PBS series made in Q-C finds new life on You Tube
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PBS series made in Q-C finds new life on You Tube

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If you're into home improvement, you already know that You Tube is a great resource. Want to know how to replace a light switch or fix a faucet? Chances are, someone has posted a step-by-step, how-to video online.

Bob Yapp moved to the Quad-Cities from Des Moines in 1991 to take a job as housing director of Rock Island Economic Growth Corp., a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing historic neighborhoods, and left in 2003.

Recently joining the ranks of home improvement videos on You Tube are episodes of a program called "About Your House with Bob Yapp."

It was filmed in the 1990s in Rock Island by former Quad-City resident and old-house expert Bob Yapp and ran for four seasons on PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, with 52 regular episodes.

Now living in Hannibal, Missouri, where he operates a school teaching hands-on preservation techniques and does consulting, Yapp recently gave his old programs another look.

He found that, with a little tweaking, they would still be relevant, so he is putting them online. About 20 are available so far, with the remainder expected by this summer.

"They're holding up!" Yapp said of his programs.

In episodes that provided the estimated cost of various products and jobs, he is updating with new numbers. And he is filming an entirely new episode about restoring old windows because methods and materials have greatly improved in the past 20-25 years.

People who remember Yapp when he lived here know he is a man of strong opinions. Two of the strongest involve original windows and siding of pre-1940 homes.

What he has learned about windows has convinced him that old windows can be restored and made as energy-efficient as new windows for less money. And the restorations will last longer than today's new replacements, he said.

It pains him to think of the millions of window sashes that are ripped out and landfilled every year simply because people don't know how to make them good again.

As for covering original wood siding on a historic house with something new, be it vinyl, steel or aluminum, he regards that as something of a sin.

His most-watched episode when the series was on TV was about siding and, renamed "Replacement Siding is Nasty," is also his most-watched on online.

Covering a pre-1940 house with new siding makes it look like a "generic box," obliterating architectural details and, in fact, devaluing the value of the property, he said. "It's a sign people aren't willing to work on their home anymore," he said.

His personal-favorite episodes are those on how to find a good contractor and another called "Preservation Pays."

For the contractor episode, he hired actors to play the parts of people homeowners should stay away from, such as the roofer who shows up with a bucket of tar.

As for the preservation episode, he believes now more than ever that "preservation doesn't cost, it pays."

"It's not just a catch phrase," he said. "I really mean it."

Yapp has little regard for the majority of home improvement shows that are shown today because, he said, most are about "flipping." That is, they are about gutting what exists and putting in new. They are about throwing things away.

Preservation implies a strong environmental ethic — waste not, want not — that Yapp embraces.

This way of looking at life was instilled by Yapp's dad. His father worked in Des Moines' corporate world, but on weekends he often worked on his house or did projects in his workshop.

One day his dad made the statement that " 'we don't own this house,' " Yapp said.

Young Yapp was stunned. "We don't?" What his dad meant was that homeowners are caretakers of property made from natural resources that should be maintained with quality work.

"I think there is responsibility to be good stewards," Yapp said.

While most episodes of "About Your House" involve work on older homes, Yapp's expertise is relevant to homes of any age.

And people with just a passing interest in home improvement might like seeing Quad-City landscapes and residents — perhaps people they know — as they looked before the turn-of-the-century.

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