the crack. Rory has a new system that works better and avoids the bump.

First, he drills holes to inject adhesive to secure the plaster to the lathe again. A special compound prepares the mating surfaces for the adhesive. Rory chases that with the adhesive, injecting it until it flows back out of the crack. Special screws and washer “buttons” act as clamps to hold the plaster to the lathe until the adhesive sets. When the glue sets in about twenty four hours, Rory will remove these “buttons” and apply a thin layer of joint compound to fill and seal the crack without creating a noticeable bump. He demonstrates on one of the larger cracks.

Rory next addresses a problem near some corner moldings. There, gaps have opened between wooden trim and the plaster wall. He trowels a plaster mixture into the voids, then lets it set up and stiffen a bit before cutting it away so that it looks like the original work. Essentially, this creates a chamfer in the plaster. Once sanded and painted, it will look like the original work.

Downstairs, Kevin talks to interior designer Abby Koplovitz who has worked with one of the homeowners to select color choices for the entry hallway. Lighter colors offset the dark wood of the staircase. Candelabra sconces add flickering light to the hallway. In the living room, once a parlor, the vivid red walls will be painted a blue-grey color. The windows will retain their dark wood moldings for contrast. Because of the built-in bookcases and low windows, the homeowner elected to pull furniture into the middle of the room. Tape outlines on the floor protecting cardboard show exactly where these go, and saved the homeowner a costly mistake: she realized that full-sized couches would not fit into this room, and opted for love seats instead.

In the dining room, which will be formal, a pair of tape outlines helps designer and homeowner visualize the flow around the antique table that will dominate the room. From there the tour enters the family room, which has an nice wall for a television and has the great advantage of connecting to the kitchen. In a sense, this room forms a transition between the darker front of the house and the lighter back of the house. That involves painting the wainscoting, a difficult decision. A large fireplace on another wall of the room will remain its original wood color.

In Somerville, Massachusetts, Norm visits Steve Kelly where he sees a wide selection of pool tables. A mahogany table from the 1860s, beautifully restored, sells for $60,000. Not far away, another table with bronzing powder inlay will fetch $75,000! Arrayed atop it is a selection of antique billiard cues that date to the creation of the game.

From the showroom Norm follows Steve to his shop, where the project pool table awaits repair. Steve demonstrates how he’ll remove the felt cloth from the side rail using a specialized tool, and then carefully installs new cloth. First he tacks a piece to each end, and then he reinstalls the feather strip and taps that home. That traps one edge of the cloth. As he secures the feather strip at each end, Steve removes the tacks. To secure it, he uses a block to pound it further in, then trims the material and adds a few small tacks to ensure the feather strip won’t move. Along the edge, staples secure the felt. At the ends, a few tacks secure the felt so that no wrinkles appear. Steve does this work quickly, but reveals the skill that permits him to succeed at that speed. He expects the table will be ready in two weeks.

Rockers work in the kitchen plastering the ceiling and walls. And Rich has turned on the radiant heat to help it cure. Next time, the crew will install wood flooring in the kitchen and Roger will plant some new landscaping outside.

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Warning: This Old House season 29 episode 11 guide may contain spoilers
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