Kevin: Today on "This Old House"... Ben: I think the two-story addition that they put on it in the late 1800s is dreadful.
Kevin: [ Laughs ] Well, don't sugarcoat it, Ben.
Kevin: What don't you like about it?
Ben: Uh, everything.
Kevin: [ Laughs ] Okay.
So, are you ready to do some exploratory surgery?
This is the spot.
♪♪ [ Grunting ] ♪♪ Man: Ahh.
♪♪ ♪♪ Kevin: Hey, there.
I'm Kevin O'Connor.
And welcome back to "This Old House" and to our project here in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a First Period home that sits right on the Ipswich River.
Now, as you look at the home from the street side here, you can see that the building has grown -- well, sprawled, really -- over the years, and it has done it in a way that's not always in keeping with the original style of the house, something that our architect, Benjamin Nutter, has an eye for and a plan for.
Good to see you.
Ben: Good to see you.
Kevin: So, we work on a lot of old houses, although not a lot of First Period houses.
How'd we do?
Did we pick a gem?
Ben: You did pick a gem.
Ben: This is a great example of a late First Period house.
Ben: One and a half story.
Very typical details.
Have a center entrance door.
Ben: Flanking double-hung windows to either side, Kevin: Okay.
Ben: Not quite symmetrical.
Also very simple corner boards.
Cornice and rake trims around the roof.
We have two dormers.
Kevin: So these are all the details that you would expect to see on a First Period home, what we would have had back in 1720.
Ben: Yes, it is, with one exception.
Kevin: Which is?
Ben: And that is the gambrel roof shape.
Ben: Very few gambrel roof structures built in the First Period.
Even fewer of them have survived to the 21st century.
Ben: That makes it quite rare.
There is one other element that's missing.
Hope it's not important.
What is that?
Ben: Well, it is kind of important.
It is -- There's no center chimney.
Ben: And there would have been.
And there -- obviously has been removed at some point and replaced with the two chimneys on each gable end.
So, from here, you can't tell that there's more house behind it, but there's actually plenty more.
Ben: Oh, there's very much more.
Kevin: I'd love to hear your thoughts on what we got out back.
Ben: And here we have the end of the house with the gambrel roof shape.
Ben: Two different roof slopes.
Might have been done for aesthetic reasons.
Might have been done for functional reasons.
Kevin: Well, I like the fact that we've got it if that makes the house a little bit more rare.
Ben: Oh, it absolutely does make it more rare.
Ben: And back here, we have originally a one-story ell.
Kevin: Typical, right?
They built a lot of these houses with the ell.
Could have been extra living space.
Maybe a sleeping loft and a bedroom.
Could be a cobbler's shop.
Ben: Home industry.
Maybe some chickens.
Kevin: Built at the same time as the house or typically after?
Ben: Absolutely built at the same time in the house.
Kevin: How do you know that?
Ben: Well, the stone foundation is original to the house.
Kevin: Goes all -- Oh, I gotcha.
Ben: All the way around.
Kevin: And what do you think of it?
Ben: I think the two-story addition that they put on it in the late 1800s is dreadful.
Kevin: [ Laughs ] Well, don't sugarcoat it, Ben.
Kevin: What don't you like about it?
Ben: Uh, everything.
Ben: One of the worst things is the way it dominates the main house.
Kevin: Yeah, I mean, you can actually see that little peak of the ell from the front, and you really shouldn't, right?
And think about the water that gets trapped up there on that roof area.
Kevin: Anything else about the house give you concerns?
Ben: Oh, yeah.
You should see out back.
Kevin: You've got a list.
Ben: Oh, I do.
[ Both laugh ] Alright, so, on this gable end, we have Georgian era rake trim.
That's the wood trim that comes down each end of the roof.
Ben: And along the back we have these Victorian era columns, the little brackets at the top.
Ben: Then we have these delightful brick piers that are not underneath those Victorian era columns.
They have no footing underneath them.
Kevin: But you can't blame them for building the porch.
I mean, who would not want to take in the views of the river?
Ben: Oh, indeed.
Kevin: And as we sort of turn this back corner, I can already guess you do not like what you see here.
I think you could call that a great hodgepodge, right?
And on top of that, look at the way the rear wall of the second floor they put on is plunked right in the middle of that porch roof.
We know structurally that's got to be a problem.
Kevin: So our ell is not only too tall for the main house, but it's also too wide.
You weren't kidding.
You do have a long list of woes.
How about solutions?
What's the vision?
Ben: Well, we'll keep the footprint of the original house the same.
We're not really touching the exterior shape of that.
But what we'll return to is a one-story ell off the back of the 1720 house.
It'll sit mostly on the same footprint as the original ell, except we'll bump the front wall 10 feet toward the road.
This will become the primary entry into the house.
The ridge of the ell will then drop so that it comes in below the peak of the gambrel.
Then off the end of the ell we'll add what we refer to as a barn element.
It'll be one and a half story with a simple gabled roof.
And around the back toward the river, we'll add a small deck between the barn element and the ell.
Kevin: So what we end up with is the original house out front and then the ell dutifully lower so that you don't see it from the street.
And then that new barn you're talking about -- that's far enough back that we really won't see that either?
So, when you drive or walk up the street, the house you will see will look exactly like the 1720 house that was built 302 years ago.
Kevin: That's very cool.
So celebrate the gem that we've got.
Kevin: I love the vision.
Thank you very much.
Ben: Kevin, thank you.
Kevin: And I'm actually going to get a nice class on these First Period homes.
Ben: Very good.
I'm going to go look for some gunstock posts inside.
Kevin: Happy hunting.
Ben: Thank you.
♪♪ Tom: Alright.
So you ready to do some exploratory surgery?
This is the spot.
Ben: What we're trying to understand is, we expect a north-south heavy timber.
Ben: East-west, lighter floor joists.
We want to know what their size is, depth especially, and even distance apart.
Tom: That makes sense.
So, you got it marked.
It looks like you're right about the center of the room.
So that should tell us we're gonna hit a beam.
Ben: We hope so.
Charlie: But more importantly, though, I have made sure the water and no electricity is on in the section of the building, so in case we hit it.
Bill: Thank you, Charlie.
This is an exciting moment.
We've been waiting for this for a long time.
Charlie: Let's go.
Nice and easy.
[ Whirring ] Already have something hitting right there.
Tom: Go one way or the other.
Charlie: There we go.
There we go.
Tom: There you go.
Take it out.
Well, there's your main beam right there.
Tom: You can see that.
And here's a filler joist, you know, obviously, to nail the strap into for that ceiling.
Can we tell what the size of that principal timber is?
That is 5" high.
And I'd say it's probably 6 -- 7 to 8 inches wide.
It's hard to tell because it's got -- It's, like, curved.
And then let's see if I can find an original joist, which is right back there.
Tom: And if it's any relationship to the other part of the house.
About 30-, 32-inch spacing off the joist.
Tom: What's next?
Ben: Next is over here.
Right in this corner, we've got an enclosure around what we hope will be a gunstock post in the corner.
So mark it out with you want me to drill.
Ben: Let's bring this out a little bit because we don't want to be too close to that corner.
Let's give you that target right there.
Let me get the vacuum going.
[ Whirring ] [ Thud ] Charlie: Oh.
[ Whirring stops ] Tom: Wide open.
So get a picture in the corner there and see if we can see how the beams meet.
Tom: Oh, yeah.
I can see that.
Let's see here.
Tom: Oh, yeah.
Ben: What do you got?
Tom: So, here's the summer beam right here that runs over you.
That's not a summer beam.
That's actually a bent beam.
And then this is the outside beam.
And a couple of fillers under there.
Tom: So there's no signs of that gunstock post.
Where's the gunstock post then?
Ben: Okay, well, we need to open up in here so we can find that corner post.
So I'm gonna cut it with the Sawzall.
[ Whirring ] Charlie: Alright.
Should just come out.
There we go.
Bill: Is that our gunstock post?
It's just the -- That's just the stud.
Bill: Tommy, is it possible that the post is on the other side of the stud?
Tom: It could be.
It's -- It's really hard to tell the way it is.
I might have to open this up just a little bit more.
[ Whirring ] Yeah.
There's nothing in -- There's definitely a void in that inside corner there.
Bill: That's not promising.
Seeing some insulation.
Bill: So no gunstock post.
Tom: Well, no gunstock post that we can see right now, but it could have been cut off at one time.
Tom: So what's next?
I guess we now go in here, right?
There's a lot to see in this room?
[ Whirring ] Tom: There it is right there.
Ben: So, we've got our gunstock post on the south wall.
Ben: Including the bead.
The odd thing is, we do not have a corresponding gunstock post on the north wall.
There you go.
Bill: Okay, well, it's a relief we found one at least, and that one seems to be in good shape, so I'm pleased about that.
Tom: 50% is better than nothing.
You're right about that.
Ben: And 50% -- actually more than 50% of your frame is intact.
Ben: We have to do some additional assessment on both structural capacity and whether it will actually work in the design we're trying to do.
Ben: Once we figure that out, we'll move on to construction drawings and structural information for Charlie.
That all sounds good.
♪♪ Kevin: It is hard to walk around downtown Ipswich and not bump into a really old house built as early as the 1700s, even the 1600s -- like this one right here.
The left-hand side.
Gordon, nice to meet you.
Gordon: Hey, Kevin.
Kevin: Town historian.
I love that.
You're one of us.
Gordon: Yeah, well.
Kevin: So let's start with, why Ipswich?
I mean, this has more First Period houses than anyone else, right?
Kevin: Why here?
First Period houses are built before 1720.
Reason why we have so many is the town fell into poverty after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
And it wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that we began to prosper again.
So they couldn't even afford to tear down their houses.
That's why they're preserved.
Kevin: So literally people were just trying to get along, keep their houses going, and that helped preserve them.
Gordon: Yeah, that's right.
As a matter of fact, a reporter from Salem, which was doing quite well because it was a nice seaport, came to Ipswich and said, "All the houses are the same.
Not a lick of paint on them."
Kevin: [ Laughs ] Well, we love the fact that a lot of them have been saved, and there's a bunch in town.
Gordon: There are.
Kevin: Some very notable ones, which we've seen.
We've got the Whipple house.
Tell me about that one.
Gordon: Well, the Whipple house is really our pride.
It's owned by the Ipswich Museum, and that is a good example of a high-quality First Period house.
The oldest part of it built in the 1670s.
That was a prosperous family.
And they -- And so when you go inside a house like that, you really see these fine features, and it's been meticulously preserved.
Kevin: And all of them are timber frames.
Gordon: That's right.
It was meticulous work.
Everything was laid out in advance.
These guys were really smart.
They were engineers.
And when you put that together, it had to fit.
Kevin: And you've also got the Paine House, another beautiful example of a First Period home.
Yeah, that's really nice.
That's owned by The Trustees of Reservations.
And that was a saltwater farm, so it's a little bit outside of the center of Ipswich.
That's a meticulously preserved house.
You go in a house like that, you know, you still have the cellar there where the milk was kept.
The ceilings are low because that's just how they built houses back then.
You have mentioned two of the houses owned -- one museum, one by The Trustees.
There are plenty of private homeowners here in town... Gordon: That's right.
Kevin: ...who own these old houses and have a tradition of keeping them up to date.
I mean, this one is privately owned right here.
This is the William Howard House.
And it is a real gem.
Been owned by the same family for quite a number of years.
The left side seems to be the oldest.
The records are that it was built 1680.
The right side is 1705.
Now, that's part of our First Period, as well.
Kevin: This is typical of a First Period house.
We've got a similar overhang.
It's the line between the first story and the second story with a couple of the corbels there.
But the other features that I see that -- I mean, for example, the claps, the roof, the chimney, and all that -- typical First Period.
Gordon: Yeah, take a look at where the windows come right up to the roof line there -- so you don't see a big eave.
Kevin: Well, and a magnificent example of the outside.
I'd love to see some on the inside.
Can you show us one?
You know, there's one over on 7th Street.
It's the oldest street in town.
Kevin: Lead on.
Gordon: Let's go.
So, Kevin, this is the original street in Ipswich.
This is the way to the meeting house or the way to river, of course, if you were at the meeting house.
Kevin: This it?
This little narrow thing?
Gordon: That's about it.
Of course, it was changed later on, but it has a nice collection of First Period houses, the transitional period -- 1720 or so.
Kevin: Including this one which was built it looks like just three years before our house.
Gordon: Yeah, it has a hyphenated name.
The Foster-Grant House.
And it's built with the same transitional period.
So, the owner, Peter, here has done a wonderful job.
I'd like you to meet him.
Kevin: I'd love to.
Peter: Well, hi, there.
Kevin: You were expecting us.
Peter: Well, I am delighted you're coming.
Gordon: Hey, Peter.
Peter: Hey, Gordon.
Kevin: Would you mind giving us a tour?
It'd be great.
Come on in.
Kevin: Well, thank you.
We would love to have a tou-- Wow.
Look at this gem here, huh?
That's a little throwback in time, huh?
Peter: ...behind you here and tell you a little bit about the house.
Lots of cool things in here.
What we really love is the summer beam, which I -- A prerequisite of buying the house is that I could walk under it and not have to duck.
And you can see the hand-hewn, the adze marks.
And there are beams across here.
And then the posts in the corners.
And there was one right where you walked in there.
You can even see one of the original trunnels, or tree nails.
Kevin: And, Gordon, a summer beam -- very typical for a First Period home?
Gordon: That's what you look for first of all when you're looking for characteristics of a First Period house.
Now, the really early ones had a wide bevel on the bottom, and then they went to sort of molded bevels.
And we see a small what's called a little quirk bead as you get into that transitional period around 1720.
And then they just sort of dropped it all together as they moved towards Georgianizing their houses.
So this wouldn't always have been such a sharp corner.
It would not have always been so closely dressed.
Gordon: That's right, but we know that that was meant to be seen because it sits below the floor joists here.
Kevin: So, Peter, is this the original part of the house, do you think, right here?
Peter: Actually, this is not the oldest part.
Kevin: It gets older?
Peter: It gets older if we go into the parlor room.
Let's head over there.
Let's go see.
Kevin: To the older part of the house.
Gordon: Oh, fill that bump there.
There's definitely a change as the floor comes up there.
Kevin: Transition maybe between one addition and the other.
Oh, this is quaint.
This is a cozy room.
Peter: It is.
It's nearly the smallest room in the house.
And I can get under here about ducking.
So, the summer beam again -- and more of the adze marks.
And if you note, in the joists, they're all Roman numeraled.
I don't see one there.
But here's "VI" and "VII."
Gordon: That's right.
Kevin: So key for the builders to be able to assemble.
Gordon: We call them scribe marks.
And you imagine they had to engineer and cut everything in advance.
And then, like they say, it took everybody in the village to put this huge, heavy building up.
And, Peter, what about the fireplace?
You've told us that we probably have central fireplaces for these houses.
Do you think this is original?
Peter: This probably isn't, because it looks like a shallower Rumford style, so it really throws the heat out well.
The mantel piece is probably 1800 or so.
That's what folks who worked on the house told us.
So it's old, but probably not the 1717.
Kevin: So that's sort of modern heating right there.
Peter: Modern heating.
We have modern heating.
Kevin: Do you have any other modern conveniences in the home?
Peter: We do.
We actually have a kitchen.
We have bathrooms.
Kevin: Gotta keep looking to see what you guys did to this beautiful gem.
Peter: You see, so, this room we call the gun room for obvious reasons.
And that was from the previous owner who was a hunter and fisherman.
So that's why we decided we would keep it.
And then you come and see what we did to the rest of the house.
We kept everything that was old.
But this where we're standing now was a covered three-season porch -- plywood, rubber roof, which was about this high.
And those windows were all exterior.
And we said, "Well, how can we make this -- sort of open up the space, not lose any of the old, but add in some new to make it a little more comfortable for 2022?"
And so now I'm in the kitchen.
The 1970s kitchen, which we inherited, was exactly this outline here.
And we said if we could push out about 6 feet that way, add on that amount of space, we could have a much more livable space.
Still have our bake oven.
Peter: It is working.
Peter: And here's the old doorway.
And we have the wonderful domed oven in there, so... Kevin: I'm hearing some common themes to what we might try to do with our house.
I mean, the timber frames are very versatile, what you can do to them over time.
Gordon: That's right.
So this is a good example.
And just don't be taller than Peter is.
Kevin: Well, you're a good steward of the house and very generous to show us around.
Thank you, Peter.
Peter: So glad to have you come by.
Good to see you again, Gordon.
Take it easy.
Kevin: Really great.
♪♪ Kevin: Hey, Charlie.
Charlie: Hey, Kevin.
Kevin: Oh, good.
Demo has begun, huh?
Charlie: Believe it or not, we're doing some light demo right now.
A while back, we did some exploratory to see what we had for beams, and the architect drew up the plans from what we thought we had.
Kevin: Okay, so, we're looking at -- This is the front of the house, original, And then this is the ell that we're in right now?
Charlie: It is, and we're standing right about here.
Charlie: So this beam right here is this one here.
And we've got a timber frame like we expected, right?
We got posts and beams and the ceiling joists and such?
Charlie: We do, but he even drew the plans assuming that the posts were in that back corner over there, and they don't exist.
Kevin: Well, that is clearly not a timber-frame post right there.
Charlie: That's right.
So we think the end of the house probably ended here, but there had to be some kind of a structure because the foundation does continue into those corners.
Kevin: The mysteries of the 1700s.
So what is the plan?
He's talking about raising raising the roof here.
Charlie: Right now we have a second floor.
There's not gonna be a second floor any longer.
All of this post and beams we hope to raise 14 inches because the head height's not good for code here now.
Kevin: Literally just push the skeleton up.
Charlie: Yeah, we're gonna look -- into a vaulted ceiling through the beam frame.
Kevin: Can kind of get that effect right now looking up there.
So that's gonna be nice.
Charlie: It's gonna be beautiful.
Kevin: So this all gets exposed.
We can see it, enjoy it.
And then this is open now.
How far forward do you want to go?
Charlie: Actually, it's about 28 feet in length for the whole ell for us to raise higher.
This beam here, we hope it continues all the way through the front of the house, which will also be exposed.
Kevin: Let's find out.
Here's the bedroom above the dining room.
We already took up the old floor, cleaned it up.
But look what we found over here.
We have sawn lath, what you typically would see.
But over here is a split lath.
Split -- So, I get sawn lath.
Nice and uniform.
What is split lath?
Charlie: So, split lath is if they had a board that was green, say, like this, and they would take a hatchet or an ax, and they would split it.
And since the board was green, they could pull it apart, and the fibers in between the board would really still hold it together, and then they would apply it and then the plaster would still come up, and that's what held it together.
So, like, these three pieces right here could be a single board that's just pulled apart and then another board right next to it?
Charlie: That's right.
Or even wider.
Kevin: I have never heard that before.
That is so cool.
Charlie: It is.
Let's start the demo.
Kevin: So, we got some of the timber frame here.
We got a couple of the beams, a couple of the, uh... Charlie: Yeah, so, this center beam here is the one that we drilled the hole through and found it in our first exploratory.
Charlie: And the outside wall is 3 feet over from this wall, and that's where we want to see the beam.
Kevin: So how do you want to attack the ceiling?
You want to just bang it down for now?
Charlie: Yeah, I think we should just bang down the drywall, leave the strapping in place for now, and then we'll go downstairs and peel it off that was under the hallway.
Kevin: Let's start banging.
Here we go.
So now we continue it from downstairs because the hallway floor is still down.
Charlie: We should be able to take the rest of this down by hand and then right to the outside wall and see if we find that beam.
Charlie: I was in earlier and killed all the power.
Look what we found.
Kevin: You see it?
Charlie: Right there.
Kevin: Oh, yeah.
That's what you were hoping to find.
Charlie: Sure was.
So that's gonna make it easy to push this whole thing up?
Charlie: I think it's very doable now.
We have to get together with the homeowner or the architect, make sure they want to still proceed with it, because we still are missing a few posts.
Gonna have to make those.
But it looks like it's gonna work.
Kevin: Good news.
I like to hear.
Well, so, until next time, I'm Kevin O'Connor... Charlie: I'm Charlie Silva.
Kevin: ...for "This Old House" here in our Ipswich house.
Our old Ipswich house.
I'm gonna keep going over here.
♪♪ Kevin: Next time on "This Old House"... Hey, Charlie.
Charlie: Hey, Kevin.
Kevin: A lot of industry going on back here.
Charlie: Yeah, a little bit different since the last time.
Kevin: I'll say.
Tom: I see a lot going on here.
Man: I thought originally we were going to lift up this original ell as a single building and then fix everything and elevate and put a post foot on each of the posts.
But I think we'll take it apart peacefully, fix everything on the bench, and then hand it back to you guys to put where you want it.
Tom: I like the idea of that, and I think it's gonna be a safer, better way to go.