Something New From This Old House
February 19, 2016 2:02 AM   Subscribe

Starting on March 24, 2016, long-running historic house restoration public television show This Old House will begin a 10-episode arc with something completely new -- a brand new pre-constructed, energy-efficient house modeled after other Massachusetts North Shore houses from the late 1700s. A video preview of the project [2m5s]
posted by hippybear (39 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh my god I just got so excited for this. I literally gasped. #YoungOldLady
But seriously I've been obsessed with the current Belmont Victorian season (and how much money has that thing cost?!) Watching the hosts fix and build things with genius ease is so relaxing and I learn so much!
Did I mention I'm stoked for this!! (Also straight YouTube link for the preview if you don't have Flash installed like the website wants.)
posted by Crystalinne at 2:08 AM on February 19, 2016


The rare opportunity to build something brand-new in Mass and it's being wasted on ersatz architecture.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:54 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I worked at WGBH in the 1980's when "This Old House" and "The Victory Garden" were our big star shows. I was recently talking with my adult kids about some house-flipping show and all the networks devoted to fixing up and buying properties, and was telling them about way back in the day when TOH was the only show of its type and I pulled myself up short as I realized:

I have become my grandfather in his armchair who told us wimpy kids about the days when he walked 37 miles uphill to school in a blizzard.

**Also, I literally have a farmhouse built in the 1700's next door to me; TOH honestly couldn't find any REAL old homes? I call boloney.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:28 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I guess this is a nice change of pace for the show. At 3,000 sq.ft., though, it's still far larger than most single-family dwellings in the US, and I imagine it will, one again, carry an equally outsized pricetag, even though it's pre-built.

I like watching TOH, but I really wish they'd take on some more relateable rehab projects, instead of the constant parade of down-to-the-studs rehabs of 100+ year-old homes where there doesn't seem to be a limit to the money supply.

I'd love to see them tackle a realistic rehab/remodel of, say, a 60's-era 1,500 sq.ft. suburban ranch. The ones build on slabs by waves of crews, cutting corners as they go.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:57 AM on February 19, 2016 [21 favorites]


So, they weren't allowed to upgrade the House of the Seven Gables, and this is their Plan B?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:58 AM on February 19, 2016


I'd love to see them tackle a realistic rehab/remodel of, say, a 60's-era 1,500 sq.ft. suburban ranch. The ones build on slabs by waves of crews, cutting corners as they go.

Yeah, I wish they'd work on my house too.
posted by zamboni at 4:59 AM on February 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


Seriously. I have a house on the North Shore from the 1850s that has had random additions stuck on to it over the years. Halp. Blue Wizard Needs Closets Badly.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:01 AM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


I like watching TOH, but I really wish they'd take on some more relateable rehab projects,

Like back in the days of Bob Vila, when the homeowners actually did a lot of the work themselves.

Kids these days.
posted by BWA at 5:15 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I guess this is a nice change of pace for the show. At 3,000 sq.ft., though, it's still far larger than most single-family dwellings in the US, and I imagine it will, one again, carry an equally outsized pricetag, even though it's pre-built.

From the census: The median size of a completed single-family house was 2,453 square feet.

So, it's bigger but not all that much bigger than what's already being built.
posted by octothorpe at 6:13 AM on February 19, 2016


New house sizes took a hit during the recession but have rebounded, while overall average house sizes come from a mix of smaller old houses and new bigger houses, obviously.

I own an old house now. There was no other choice if we wanted to live in this location, but it comes with a lot of energy inefficiency and previous owner issues that I would love to not be paying for. I've also seen a lot of very poorly built new construction, so that is no panacea either, though at least they are required to put some insulation in the walls.

The aesthetics of the house in this show are not at all to my taste, but there are a lot of advantages to prefabbing the structural components and if I ever build a house that is a path I would want to look at closely.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:28 AM on February 19, 2016


This New House? Maybe just This House? Bob Vila must be turning in his grave?
posted by hwyengr at 6:29 AM on February 19, 2016


I'd love to see them tackle a realistic rehab/remodel of, say, a 60's-era 1,500 sq.ft. suburban ranch. The ones build on slabs by waves of crews, cutting corners as they go.

They actually did a remodel like that in '82, the Woburn house, a '50s tract home ranch. I had a similar house myself at the time, so I diligently taped(!) the episodes. I looked for episodes of it on Youtube, but haven't been able to find them. And yes, I recall the homeowners being much more hands-on back then.

If I remember correctly, it always seemed that the rehabs have always been pricey, even back in the stone age. I'm guessing that has as much to do with historical prices for real estate in Massachusetts as anything.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:34 AM on February 19, 2016


This New House? Maybe just This House? Bob Vila must be turning in his grave?

(a) Bob Vila aten't dead
(b) They did a new build already back in *looks* 1983.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:42 AM on February 19, 2016


(a) Bob Villa ain't dead

Well somebody get him out of that coffin quick!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:47 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


"...the rehabs have always been pricey, even back in the stone age."

Yup. And not just the work itself, but Norm's super-deluxe workshop, too. He'd show you these neat little tricks you could do with the high-end specialized equipment he had, and look how easy it is? "Well, yeah. If you have *that*, sure."
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:03 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why no SIPs? I get the efficiency of building in a factory instead of on site, but otherwise this looks like a conventional construction project.
posted by that's candlepin at 7:08 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeesh, a lot of grumpiness in here. This Old House forever!
posted by pwally at 7:15 AM on February 19, 2016


For me, they jumped the shark in 2001, with the Manchester-by-the-sea house. I recall the final cost doubled the original budget of $1 million.

Contrast that with the first New Orleans house, in 1991. The homeowners did most of the work themselves and their budget was a firm $20,000. (They had purchased the shotgun house for $35,000.) You've come a long way, baby.

I still watch the show but I just can't get myself excited about it these days. Hopefully the new project will energize things.
posted by killy willy at 7:16 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I find it hard to watch that show at the moment as we're over eight years into restoring a 1860s townhouse with no end in sight.
posted by octothorpe at 7:20 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I get the efficiency of building in a factory instead of on site, but otherwise this looks like a conventional construction project.

That looks like conventional stick building to me too. Maybe some of the stud walls are pre-assembled?
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:52 AM on February 19, 2016


Wow, thanks hippybear for the heads-up.

Mr Elizilla and I are building a new old style house, breaking ground not long after this show starts airing. Ours is Arts & Crafts style, but with energy efficiency and ADA accessibility features. This place looks somewhat similar to what we are planning, except that ours is half the size.

I have heard much about TOH but never watched. Guess we have a month to install an antenna and figure out how to get an appropriate channel on our TV, so we can watch it right away when it airs.
posted by elizilla at 8:29 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


This Old House have have done some innovative stuff previously too!
posted by sneebler at 8:30 AM on February 19, 2016


It would be a bit more impressive if they'd done it with someone like Bensonwood, which does use SIPs.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2016


Even though the projects they do these days are absurdly expensive and complicated, I still enjoy watching TOH.

Those who are interested in smaller-scale repairs & renovations might want to check out the companion show "Ask This Old House," in which individual members of the TOH cast respond to specific homeowner requests for help.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:39 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gah, that kitchen in the top photo, I'll just live right there.
posted by sidereal at 8:59 AM on February 19, 2016


I have heard much about TOH but never watched. Guess we have a month to install an antenna and figure out how to get an appropriate channel on our TV, so we can watch it right away when it airs.

What's an antenna? Watch it streaming here.
posted by beagle at 9:58 AM on February 19, 2016


It would be a bit more impressive if they'd done it with someone like Bensonwood, which does use SIPs.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:34 AM on February 19

The Mass house in 2008 was a Ted Benson timber frame design, built with SIPs. One of my favorites.
posted by killy willy at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2016


My wife and I both enjoy watching TOH, but yeah, we just have assumed now for years it's a show dedicated to empowering those with wealth to not hold back when renovating homes. Probably the best way to get down to earth TOH is actually to watch Ask TOH, where generally they shorts designed to help people with somewhat common problems with usually affordable fixes.
posted by Atreides at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2016


We specifically wanted to do SIPs. Y'know all the stuff about how the SIPs cost more for materials but you make most of it up in reduced labor costs? That does not square with what we found when we actually got a real house quoted. We have been priced out of SIPs even though we are within an hour's drive of the plant where they are produced. So ours will be conventional framing similar to what it looks like they are doing in their video.
posted by elizilla at 10:42 AM on February 19, 2016


Like back in the days of Bob Vila, when the homeowners actually did a lot of the work themselves.

During the Belmont Victorian, they went back to visit a house they'd done in in Belmont in 1993.
Other than Norm's visible pain over the new paint scheme, I got the impression he kind of misses the days when the homeowners would stay up all night sanding or painting.

The new seasons, and I admit I haven't watched all of them, the homeowners definitely seem to be there to write (very large) checks.
But maybe that's just the way they film it these days.

I will say that often in the early seasons, the owners were often what might be called gentrifiers or hipsters today, young couples without kids, where these days they seem to be professional, white-collar types with kids, so they just might not have the time to trade labor for costs.
posted by madajb at 12:28 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Netflix, Hulu et al are great for the DIY entertainment shows, where Texas-sized personalities deal with overruns, late vendors, unexpected damages, and the usual sorts of reality drama. But as far as I can tell there are no good DIY shows that actually teach the viewer how to do something on those on-demand services. The New Yankee Workshop will sell you every single episode on DVD plus measured drawings for $3000. The Woodcrafter show (sorry, blanking on the name) had an on-demand service briefly and is now similarly priced for packaged media. Ask This Old House is only available in limited form on the This Old House website (a product of Time, Inc).

Does anyone here have any good real DIY shows that are available on Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu?
posted by infinitewindow at 12:51 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


BWA: Like back in the days of Bob Vila, when the homeowners actually did a lot of the work themselves.

You know, I grew up watching those episodes, and it made me think that someday even I could do this stuff.

I mean, yeah, my parents also managed to do tons of renovation & construction on our house and cabin, which was good reinforcement of the idea. But when you could turn to the same channel that showed "Dr. Who" and see some dorky Cantabridgian in too-tight jeans strap on a toolbelt (backwards), and head up the scaffolding to hang up replacement slate shingles, it made you think that Anything Was Possible.

(Now that I am older, I have learned that to work on a roof you need to be tied in to a restraint harness, with a thick sheaf of insurance paperwork to cushion any fall. *sigh*)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:28 PM on February 19, 2016


I guess this is a nice change of pace for the show. At 3,000 sq.ft., though, it's still far larger than most single-family dwellings in the US, and I imagine it will, one again, carry an equally outsized pricetag, even though it's pre-built.

From the census: The median size of a completed single-family house was 2,453 square feet.

So, it's bigger but not all that much bigger than what's already being built.


Yeah, but new houses are bigger than old houses, and lots of people still live in old houses. In 2013 the median square footage of US single-family homes was 1500 square feet (down from 1800 in 2011), so this house is twice as big.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:33 PM on February 19, 2016


elizilla: Mr Elizilla and I are building a new old style house.... Ours is Arts & Crafts style, but with energy efficiency and ADA accessibility features.

*swoon* Good luck & God speed!

One of the things that I miss most about the Midwest, now that I live in New England, is the tragic shortage of pretty Arts & Crafts houses and little bungalows. Victorians are showy and all, but a block of snug little cottages makes my heart sinng.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2016


Yeesh, a lot of grumpiness in here. This Old House forever!

Don't get me wrong -- I love This Old House. I especially love watching it on a Saturday morning, when I should actually be doing the kinds of things they do on the show.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:35 PM on February 19, 2016


We moved into 1900 sq feet and discovered we didn't have enough furniture to fill it. Don't know what I'd do with 3000.

I enjoy Ask This Old House mostly for the yard stuff. This Old House just depresses me, too rich for my blood.

Fixer-Upper is enjoyable, although after a while you're like "Another repurposed marquee light-up letter as a design element? Eh." But before that, when they tour places that are total dumps, that's a hoot. And they always want to work on the worst one. It's very satisfying.
posted by emjaybee at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but new houses are bigger than old houses, and lots of people still live in old houses.

I guess that it depends on how old those old houses are. I've owned a 3000 square foot Edwardian and currently have a 2500 square foot Victorian that's one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood. Some of them are as large as 10,000 square feed around here. Back in the 90s when I had the Edwardian Foursquare, I used to joke that it was the smallest house that we could afford. At the time, no one wanted to maintain and heat those monsters so you could pick up a six bedroom house for nothing. That house cost $43K in 1990 for a full three stories, six bedrooms, two baths, eleven foot ceilings, a garage and a dozen stained glass windows.
posted by octothorpe at 2:30 PM on February 19, 2016


"So, it's bigger but not all that much bigger than what's already being built."

Don't forget, this is being built on 4 acres of "raw woodland." This is a pricey home.

I remember TOH and haven't seen it for years, so I can confirm everyone's memories of how it was back then. I picked up a lot of good tips from it, and "Hometime" and "Yankee Workshop." It encouraged me to see my home, not as something to live in, but remodel to make our own.

With the Hershey house, I cut cat doors in the Florida room and the wall between the finished and unfinished basements, and a narrow window to let more light in from one room to another. I replaced the storm doors with more efficient models, and added insulation in the attic, all learned from their shows.

(The upstairs bedroom addition needed it especially. The previous family had to run the water to keep the pipes from freezing, because when they built the addition, they ran the water pipes into the attic. When I sealed the walls on the attic side, I had to encase the pipes too or else they would freeze. That was also when I discovered that I could look from the attic into the bedroom because they used wall paneling that left a narrow gap. Whoever slept up there must have froze during the winter. Even now, the temperature only gets as high as 50.)

Anyway, it's a measure of how wealthy (or in debt) we are that people expect to get bigger houses, and how much more pretentious we can be. I read Fine Homebuilding magazine occasionally, and the number of 4,000-s.f. homes being built on expensive land -- complete with virtue signalling about how environmentally aware and energy efficient they are -- can cause your blood pressure to spike.

I don't mind building expensive luxury homes; Robert Redford does it in Utah. Just don't brag about your environmental bona fides. You don't have it.
posted by Bill Peschel at 7:36 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Y'know all the stuff about how the SIPs cost more for materials but you make most of it up in reduced labor costs? That does not square with what we found when we actually got a real house quoted.

Yeah, SIPs (and a lot of green construction in general) are still a boutique product for wealthy folks. I read Green Building Advisor fairly regularly, and I'm shocked at the cost of some of the products they're using.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:01 AM on February 22, 2016


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