Touring the Home Exterior

Bob and architect Gregory Rochlin tour the exterior of Bob's 100-year-old Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA.

Clip Summary

Bob and architect Gregory Rochlin tour the exterior of this season's project, Bob's own 100-year-old Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA. Bob notes the various features of the existing house and discusses the previous remodeling projects.
Hi. I'm Bob Vila. Welcome home again.

Today we're starting a brand new project. This time a big old house. Almost a hundred-year-old shingle style house in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

And you know, after remodeling houses for the last fifteen or sixteen years for strangers who've become friends, this time, I'm doing this house for myself and my family. We're going to get started in a minute, taking a close look at the exterior. I also want to give you a look at the town of Cambridge. Stick around, it's good to have you home again.

Bob Vila's Home Again.

The architectural style of this house is shingle style, very popular in the 80s and 90s. But like any house that's almost 100 years old this house has seen some damage and it's seen some remodeling.

Much of what's on the front facade is original. We're lucky to have the beautiful windows. Eight panes of glass over two. And it's, you know, that kind of glass that really ripples when you walk by it.

And of course the shutters are still in place on many of the locations on the facade. You're looking at a gambrel end. This house has two gambrel roofs that intersect, so of course you've got gable ends that are really gambrel ends.

And some of the shingle up there looks to be a little bit damaged, but for the most part, it's in good shape.

If you look down here, the side wall flares out which is a way of shedding the weather, the rain etc. And there are spots where you'll see some damage, but I don't think this is a house that has to be totally stripped and re-shingled. I think there's a lot of repairs to done. That's about it.

The foundation is really pretty. I suspect it's a type of slate. I'm not sure what kind.

And there's been a fair amount of landscape work that's been done on the front yard, and that looks really really pretty, so we'll have to do lots to conserve it.

Look over here at this end of the house. Shingle style houses attempt to blend the roof with the sidewall so that there's no real differentiation. And here of course, it really fails because you have got so many different lines. intersecting. Perhaps they've added some of these gutters after the house was built, but you've got three conductor pipes coming straight at you.

And you also would have the electrical service, which was probably installed just in the last five or ten years from the look of it. Be nice to be able to have that underground.

At this end of the house you have another gambrel roof. And this one, this gambrel end overhangs the side wall by about two feet, and is supported at either end by a bracket that's also sheathed in shingles.

Very pretty little curve there, lets look around back. This back corner of the house has the original kitchen area and that's why at some point a deck was added here.

But look at the condition of the sidewall and the roofs over here ok, especially at the point where the second floor is, is kind of demarcated by this horizontal line which, incidentally, is the overhang and the gutter hang goes around three whole sides this house.

Quite a bit of damage, water damage and some rot is Of it and just to the naked eye. You don't have to get up there and poke at it.

You know it's in bad shape. But there's a nice sunny backyard, and there's unusual touches.

You know, clearly this is an architect's attempt at camouflaging that stone foundation for some reason, and probably done in the last ten or twenty years, it looks kind of oriental. Well, let's get together now with Greg Rockland, an architect friend of mine has already had a chance to study the place.

Hi Greg.

Hi Bob, how are you?

I'm good. What do you think of the condition of the house back here?

Well, this side of the house is in the worst condition. It's facing south and the shingles because of constantly wetting and drying and have warped and curled and probably the best thing is not to selectively replace the shingles on this side, but to strip the whole side and start again.

What about that fire escape up there?

Well, you gotta remember that after the war, a lot of these houses got broken up into apartments, and there is an apartment built on the third floor probably in the 40's, and the code required that you have a fire escape because there was only one means of egress.


Now that you're converting this back to a single family house.


You really don't need this fire escape, and it just is a dangerous point of entry for burglars.

Right, and I intend to turn that third floor back into a kind of teenager space. So, we'll get rid of that. The other unusual thing about the back of the house is this bump. You know, how do you explain this addition here?

Well, in the 70's they had a major renovation to the house where they enlarged the living room.


And so they pushed the living room to the south, almost doubled it in size, and from the inside, that's great. There's a very nice living room.

But they really didn't do anything to blend this into the outside of the house. They just took the volume and put a wall around it and put a flat roof on it, and said, that's it.

Yeah, and kept more of this camouflage wood, kind of, to give it a an architectural feel. But it's really nothing but a box with a flat roof on it, right?

That's correct.

Could it be changed somehow to blend better with the lines of the gambrel and all?

Well, if you go back and say, what would the original architects have done? They probably would have dealt with this the same way they've worked the rest of the house, and continued the belt line. So what they might have done, is taken this soffit and even wrapped it around this three sided box, and continued the roof around also as a hip, and tried to blend it into the volume of the house instead of this thing which is obviously added on.

That would be an interesting way of fixing it now, but it would probably be pretty expensive.

It might be, but it would be worth having an estimate done.


Considering how much better it would look.

Well I think it's time to go inside. It's a little nippy out here, but first we're going to break for some messages. Don't go away.