Touring a Neighborhood in Melrose

Project: Basement Finishing and Family Space, Episode 1, Part 1

In Melrose, MA, a family with two young sons needs extra room and looks to Bob and his team to repurpose their damp basement for expanded living space. Homeowner Sarah Monzon shows Bob the backyard of the 1921 gambrel with a stone retaining wall they created to manage the slope for the kids’ play yard. She explains how the exterior has water intrusion and moisture buildup problems. Inside, Cyrus Beasley rips out the under-stair closet and assesses the stair support required while the plumber disconnects the old soapstone sink. The Monzons then clear out years of junk and demolition waste before calling 1-800-Got-Junk to stack, sort, and dispose of everything to donation centers, recycling sites, and the dump for a set price. Larry Janesky of Basement Systems reviews the exterior drainage problems of the home with Bob and then explains how they will reduce moisture on the inside. The crew breaks up the concrete floor to create an interior drainage trench, applies Clean Walls to isolate the stone walls and send moisture runoff to the drainage trench and sump, installs Thermal Dry radiant barrier behind finished walls to prevent moisture transfer, and creates a hole for the sump.

Part 1: Touring a Neighborhood in Melrose
Bob reviews how suburban real estate values have skyrocketed in the last couple of years and talks about Melrose, MA, a Boston suburb and the site of this new project. Part of the town's appeal is due to beautiful antique homes mixed with houses built around the turn of the century. Bob talks with Linda O'Koniewski of RE/MAX Heritage, a local real estate broker, about the home where the work is being done. O'Koniewski was raised near the home, which was built in 1921. She sold the home to the current owners, Ricardo and Sarah Monzon. The home has fine woodworking and craftsmanship on the inside that Bob says points to its being a builder house rather than an architect-designed home. Bob talks with homeowner Sarah Monzon about some of the improvements that have been made to the property. Monzon points out the retaining wall they put in the backyard to create an area where the children can play. Plants were put in that will give the backyard some more privacy when fully grown. Monzon explains that the children, ages four and five, have done some damage to the lawn so they are looking for solutions. The backyard does not have a fence, which Bob points out as a concern with a busy street and young children. Monzon reviews some problems with the exterior of the home which include mildew buildup and damage from squirrels and birds' nests. Monzon tells Bob about flood damage they experienced in the basement, something they would like to address and prevent in the future. Homeowner Sarah Monzon explains the project and how they plan to expand the interior of the home by renovating the basement and adding another bathroom. This will allow more space for their children and active family life. Monzon shows how the basement looked before they began the renovation, full of unwanted books, clothes, household items and appliances that had accumulated over the years. The homeowners had 1-800-GOT-JUNK take away unwanted items. Monson talks about plumbing issues and problems with the basement stairs.
Part 2: Removing Unwanted Junk and Debris
Part 3: Fixing the Home's Gutter System
Bob Vila helps a young family with an old house create family and recreational space for their active kids. Projects include replacement window installation, innovative plumbing solutions, and smart storage to make indoor and outdoor spaces ideal for this growing family.

Also from Basement Finishing and Family Space

  • Episode 2 - Basement Waterproofing, New Plumbing, and On-Demand Hot Water


    <p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:DocumentProperties> <o:Template>Normal.dotm</o:Template> <o:Revision>0</o:Revision> <o:TotalTime>0</o:TotalTime> <o:Pages>1</o:Pages> <o:Words>221</o:Words> <o:Characters>1265</o:Characters> <o:Company>Blue Iceberg LLC</o:Company> <o:Lines>10</o:Lines> <o:Paragraphs>2</o:Paragraphs> <o:CharactersWithSpaces>1553</o:CharactersWithSpaces> <o:Version>12.0</o:Version> </o:DocumentProperties> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves>false</w:TrackMoves> <w:TrackFormatting /> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing> <w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing> <w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery> <w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> <w:DontAutofitConstrainedTables /> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]-->Bob and Larry Janesky of Basement Systems review the work being done to cut a drainage trench in the concrete around the perimeter of the basement floor. Water will be channeled through the trench to a sump &ndash; dug at the lowest spot in the basement &ndash; where it can be pumped out of the home. <span>&nbsp;</span>A triple safe power pump protects the home even if there is a loss of power.<span>&nbsp; </span>Bob reviews the work done on the existing plumbing once all the waterproofing and flood-prevention measures are put in place in the basement. Al Leone of Leone Plumbing Corp. first cut the pipes into sections for easy removal and demonstrates some of the specialized work he does to install the pipe, including using oakum, a joint runner, and poured hot lead to form a joint seal. Old brass water pipes are replaced with PEX tubing, creating more headroom in the basement and the sink and laundry lines can be easily relocated.<span>&nbsp; </span>Bob talks with Dan Driscoll of Rinnai about the new on-demand water heater being installed. The heater is a whole-house system sized for a three-bathroom household, laundry, and cleaning. An on-demand, tankless water heater saves basement space <span>&nbsp;</span>and is energy efficient because it does not store hot water. Driscoll opens up the water heater to show how the system works. Once the water is turned on, sensors detect the amount of water being used and the temperature of the incoming cold water. The on-demand system is about 40% more efficient than gas-fueled tank water heaters and 70% more efficient than electric tank water heaters.</p> <!--EndFragment--> <!--EndFragment--> <p>&nbsp;</p>
  • Episode 3 - Moving the Oil Tank for New Heating, Cooling, and Air Filtration


    <p>Bob is in Melrose where John Ambrosino of Total Temperature Control installs the new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Because of clearance issues, the unit is installed horizontally and tied to the joists with steel rods. Ambrosino explains how the unit pulls air in for exchange, to be heated or cooled, then pushes it through a fan and into the ducts for circulation. The 16 SEER unit is very big for maximum efficiency, quiet operation, and up to 45 percent savings over current energy costs. Mark Hagan shows Bob the Trane CleanEffects whole-house three-stage air-cleaning system that cleans the air of 99.98 percent of particulates, filtering first for large particles, then charging the small particles and capturing them in a collection filter for healthy indoor air. Don Adams of Bond-Tite Tank Service shows Bob how they move the oil tank, reattach it, set it in a trough to catch leaks and drips, and apply Tank-Guard to isolate condensing water and prevent tank corrosion. Bob talks to Howard Brickman about how to control squeaking floors either by drawing the wood floor tight against the subfloor with screws, connecting blocking to the joists and subfloor from below, or shimming the space between the subfloor and joists.</p>
  • Episode 4 - Basement Finishing System and Custom Windows


    <p>The Melrose, MA, basement remodel enters the finishing phase now that the mechanicals, plumbing, drainage, and moisture-proofing upgrades have been completed. Sheet-metal tracks are screwed into the concrete floor and up into the joists as carriers for new steel studs that are trimmed and doubled up for a sturdy, moisture- and mold-proof framing system. The Owens Corning Basement Finishing System&trade; is installed using PVC lineals that allow for nail-free installation. These polyolefin-covered fiberglass panels are rated at R-11 for energy efficiency and may help save up to 25 percent of current energy costs. A suspended ceiling, trim, molding, and doors give the space a clean, finished look. The stairway is strengthened with posts drilled into the concrete and up into the stringer, and stiffened with plywood backing and reinforced tread-to-riser connections. Harvey Majesty custom, energy-efficient clad windows are installed once the old sash has been removed and voids filled with foam and caulk for a tight, efficient installation. As Bob learns about the costs associated with purchasing a total finishing system like this, Suzie Mitchell of Owens Corning explains that studies show 90 percent of the costs associated with finishing a basement can be recouped in just one year.</p>
  • Episode 5 - Exterior Upgrades for 1921 Gambrel

  • Episode 6 - Hardscaping, Removing Rot, and Fighting Insect Damage

  • Episode 7 - New Backyard Fence and Basement Half-Bath

  • Episode 8 - Basement Carpet, Storage, and Closet Design

  • Episode 9 - Low-Maintenance Landscaping, Gutters, and Pantry

  • Episode 10 - Stucco Painting, Exterior Repairs, Shutters, and High-End Decking

  • Episode 11 - Basement Moisture-Proofing, Home Audio, Blinds, and Appliances

  • Episode 12 - Exterior Lighting, Audio, Video, and Décor for the Melrose Home

Hi, I'm Bob Vila. Welcome to the show.

We've got a brand new project today, a little house in the town of Melrose, outside of Boston, where a young family with two little boys needs a playroom.

We're going to be showing you how to finish the basement to get just that. Including how you clean it out, and how you waterproof it. Stick around.

Suburban real estate values outside of cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco have sky rocketed in value in the last few years. That's nothing new, but we're in Melrose. A community that's been a suburb for over a century, since the railroad came out here and connected it to downtown Boston. Boston is only seven miles away, so that makes it very desirable, but it is a dense neighborhood. And that's alleviated somewhat by the fact that we have a state reservation.

Lots of open land, lots of other reasons why it's an attractive community. It's got great school systems. And I suppose one of the things that makes it attractive too is the housing stock. There are lots of beautiful antique houses mixed in with turn of the century houses.

Linda Okeneski has grown up in this area. She's also been a real estate broker for a couple of decades. Let's talk with her about this one.

Hi, Linda.

Hey, nice to meet you, Bob.

Good to meet you. Now you grew up in this neighborhood, right?

I did. An idyllic childhood right here.

Back in the sixties?

I guess I'm that old.

Yeah. What was it like?

Back in the 60's, this was the day of, we wore polyester danceskin suits, you know. Dustin Hoffman had just announced in The Graduate it was time for polyester and plastic.

And there were nine kids between the two families. We were good close friends, all born in the sixties.

So your house was just down the street and did you play in this place?

All the time. This is where we had our science experiments on the porch with all those grasshopper experiments, the lady bugs, the séances in the basement, the bobbing for apples.

Tell us about the house though. It's from what, 1921?

1921. Beautiful gambrels. Some nice natural woodwork inside. Had a chance to sell this to Ricardo and Sarah, just a few years ago.


And I really sold them my childhood as well, it goes along with the house.

I can see it. Now, there has been appreciation in the last two years, right?

There's been some great appreciation. There might be a softening in the market or an adjustment but at the same time they've had great equity in this house.

Right. And the interior of the house is finally detailed. It's probably a builders house. I don't think it was architect designed, but there's very nice touches in there.

Yeah, there is a couple sister houses in the neighborhood that have that same nice natural wood work, the pretty columns and details that you'll find here.

But it does make sense to make improvements to the house even though the lot doesn't really allow for expansion.

Well, being seven miles north of Boston, there's not a lot of land of here and it makes a lot of sense to use that built space wisely. And that old basement where we had our ping pong tournaments is really going to lend itself great project for the Munzones.

Great. It's a good idea. Thanks.

You're very welcome.

OK. Our home owners, Sarah and Ricardo, have been here about five years and they're do-it-yourselfers, so they've made quite a few improvements to the property, including some of the landscaping work.

Let's say "Hi" to Sarah.

Hi Bob.

This is very impressive.

Thank you!

I mean this is do-it-yourself stonework. It's really a retaining wall that you put up here.

Yeah. This is something that we did three years ago because the yard originally was just a big slope covered with brambles. The kids couldn't play back here, so we just carved out the slope, and put in stone that we got locally. It comes from Yankee Walls.

This is a big job you did. Look at all this.


Yeah, it took about a month.

And you put up lots of nice plant material up there which eventually give you some privacy from the neighbors.

Yup, yup.

What's the story with the lawn? R they just truck all over this, so.

How old are they?

They're four and five, so it's never going to come back. and we're looking for solutions there.

Yeah, yeah. So that's one of the problems. And that you don't seem to have any fencing.

Right. Exactly. We are, kind of, on top of our neighbors over there. We have a house that is fortunately full of people that we love, but it's all apartments and we have a right of way on the other side.

Yeah, yeah.

So it's.

No, my main concern would be the busy street and a four and five year old. I'd want to fence this in. It looks like you have been doing some work on the house.

Yeah, yeah. Last Summer I had to rip down a soffit at the very top there because it was full of squirrel and bird nests. And then rebuild that and we, we still haven't finished.

But this whole wall tends to mildew and there's a lot of moisture infiltration problems. When we had the rains a few weeks ago, we had about nine or 11 inches of rain in the space of a couple of days.


And a lot of people got terrible flooding. This house, which never floods, got two inches.

Two inches in the basement?

In the basement. And I saw some of it coming in through, back here, we have some issues with water infiltration. It's never been that big of problem but with that much rain.

Loose bricks that need pointing and that sort of thing.

Yes, and there's a concrete and stucco union that is dubious that we need to have worked on.

But the big project here is expanding the house into the basement, right?

Yes, I mean, its one thing to have a nice yard in the back, but its small and we do need interior space for the kids and you know, it is open plan house but it's not that big.


And we did have a big open basement, and it was a great opportunity for us to expand downward.



And you only have one bathroom in the house so it's also an opportunity to add another bath.

Yes. That's huge deal in a, in a house with two boys.

So what is, what have you had to do so far? Well, it started out it was full up to the joists with stuff that we'd moved with.

My husband's a musician, so we had drums down there, we had all kinds of boxes of books and furniture and old appliances and stuff we moved with and it was a disaster. I'm sure everybody in the world knows about this.

Cleaning of the basement has to be the worst job and the worst.

That was the hardest part.

How did you do it?

We just went through everything, piled it in the middle, and then we called 1-800-got-junk and they came and believe it or not they took everything.


Yes. But before they could do that we had to get a few things disconnected. They can't just pick up a washer and take it out, and we had a 400 pound soapstone set sink down there for laundry once upon in a time that was 80 years old and pitted and disgusting.

And, so, our plumber, Al Leoni came, and he disconnected that lead drain that was held on with duct tape. And he took a look at our plumbing museum. He's going to be working with us more later, but we have brass pipe down there, and it was corroding at the joints , and the threads are not the same, so we had to use an adapter to get the new caps to fit the old pipes. It was quite a scene.

It's a big job.

We also had somebody come in to assess the situation with the stairs and demolish the old paint closet underneath.

So we are going to take this partition out by making a cut right here and then ripping out the boards. The first and glaring issue is this stringer right here, which is completely unsupported. It seems to be hanging from this beadboard somehow.

So, we're going to put a post down to the floor here. And then the only other thing we can really do is try and secure these treads a little bit better to their risers and stiffen up the staircase that way. Finally, we called 1-800-GOT-JUNK and they came in and it was amazing.

They took everything, even the construction waste we generated from the demolition, the appliances , the heavy disgusting set tub... they took it all.

We're the world's largest junk removal service.

All you have to do is call the 800 number and we'll arrive within a two-hour time window.

Once we arrive, you show us the junk that you have, just point to it and we'll do all the loading for you.

We take furniture, appliances, construction debris, yard debris, we'll take anything non-hazardous.

We'll come over with a... we have a set pricing and we'll explain the pricing before we start.

And then once we take care of the pricing then we start loading and then you don't have to lift a finger Make daily trips to Salvation Army, Goodwill and a variety of other charities.

Daily we go to these places.

We stock our trucks in such a way that, once we leave your house, we go to three or four places to dispose of everything, because we recycle and donate sixty, seventy percent of what we take, on average.

And so, we what we do is, we'll drive to Goodwill and Salvation Army, like I said, almost everyday. And they love us.

We pull in, they just, 'Oh my God, here they come,' because we are donating a lot of the stuff.

We're not into reselling things.

We're into donating and recycling, and in the old days, everything went into a dumpster and never got recycled.

Now, with us, everything gets stacked, sorted methodically and then disposed of properly.

Well, our prices are set, which is nice, because if it's the same price for everybody for everything you have, we have a set price for every level on the truck.

So, it depends on how much you have. So, if you only have a little, you only pay a little , and you don't pay for any more than what you have. So prices start at 124 just to fill up the smallest amount of a truck then they go up from there.

It's very simple. People will see our phone number on one of our trucks. They call the 1-800-GOT-JUNK number. You can also book online 24 hours a day and you can call the 800 number 24 hours a day, also to book your appointment. It's the cheapest way to add space to your house.

Well since we've been in business we've heard word that the amount of waste going to transfer stations and land fills has decreased since we've been in business and it's unofficial word, but we do recycle so much that before we were in business everything went into a dumpster and then into a landfill.

And now, there's over 40 or 50 trucks in New England recycling and donating so a lot less is going into land fills now.

We work all winter, we work in the rain, we work six days a week and couldn't get done without these guys.

These guys do an unbelievable job.

I've been told by the franchise owner that we have one of the best crews in the country here on the north shore.

But, I just can't say enough good things about the crew.

They do dirty, hard work every day and they're awesome. The biggest challenge to any kind of basement remodeling project is keeping water out of the basement, making it a dry basement. Larry Janesky is with us now from Basement Systems and you've kind of written the book or several on this challenge, right?

Yeah, absolutely, I have.

Now, I always worry first of all about rain water before I worry about ground water. And this house is a Gambrel, which means that the roof really encompasses the second floor.

And what we've got here is a situation where the front of the house has a gutter, the whole width of it, and has three conductor pipes coming down to carry away that rainwater. You've done a little assessment. What do you think?

Well, you know gutters have leaves and twigs and so forth coming down over the years. And in 1921, when this house was built, they put clay pipes going out to the street to take these down spouts, to take that water out to the street.

Out to a sewer, or to the gutter, or whatever.

Yep the storm sewer, probably, but yeah.

What's happened is the pipes underground are completely clogged. In fact, one of the spouts is clogged with leaves about three feet up off the ground.

OK, yeah.

What we need to do is take this water to the surface where we know it's going to get away from the foundation and we don't have to worry about clogging.

So you disconnect the conductor pipe from the old clay that's in here, and then how do you divert the water away from the house?

Well, a very simple device we're gonna be using is a simple conduit called Rainshoe, and we're gonna fabricate an elbow for the bottom of this downspout and have this Rainshoe take the water seven feet away from the foundation and take it away.

So that's an alternative to getting in there and trying to clear the clay pipe, and it may have collapsed on itself over the course of 80 years, that's the simple solution.

That's right.

OK, well let's go inside the basement and talk about all the other complexities.

[drilling noises] All right. So this is the tough part of the job, isn't it Larry?

It is.

We've got to break the concrete out to get a trench all the way around the perimeter to put a drainage system in.

And what's here is not a six inch slab, it's just an inch and a half or two, and there's no reinforcing rod or steel. So it's not the end of the world, but it's still messy work and...


This trench will be around the entire perimeter. You already have it coming towards us and then what, what happens here?

Well, this is the hole for the sump, and what we're going to do is channel all the water from the perimeter drainage system to this location and pump it out and away from the house.

Now, I would've thought the sump would want to be in a corner all on the front elevation of the house and, why is it back here?

Well, what we did when we arrived at the house, is we check with the laser level to see where the low spot is, and we found that this spot was two inches lower, than the highest spot in the house.

And then the water will be piped out of here?

The water, the sump will go here and the pump will pump it out and we'll have discharge pipes running hang out in front of the house.

OK. Now these guys are bringing in a different product here. What, what's this for?

Well, the stone walls are damp and they can actually leak water, so what we're doing here is, we're putting a product called Clean Space on the walls. And this is a vapor barrier and it also drains water behind it down into the drainage system.

OK. So they're just fastening it.

All right. So these are installed every couple of feet and then you've got, you don't have to worry about the sheeting falling off and...


And then any water that collects behind there would drip behind it into the trench.

That's right.

And we'll talk about the trench in a minute, but I want to ask you about crawl spaces, is this is a product that you could use in a crawl space?

It is. In fact, we line a lot of crawl spaces with this. Dirt crawl spaces is a big problem these days. People are realizing that the moisture that comes up from the earth is causing such a problem with mold and rodents and rot.

And rot?


I mean a lot of new houses that where just gone up in 10-15 years because lot of the technologies that have been brought in you've got very tight housing envelopes that are creating moisture situations in crawl spaces can really be a nightmare with rot.

Yeah, so there's four steps to solving that problem.

The first step is to get the ground water problem, if there is one in that there crawl space under control, with drains and sump pump systems like we're doing here.

The second step is to line the crawl space with a material we call this Clean Space and the blue side goes down and the white side goes up and we line this in a crawl space across the floor and up the wall.

So, its totally impermeable, no moisture can get through it?

Right, and it totally isolates the house from the earth.

The third step is to seal all outside air leaks, and we do that by sealing any vents that the crawl space may have, and any other ways that outside unconditioned air can get in into the crawl space.

So the thinking is that you want a completely sealed space.

You don't want any ventilation going through there?

That's right.

Just like your living space would be. Then the fourth step is to dehumidify the crawl space.

Okay. All right, well we are in a part of the basement that will not be conditioned space. It's where the furnace is, and it's just going to be kind of, like a mechanical room. But where you standing, we're in the area that becomes, I guess, the bathroom and the laundry room, down here.

Right, right.

And I guess the walls, the difference is right here. What's the shiny product? Is it...?

Yeah. We use this product in an unfinished area because it's bright, white and nice to look at, but this is what we put behind finished walls.

And this is called Thermal Dry Wall System. And it'll drain water like the clean space will, and it will prevent water vapor from evaporating into the basement space, like the other well. But this does something the other doesn't and that is it's a radiant barrier. It'll reflect the heat that's in the basement back into...

Back into the conditioned space, so that it is an energy conservation idea.

That's right, that's right.

And here you got a portion of parameter that's already been completed.


Explain what we're looking at here.

Yeah, we've put into the trench our our water guard drainage system and it has holes on the back of it and a flange that sticks up the above the floor.

So that's, we're looking at a section of what's down there?

That's right.

And the holes on the back of it, what do they do for us?

Well, they'll let all the water from underneath the floor, from the footing joint and from the walls into that conduit, and drain it all away to the side.

So it'll be pitched off to the side?

That's right.

And then the final step is just putting some cement back in place.

That's right.

Well, it's an elaborate system but I know it works.

It sure does.

Great, thanks Larry.

All right, thanks pal.

Next week we'll be continuing with our basement finishing project.

We'll be looking at plumbing, hex tubing, also basement systems as putting in perimeter drain in and we're installing a Rannai water heater.

Till then I'm Bob Vila.

Thanks for watching.



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