Ask This Old House in Orlando

A crew from PBS' 'Ask This Old House' films on the roof of the Orlando home owned by Benjamin Kennington. (Joe Burbank / April 17, 2014)

Benjamin Kennington of Orlando has written to PBS' "Ask This Old House" for years with home-improvement questions. He talked to people at the show, and their responses impressed him. That interaction paid off handsomely Thursday when the show installed a lightning-protection system in his home.

"I was very excited to participate because I love the show," Kennington said. "They do a good job on the show. They get good vendors and get people who know what they’re doing."

"Ask This Old House," now in its 13th season, receives several thousand questions each month at, said senior producer Chris Wolfe. He and another producer go through those questions, find interesting ones, then talk to homeowners and contractors to make sure the show can supply a solution.

PBS' "Ask This Old House" visits Orlando to film three segments. Roger Cook will work with a local crew to install a lightning protection system at a home in Orlando.

"It starts with the questions," Wolfe said. "It really does. We want to answer questions that are going to be as relevant to our viewers as possible."

Central Florida outdid itself this year with the queries. On Tuesday, the series filmed a segment about vertical gardens with the University of Florida extension program and later helped a homeowner install one. On Wednesday, the show examined citrus greening, consulted Uncle Matt’s Organics and worked with a Winter Park homeowner.

The segments won't air until fall, because the new season starts in October. The show will travel to San Francisco in a few weeks. "We'll hit a few more places," Wolfe said. "We don’t know where yet, because we're waiting to get some good questions from our viewers."

"Ask This Old House" presents 26 episodes a season and focuses on smaller projects than "This Old House," which tackles renovations that take many months. Wolfe stressed that the lightning-protection show wouldn't have worked without help from Maxwell Lightning Protection of Florida Co. in Lake Buena Vista.

"We could not do this without their expertise and support. They have contributed significantly," Wolfe said.

The show put owner Guy Maxwell on camera to help explain the project. His message: "Have a properly installed system. Lightning protection is one of the most dangerous things you can put on your house. Put it in right."

Roger Cook, the show's landscape contractor, said "Ask This Old House" has to incorporate a homeowner in everything it does. The segments are, after all, known as house calls. A local storm Tuesday made the lightning-protection theme timely.

"It was a tremendous storm, and it reminded me why we have to think about doing stories like this," Cook said.

Homeowner Kennington said he had problems with lightning strikes, and a grounding system to the pipes had caused problems with his pipes and water damage in the master bedroom. He later replumbed the house with flexible-effects tubing. He is president of TeamKennington Acumen Engineering, a computer company he runs out of his home.

He said the "Ask This Old House" filming had gone smoothly, and so had installation of the lightning-protection system.

Did those letters to the show pay off?

"They did," he said. "It's an incredible system. I'm very lucky to get it."