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Newton, MA 13 - Recap

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Kevin opens at the project site, talking about the extensive wrap around porch. New Englanders built such porches to capture coastal breezes, and spent a great deal of time there. As Kevin climbs the steps, two men fence! They are the homeowner and his brother, who fenced at the Olympic level, and have the medals to prove it, from various competitions including prize medals from the Pan-Am games.

With a month and a half left and a lot of work yet to do, the project is drawing towards the “final rush.” And inside, more swordplay, as Tommy “turns up the heat” on one of his workers, defeating him in a sword duel. The man surrenders and agrees to go back to work!

Norm walks under the large European beech tree to the garage. A good deal of now hidden structural work restored that building, but Norm’s here today to examine the new doors. Designed to look like old carriage house doors, they seem like doors that would open out, but they are overhead doors, custom made. Norm steps inside to chat with Pat Lohse, a representative of the manufacturer. Homeowners seeking to match certain exterior features turn to companies like Pat’s to make matching doors, which they do from as little as a drawing. A foam core backed by two panels, and faced with MDO, a durable type of plywood faced with a paintable paper surface. Decorative strap-style hinges and handles complete the carriage house illusion, while a pair of windows (arranged as 4x2 true divided lights on each side of the door) permit light into the garage. This door weighs nearly five hundred pounds, so galvanized torsion springs provide a effective counterweight permitting a person to open the door one-handed.

Back inside, Norm discusses the particular requirements of the open floor plan selected by the homeowners. Among them: a show piece kitchen with fancy cabinetry and conceals some of the appliances, including refrigerator and range hood. A big challenge is the age of the house, which means out of level floors. Norm talks to Patrick Malone, a cabinet installer, about how he solved this and other installation problems. Malone demonstrates how he scribes the molding to the floor and how he measures and miters it for tight corner fits. First he miters one ends, then shims the piece level and miters the other end. He can use a measurement from the top of the cabinet to level the molding because he has already leveled the cabinet (it comes with adjustable feet for this purpose). Once the molding is miter-cut to length, Malone returns the piece to its location, shims it again, and uses a compass to scribe along the bottom. When he removes that material, the molding will fit perfectly in place. At the table saw, a small blade angle back bevels the bottom of the piece just enough to ensure the visible edge will mate tightly. The final step before he installs the molding is a bit of work with the block plane.

Kevin’s in the front hallway, where Tom Silva explains that after hanging some masonite doors, they decided these did not go with some of the newly restored oak trim and doors. So Tom intends to turn the masonite doors into oak doors! He’ll do that by covering the door with a thin oak laminate sheeting. But the very first step is to get rid of the bead detail inside the door panels. That’s part of the rails and styles and cannot be popped out, so Tom cuts a template that permits him to route away the bead with a straight cutting bit, finishing the corners with a chisel. That done, he sands off the primer on the door so the veneer will adhere. He starts by cutting veneer a little wider than the style, then spraying both surfaces with contact cement. When the cement is dry to the touch he begins applying the veneer pieces carefully – once the two surfaces touch, they’re together. Kevin follows with a J-roller, to smooth the surfaces. He completes the veneer with a flush cutting router but that removes the excess from the edges.

The final touch is replacement molding for the inset panels. Tom made it from left-over floor boards cut to width and then shaped with a molding machine (he needed the knives for some of the other work, so they’re also reused). The completed door will stain exactly like any other piece of oak.

Kevin visits the upstairs to show the finished master suite and attached master bath, constructed over the porch. It features cabinets from Canada with engineered stone tops. Tile contractor Joe Ferrante takes time from his installation tasks to describe the tiling he has put in. Outside of the shower, Joe has created what he calls a “stone carpet” with a nice perimeter and an internal field. Mesh on the back and cellophane on the front hold the small stones together until installation. Joe applies Thinset to the floor, and grooves it with a ¼ x ¼ trowel, then applies more to the tile itself, a process called “back buttering” that ensures every small stone will sit in adhesive. A day or so later, he’ll come back and remove the cellophane, then grout. Because of the size of the small stones, Joe just presses these sheets firmly in place, instead of using a mallet or block. Outside of these “stone carpet” Joe has installed honed surface tiles that are sealed and waxed. They’re well-suited for wet applications.

Down in the kitchen, Norm checks on the men measuring for countertops. Precision here ensures no expensive waste in incorrectly cut stone. Kent Whitten uses a stylus connected to a machine. As he touches the wall, the stylus reports its precise position to the computer, which compiles a picture of the site from that data and can email it right to the shop. Kitchen designer Donna Venegas shows Norm a sample of the honed quartz surface from which the countertops will be cut, and discusses how she’ll match the elaborate edge detail on the teak island countertop. She kept the countertop simple so that it would not draw attention from the wall tile. Several varieties and mounting strategies create a sort of Moroccan effect.

Out back, Roger and Kevin discuss how the homeowner will protect his investment in plants and lawn. Small plant beds require different watering than a large lawn; to solve that problem, Kevin brought in Ed Marchant, an irrigation contractor who has worked with This Old House before. He shows how rotary spray heads pop out of the ground and water the lawn. For the edges, 180º heads ensure only the lawn receives water. For corners, 90º heads do the same job, and for the middle of the lawn, the heads distribute water over their full radius. A small row of viburnums at the base of the fieldstone wall require far less water. For them, Marchant has laid a pressure compensating drip hose. Filters and pressure regulators ensure that water goes right to the roots, where it should, without waste; mulch covers the hoses to conceal and protect them. This system even has a rain sensor to protect against overwatering in wet conditions.