Master Electrician Rick Rose will never forget the camaraderie, professionalism and quality of workmanship on the West Palm Beach project.
“Some jobs I go on, you ask for an electrician, a plumber or a carpenter and they’ll say, ‘We’ll get there tomorrow,’ Rose said. “It didn’t happen on this job. If you were due to be there, you were there. No excuses. It ran like clockwork.”
Rose, who has recently retired from Carpenter Electric of West Palm Beach, Fla., said the two general contractors ran the job on time and within the budget.
“For them to come in on a three-month job is really amazing,” he said. “They worked six days a week and eight, 10 and sometimes 12 hours a day. They were not one to pinch on time. If they needed to get it done, they got it done. Being in the trades for over 30 years, I take my hat off to these two gentlemen.”
The West Palm Beach home, like many of the other historic houses on “This Old House,” was an unpolished gem. Overgrown weeds had taken over the backyard and termites had chiseled away at the rotted lean-to at the rundown property. In the second building, the walls were bowing out and the roof was falling in.
“When my friend first wanted to buy it, I said, ‘Are you out of your mind? Are you sure you really want to do this?,’” Rose said. “Everywhere you went, there was something wrong. There was nothing right.”
The general contractors, as well as the other tradesmen, rolled with the changes, Rose said.
“Sometimes you have unforeseen things when you open the walls,” he said. “On this project, the termites had taken out the beams and the floor joists and we had to replace them. When we took the window out, the only thing holding the window in place was the plaster on the outside wall, and there was no lumber left at all. Little things like that you don’t see. It takes a little more time, a little more money and a little more lumber.”
The owner had full trust in the general contractors, Rose said. “That’s highly unusual,” he said. “In a project like this where you have media, movie stars and a lot of high-publicity people, there were no big heads like, ‘Here I am. I’m this and I’m that.’ All of us on the job site were normal people and we just did our thing.”
Each individual trade had their moment of glory, Rose said.
“Mine lasted for about eight minutes,” Rose said. “There’s a little film clip walking through the house and I explain the different electrical aspects of rewiring the house and how easy it is to put a box in the wall if you have the right tools.”
Rose used what’s called a 3½-in. diamond saw, which is like a regular circular saw, except it’s 3 in. in diameter and is on a side grinder. Norm Abram, the master carpenter for “This Old House,” was so impressed with the diamond saw that he even tried it himself.
“That’s how I cut my holes so I would maintain security of the wall,” Rose said.
Along with preserving the walls, Rose enjoys working with the homeowners. For the “This Old House” project, the homeowner, who is an interior designer, gave Rose a footprint of the furniture, which made it easier to plan for the wiring.
“He knew the color coordinates, the placement of furniture and exactly where everything was going to go,” he said. “That way I could hide these outlets, make them accessible and work for his furniture.”
Rose met with the homeowner to decide how to meet the demands of the Code, and at the same time, satisfy his client’s electrical needs. For example, he customized the location of the receptacles to match the location of the furniture.
“If you have a little table in the center of two windows, you don’t want your extension cord run down to the end of the wall to plug in,” he said. “By having the footprint of furniture layout prior to wiring, it makes a world of difference.”
Rose hid all the TV, electrical and phone wires and installed a three-way switch in the den. He also rewired the entire house, from front to back and top to bottom. Throughout the project, he struggled with minimal crawlspace in the attic.
“I could barely crawl from the top to the bottom of the truss and I only weigh 120 pounds,” he said. “We were able to access many of the exterior walls from underneath the house.”
The home had all of its original wiring, which was in extremely poor condition, Rose said.
“There had been a little remodel in the kitchen area and a bathroom by a previous owner, but the majority of the house was still knob-and-tube. I eliminated all the old wiring and service and put in a new 200A panel underground.”
Everything from the telephone wiring to the communications cable, was installed underground, and no wires were exposed anywhere, he said.
“I could not see putting anything overhead with pools and driveways,” he said. “It’s ugly so we buried it all. That’s my pet peeve. I don’t like wires. They’re unnecessary. It cleans everything up to put them underground.”
The home, both inside and out, turned out beautifully, Rose said.
“The actual layout, the furniture and the finished product were quite magnificent,” he said. “It had a kitchen to die for with a stainless-steel six-burner gas stove, super-quiet hood fan and hidden washer and dryer in the cabinetry.”
The team added a little dinette area adjoining the kitchen as well as a $35,000 pool.
“There are French doors that open up from the breakfast room,” he said. “You could look straight down into the pool area. It was just gorgeous.”
Rose said the two-bedroom home had a Mediterranean flair.
The man’s colors are black and red,” he said. “He has a red throw that you put over you on the couch and a zebra-type carpet under the table. It is modern, but it’s old.”
The fireplace, which had a faux-marble finish, was redone in handcut, multicolor, mosaic tile. Each 5½-in. sq in. tile had a traditional Moroccan starburst pattern. Thousands of pieces were also hand cut for the mosaic around the front door arch. Rose faced the challenge of placing a doorbell dead center in the design.
“We only had so many inches to work with,” he said. “I worked with the tile man who was super at getting every piece to line up. When you are doing a pattern, and someone comes in and sticks in a bell or a button, you want that button to line up.”
The homeowner, Rob Thompson, bought the house for $200,000 and invested another $200,000 in the renovation. Rose said Thompson was pleased with the end result.
“If you could see the house, you would fall in love with it,” Rose said. “It’s one in a million. You hear those stories, ‘We bought the worst house on the block and fixed it up’ and that’s what he did. He brought it back to grandeur.”