12.02.2009

A Hole in the Wall

Let's begin with a little update: Mr. Bama and my's rent at our current apt complex is up at the end of December (thank heavens!), so we've been spending a ton of time on Craigslist looking for homes/condos to rent for the rest of the time we're in NOLA. One night, after visiting endless properties, we were driving down a street in an Uptown neighborhood and found THE house: a 2 BR, 2BA, late 19th -- early 20th century double shotgun that was converted in to single at some point, with a GIGANTIC kitchen. The rent's a little pricey, but it's in super safe area (a huge plus in NOLA), within walking distance from shops and restaurants and surrounded by gorgeous single family homes.
(a side view of the house - there are two mature trees in the front of the house, so getting a front view is nearly impossible)

The Landlady, a local artist who has her studio in the back 1/4 of the house and her actual residence next door, is incredibly friendly and has even offered to pay for new paint for the house (because right now the house is this icky dark khaki color)

We started the prep work to start painting the house on Dec 1 - which turned out to be a day of just constant, persistent rain here in NOLA. It was then that we noticed that in the guest bedroom, the drywall under the window sill was bulging out, an instant sign that something was rotting under it. Mr. Bama knocked on the wall to see where the studs were and his knuckle ended up going through the drywall! After showing the hole to the landlady (who was surprisingly very grateful that we showed her the problem) she gave us the go-ahead to do a quick patch as she contacted a company about fixing the root of the problem (a possible leak in the roof).

Here's the condition of the wall before we started the patch-job.

all of the wood (the lathes) you see were rotted through, and the drywall was a dark brown, black color - NOT good

Mr. Bama cutting the existing drywall hole into an even rectangle to fit the new piece of drywall.

the condition of the wall after cutting the hole. Note, the pieces of wood you see were in this condition when we opened up the wall, and shows just how disastrous moisture can be to the structure of a home.

The patched piece of wall before drywall tape and spackling were placed over the seams.

As we discovered during this process, at some point during the additions done to the house in the late 80s someone removed the actual plaster that covered the wood lathes and placed drywall on top. Pre-air conditioned homes such as this one were designed to breathe, to allow air from outside to circulate into and out of the house. Therefore, walls were constructed of breathable materials: wood siding, wood studs, wood lathe and organic plaster. When moisture would enter the inner structure of a wall, air would dry it out before it could create any major damage. However, as in the case of this house, when one of those breathable materials is removed and replaced with a modern, non-breathing material, such as gypsum dry-wall, moisture cannot escape from the inside of a wall. The result is catastrophic - the moisture sits in the wall and rots the structure, inviting termites, mold and other pests to nest and destroy the wood and the house. The rot shown above was just a preview of how extensive the damage is: we did a basic aesthetic fix, not an invasive one that actually examined the entirety of the damage. I shudder to think.

So the moral of the story is, when doing a renovation/adaptive reuse of a historic building, be careful what building materials you use to update the structure - you could be doing more harm than good.

1 comment:

Marisa said...

you explain this so nicely! I understand!!!! good luck painting!

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