Foundation Nation

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When we first thought about adding a second floor above our office, we figured we’d be in store for some conversations about the foundation. The office was housed in a small addition at the back of the house that – we think – started off as a screened-in porch.

Our hunch prooved right. When Tom and the crew started poking around under the office it didn’t take long for them to conclude that it was merely a pile of rubble under our house. It wasn’t really doing much to hold the structure up. Here’s a picture of Tommy drawing a picture of how slanted the back part of our house had become over the years.

The photo also shows the LVL they bolted to the structure to make it level.

So they quickly decided we needed to add a proper foundation if we wanted to add on a second level. That meant digging down four feet to get below the frost line. Because of the number of boulders on our site and the location where they needed to dig, excavation needed to be done by hand. That’s a a lot of work. Two days later this is what it looked like:

They poured a new concrete footing, then built the walls out of block. Amazingly, most of this happened during one of the rainiest weeks of the year. Our son came by to inspect their work.


Inside they put a rat slab.


The finished foundation looks good. The back room, which will now be part of the kitchen, is level and solid. And best if all, it’s ready for the second story soon to be built above it.

Finished foundation

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Rebuilding Home

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May 7, 2013 — Seaside Heights, NJ

(Picture: The storm devastated Seaside Heights, its boardwalk, which is the lifeblood of the business community, and the amusement park that attracts tens of thousands of tourists every summer.)

“We’re going to rebuild our home.” It’s a refrain I hear as I move around
the storm-damaged neighborhoods of the Jersey Shore. People are determined to
rebuild their homes and it’s an understandable sentiment. Well… I thought I understood it. As it turns out some people are talking about their
houses (I know three of them very well) but many others are talking about their
home, that is to say their township or their neighborhood. Both “homes” are
important. A roof over your head is critical, but so is a school for your kids,
a church for your soul and a grocery store for your survival. And on the Jersey
shore both “homes” need rebuilding.

And so it was as I walked and
filmed on the famed boardwalk of Seaside Heights on a cloudy day in mid-May. At
the time there was a frenzy of construction activity. Sandy destroyed most of
the boardwalk, ripping up its planks, snapping in half 30-foot pilings, and
washing away nearly 200 feet of a 600-foot pier that had stretched into the
ocean. It was a complete loss. On that pier sat nearly a dozen amusement park
rides until Sandy had her way with them and hurled five of the rides into the
ocean, including the now iconic Jet Star rollercoaster. Somehow the Jet Star
remained mostly intact and upright even as it sat in the Atlantic Ocean. It was
an eerie sight and it has become one of the most unforgettable images of the

(Picture: There used to be about a dozen rides on this pier, but Sandy dumped five of them into the ocean and ruined the rest.)

But we didn’t come to Seaside Heights to see the destruction, we came to
see the rebuilding, and on this day we saw plenty of it. There were cranes,
bobcats, trucks, and crews frantically working to get things fixed by Memorial
Day weekend. If the boardwalk could not be rebuilt by then, the scores of
businesses that line it couldn’t open for the season and that would be a disaster
for the town. Summer tourism dollars drive this community – they fill the tax
coffers, pay the salaries of thousands of workers, and maintain the schools. One
missed summer wouldn’t just leave the town wanting for dollars, it might
permanently change people’s behavior. Tourists might decide to go elsewhere and
never come back. So the race to rebuild was on.

Seaside Heights (2 of 2)

(Picture: Rebuilding was at a frenzied pace just weeks before the critical Memorial Day weekend.)

It may seem slightly less urgent or noble to rebuild a boardwalk than a
house, but it isn’t. In fact, rebuilding a single house is far easier than
restoring a community or an entire town. The good news is, they made the
deadline. The boardwalk and the businesses
reopened in time for the Memorial Day summer kickoff. And the work of restoring
a community continues.

More photos from Seaside Heights canbe found here: More photos

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Ask the Expert: How to Prepare for a Home Inspection

Today’s expert Q & A is with David R. Leopold, owner of Pillar To Post Home Inspection located in Fairfield County, Conn. Q: What can homeowners do to prevent delays, uncomfortable situations and return visits as they go through the process of preparing for an inspection? A: While it’s important that homeowners don’t neglect the […] Continue Reading →

Abe Lincoln and the Jet Star

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May 9, 2013 — Seaside Heights

(Picture: My all-time favorite picture, which I took during an incredible day at the Lincoln Memorial. This is an impossible shot to get unless you are up on scaffolding right next to this amazing memorial.)

Normally on This Old House we
have great access to experts and unique locations. Telling folks you work with
the show is usually a golden ticket that can get you behind the scenes of some
spectacular places. I’ll never forget
when I was at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, for example, and a Park
Service employee invited me up the statue of Abraham Lincoln onto some
scaffolding placed there for a once in a lifetime repair. Fewer than 100
people, I was told, had ever seen the sculpture this close, and when I laid
eyes on the tiny caliper marks made by Daniel Chester French during the
statue’s construction, I was literally awestruck.

(Picture: I love my job. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with the Linmcoln Memorial.)

Access is a good thing, but it doesn’t always come easily. Recently I
posted about our day on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and about the now
iconic image of the Jet Star rollercoaster sitting in the Atlantic Ocean (see
below). Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers had secured access for us to this
incredible site that was destroyed by Sandy and undergoing a frenzied
re-construction. After filming a scene with the mayor we thanked him and moved
off the boardwalk and headed to the beach so we could shoot a DTC (direct to
camera) in front of the eerie image of the waves crashing onto the Jet Star.

There was just one problem: the access road to the beach was blocked by a
New Jersey state trooper and the mayor – our ticket to film anywhere we wanted
–– had just left us. What to do? Well, in these cases you hope the gatekeeper
(the trooper in this case) happens to recognize you and also happens to be a
fan of the show. So, the crew sent my familiar face forward to the squad car.
As I approached and saw no softening of the trooper’s stare I realized now
would have been a good time to be Norm Abram instead of Kevin O’Connor.

Okay, maybe he didn’t recognize me but I was sure he would be familiar
with the show. So, as I approached, carefully, and as he lowered his window,
reluctantly, I decided turnabout was fair play. I stood tall above him as he
sat low in his seat and I pulled out my credentials – a business card in a
cheap pleather case – and flashed them inside the cruiser. “Kevin O’Connor,
This Old House” I said in my most authoritative voice. “We are going to film on
your beach.”

Silence. Then he got out of the car. Shoot. Now he was the tall, towering
one. The silenced persisted until finally he spoke. “Let me see that again” he
said, his stare softening. “Kevin O’Connor, This Old House?” I repeated, in the form of a question this time. After all, he
had a gun, and all I had was a cameraman.

Then he laughed. Maybe at my gall, maybe at the situation, or maybe just
because he loves the show like so many others. In any event, he waved us on to
the beach and we shot our DTC. And when we were done, I shot this picture,
which has become one of my most memorable.


(Picture: The Jet Star rollercoaster, sitting in the Atlantic Ocean.)

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Taking Down the Staircase

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In an earlier post we showed some pictures of the surprise staircase we found behind a wall. Sadly, there wasn’t a spot for it in our new plans, so it had to go. Here’s a quick video of Tom and Kevin taking it down.

Here’s the a quick picture of Kevin with the aftermath.

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Director Jules Stewart, aka Kristen Stewart's Mom, Buys Hollywood Home (House of the Day)

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Jules Stewart home

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By Erika Riggs

She may be a longtime script director in Hollywood, but as it often goes, the well-known in Tinsel Town aren’t usually known for their careers but their connections. And Jules Stewart has the ultimate connection to the A-lister set: She’s Kristen Stewart’s mother.

Being the “Twilight” star’s mom means that she’s also fair game for the tabloids. TMZ, among others, recently reported Jules Stewart’s conflict with a neighbor over whether Stewart owns “wolves” as pets. A connection to “Twilight,” perhaps? Stewart says they are wolf-hybrids and recently got a restraining order against the upset neighbor.

Perhaps that dispute led Stewart to buy a new home for herself and her pack. According to property records, she paid $990,000 at the end of April to buy an “East Coast traditional” off Valley Vista Boulevard in the Sherman Oaks district of Los Angeles.

Described as the “ultimate in casual living,” the 2,308-square-foot home has the standard must-haves for a celeb home: pool, spa, a generous-size master suite and updated kitchen. The home won’t need any updates, as the property includes recent upgrades to the roof, water heater, and exterior and interior paint.

Stewart, who made her directorial debut on the B-movie “K-11,” also owns a home in Malibu, which she purchased for $4.8 million in 2011, and an apartment in Pasadena.

See more on Zillow:
Kristen Stewart Buys New Place in Los Feliz
The One-Time Hideaway of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson for Sale
Report: Ellen and Portia Buy in Montecito

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Find out how to
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homes for sale in your area.
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Christmas Trees and Volleyball

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Bayhead — April 18, 2013

(Picture: An annual dose of old christmas trees kept the dune grass healthy and thick, protecting the beach and house behind it.)

On parts of the Jersey
Shore, people actually own
the beach. Neighborhood associations can sell badges to visitors, limit parking
near the beach, and even ask people to get off their sand if the person is
above the mean high tide line.

This is a foreign concept to me, even after spending every year of my
life visiting Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore.
Yes, we have to buy beach badges, but in my township those fees simply support
beach grooming and the lifeguards. So I was surprised when I spoke to two
brothers, let’s call them Josh and Eric, who told me they not only owned their
homes on the beach but the sand in front of them as well.

Ownership has its privileges, but it also comes with responsibilities. And
Josh and Eric, whose family has owned their beach house for five generations,
take those responsibilities seriously. They tend their section of beach
carefully, and they know the dune that sits in front of their house helps to
protect their family home. So each winter after Christmas, the brothers pile old
Christmas trees onto their dune. The dried-out branches do a good job
protecting the sand from the winter winds, and the decaying trees do a good job
feeding the dune grasses, which in turn help to hold the sand in place. Josh
and Eric have done this every year for a decade or more and have been rewarded
with a grassy dune. When Sandy struck that dune protected their house from any
damage, and remarkably, when I saw the dune six months later it was smaller but
still covered with grass.

Even more remarkable was that the dune in front of the house right next
door was barren. Turns out the neighbor wanted a volleyball court so some time
ago he poured gasoline onto the dune grass, and ever since then nothing has
grown. And when Sandy
hit, well, instead of providing protection that dune mostly disappeared and the
house suffered damage.

Lesson learned.

(Picture: Notice the grass in the foreground and background. The big sandy void in the middle is what happens when you chose volleyball over grass.)

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Anna Faris and Chris Pratt List in Hollywood Hills (House of the Day)

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Anna Faris, Chris Pratt home

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By Erika Riggs

It was just a few weeks ago that comedian couple Anna Faris and Chris Pratt bought a new retreat in Hollywood Hills. Now they’re selling their former home in, where else, but the Hollywood Hills. Apparently the two like the neighborhood. The house, located at 2617 Harlesden Court, Los Angeles, CA 90046, is offered at $2.295 million.

Anna Faris, Chris Pratt Faris actually bought the home back in 2005 for $1.995 million with her first husband, actor Ben Indra. According to a report by the Real Estalker blog, this isn’t the first time Faris has tried to sell the home. She listed it at $1.995 million in 2007; property records don’t reflect the home’s short stint on the market.

The home is a midcentury modern style, with floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors that open out to several patios, including off the master and a guest bedroom. The kitchen has been updated with granite counters, high-end appliances and views of the lush landscaping. Outside, the nearly 1-acre property holds a pool and Bocce ball court — both framed with greenery and boasting canyon views.

The listing is held by Mimi Starrett of the John Aaroe Group.

More on Zillow:
Anna Faris and Chris Pratt Upgrade in Hollywood Hills
DJ Calvin Harris Buys in Hollywood Hills
Katy Perry’s New Hollywood Hills Compound

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'Will & Grace' Star Megan Mullally's Hollywood Home (House of the Day)

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Megan Mullally's Hollywood Hills home

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Megan Mullally, most famous for her portrayal of the nasal-voiced, sharp-tongued spitfire Karen Walker on the smash sitcom “Will & Grace,” has just sold the stunning trophy property in the “Bird Streets” of the Hollywood Hills that she shared with her husband, “Parks and Recreation” actor Nick Offerman.

Megan MullallyOriginally listed for $12.65 million, Mullally and Offerman accepted an offer to sell the three-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom estate at 1435 Tanager Way for $9,970,000. According to public records, the duo paid $3.95 million for the estate on March 13, 2003.

The estate has amazing city and ocean views and the listing said that it was “must buy.” Clearly someone agreed and came knocking with nearly $10 million.

A high-profile contemporary estate in an even higher-profile neighborhood, the home has been published in Elle Decor (among others) and was known for its ultra clean lines. Mullally and Offerman’s home was touted for its design and quality and location on a quiet cul-de-sac on Tanager Way, which is regarded as the best of all the ‘Bird Streets.’

Mullally and Offerman may now be without this home, but they aren’t homeless by any means. They are resting comfortably at the other Los Angeles home they own, which was purchased by the duo on Dec. 28, 2011 for $4,150,000.

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Robbie Williams' Beverly Hills Compound, With Soccer Field (House of the Day)

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Robbie Williams house in Beverly Hills

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By Catherine Sherman

Yes, that’s right. English singer-songwriter Robbie Williams just sold two properties totaling 1.15 acres in the coveted 90210 ZIP Code. Here’s the skinny:

Singer-songwriter Robbie WilliamsMain house
Specs: five bedrooms, four bathrooms plus a two-bedroom poolhouse.
Address: 13741 Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills, Calif.
Sale price: $2.17 million.

Specs: one bedroom, one bath plus a soccer field.
Address: 13737 Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills, Calif.
Sale price: $1.1 million.

The Take That singer and solo artist bought the compound in February 2005 for $3.7 million. He sold at a loss of $500,000, but perhaps the biggest loss was the regulation-size soccer or, as Williams would say, football field and decked-out media room for watching the World Cup.

The 4,659-square-foot main house was built in 1947 and has since been remodeled, maintaining its original hardwood floors, high ceilings and spacious living and dining rooms. In the backyard, a garden path leads to a secluded swimming pool next to a two-bedroom house with a separate entrance — though this isn’t technically the guesthouse.

A one-bedroom, one-bath home was built on the adjoining lot in 1951, offering visitors 1,134 square feet of private living space and a four-car garage — not to mention a prime view of soccer games outside their front door.

Although listed separately, both properties were sold together. The sale was handled by The Agency.

Meanwhile, the U.K. Music Hall of Famer isn’t moving far. He also owns a six-bedroom, eight-bath Beverly Hills home, which he bought in July 2002 from country singer Clint Black.

More on Zillow:
Bruce Willis Lists Beverly Hills Home for $22 Million
Breckin Meyer Lists Beverly Hills Family Home
Adele’s 90210 Rental Seeks Buyer to Continue Long A-List Legacy

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homes for sale in your area.
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