this old house yellowwood tree

This Old House Episode 4 Recap

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If you’ve been following our blog, you already know our season’s most exciting news: The renovation show This Old House is featuring some of our products. So we’ve been recapping each week’s episode as the crew improves a project house in Arlington, Massachusetts. Let’s see what happened this week.

Fully Excavated for Add-On

The couple who own the home have a lovely little girl and a huge dog who require a play room. So they’re adding a big family room onto the house.

All the excavation is done, and this week they worked on the foundation. Kent Ruesswick, an ICF installer, explained his non-traditional technique. Instead of using wood, he specializes in something called an insulated concrete form system. This is basically chunks of polystyrene that fit together and are joined by pieces of plastic. As the show’s host Kevin said, it seems implausible that foam and plastic can hold all this concrete. The secret seems to be that the foundation is reinforced with quite a bit of steel.  After they built a wall of foam, plastic and steel, a huge truck came in to pump the concrete into the form.

insulated concrete form system

Looking down at an insulated concrete form system, right before the concrete is poured.

Choosing New Trees

Last week, they removed an old, diseased maple. This week homeowner Emily consulted with Kim Turner, landscape architect, and TOH landscape expert Roger Cook during a trip to a nearby nursery. They weren’t ready to take any trees home, but Turner said this is the season when inventory is high, and they should select the trees they want and reserve them.

Emily dodged a bullet when Turner recommended a linden tree, which blooms with cloyingly sweet flowers and has an aggressive root system. Worse, linden trees usually get infested with aphids that secrete a sticky substance that attracts wasps and covers cars, making it impossible to see through the windshield. Lindens are the bane of car owners who lack garages.

Emily instead chose a much superior yellowwood tree. She praised the dappled light effect as the sun shone through the tree’s yellowish green leaves. In spring, she expects fragrant flowers like a wisteria.

this old house yellowwood tree

The bark of the yellowwood reminds Emily of a birch, one of her preferred trees.

Roger Cook checked the trunk for damage and found none. “What do you think? You want to tag it?” he asked.

“Let’s tag it,” Emily said.

Together they chose a dogwood with white, showy flowers to plant near the fire pit and selected a bunch of arbor vitae to make a screen at the property line.

More Work on the Basement

Concrete specialist Greg Stratis explained how they’d attach some new precast concrete steps to the foundation. It seems pretty simple, just four threaded rods. Oh, and a crane. Maybe not a DIY project.

The builders had to solve some water issues in the basement, and also make the old basement meet up with the new. The old foundation was made of rubble stone following an imprecise technique of yore not used on TOH. Mark McCullough, a mason, opted to build a concrete block wall in front of the old exposed rubble stone foundation.

dogs digging a rubble stone wall

Dogs digging in an old rubble stone wall.

Hugo Provetti, waterproof specialist, explained two-part synthetic rubber. A special two-part hose mixes the rubber at a mixing chamber, just before spraying onto the wall. This terra cotta-colored coating goes on sticky but dries very quickly.

Next Week

Sure, we like foundations and trees and all, but the preview for next week mentioned our favorite thing: a new fireplace! We look forward to seeing next week’s episode, when the new addition will be ready for a fireplace. Until then, you know where to find us – on the edge of our seats. But we’re within easy reach of a phone. So if you want to talk about your fireplace or range hood project, give us a call.

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