A follow-up article in today’s Inside Out in the Times-Pic:
RENOVATORS FIND MADNESS DESPITE METHOD
NOTE: Bart Everson and Christy Paxson find that tough decisions are unavoidable as they repair the basement of their North Salcedo Street bungalow.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Stephanie Bruno Contributing writer
When it comes to repairing their raised-basement bungalow, Bart Everson and Christy Paxson have taken a methodical approach.
Gutting the downstairs came first, followed by bleach treatment for the small amount of mold left behind and a planned application of Boracare. Gas and a new hot water heater followed, then repairs to the electrical system. A termite re-treatment — recommended for houses in areas that flooded — was performed.
A little paint, Everson said, will take care of minor staining on the ceiling where the roof leaked after an attic vent fan blew away.
But even a systematic approach to home repair can be derailed by the realities of the construction market post-Katrina.
So, like many others, Everson and Paxson found that getting a professional out to repair the roof was far easier planned than accomplished. Everson said he had lined up a roofer but started to get worried when six weeks passed and he still hadn’t shown up.
In a weak moment, Everson reluctantly turned to a neighbor known as Quickdraw to do the job. A fabled character in Everson’s Mid-City neighborhood, Quickdraw had gained notoriety the summer before when he appeared at Everson’s North Salcedo Street house to work on the roof, without a ladder.
This time, Everson hired “If Rains It Pours Roofing” to follow up on Quickdraw’s work, and now the house appears to be watertight.
This week, he and Paxson are waiting again, this time for their contractor to return to resume work on the basement.
Everson and Paxson feel as though they got a fair shake from their homeowner’s and flood insurance adjusters, so financial issues haven’t driven renovation choices — until it was necessary to decide what to do with the basement windows.
“They are the originals, and some were in decent shape — before the flood,” Everson said. “My initial assumption was that the flooding would have ruined them. So I investigated vinyl replacements. I’m not a fan of vinyl, but then I was told that replacing them would be cheaper than restoring.”
After what Everson describes as “agonizing indecision,” he and Paxson opted to keep and rework the wood windows instead of replacing them.
“Christy and I decided we’d rather suffer a little financial pain than the pain of getting rid of good windows that have lasted almost a century.”
Breaking the mold
If their approach to renovating has been traditional, their approach to dealing with the whole post-Katrina experience has been decidedly unconventional.
Everson and Paxson both work in education, he at Xavier University’s Center for the Advancement of Learning and she at a West Bank charter school.
Fittingly, they seem to have turned their hurricane experience into an opportunity to learn as well as to teach.
For starters, they used a video camera to document their pre-dawn departure the day before the storm, and then they broadcast the recording on the Internet as episode No. 93 of Everson’s life story.
They took hundreds of photos documenting the past months and posted them on a photo-sharing Web site, flickr.com, for all the world to see. And hardly a day goes by that Everson isn’t writing in his Web log at http://b.rox.com/, recording impressions of the city and its recovery, or just observations of the rooftop cat colony in his Mid-City neighborhood.
When it came time to salvage more than a decade’s worth of water-logged journals from the couple’s flooded basement, Everson turned that experience into a multimedia event, too.
“After they dried out and the pages separated, I found that most of them were legible, so I started experimenting with ways of reconstituting them,” he said.
“At first, I was taking digital pictures of the journal pages to see how that worked. But then I found I got the best results if I took the pages out of the journals and put them on a flatbed scanner. Then I converted the files to PDFs and made a book online at www.lulu.com.
“It has a really unusual look, from an artistic point of view, and now the journals are more interesting than they were before they soaked in muddy water for a few weeks.”
Undoubtedly, they smell better, too.
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