Friday, August 10, 2007

Back From THE ROAD

Whoo! Sorry it’s been so long. It just dawned on me that I could’ve written at least a brief update and posted it immediately(I think my readers appreciate those more anyway), instead of taking all this time to write a full entry. After being gone so long, I guess it's taken me awhile to get back to my regular routine. And it’s difficult to write when my daughter is awake PERIOD, and obviously I can’t write when I’m working. But, anyway, I’m back in New Orleans now after 5 weeks of travel. Getting away was refreshing, to say the least, and now I’m energized and refocusing on my beloved little house. Well, that implies that nothing’s been done since I’ve been away. Quite the opposite is true. I must take this opportunity to give a standing ovation to my mom, who not only kept my daughter for 3 of the 5 weeks but worked as my counterpart while I was gone.

In my absence, mold remediation was done on the house, courtesy of Inspector 12. As you may recall from a previous post, I took that company’s advice and removed all the drywall in the house so that they could thoroughly obliterate any mold that might even be THINKING of growing in my house. Originally, they quoted me a little under $2K to do the job. It wasn’t in my budget, but I decided that it was worth the extra expense to be assured that no one who lived in that house would have respiratory problems because of something I neglected to do. So I was prepared to take the hit. A few weeks into my trip, I received this email: “I have decided to remediate your home as a donation because of your tireless effort to restore your property. I am truly impressed to see what you have accomplished…” Thank you, Ivan from Inspector 12!! Unfortunately, it failed the post-inspection.

According to Louisiana law, the remediator and the inspector cannot be the same person/company. So I was going to hire Bill Feaheny, an environmental consultant and professional air quality tester, to do the post-inspection. Upon completing the initial visual inspection, however, he concluded that the remediation company didn’t follow proper protocol for mold removal. He wouldn’t do the air test because none of the holes in the house had been plugged. Additionally, he'd never heard of Inspector 12. Well, I didn’t have time to search for another remediation company, then schedule another inspection. I had a group of volunteers coming the following weekend to help install drywall! So he gave me some suggestions about how to move forward. I am still grateful to Inspector 12 for doing the job. The house was cleanER and the air was clearER after they did the work.

Weekend Warriors
SO, when I first moved down here, my friend Anietra in New York said that she’d come and help out sometime this year. “Great!” I thought. “I can use the help!” In late May, she emailed with plans of assembling a group of friends to volunteer at my house. In a matter of days, she’d gotten ten commitments! I was floored. TEN people flying down to New Orleans OF THEIR OWN VOLITION to help me rebuild my house. I shouldn’t have been surprised; this was classic Anietra style. Anything this woman does, she does to the nth degree.

So now I had ten volunteers coming to stay at my mom’s not-quite-ready house… and I’d just found out I’d be traveling for the next five weeks, up until two days before they were supposed to arrive! Needless to say, it was difficult preparing from afar for a group of this size, but it all worked out and the weekend went surprisingly quite smoothly. My mom was absolutely fabulous; she ordered the drywall and other supplies while I was away, she agreed to cook red beans and rice, and gumbo for the volunteers AND keep my daughter while I worked with them over that weekend. My uncle took care of the drywall delivery (thanks Eli!). I borrowed air mattresses from my cousin, my aunt’s neighbor, and my mom’s friend. And the St. Bernard Project loaned me drills and a bunch of other necessary tools. Man, it's good to have a big family! I got the rest of the supplies from Common Ground. Since my Wednesday flight back to New Orleans ended up being CANCELLED (grrr…), I flew back that Friday (the same day as the volunteers!). But I was still able to make all the necessary last-minute runs before they arrived. I wanted to make them at least semi-comfortable in that house.

I’d prepped Anietra before they came down – there’s no air-conditioning in my mom’s house; there’s very little furniture; some of the floors are unfinished; there’s only one working bathroom; the entire first floor of the house has been gutted and is un-usable; the house hasn’t been lived in since August 2005. They knew it would be FAR from luxury living and they were cool with that. I’d suggested to Anietra that we work short days (9am-2pm) because of the heat and humidity. There is no electricity in my house (translation – no fans… don’t even THINK about air-conditioning) and it was the end of July, one of the hottest months of the year. They all insisted on working ALL day. I patronizingly entertained that notion, thinking, “Wait til they get down here.”

Well, when they got down here, they hit the ground running. The day their plane touched down; they wanted to go check out my house and maybe get some work done! We spent the evening moving drywall from the driveway into the house, racing against the approaching storm. We made it, thank goodness. The following day was Saturday; we got a brief drywall demo from some skilled volunteers from St. Bernard Project.

Richard assists while Dave and Mike demo drywall installation.

The rest of us pay close attention.

Since I’d only put up drywall once or twice, I thought it would be better for a more experienced person to supervise. [Good thing because a few issues arose that I wouldn’t have been able to handle alone. The biggest issue was the un-evenness of the vertical barge boards and that fact that many were missing in the front room of the house. So we learned how to use shims to level the drywall, and how to reinforce existing beams with two-by-fours and drill the drywall to that. So handy!] And we actually did work all day Saturday AND Sunday… until the sun went down and we couldn’t see anymore. But it didn't feel like slavery at all!!(That was a joke... anyway..) By the end of the weekend, most of the house's interior had drywall.

They came, they saw, they installed.

A wall in the second room. DONE. After they were done, most of the walls looked just like this. PERFECT!

Our mascot insisted that I include him.

It's amazing what 10 volunteers can do in a weekend, isn't it? Sike! This ain't my house, y'all!

As much as we worked, you wouldn’t think there was time to do anything else. But the group also wanted to get out and see New Orleans. They had a ball… live music at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street, dancing on Bourbon Street, beignets (apparently, "nothing but a zeppoli" according to some people) at Café Du Monde, and drinking in the streets (can’t do that anywhere else in the country!)

And not only did they install drywall, the volunteers also removed the nails from the floor of the kitchen, removed the old tile from the back hall floor, busted up the concrete in the backyard (that I might have grass one day) and moved the debris to the curb.

Anietra and Mike showing those nails who's boss.

Bret attacking that stubborn tile... while I work hard in the backyard. (lol)

Maida is about 5'3", y'all... WOW. That's all I have to say.

Carsta got jealous and wanted to take a turn too.

And Ky keeps it tidy.

Ten dedicated, energetic people can accomplish A LOT. I SO appreciate what they did. To top it off, one of the volunteers, Bret, actually changed his flight so that he could stay an extra day! So we spent the rest of Monday and Tuesday morning putting up MORE drywall!!

Bret and I put up drywall on two walls in the kitchen after the others went back to NY.

It felt AMAZING to look around the house and see walls, not boards of wood. I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could imagine what the house might look like once I’m done. One day, I’ll actually be done!! Needless to say, that weekend experience has given me fuel to continue forward.

Since the volunteers left three weeks ago, I have installed drywall in most of the kitchen (except the sections of wall where there’s plumbing).

Putting up drywall by myself. See that nice sheen on my legs? I didn't get oiled up for the photo shoot, y'all. That's sweat!!!

Another wall in the kitchen that I put up alone.

I’ve also knocked down the bathroom closet, the beams that supported the lowered ceiling in the bathroom and most of the closet in the back hall. Yes, I am making aesthetic changes to the house. Yes, I am getting more attached to it. I can’t just let the house remain with those ugly additions. Why would one level vaulted (or half-vaulted) ceilings? After I removed the closet and those beams, the bathroom just opened up. It thanked me. It did. The walls will be covered in “greenboard”, a water-resistant form of drywall, and cement board (around the bathtub enclosure).

Before-and-After of the bathroom ceiling. Isn't it better now?

All that's left of my closets. Hope I can reuse some of the wood for something else!

Also To-Do, the drywall in the other rooms needs mudding. Mudding is the process of filling holes and covering seams using joint compound and joint compound tape. It’ll be a long, tedious process because I have to spread it over each screw hole in the drywall (and since the volunteers got a little trigger happy with the cordless drills, there are A LOT of ‘em) and, of course, the shorter your drywall sheets are, the more seams you’ll have. I opted for the 8’ long sheets, instead of 12’ sheets, which are heavier and more difficult to carry. So, I have a task ahead of me. I think I’m going to organize a Mudding Party and see who in New Orleans can come by next weekend or the weekend after to help me knock this out. I’ll keep y’all posted!!


Sumor said...

That is amazing and made me cry! Those guys (and of course you) rock! You house looks more and more beautiful every post. Anyway, I must find a way to come down and help somehow, myself. Your Mama rocks too!

Kiini said...

Hey Jenga,

Fabulous progress! Thanks for sharing. I ran into Charles from the brunch days and he says hello. I just realized I didn't even GO to the lower 9 when last I was home. I won't let that happen again, and I'll definitely have to at least come and see all your hard work!