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This Old House: The Essex Project

This modest 1935 “Hansel-and-Gretel” style cottage in Essex has been neglected over the years. Homeowners Julie and John want to restore the original character of the home, while creating an eclectic and accessible interior for their aging parents.
Courtesy of Anthony Tieuli
This modest 1935 “Hansel-and-Gretel” style cottage in Essex has been neglected over the years. Homeowners Julie and John want to restore the original character of the home, while creating an eclectic and accessible interior for their aging parents.

Airs Saturdays, Feb. 16 - 23, March 30, April 6-27, May 4-25, 2013 at 1 p.m. on KPBS TV

America’s favorite home improvement series, the Emmy Award-winning THIS OLD HOUSE, continues with host Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Roger Cook and master carpenter Norm Abram.

The Essex Project

Visit THIS OLD HOUSE online to learn more about this project, view live web cams, examine floor plans, get the scoop on products & services and go behind-the-scenes for more in the THIS OLD HOUSE blog.

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THIS OLD HOUSE travels to Essex, Massachusetts, to help a family renovate a modest 1935s “Hansel-and-Gretel” style cottage. The homeowners want to restore the original character of the neglected home, while creating a universally accessible interior intended for aging parents.


The renovation will include a small addition for a new kitchen, a four-season porch, and master bathroom and bedroom on the first floor, all connected by an open floor plan. The new design will allow residents to live entirely on the first floor.

Cedar shingles, casement windows and a metal roof for aesthetics and durability will keep the look and feel of the woodland cottage. Natural stone from the property will be used to create a veneer for the foundation. Outdated plumbing and heating systems will get a much-needed upgrade as well.

"A Cottage In The Woods" airs Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. - Kevin and Norm tour scenic Essex, Massachusetts, and roll up to the new project: a 1935 English-style cottage in the woods that homeowners John and Julie Corcoran hope to turn into an accessible in-law residence for aging parents. Architect Sally DeGan and Tom use a 3-D model to preview the plan for aging in place, and work begins.

"Human Centered Design & Demo" airs Saturday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. - Kevin visits the Institute for Human Centered Design and one of architect Sally DeGan's accessibly designed projects; the bad shed dormer is removed at the house, and work starts on a barrier-free entry.

"One-Level Living" airs Saturday, March 30 at 1 p.m. - Correct flashing and water table techniques keep water out of the house while preserving a level grade. Landscape architect Jade Cummings shows how she’s designed that grade for a barrier-free entry, and Norm visits the Bucksport, Maine, home of Jessica Russell that she and her father, architect John Gordon, designed so she could live independently despite her physical challenges.


"Liquid Assets" airs Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Lots of groundwork today, as Roger helps aquatic systems specialist Yorgos Gregory revive a neglected water feature, and drilling expert Roger Skillings is drilling for both a new water well and for geothermal wells. Master electrician Allen Gallant shows Kevin how he bends PVC conduit to run the new electrical service underground over hill and dale.

"Cottage Style" airs Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Digging for energy: geothermal bore holes are filled and grouted. General contractor Tom Silva shows how to weave shingles around a corner for a cottage look, and Norm helps him mill and install custom PVC window trim with standard stock from the home center.

"Clam Flats & Lightning Rods" airs Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Kevin and Roger dig for clams, then finish up the barrier-free walk that leads to the house, using both granite and bluestone, but no steps. The standing-seam metal roof goes on, and Richard’s creative ducting and plumbing will minimize the number of holes that need to go through it. A non-reactive lightning protection system is installed.

"Rustic Plaster, Advanced Septic" airs Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Wallboard installer Brian Jones shows how he uses a panel lift to install ceilings single-handedly. Rustic plaster and old beams complete the Old World look of the walls. Richard surveys what's new in the world of septic systems, and installs a self-contained membrane bioreactor system in the basement. A granite and cobble border adorns the driveway.

"Wooden Ships & Shiplap Boards" airs Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Norm visits Essex's last shipyard. Kevin and Tom build shiplap barn board walls and a mantel. Landscape architect Kellie Connelly and Roger show off the finished yard, and project architect Sally DeGan gives a tour of a home with accessible retrofits. Designer Keith Musinski lays out the reclaimed tile hearth.

"From Our House To Daryl's House" airs Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Kevin points out the exterior details that bring the outside into the sunroom, like the slate floor tile installer Mark Ferrante is laying. Parged plaster, salvaged hearth tile and carefully stained quarter-sawn oak floors all work to revive the look of the original cottage. Norm visits music icon and old house buff Daryl Hall at his antique home and studio.

"Design For Everyone" airs Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 1 p.m. - Richard and son Ross Trethewey recap the geothermal system's installation with Norm. Tile installers Mark and Erik Ferrante lay reclaimed marble tile in the foyer and designer Keith Musinski's custom-ordered hand-painted border tile in the kitchen. Kevin learns about universal design touring the Seattle home of architect Emory Baldwin.

"A Home For Mom & Dad" airs Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 1 p.m. - After a little antiquing at The White Elephant, Norm and Kevin help Tom install interior screens and a Dutch door. Electrician Allen Gallant shows off the exterior lighting and generator, and homeowners John and Julie Corcoran give a grand tour of the beautifully decorated "English cottage" with interior designer Keith Musinski.

Full episodes are available for online viewing.

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