Friday, March 10, 2006

Puttin' the Hood in Neighborhood

This Old House is probably my least favorite show. However, they recently did a show in DC, so I figured I would watch it. They say you learn something new everyday, so when I actually learned two things, I exceeded my quota. Things I learned from watching This Old House DC:
  1. Somebody finally wised up and told Bob Villa to get his shinebox and go shine shoes someplace else;
  2. how to match old cement in bricks.
Regarding number 2: in case you didn't know, in reaaaallly old houses, like a lot of the ones in DC, there is probably not real cement holding together your bricks. Portland Cement, which they use nowadays wasn't invented until the 20s or 30s, so older houses have "cement" made from lime and sand. The difference between the cement they use nowadays and old stuff is like the difference between CrazyGlue and the "glue" you made with flour and water in kindergarten.

So anyway, that stuff wears out and it's a real bee-yotch to try to mix up something to repair it that will match the old stuff (unless you dig out a lot of it and re-point your whole house). So when they repaired an old townhouse in Shaw, a gentrifying neighborhood (that put the "hood" in neighborhood), they matched the old cement perfectly. How? They took a sample of the old cement and dipped it in Hydrocloric Acid. The acid disolves the lime, and leaves only the sand. Then you take the sand and find matching sand, add lime and voila, a perfect match.

This episode of This Old House did not suck because it was unlike the other episodes. What makes the other episodes unrealistic and unwatchable is the following:
  1. I wouldn't trust Bob Villa to shine my shoes (my regular shoes or my ninja climbing shoes), so I don't buy him as the host of a home improvement show;
  2. the houses on that show are usually in the million dollar plus range and the repairs are usually more than most people pay for an entire house. (I'm sorry, but I don't give a flying fig about renovating the governor's mansion, asshat. I wanna' know how the easiest way to insulate a really old house that had NO insulation whatsoever, so that I don't freeze to death or go broke paying the gas company) who has half a million for a renovation budget???;
  3. Something about Norm Abrams that I can't put my finger on makes me not like him. He's got that Unabomber thing going on. (I got my eye on you, man, so don't even think about it!);
  4. they tend to try to keep those places like museums. Who the hell still uses plaster? If you need to repair it, that's one thing, but if it's so bad that you had to remove it, why not just put up sheetrock like a normal person...or a person like me.
So anyway, some of the sucky elements of the usual episodes of This Old House were missing. It was a small 2BR rowhouse in Shaw. It was sold for $1 to a charitable organization that renovated it and turned it over to a needy family. Why you would give a home in one of the most expensive cities to live in to a really poor family is beyond me. The city keeps raising property assessments every year at an alarming rate, so I don't know how they are gonna afford it. Why not give a house in Beverly Hills to a poor family? I think they would be better off using the$250k they spent on renovations to buy 5 or 6 houses for poor people in someplace like Alabama.

I don't think I would use that Hydrocloric Acid trick myself (I don't mind endangering myself by doing electrical work, but something about Acid scares the crap out of me), but I thought I would throw it out there in case somebody finds it helpful.


Ben Biddle said...

Are you just getting those episodes? Bob Villa hasn't been the host for years! Maybe it's the TV signals bouncing back from space or something...

amanda said...

But Roger saves the whole thing! He's always so angry. Aaron and I love yelling to each other in our "Rogah" voices. "Put the f-ing bamboo in the f-ing pot!" And Bob hasn't been the host since the 80s or 90s. He was replaced by the guy with the big glasses and the bad hair. He's recently been replaced again. I like watching the show, sometimes I pick up great tips to file away for later. Hey- have you been contacted by the Wash. Post for a story? We were. I am trying to find out if the lady is legit.

John said...


Have you Googled the alleged Post reporter? Or checked the Post for their by-line?

I Googled the last reporter that contacted me, and they turned out to be legit.

Good luck.

HomeImprovementNinja said...

Ben, I haven't watched that show because I didn't think (and still don't) that it was DIY friendly. Someone did turn me on to "Ask This Old House" which I kinda dig. I think I'll post about what shows I like and don't if I ever run out of material.

Nightmare: Roger is on AskTOH too. He's okay. But I like Tom Desilva (sp?) and that Richard Guy. No one on AskTOH gives me the creeps. I like BrokenHouse Chronicles, because it's realistic (everything seems to go according to plan on the other shows), but it doesn't seem to be on anymore.

And yes, she contacted me. She seems legit. I did a google search and found a couple of pieces that she did for the post. So it's either her or possibly a very clever Al Quaedda operative trying to get home improvement tips for Osama's cave.

Anonymous said...

This old house host history:

Incase you get extremely bored.

"the guy with the big glasses and the bad hair," aka Steve Thomas, is an interesting character. "In the early 1980s, Steve journeyed to the remote Micronesian island of Satawal to learn the ancient technique of star path navigation under the master navigator Mau Piailug."
[borrowed from,16528,420214,00.html]

My life is so boring compared to Steve's. I wouldn't even knowwhere to begin, if I wanted to study star path navigation. I guess I could just follow Steve's, footsteps...haha

amanda said...

Thanks for the advice. It makes me feel better to know that others have been contacted by this reporter! That's really interesting about Steve's star path navigation hobby (I thought that was his name, but I was too lazy to google it.) Maybe he's left the show to follow the stars around full time.

K said...

Hmm, interesting tip. I, too, hate This Old House. Everyone is so damn chipper and fakey on that show.

Stef said...

I haven't seen TOH in years and years, since the Villa days. But I do tend to watch the TLC home improvement shows, like In A Fix, Moving Up, and those real estate flipping shows. What do you think of them? I imagine they're a little light on the actual advice, more for entertainment purposes.

Anonymous said...

portland cement was invented in the 20's, but it was the 1820's, in england.