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‘This Old House’ comes to Cortland

Published: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 2:11 p.m. CDT
(David Thomas –
Homeowner Mark Nenia (left) goes over a scene with Richard Trethewey, a plumbing and HVAC expert with "Ask This Old House," and Thom Draudt, the episode's director. Trethewey was showing Nenia the proper way to seal and insulate his basement's heating ducts.

CORTLAND – When Mark Nenia emailed “Ask This Old House” about heating his 1940s-era home during the winter, he never thought it would land him on the show.

“A couple of months went by, and out of the blue, I got a call from their producer,” Mark Nenia said.

Part of the cast and crew of the PBS home improvement show visited Nenia’s home at 25 E. Maple Ave. in Cortland on Wednesday to film an episode on forced air heating systems, which will air sometime in February or March, senior series producer Christopher Wolfe said.

“When we’re selecting projects, we try to find the ones that are going to be as relevant as possible to many of our viewers,” Wolfe said. “And this is one I’ve seen a lot.”

The Nenias moved into the house more than a year ago and described it as being the perfect find. Mark Nenia teaches chemistry at East Aurora High School, while Kendra Nenia works at Campus Child Care at Northern Illinois University.

“It’s in really good condition,” Mark Nenia said. “We like the charm of the house. It was the perfect size.”

What wasn’t so perfect was how cold the house got during the winter, particularly in the bedrooms of the Nenias’ children, Margaret, 4, and Jack, 1, Mark Nenia said.

Wolfe said whenever the family turned on its heat, they would have to endure cold air coming out of the vents for several minutes. Wolfe said forced air systems are common, but they can be very difficult for someone to tune up.

“Ask This Old House” features home improvement experts answering questions from homeowners about fixing up their homes. A segment of each episode is filmed at a house in which an expert shows a homeowner how to go about fixing a home maintenance problem.

During the filming, Mark Nenia interacted with Richard Trethewey, the show’s plumbing and HVAC expert, while Kendra watched from behind the camera.

“It’s surreal to see someone you know from TV in person, in your living room,” Kendra Nenia said, adding that her family was “in good hands” with Trethewey involved.

Trethewey explained to Mark Nenia the do’s and don’ts of sealing and insulating the heating ducts in his basement. Assisting Trethewey and Mark Nenia were two employees from J & R Herra, an Elburn-based plumbing and heating contractor. Wolfe said the show reaches out to local contractors for assistance on the project.

“It’s very helpful to partner with expert contractors, and we definitely found that with J & R Herra, and especially in their president, Brian Herra,” Wolfe said. “When we’re on the road, we find that other experts – a lot of times they have knowledge about local building codes ... and a lot of resources to help us address the problem.”

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