Excavating to Install a New Waterline

Project: Bob's Shingle Style Home, Episode 12, Part 1

Bob returns to the Stockbridge, MA landmark home Naumkeag for a tour of the elaborate gardens.  On the third floor, we’re ready for some interior trim with Ryley.  Outside, a trench is dug for the new water service from the city main into the house.

Part 1: Excavating to Install a New Waterline

Bob meets with Dick Hawley of John Hawley Inc. to watch the excavation for the new waterline. They discuss details of the process, as well as the copper pipes that will be used, which were probably not available when the system was last replaced.

Part 2: Touring the Naumkeag Historic House Gardens
Part 3: Hanging Old Doors, Installing New Door Trim, and Outfitting the Windows
This project centers around the remodel of Bob Vila's own gracious Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA. It's a house with a lot of history and beautiful architectural details, many of which were obliterated in remodels of the 50s and the 70s. On the centennial of the house's construction, Bob gets together the best talents in the business to recreate and renew it to its former glory, making some important modifications along the way that will transform this into a dream house for today.

Also from Bob's Shingle Style Home

Hi, I'm Bob Vila, welcome home again. We have got some exterior work going on today.

We've got a backhoe here and were digging a new trench so that we can put in a brand new water pipe in through the house.

Also we're going spending a little time back at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, checking out the fabulous gardens there.

And here on the third floor we are doing some carpentry work, some trim work. All of our new moldings have come from the mill and so we've got Riley up there working.

Also our spindles have returned from the strippers.

Stick around. It's good to have you home again.

Bob Vila's, Home Again.

John J. Holly Inc is the oldest licensed utility contractor in the city of Cambridge. They've been doing water service and other utility connections for quite a long time.
And they showed up here this morning to start digging a trench.

They were quite relieved to see that our soil conditions here are very favorable. We have soft, soft clay and lots of sand. So they made quick work of digging through about 15 feet of the front garden.

Getting through the foundation was the tougher part of the job. We've got a stone that's locally referred to as Iron Stone. We think it comes from the Whistler part of Massachusetts and it's a real tough stone to break through. But , we are now at the point where we can talk with Dick Holly about the work that has to be done right here. Dick.

The first question I want to ask is why does a home owner need to do this? Why bother to replace the existing water service pipe?

The exiting service that was in the ground right now, that services the house, is galvanized lead lined pipe.

So, if you do have a lead lined pipe, that indicates that it is a replacement pipe, right? It's not the original the hundred year old pipe.

That is correct Bob.

And yet it still poses a certain amount of health hazard. I know that the town recommends that you change these pipes. It doesn't require to but they recommend that you change them and I know that very often people are warned that it's a good idea to have the water flow for minute or two in the morning before you drink any of your tap water.

That is correct.

So we have gotten out to the point that you have broken through the foundation. What's happening next?

The next step, Bob, is we're gonna push a driving bar through and it should come through the banking here. We'll take the driving bar back and then push in copper.

So we've gotta ask your son to go ahead and push through the other side.

Richard, drive the pipe.

There it comes. There it comes.

Here it is. That's good.

So this is solid iron pipe?

Yes it is.

And it's basically gone maybe 8 feet across the foundation and through the remaining 4 feet of soil here that we haven't excavated so that we haven't bothered our bushes and plants.

That's correct, Bob.

And know you've got a temporary hole here now that the rod is made and you can just push the copper through down there?

Hopefully we won't hit another structure and then the copper will come right through.

OK. Now, why do we go to copper? What's the advantage of copper?

The copper pipe, being the type of metal that it is, will avoid corrosion. You'll never have restriction on the one inch diameter of the pipe.

And they just didn't have that available to them, that kind of pipe available to them, when they replaced this service maybe 50 years ago.

That is correct.

Now, does the size of the pipe indicate that you'll have a stronger volume of water in the house?

The one-inch copper will provide you with more volume of water as opposed to the galvanized lead line which has corroded threaded connections.


Which in many cases, if held up to the light, you may only see a pinhole opening.

Sure. But the bottom line is the pressure that you have on the streak doesn't vary That's what you're gonna get inside.

That is correct.


That is correct.

Thanks, Dick.

I gotta break for some messages. Stick around. Why do you bother to backfill it by hand?

Well , we place six inches of fill material over the top of the copper, by hand, Bob. To eliminate the problem of any large stones or debris. Perhaps, resting directly on the copper and causing it to be crimped.

So that it can be compressed and you've got (xx) that pipe. Gook, okay.

That's correct.

And then the rest of the work is done by the machine.


Now, you've gotten to the edge of the street, here. We have to wait for the water department to do the rest. Why is that?

The water department from Cambridge will do the tie to the main on the far side of the street. Come to the sidewalk and tie into the piece I've left underneath the sidewalk.

Alright, very good. And hopefully that on schedule for the day after tomorrow, or so

Well, while we are putting our landscape back in order, lets take to tour of the landscape at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Watch.

We are visiting Naumkeag, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Last week if you were with us, you saw the inside of this fabulous house. Today we're getting together again with its curator Mark Bear to tour the gardens.

Hi Mark.

I can see it.

The house was inherited by the daughter.

Right, Mable Choate.

Mable Choate.

Of the Choate family.

And she is responsible for all the work on the landscape.

That's right, during her later years she designed eight acres of garden surrounding the house working with Fletcher Steele, a landscape architect from Boston.

And he was a kind of innovative guy, this is the 1920's, 1930's, he's at Harvard and he's bringing alot of new ideas in the field of landscape.

That's it exactly. And here they had a lot of fun, Mabel Choate and Fletcher Steele both traveled through Europe so they brought a lot of those ideas back and here in the afternoon garden a center parterre of boxwood. Contrasting borders of this coal. And the, marble chips.

Yeah. I am used seeing an eighteen century parterre. Say, with a lot of bedding plants with color. But here he's actually using minerals. He's got crushed marble and coal.

That's right.

And what's the, the oval in the middle?

In the center, an inch thick piece of black glass to give it the sense of a very deep pool, a reflecting pool. A place to contemplate.

It's really a marvelous effect. And then, of course, the thing that really catches my eye, is all the red and blue tops to the posts here, that look like they're right out of Venice.

That's right. Venice was one of Mabel Choat's favorite European cities so Fletcher Steel had a Scandinavian wood carver from his office, carve these gondola poles to remind her her of her favorite European city.

An international effort.


So where should we go from here?

Well, we can follow out, looking down. We can follow the path of this water, as it courses it's way down the hillside. To the Birch Walk.

Give us an idea of the size of the property here.

There are a total of fifty acres, eight of them are landscaped.

OK. And where does wonderful path with the coursing water down the middle, where does it lead too?

This leads to the birch walk, which heads down the hill side; a series of four cascading stairs with fountains.

You never think of a landscape architect or designer having fifty acres to play with, but here he's done some specialized things, like with these trees.

That's right, these birches, which started 60 years ago, and have been inter-planted to give the sense of age also the help with the view.

Yeah, so that you've created almost a little jungle of white birch here. What's the deal with all the step in the ramps?

The water that starts up in the afternoon garden channels down here, so below each flight of stairs there's a fountain carrying water down the hillside.

Of course, with this terrain being so hilly, we're in the Berkshires -

That's right.

- you had to do something practical in order to get down there, right?

And that's what they did.


But it's an unusual approach. It's not just a staircase.

No. There was steep a flight of stairs originally.


They replaced it with the four flights of cascading stair.

So it's almost like a series of little belvederes .

That's right.

Each one when you stop has a closer look at the surrounding landscape.

Cutting gardens.


Well, that's right. So the cutting gardens were originally down at the end but they're no more, right?

That's right. In the green space down below.

It's really a beautiful statement, you know.

That's right with the views.

Yeah, well where to next?

How about we go see the rose garden and on the way we'll stop by the terraces.


Numcake's built on a hill
So the idea for the landscape designer is to control it and they did that by building a series of terraces.
Now the espaliered apples look like been there for quite a few years.

Yeah, they were put in the late thirties. So they've got some age to them.

Indeed, and of course I guess Mrs. Chote was traveling at a point in time where you could go through Europe and you could collect things like this, couldn't you?

This lead cistern from England, pick things like that up in Asia.

These oriental spirit stones.

Yeah, the spirit stone. Okay but the cistern is actually... appeals so much to me in the garden because it's something that belongs to the house.

The down spout from the gutters of the roofs would terminate here, and this would be a collection point for water.

That's true.

And this one says 1707 isn't that wonderful.

That's great. Yeah.

So what do we have here?

Then down below, we're looking at the rose garden. Which took it's idea from oreintal motifs for mushrooms. You see the curving paths represented by the marble chips and the caps of the mushrooms with the floral bundle roses filling in this whole space.

So it's a Chinese idea.

That's right.

And the hardscape, is it paved or is it just loose gravel in there.

Loose gravel held in place by rod iron strips.

OK. It's nice that Nomcay is open to the public and we have some of the public visiting right now but tell me about this, this whole edge over here with a purple columns.

The retaining wall is made out of rod iron painted purple by flexure steel with a cypress as the wood, thick planks of cypress holding up the wall.

So, that's actually

Holding up the wall.

holding up that whole terrace above which has these beautiful vividi, this clipped of vividi's planted on it So, is this last garden that they created?

Actually the last garden, and for last 20 years of Mable Chod's life, they worked on the Chinese garden.


Which is on the north-end of the house. It combines a series of temples, one large temple with roof material imported from Peking.


Surrounding that are a series of ornamental sculptures, all imported from China. Interplanted with gingkos for shade. There are Japanese Pedicides, a large leafed burdock root plant beneath.

We have indigenous plants like Father Hugo Rose, flowering cherries. Some Chinese finger stones, which are water-worn stones. Real beautiful stones, placed there for contemplation.

Magnificent effort. Mark, thanks for the tour.

Thank you. OK. We're back from those beautiful gardens and as you can see out there, the backhoe is now digging a trench for the new electrical service but I wanted to get back to carpentry. And let me show you, our stock has arrived from the mill.

We 've had all the moldings, window casings,
door casings, chair rails; everything that was in the house, we have had it replicated in poplar. And the main objective was to be able to save money.

Because if we had taken the wood off the house and sent to be striped it would have averaged about a buck and a half a foot. To have new mill work done is more like 85 cents a foot so it makes a lot of economic sense sometimes to rip out what's there and replace it with new stock.

I mean I wouldn't do it if we were looking at hundred fifty year-old, two-hundred year-old hand milled stuff, but this is different. Some stuff we did bother to send to our friends, Old Bostonian in Dorchester who did a marvelous job of removing all the built up paint off the balusters from the staircase. And you see how crisp all that turning is.

Interesting thing to note is a number of the balusters were probably broken over the course of the years and they were replaced with others that were turned out of different wood.

The originals were all poplar and this is just pine, but anyway let's go up to the third floor and hook up with Riley who's having fun with some of this stuff.

If you look on the landing here, on the wall you'll see ghost of that chair rail I was just talking about, which often, it's also called a dado, it often separates an area that would of been painted a solid color and then the area of wall above it, all the way to the top would have been wallpapered.

And if you look way up there you'll notice that there's a green strip there, that's actually, probably, the the original wallpaper from this hall.

Other elements of the staircase like the newel posts, we've left in place and stripped in place. They would have not been practical to try to take them in to have them stripped in a tank and You'll notice here, where we have this beautiful post that goes all the way to the ceiling. You can tell it's poplar. This, of course, will be sanded down and repainted.

This railing, with the nice curve in it. This is also poplar, but it was originally stained to look like mahogany. We'll do the same thing.

Oh Riley.


Hey. Hey, what you up to?

Hey, Bob. Well, we're just hanging the first door here.

The first of the old doors to go back in, that's exciting.

Yeah. And -

It fits.

Now these, of course, have also been sent to be stripped. And we're using new hinges, right?

Yeah, we had to use new hinges. The other ones didn't work.

It's interesting. We found out that the old ones were brass-plated.

Right and it just deteriorated too much.

This was a house that was built with economy in mind. And they didn't spring for solid brass even back in 1897.

Here's a mark-up of the trim, though that you, that you've used , right?

Yes. And what you have there this is the jam.


And that one That went on first, which is the casing. Then the jam on this side was this piece and

then it supplied molding on this side.

This is an exact replica of what we have throughout the house.

Right, so its a three piece system on this side and its also gonna be a three piece

system on the back.

on the inside?

We just have it on the front for now so we can start base forward.

Am I looking at old structural lumber there?

This is the buck so this is actually the way you would hang a door today. It would be

hung on this buck here.


So everything we have done is applied on top of that.

Which is the full dimension of two by four?

It's an inch and a quarter.

Inch and a quarter.

Right. Pretty beefy.

Good but we're reusing as much as we can.

Let's see how it looks closed up. It's going to be nice when it's all painted out.

Yes it will be real nice.

This is the smallest bedroom on the third floor. We're getting the windows in and

you're getting the base for it in. That's great!

Yes, it's a two-piece base. Our friend the strippers also redid some of these old sash, that have the original glass in them and everything, and look how nicely it comes out down to bear wood. These are brass aren't they?

Yes, they are.

Good, good. Alright so, are you trimming out the windows yet Riley?

That's we've just started our first window over here, so we're also working the kinks out of this.


And what I want to do first is, finish this insulation.

Yeah, we've taken out the old sash weights that are throughout the house. Because, when you add up all the volume of the space that these things go up and down in, and you turn it into one number.
It's almost like having a window open, without insulation in it, throughout the winter.

So, we'll be replacing these, with the spring-loaded runners, and...

So, we've, we've managed to salvage these stool caps.

Well, that's nice, because they are milled right, to some original millwork that goes

right into the window sill.

Right so we're making an awful lot of this stuff from scratch though. These we managed to save and we're just gonna screw this right on.

And what piece goes on next?

Now we've got the side casings.

Now let me look at that.

This is.

As I understand we had to cut these down in this profile.


So that they fit in right. Because, this

I think that they might have had a problem when they first built this house because these window jams stick in past the plaster.


By about 3/8th of an inch. So I had to make this rabbit.

It's a little archaeologist but what we've discovered is that they used instead of full 2 by 4's which would've been 4 inches back in 1897. They use then newly available smaller dimension.

The 3 and a half.


Right and what that meant was that the window didn't quite fit appropriately. And so they had to modify the trim that had already been ordered.

So that means we have to do the same thing.


Okay, so you have got it nailed roughly every six inches or so, what's next? What do we apply next?

The next thing is going on is this applied molding.

Lets look at that, this is again one of the ones that's just been turned for us.

And it will be cornered with a miter. And this is the third piece which is, what do you call that?

This is the stop. The window stop.

Exactly. The sash slides up and down.

Now this last piece that we're applying is known as the apron.

And here we are using the original. We did bother to have it stripped for one reason. The fact that the ends of the apron were cut by the carpenter a hundred years ago with a coping saw.

And that is a lot of tedious work to replicate, so we're using the same

Thanks, Riley.


We'll be back after these messages.

And we're back and what an exciting moment when you see the drywall sheets coming in the window. This is the second floor.

We're doing the house in stages. We've already finished the third floor and we're also running out of time.

Come home again next time. We're going to be showing you how to install a pocket door, that's downstairs, and we'll be taking a look at the complete exterior of the house. All the shingles are done. We're going to be talking appropriate paint color schemes.

Till then, I'm Bob Vila. It's great to have you home again.



Partners' Latest