‘This Old House’ legend Norm Abram set to retire

The carpenter got his start restoring historic homes in Boston.

For 43 years, Norm Abram worked as Master Carpenter for "This Old House." Daphne B. Noyes/WGBH

A television legend is stepping away from the spotlight after more than 4 decades. Norm Abram, master carpenter for “This Old House,” is leaving the show and retiring, according to an announcement made last week.

Abram is known by many in New England and across the country as a pioneering force in home improvement entertainment. A one-hour tribute special will air on Monday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. The TV special, dubbed “The House That Norm Built,” will be broadcast on PBS and streamed on The Roku Channel.

Throughout the evening, friends and peers of Abram will be joined by celebrities to highlight and chronicle his career. Classic moments and rare archival footage will be interspersed with various interviews. Abram appeared in over 1000 episodes of “This Old House,” worked on more than 50 home renovation projects, and hosted close to 300 episodes of “The New Yankee Workshop,” according to the announcement.


Abram is known for his humility, trademark plaid shirt, and dedication to his craft. Over his 43-year career, Abram was vaulted from humble carpenter to national celebrity.

“Norm is a living legend that helped create the home improvement television genre and entire networks are now in existence because of the trusted expertise to generations of homeowners that he provided,” said Vice President of This Old House Dan Suratt in the release. “‘Measure twice, cut once’ is a familiar slogan to anyone who knows Norm – it will be hard for anyone to measure up to Norm. We’re honored to have had him as part of our family.”

Abram’s career began in Massachusetts, according to This Old House. On Christmas Eve in 1958, Abram began working with his father, a Boston carpenter to install hardwood floors “the old-fashioned way – with cut nails and a skill saw turned upside down on a milk crate.”

Abram and his father worked on weekends and during summer breaks from school. He learned his skills slowly and methodically. In 1978, a TV creator named Russell Morash commissioned Abram to build a barn. After seeing Abram’s work, Morash invited him to help with a project in Dorchester. Abram would help restore a historic house, all while being filmed by a WGBH TV crew for a new series. “This Old House” was an instant success when it premiered in 1979.


Since then, the show has received a combined 117 Emmy nominations with 20 Emmy wins overall. “This Old House” will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on June 18.

“This Old House” has expanded into a wide-reaching brand, with 20 million consumers each month taking in content from TV shows, podcasts, and a free website. Last year, the property was acquired by Roku, the company that came to prominence through streaming devices.


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