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Top 10 Lessons Learned In 35 Years Of 'This Old House' TV

This Old House is celebrating 35 years on public television, while the TOH spinoff show Ask This Old House celebrates 300 episodes. After all these years of teaching YOU, though, even our skilled professionals learn a thing or two while shooting. Here are their top 10 home-improvement lessons. -Tabitha Sukhai, DID YOU KNOW: You can catch full episodes of TOH and ATOH online? No charge.

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10. Don't fear prefab foundations


The show first used a factory-made preformed concrete foundation system in 1994 when adding onto a 1710 Colonial in Acton. This Old House general contractor Tom Silva noted the numerous advantages of having this labor-intensive component built off-site: "No mud, no mess, no concrete truck. Send your plans out to the manufacturer and the factory precasts all the pieces, ships them to the job site, and swings them into place. In one day you're ready to start building an addition or a whole new house."RELATED: Watch full episodes of This Old House online NOW

9. Take the time and energy to restore original materials when it makes sense


The "before" photo of the Belmont house, taken before its renovation in 1993, is a forlorn, asbestos-siding-covered shadow of this handsome "after" shot of the Shingle-style beauty. The original wood siding was mostly intact when it was uncovered during the renovation, so it was worth the investment to bring it back to life. For extra credit, the homeowners decided to put real cedar shakes back onto their "roofy" 1907 home, though only on the street side, where the look matters most.RELATED: Watch full episodes of Ask This Old House online NOW

8. An energy audit at the start of any reno is a good idea


Since 1982, TOH has called for these tests to find out where a home's energy is being wasted. Today, techniques like blower-door testing are combined with infrared-camera readings, like the one used at the 2007 Newton project, to help homeowners pinpoint where to plug money-wasting holes and to learn of other ways to cut down on energy consumption.RELATED: Watch full episodes of This Old House online NOW

7. Be prepared (cough$$$cough) for your project to evolve / Via

Often the best solutions to tricky renovation challenges don't present themselves till work is underway. One of the most important and beneficial changes made during our 1998 Watertown project was dismantling the home's three staircases and rebuilding just one in the center of the house, vastly improving the floor plan of the 1886 Queen Anne. The modification was made possible by good communication, careful planning, and close collaboration among our pros and the architects and craftsmen involved.RELATED: Watch full episodes of This Old House online NOW

6. Don't disappear when you call in a pro. You could learn something! / Via

Part of being a good DIYer is knowing your limits. When you're struggling to figure out a tricky fix for a nagging problem, hiring a pro with years of experience will almost certainly save you time and money in the long run. Watch a pro tackle the trouble spot, and you'll learn a thing or two, as do the homeowners who receive a visit from the Ask This Old House team. During the debut season in 2002, the Ask crew helped homeowners with a variety of tasks that included fixing window screens, shoring up a sagging floor, and repairing a leaky shower-tub faucet. They were all too happy to answer any questions.RELATED: Watch full episodes of Ask This Old House online NOW

5. When a gut reno is unavoidable, find something to save and celebrate / Via

Most renovations call for removing parts of a house's history, say, crumbling horsehair plaster or an antiquated layout. But virtually every home benefits from hanging onto at least one important feature from its past. In our 2008 New Orleans Rebuilds project, a floodwater-soaked survivor of Hurricane Katrina retained its original double-sided fireplace, hardwood floors, and beadboard ceilings, all of which hold memories of the house's rich history.RELATED: Watch full episodes of This Old House online NOW

4. Rethink your use of outbuildings and sheds / Via

Finding a new way to use an existing structure—like the 2003 conversion of a backyard garden shed into this charming in-law cottage in Concord—can be an effective way around modern zoning prohibitions. By recycling an outbuilding, the owners were able to squeeze an important function and value out of an underused structure.RELATED: Watch full episodes of Ask This Old House online NOW

3. Expand your living area with outdoor rooms / Via

At the 1982 Arlington house, the crew built an architectural enclosure for a hot tub that gives the homeowners some privacy as well as viewing pleasure when they're not soaking. Outdoor living areas and focal points like this one break up a ho-hum lawn into useful and enjoyable spaces.RELATED: Watch full episodes of Ask This Old House online NOW

2. The upgrade with the lowest cost and highest impact? Paint. / Via

When money's tight, as it was in the 2006 remodel of an 1879 brick rowhouse in Washington, D.C.—or even when it isn't—the right color choices can bring immense style to any room at almost no additional cost. Here, the combination of bold walls and crisp white trim gives a sophisticated punch to this living room.RELATED: Watch full episodes of This Old House online NOW

1. Restoring an old house is a solid investment / Via

When TOH premiered, razing entire blocks to make way for new construction was common practice. Our first project, in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, demonstrated that an older house can be reworked into a livable, unique space that maintains its value over time—and adds character and a sense of history to its neighborhood.RELATED: See dozens of other lessons from the TOH crew at