Friday, July 29, 2005

It's getting hot in here, let's take off all our clothes.

You know, it's a little warm in New Orleans right now. By "a little warm," I mean that's what Satan would say if he came up from hell to grab some pralines from the Gumbo Shop. "It's a little warm," he'd say, "is the air conditioning on?"

So we're moving into a corporate apartment because TOH isn't ready for habitation and our tenants are moving into Chateau Danneel on the 15th. We've got a POD in our driveway to stash the furniture and extra junk, and next week we'll get a U-Haul trailer to move our necessities to the apartment. Yes, we're such slaves to our possessions we need a U-Haul for just our immediate needs, not including furniture. It's related to having a baby. The apartment is costing us three arms and two legs, but it will be convenient and safe. Plus, they have a pool! Woo, we'll live the life of suburban luxury for a few weeks.

Stella and I checked out a very nice sublet in a charming downtown neighborhood, which would have been great if we didn't have cats and a baby. Poor Stella was having a bad day, and threw up down my shirt as we walked in the door. I think it was a sign. The gentleman who owned the place, a confirmed bachelor you might say, was totally unphased and graciously offered me a paper towel. Nonetheless, all of his precious antiques and objets d'art would have taken too much of a risk if we stayed there, so we had to decline.

Then rather than get throwup on the seat belt in Mr. Nola's car, I took my shirt off and drove home with a hand towel thrown over the girls. Of course, Chateau Danneel is across the street from a high school, so I had to put the shirt back on to get out of the car rather than expose myself to a bunch of innocent kids. Just another day in the life.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Collecting of the Boxes

I've been scouring the neighborhood for boxes. Usually I see them all over the place, but since I'm getting ready to move, karma is messing with me. Murphy too, it seems, since after I finally went and bought a bunch of boxes from the box factory down the street, a friend introduced me to her new coworker who JUST moved here and has TONS of boxes and packing material to get rid of. Humph.

So now my house is like a cardboard jungle. It's a recycler's dream, or maybe nightmare. I think I made the Collecting of the Boxes into a way to avoid the matter of packing itself. Since the storage pod arrives tomorrow, and we're moving into our sublet next week, it's time to get packing. Last night I packed 12 boxes of books, and only empties two of the six shelves on the library wall.

Why are we doing this again?

Finally, a plumber. But where is Lafitte?

After about a week of the various contractors looking at each other saying "I dunno, what do YOU want to do?" We finally took matters into our own hands and chased down a plumber to detach the pipes under the house so the shoring can proceed. Time and materials for our plumber Jay were $225. Of course, in the meantime, Lafitte's shoring crew has moved on to another project, so we're stuck waiting around for their return.

I'm not sure if it's good news or not, but we found out that the damage to the wood around the old chimney was due to rot, not termites. Obviously there was a problem with the flashing around the chimney and water came in and ate away at the beams. So, we fix the beams, and hope the roof repair over the hole will take care of it. At least we don't need to tent the place. On the other hand, last night I had a nightmare about finding water gushing from the ceilings during a small rainstorm and having to replace the entire roof. What's even scarier is that it's not impossible.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Electric Mayhem!

Wouldn't demolition be more fun if the contractors looked like this?

I was thinking about Animal's band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, when I was over at TOH today sniffing around the electrician. I don't know how the order of operations is decided, but Boudreaux's got his electric guy moving the circuit box to a new *legal!* location and upgrading the service to the house.

When we had the house inspected prior to purchase, our electrician Sam discovered a whole new level of electric mayhem. Sam is older than dirt and slow as molasses, but he's cheap and he knows his stuff. I knew bad news was coming when he came out of the basement shaking his head. It turns out that somehow, the house had a NEW 200 amp circuit breaker, which was being fed by a 100 amp main breaker outside, which in turn was being fed by a 60 amp meter box . I don't know much about electricity, but I take it this is the equivalent to plugging a 220 volt dryer into a 110 volt outlet, but the dryer is actually the entire house. Hmmm. Also of interest is that the 100 amp breaker could only be opened by taking a saw to the railing for the porch stairs.

Sam laughed and said there was no way this set up ever passed inspection. He also found a bunch of outlets that had three-pronged receptacles but were not actually grounded. I suspect that some former owner got rooked by a shady contractor when this set up was put in. Since Mr. Nola and I each run multiple computers, televisions, air conditioning and eventually an assortment of kick-ass cooking appliances, decent electrical service is mandatory. Once the guys over there today are done, we should be ready to go. Of course, there's still the matter of old knob-and-tube wiring, but we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

Demolition Pictures!

Kitchen bits in the family room -

You can see where the chimney used to be by the square in the framing - but look at the termite eaten wood and the beams to nowhere! That's really not good.

There's the hole in the floor from the chimney -

What used to be the kitchen from what used to be the breakfast room -

The remnants of the porch from the kitchen -

The guys outside replacing gas lines on our street -

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Dueling Contractors

So while Boudreaux's guys tackle the demolition, Lafitte's crew is getting the house ready to jack back up to level. Meanwhile, there's a city crew outside running new gas lines on our block. I could park a sandwich truck in front of my house and probably do very nicely.

Despite having a plethora of men with trucks around, somehow nobody claimed the job of disconnecting the plumbing before the house gets shored. Since the pipes run in the crawl space under the house, moving the house, will mean adjusting the plumbing so it doesn't break or knock out a wall or something. For reasons I have not learned, Lafitte's contract did not include the plumbing work. Boudreaux's just in charge of the kitchen, so there's no reason he'd have planned to handle the plumbing for the bathrooms. Anyway, Boudreaux has a plumber on the job, so we'll get him to do it - at an additional cost, of course.

I'll be so excited to see the house level though. I really hope all the plaster doesn't crack.

Why I'm not DIM.

Seeing the amazing progress made by others at the Houseblogs Webring makes me a bit embarrassed that the only hand I'm lifting at TOH is to write a check. Well, we'll paint once the drywall is up, but that's about it.

My excuses are thus:

1) We have a baby. A special needs baby at that, so one of us needs to be playing/feeding/otherwise paying attention to her pretty much all the time. I can't very well put her in a playpen and bust out a wall with a sledgehammer.

2) We're doing major construction that we just don't have the time, skills, or tools to do. Shoring, foundations, bumping out an exterior wall and extending the roof - these are not lightweight jobs. Like the lawyer who represents himself having a fool for a client, we'd be fools to try this stuff ourselves.

3) We're not good at it. Back in the days we rented, Mr. Nola and I used to watch HGTV - "the construction channel" as we called it (in a Russian accent for some reason) - and we really thought we could buy one of these neat old New Orleans places and be just like Bob Vila. Sadly, we discovered actually doing construction projects on Saturday morning was a whole lot harder than watching them on TV. And I'm kind of afraid of power tools. So the work on our first house, which was admittedly WAY more than we should have taken on, stretched on for an eternity. Actually, we're still finishing some of the stuff we started, um, eight years ago.

Now that we have a child, we can't mess around with having gaping holes in the walls for months at a time. And I don't want it. I want to move into an intact structure. Plus, it's fun to go over and see what's happening without having to get all dirty myself. Maybe I lack the Puritan work ethic that made this nation great. But then, I'm giving work to lots of guys - so I'm contributing to economic growth, right?

Should it be raining in here?

There's been CRAZY activity over at TOH this week - and my dang camera ran out of juice so I don't have pictures. I'll get over there tomorrow to get some new ones.

Boudreaux's crew has finished the interior demolition on the kitchen, so we can now get a sense of the space with the walls opened up. We discovered some dead space behind the wall in front of the chimney with a LIVE outlet in it - someone along the line built out the wall so they'd have a straight run of counter, but didn't disconnect the power to the old outlet. The kitchen was SO small it's hard to imagine anyone closing off space on purpose. We've also seen more fun lime greet paint and some of the old linoleum.

Tropical Storm Cindy - which the local news has said was a hurricane after all - blew the patch off the roof where Lafitte's crew took out the old chimney. That left us with a very large hole in the middle of the roof, while Hurricane Dennis moved in this direction. Fortunately Dennis hit Pensacola instead, but it was still kind of troubling that once the ceiling was taken out in the kitchen, we could see right up and out, as well as down into the basement.

I was over there a few days ago to meet with a floor refinisher and checked out our big hole. It was drizzling at the time, and raindrops were clearly falling through the kitchen into the basement. Strangely, I just found it kind of interesting rather than alarming. I mean, it's all a mess right now anyway, right? But I did discover a new problem that's going to cost us: the wood beam exposed by the hole in the roof clearly has termite damage. In New Orleans, termite damage isn't exactly a shock, but depending on its extent, it can create a nightmare of carpentry. Since it only has to hold up the roof, I'm counting on Boudreaux to be able to fix this spot without ripping off the entire roof and replacing all the framing.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Writing on the Wall

The writing is on the wall, both literally and figuratively.

The contractors have started demolition and the walls have been marked for which ones to take down. We found old stucco under the drywall in the breakfast room. A lot of people around here have dealt with damaged plaster or stucco by drywalling over it. You lose some depth to your trimwork, but it gives great sound insulation from room to room. Here are some pictures:

The doorway through the kitchen from the breakfast room.

Wow, you've got to love that color combination. Bright red walls with electric lime baseboards. The interior of the built-in cabinets were lime too. Yowza.

The kitchen sink on the original exterior wall of the house, looking through window to enclosed porch.

The bar sink on the enclosed porch, next to the refrigerator.

In the figurative sense, the writing is telling us that it's mid-July, we have to move in three weeks, and That Old House is not going to be fit for habitation. We have to find an apartment to sublet for a month or two. That will be my project for the week ahead, along with getting the storage POD sent out and start packing our junk into it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

When it rains, it pours

Tropical Storm Cindy knocked out the power at Chateau Danneel for about 16 hours, leaving us hot and bored and grouchy. Now we're watching Hurricane Dennis and hoping he stays on track to hit to the east (sorry, Pensacola!)

The storms have delayed demo over at That Old House, but it's probably for the best that the side of the house has not been ripped off before a hurricane. There's a run on plywood and generators at the Home Depot, and we're planning to evacuate if necessary. I'm not so worried about storm damage, but hanging out for days with no power while the lines are down is the opposite of fun.

And in the category of "when it rains, it pours," Baby Stella lost her pacifier at the Sam's Club, and has refused all substitutes. Add a terrrible rash from some kind of bug bite to a binky-less status, and we've got one unhappy kid. And if Stella ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Have you seen this binky? Cash reward offered!

Friday, July 01, 2005

July Already?

So we now have one month to get That Old House safe for habitation. That involves ripping off the old enclosed porch, building a new exterior wall, extending the roof to the new wall, tearing out the old wall, replacing the heater and ductwork, moving the electrical service and running wiring to new kitchen, plumbing the new kitchen, etc etc. OK, it's not all getting done in a month. But how much is enough? Should I just find an apartment now?

Boudreaux the Contractor got the first big check today for the kitchen job. He'll get permits Tuesday and start demo on Wednesday. Lafitte will be continuing the shoring work on the rest of the house while the kitchen gets demolished. The yard looks like a, well, construction site with the debris from the chimney and shoring strewn about, not to mention the three large holes dug by the gas company. At least it's fenced and not visible from the street.

Cheers and happy Fourth from the Nola family.