Green and his crew rewired a second-floor-addition to a 1907 Craftsman-style bungalow in the middle of Santa Barbara’s rainy season.
“When I say rain, I mean rain,” he said. “I’m actually an ex-East Coaster, so most of the time when it rains out here, it doesn’t rain all that hard. It’s something that we might call a drizzle. This was rain. There was no mistaking it for anything else. It was coming down in bucket loads.”
The team had no choice but to work through the torrential rainstorms. “This poor woman’s house was wide open and there was a TV production schedule to meet, so we needed a lot of rain suits, plastic tarps and changes of clothing,” he said.
Homeowner Jan Winford and her family bought the fixer-upper in 1973, but never got around to renovating it due to a tight budget. When she found out that “This Old House” was coming to Santa Barbara, however, she jumped at the opportunity and wrote them a letter in 1988. Twelve years later, she got a call from the show and hired Steve Crawford, a highly recommended local general contractor, to visit the site. Crawford then invited Blum and Sons Electric to join him on the job.
“He called us because we specialize in fast-track work for the superconductor and biotech industries where we have shutdowns for large facilities,” Green said. “We have about 50 electricians on staff so we can man the job. We are known in the area for getting tough jobs done quickly without impacting owner’s schedules.”
Green said the house was in dire need of repairs. The general contractor improved the floor plan layout while Blum and Sons Electric rewired the home, brought everything up to Code and upgraded the electrical service. The contractor also supplied enough power for a small shop in the garage. Green said the house had mainly knob-and-tube wiring, so they upgraded the service from 60A to 200A.
“For the most part, the wiring was in surprisingly good condition,” he said. “It was what we would have expected for that time period of house.”
The company also installed landscape lighting.
“The general contractor changed the entry a lot, which had an effect on us because we provided the step lighting and the decorative post-mounted lighting,” Green said.
Blum and Sons Electric worked on the kitchen upgrades that were required by Code such as appliance circuits. The homeowner had all of her appliances behind barn doors, so the electrical crew did custom installations into the cabinetry.
“To get to the toaster, you would roll up a barn door in the cabinetry,” she said. “When she had cleaned the kitchen and she didn’t want to see any of the appliances, she would just roll those barn doors down and it would hide a lot of things.”
Blum and Sons had four electricians working on the house. Despite the fast-paced job, the electricians were able to work fairly normal schedules.
“It wasn’t like 14-hour days or anything, but things got really tight when the production crew was coming back in,” he said. “People were laying underground conduit while the concrete was being mixed. They even poured concrete behind us.”
The Blum and Sons electricians completed the work in stages to keep up with the television production schedule. For example, the crew had completely finished and painted one of the bathrooms, and on the other side of the house, it was still rough framing. Green said that everything happened very fast on the job.
“The whole project was very dynamic in nature,” he said. “Given the set of circumstances that we were working with, it worked out well. There was a lot of coordination between the electrical contractor, the general contractor and the owner.”
Blum and Sons Electric worked for three months on the Craftsman-style bungalow. Green said Craftsman-style homes, which are popular in California, often have a lot of wood siding and porches.
“Normally, there’s a small porch in the front with a couple of posts with a roof covering the porch,” Green said. “It’s almost just what the name implies. It looks like a wood house that a craftsman would build, not a brick house that a mason would build.”
The redwood house repelled termites, he said.
“The construction was old 2x4 rough-cut lumber, not like the 2x4s that we have nowadays,” he said. “It was a solid house.”
Despite the wooden construction, the home was built on a steep and narrow site and perched on a substandard foundation with no footings. The team had to upgrade and replace the foundation to meet the requirements of Zone 4, the highest-risk earthquake area. The new foundation, coupled with a second-floor addition, stretched the homeowner’s budget from $200,000 to more than $400,000. Green said the house was basically reduced down to sticks.
“We brought it down until it was just a skeleton,” Green said. “There was no second floor on it when we first got there, but a second floor was added. They added a large master bath and a master bedroom upstairs. We had a three-month construction schedule to basically build a brand new house.”
The homeowner lived in the house, raised her daughter in the house and had to watch while her home was torn apart.
“You have to break a couple eggs to make an omelet,” he said. “She went through the financial roller-coaster of course, and the emotional roller-coaster as well of seeing us destroy her house.”
The finished product, however, turned out amazing, Green said. “I just drove by there the other day and it still looks wonderful,” he said. “The landscaping is starting to take hold. She seemed to be ecstatic over it.”
This “before” shot of the Santa Barbara bungalow shows the condition of the home before the “This Old House” crew arrived on the project. While the house was in rough shape, the wiring was in surprisingly good condition, said Allan Green of Blum and Sons Electric.
Santa Barbara Snapshot A 1907 Craftsman-style bungalow in Santa Barbara, Calif., got a facelift in the winter of 2000. The architect and general contractor were challenged with the historic home’s sagging foundation, small rooms and awkward floor plan. General Contractor Steve Crawford took one look at the attic and envisioned a small room, but the plans escalated into a full-scale, second-floor master suite.
Here are some of the many affordable Arts-and-Crafts finishes that the “This Old House” team used to change the Santa Barbara house from an aging structure to a well-preserved landmark.
- Reproduction lighting fixtures. Rather than paying a high price for vintage lighting fixtures, the homeowner bought reproduction antique lights from a factory in Portland, Ore.
- Synthetic stone. Real stone can often be cost-prohibitive for homeowners. “This Old House” casted lightweight concrete in molds and then used the “stone” blocks for the retaining walls and exterior columns.
- Simulated leaded glass. A glass artist added zinc strips to factory windows to create the look of handmade leaded glass.
- Colored concrete. The front entryway of the Santa Barbara bungalow underwent a major transformation. To make the concrete seem soft and natural, the crew tinted the concrete a tan color for the walkway and retaining walls.