Fixing Sunpie and Maria Barnes' New Orleans Home [Pictures] - created 12-13-2005
sysop - 12/13/2005.14:08:06
Edit to bring this discussion up-to-date for newcomers: in November and December of 2005 the MIMForum staff and members began fundraising to help rebuild one home in New Orleans. Working with the New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC) we were assigned the family of musician Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes. In *addition* to our fundraising effort, which raised $4,317.50 through cash donations and T-shirt sales, we also applied for and got a $3,000 grant from Home Depot, which they paid to the non-profit NOMC for the purpose of fixing Sunpie's home. But as anyone who's done any homebuilding knows, $7,000 doesn't go very far even with donated labor, and Sunpie and Maria's house is far from rebuilt.
We'll start with the "before" pictures and then Amy will take over the story. You'll see that she talks about cooking and staying "at the house" - that's *not* Sunpie's house but the home of the NOMC co-founder Bethany Bultman, our NOMC liason who is a very generous woman and put up our volunteers on the first two trips!
My friend Cheryl and I flew down to New Orleans this past week to make sure that we would be set for a two week volunteer project. I am sure glad that two of us went! There are few working traffic lights and a lot of missing street signs so she was a fantastic navigator and picture taker and list maker and all around help.
The family that lives here is a musician named Bruce Barnes (nickname "Sunpie") and his wife Maria, and their two children. Sunpie is a park ranger in the Jazz heritage park and Maria teaches high school French and Spanish.
But the floor looked pretty funky and on crawling into the crawlspace...........yuck.
Someone years ago had stapled sheets of plastic to the underside of the joists! It was probably to prevent moisture from rising up to the joists but in this case it held all that water up! They were still soaked!
We hadn't intended to do any work, just check out the situation. But the joists had to dry out. I bought a couple of tools and a respirator and coveralls at the Home Depot so that I could go under the crawlspace and pull the plastic off.
It was pretty gross under that crawlspace! But we got all the plastic off and hopefully the joists will dry off. Sunpie and Maria should be able to get more cleared off before we get back.
So it looks like about six of us going down. We will try to completely repair and replace the floor, the footers holding the center support need some masonry work, and replace the electrical boxes and wiring that was damaged. My local True Value store has offered to donate some stuff, I will hit them up for electrical supples, goggles and respirators, gloves, in short, all the light weight stuff we can transport. Plywood and drywall and spackle, we will pick up at the Home Depot with the grant money. Plus on a job like this, we will always need the unforseen bits and pieces, I want to mend the water line so we can use the upstairs bathroom, fix the Garage doors for some better security in the house. Bethany Bultman with the New Orleans Musicians Clinic has offered to put our crew up in her lovely big house near the Garden district.
We did estimates of drywall and flooring and made lists of the stuff we would need. We are going to drive my two trucks out of here Saturday morning with other folks coming down at different times. I think that we can be a huge help towards getting Sunpie and family out of that dang Fema trailer that they are squished into. They are really nice folks!
Amy, you are beautiful.
Yeah, that respirator really makes a fashion statement don't it!
We are all getting ready, besides my regular carpentry tools, we were given five skilsaws, two sawzalls, three drills, fifteen hammers, three prybars, and some extension cords! I will use Freecycle or one of the local donation centers in the city to make sure that they find good homes. One of my students packed snacks for us (including home-made chocolate covered pretzels) and a big bucket of cleaning supplies. It looks like six on the crew as well as some local New Orleans folks who want to help.
We got back late last night, the trip was really good. We did everything that I had planned plus some. The floor is replaced with new and stronger support beams, most of the re-wiring is done, the outside walls are insulated. The people we met were absolutely lovely, we heard some great music and ate gumbo and po-boys - sort of like a sub but better. The city has sections that are really destroyed and sections that were not flooded at all. Everything depended on a few feet of difference in sea level and where the levees breached. I'll post pictures as soon as I get them on a disc (Cheryl and Katrina-she kept her real name for the trip too!-were our official photographers) Sunpie and his wife Maria were wonderful.
Here is our crew from Pennsylvania! From left to right is Katrina and Dave with little Eli. They are from a farm in Pigeon Hills near Hanover, Dave writes for the Lancaster Farming newspaper and Katrina is a sign language interpreter. Eli is.... just Eli! Next is Cheryl and her husband Snowbear (Chris Newman) She has her own buisness designing and sewing window treatments, and he is a pipe fitter. Next is me and then Dave Dilworth, he works at Hopkins in the graphics design and met us through the forum.
We got cranking right away on Monday morning. Actually we went to Sunpie's house Sunday night and unloaded tools, made a list for Home Depot, and looked things over. Cheryl is a fantastic navigator so she and Snowbear did the bulk of the Home Depot runs. The Home Depot that we had to use (because of the grant money) was across the river and full of people. Then there was an endless wait for the toll bridge coming back so a Home Depot run was a four or five hour chore. But, despite that, we can't say enough about Home Depot!! Besides the grant which was fantastic, the folks there were friendly and helpful despite seventy hour work weeks and an insane amount of customers in all phases of desperation.
Dave LeFever got started right away on the wiring, switching all the old boxes and all wires that ran below flood level. I had brought wire and boxes from our True Value in Pennsylvania. Sunpie and Maria's house was built in the seventies and there were a lot of unnecessary kitchen wires, typical seventies! A built in wall toaster, a funky intercom system. The house itself was really well built though, two by ten floor joists, three quarter plywood on the floor. We ran power from the neighbors house for our saws and the lights that we needed.
After our first morning eating at a little local diner that was mobbed by construction workers and folks without working kitchens, we decided to cook at the house. Katrina and Eli, being the job roustabouts (Eli stayed out of Sunpies house because of the mold and dirt) did the grocery shopping at the A&P, one of very few open grocery stores. Eli was the most incredible people magnet, his being there seemed to draw people in to talk and tell their stories. And, after a day under a really gross crawlspace, hugging a happy baby was about the best thing in the world to do.
While Sunpie's house was NOTHING like it had been, mold hanging in streamers from the ceiling, it was still really yucky because of the water that had been trapped in the floor system. We all wore respirators working under the crawlspace and much of the time that the floor was open. You kind of develop a symbyotic relationship with your respirator. Being under the crawlspace is a bit claustrophobic anyhow and the lessened breathing you get wearing the respirator limits how much time you can stay down before going outside for fresh air.
Snowbear and I did most of the crawlspace work. He tore out the old air conditioning ductwork, the insulation surrounding it was soaked and the whole duct under (and probably over) water level will be replaced. I started right in jacking up floor joists to replace the two main beams that run the length of the house. They were one of the few things on the house that were poorly designed, just four two by fours stacked up. I replaced them with the same, but then re-inforced them with two by sixes on each side to make a beam that was bigger and stronger. Here is the sagging original beam.
I built a temporary support of two by fours and cut short posts to jack with. Some of the floor was easy to jack up, once the plywood was off of it! I started with the easy side, no walls above to weigh the joists down.
Cheryl and I had torn out some of the plywood on our first trip down, I wanted to get as much of the wet plywood out and new floor down as was possible. Tearing out three quarter plywood and hauling it to the curb was a job! Also the kitchen had subfloor and linolium, Sunpie and one of the guys in his band had torn out some of that but the subfloor was nailed all to hell and gone and was a bear to tear out. We made a pile on the curb, every few days the Army Corps of Engineers picks up the trash. I wanted to ask where it went, but right then was just relieved to see it go.
We got the jacks situated and after a few false attempts, up went the joists.
The mold on the joists was already going away, each day before lunch and before we left, I kicked everyone out of the house and sprayed everything I could reach with a mix of bleach, water, and mold killer recommended by the folks at Home Depot (our heros!!!) Every day the house smelled better! Snowbear had fixed the water lines the first day, so we had working bathrooms upstairs as well as running water in the hose outside. It was a little weird to go upstairs in the house and see the kid's rooms in perfect shape, while the downstairs is so devastated. I used a two gallon hand sprayer to apply the bleach solution.
Then slid in the new two by fours and nailed everything up. Easier said than done when we got to the sections where there was some weight on the walls.
We couldn't stay down under for really long periods of time (a couple of hours and you really need a break to take off the respirator) I cut new plywood as soon as we could and laid it on the floor, on the one hand I wanted to give the joists more time to dry, but on the other, I was looking at safety and getting the job done. There was pretty good ventilation under the crawlspace, so I figured that it would dry out, flooring or no flooring. Cheryl nailed off the entire floor, and got started on the insulation of the exterior walls.
Meantime, Snowbear started in on cutting the bottom plates off of the walls, we started with some of the non-supporting walls, braced them in place and cut the nails on the plate to slide it out.
Then we slid new plywood under the walls and put in a new bottom plate.
Sunpie was able to stop by and help on his day off, Maria came by every day on her lunch break (she is a spanish and french teacher at the nearby school.
Their kids came by also, Sunpie and Maria have their hands full, because Sunpie is a park ranger, they have their FEMA trailer across the river at the state park (a lot better than the lots in town) but it is the same river with the awful toll bridge and the round trip just for work and getting the kids to school is unreal!! I'll have more pics of the family and of New Orleans in a bit, I just have the disc of the house pictures now. Sunpie came by with an accordian and played for us. Then he GAVE me this little cajun accordian, I am having a wonderful time with it.
Here is the new beam installed and ready for plywood.
At this point, a lot of the wiring was done and Cheryl was cutting and installing insulation. Turned out she has a real knack, in almost thirty years of doing carpentry, I've never seen as neat and nice a job!! I wacked together a table so she didn't have to cut on the floor and she did a beautiful insulation job. We left the stapling to Sunpie and Marie, after electrical inspection.
The walls were looking good, Maria was really sweet and said that it looked better than the old wallpaper.
On the last Thursday before we left, the Arabi wrecking crew showed up along with some of the guys from the band Bonerama. These guys, with flooded houses of their own, are going out and helping other musicians clean up. It did get a little nuts, I wasn't sure what to do with all these guys but I put them to work.
They were all great, Andy was an angel by going down into the hated crawlspace and nailing off all the reinforcing plates, thus saving my knees from one more day down under!! The Sheik dismantled the lower section of the staircase. I took the bottom three treads home with me to glue up here at the shop, I will send them back down (or maybe do another trip??).
Dale and Pam showed up, he is an electrican from Mercer County PA. They were ever so nice and put in a new main breaker and checked the breaker box. He gave me some tips on wiring, and the Arabi wrecking boys changed around some boxes that I had put in too shallow. So Thursday was great, leaving us with just a bit of cleanup on Friday morning and a free afternoon to wander around New Orleans. We cleaned out the black Ford F150 and I did the title transfer to a brass band called the Soul Rebels, it is a good big truck for hauling their drums and sousaphones around!
Well, another trip is coming up in September if all goes well and the creeks don't rise (again) But here are the updates, I should have posted them a while ago!
The electrician had done some wrapping up in the house, Dave LeFever had gotten the bear's share of the wiring done on the previous trip and the electrician got us a hot box downstairs as well as replacing a few more wires higher up (the water had wicked up the paper covering the wire so some of the higher wires needed to be replaced) I hung all the stair posts up out on the deck to scrub and paint. The house smells a zillion percent better but it was still nice to work outside.
Dave sanded and sanded and sanded some more. There are a lot worse things in life to do than sit on a deck in New Orleans in May.
We started putting finish on the treads, this way we could work on the drywall while they were drying. They came out great.
Some of Cheryl's lovely insulation job had been pulled out by the electrician, we had expected that and had not stapled it. I put it back in and stapled it, itchy!!! We were lucky, the hot water heater is in the attic so we had shower.
We set up a little table on the screen porch and had a hot plate and little fridge. I fell in love with the Geckos, they wandered around on the screen and would puff out their little orange thingys on their necks.
The moment of truth! The first sheet of drywall went up, 5/8 is heavy to hang!!I hung the sheets from the top, the ceilings are 9 foot and if there is a lesser flood anytime, the bottom foot could be pulled and replaced. This was my reasoning anyhows, we'll see what the future holds.
Sunpie was off Sunday and Monday so we were able to really get some drywall up.We put the stairway back together and there were some bits and pieces of framing and backing that needed to go in but for the most part it went smoothly. We hung the living room and the hallway.
I love Dave's shirt! I have a couple just like it! Great job, you guys! I wish I could have joined you.
Everything did go smoothly, and we headed back home but not before I extracted a promise from Sunpie to take off four days in July and we would crank on the rest of the drywall. What I must have been thinking, sheetrocking in July in New Orleans.
JULY WAS HOT.
I'll post some of the July pictures if I can find them but here are some more pictures from the earlier trip. This is the famous sign, we had to take this shot.
We all went out for Mexican food one night, this is Bruce and Maria and Analina, she is four and talks more than me which is saying a lot.
This is Jim Markway, he is a really good bass player. I met him in the back room at Tipitina's. We have been working on two of his basses, they are almost finished, a '63 and a '67 Fender Jazz. I'm hoping to get them down to him in September if all goes well! I hope to post a discusion on what to do with a Jazz bass once it has been underwater for two weeks.
We visited several of the levee breaks, they were working on them but the strength remains to be seen. Here is a house right at one of the breaks-I believe that this is the London Street Canal.
It makes Bruce and Maria's house look easy. One evening a lady stopped by with her fiddle with a dropped soundpost. It is great what you can do without tools, it took about an hour but I got it set with a tea-bag string and a bent coat hanger. Who needs fancy tools!
So.... the next trip is coming up!! Here is the plan though it is not nailed down as of yet. Dave Dilworth can take off work on the weekend of the 16th. Sunpie can take a couple of extra days that weekend too. We want to run the flooring in four days. I have two local companies that can get me the flooring at cost which is a huge savings. I looked at big rental trucks(my idea being that I would drive down and fly back) and the cost overran the savings on the flooring!! Besides I want a vehicle while we are there so that we can go to Lowes or Home Depot or maybe the Rock and Bowl one night! So I'm going to take my truck down with a flatbed trailer, the yellow pine tongue and groove on the trailer and this nice red quarry tile for the kitchen on the truck. Along with that, my old table saw can go and stay down there for the trim work. Besides that, I'm just used to my own truck!! And by driving back, I can take some tools of my own, an air nailer, the miter saw. We are going to try to raise up a bit of money for gas for the trip, any more than the gas can help towards the material. I'm hoping to get one or two more folks along but it isn't the best time with school starting.
I just stopped at the local lumberyard, they are letting me use the air nailer for the week so that should help with getting the flooring down. The flooring may be a bit less than I thought, the company that is getting it for me is really great and is paring the cost to a minimum.
The main part of the house is three inch yellow pine tongue and groove, it used to be oak but we are doing pine now. The kitchen will be the red quarry tile, about two hundred square feet. I'll be down there from Friday to Tuesday, Sunpie is trying to get off work Saturday but it may only be Sunday Monday and Tuesday. Dave and I will get a good start Friday.
About a hundred and twenty of Sunpie's record collection are clean and ready to go back down. Here they are before the record cleaning party.
And the assembly line party.
The truck and trailer are going in for a wiring checkup tomorrow, the flooring is coming here on Monday, I'm going down to pick up the tile this weekend and I am busting butt to finish all my repair jobs before I leave. Two local farmers will feed my cows.
Here are the final totals as Amy gets ready to leave. We raised $1,979 including the auction, and Amy raised $535, so the total is $2,514, and I'll kick in $86 to bring us up to $2,600 so they don't run out of gas on the way home. Thanks everyone!
You guys rock, I'll take lots of pictures this time.
We are headed out late tonight (early am tomorrow), the truck feels like I have a bear by the tail with the flooring behind and the tile (a bit over a thousand pounds) in the back plus my tools. No computer down there, I shall check in next week.
I'll give Ellie a call when we are there safe and sound.
Keep the shiny side up, take your time, and have fun.
Amy just called me, and said her road trip, aside from the nastiest hotel ever for four hours, went fine. The truck and trailer refused to sway, drift or endanger the load or them, the weather is muggy but passable, and they're gonna tear into the flooring tommorow.
They were on the way home when the trailer blew a tire. Amy swore at the heavy traffic and wrestled the big pickup over to the side, swapped out the spare and climbed back behind the wheel.
Look for photos and an update from Amy tommorow or the next day, I just got off the phone with her, which explains the microfiction style post above.
That is SO much more romantic than real thing!!!
Yeah, but did I get the facts right?
Amy Hopkins - 10/01/2006.09:34:35
MIMForum Staff and Poet Laureate
All right!! It was more hectic than I thought, getting ready for this trip. The lumber came in on Monday and we loaded the trailer. I was hoping to set the tile on top of the lumber but in the end we put it inside the truck, pushed it all the way up to the front and my tools went behind it. Again, we stopped on I 81 and took another picture of the big guitar! One of these days I want to stop there and see what is inside the thing! I also want to see Rock City!! All those signs for it, it must be really cool.
It was a LOOONNGG drive! We were running low budget this trip (no cows sold lately) so we had packed a big cooler for food. I had a mean rooster that needed to be dealt with before I left so we had chicken sandwiches the whole way down. Dave is a hell of a good cook and he had made some really tasty soup. I brought eggs milk and butter from the farm and we ate like royalty. We got to Sunpie's house and unhooked the trailer. Then we went down to the Jazz park to say hi and touch base with Sunpie. Saturday morning we got up bright and early to start the flooring. Dave said that it was national "talk like a pirate day" so we did the aarrgggh matey thing and started the floor.
We used the air gun some (once we got all the attachments right-two trips to the hardware store!)but hand nailed a lot of it. On Sunday, Sunpie's son who is nine came in right after soccer and had a blast hitting the power stapler.
The floor looked fantastic! We worked til one in the morning, on Monday morning Sunpie came early and we sat and played music for a little, it was hard to get rolling. We finished up the main house floor and started the underlayment in the kitchen.
The tile seemed to take forever, six inch tile is really pretty but takes a while. We were going to leave Wednesday but ended up working til midnight. Laying tile is hard on the knees no matter what kind of padding or kneepads you use.
Finally the last tile. Dave snapped this shot at a little after midnght on Wednesday. A bath and a couple of hours sleep and we left at three thirty for the drive back.
Here are some more pictures, not necessarily in order. Dave liked this, we moved the pallet of tile (about a thousand pounds or a bit more) to the back of the truck to unload by strapping it to a tree and pulling the truck forward.
I set up the miter saw and did all the cutting in the garage, it kept the house cleaner.
The remaining sheet rock is for the kitchen and the garage. We still have the insides of the closets too. But the floor looks great, a light sanding and finish and it will be done.
We are terrible photographers, and it seemed like all the pictures I took were of peoples rear ends. Here is Dave and Aurilien (I think that is how his name is spelled.
And Sunpie, his carpentry ability has improved tenfold since I was down there the first time.
Oh, I also fixed the next door neighbors Martin with a headstock crack, where there is a will there is a way. Two blocks cut from a 2x6, a bit of drywall, some jigsawed out curved cauls, a bit of leather for padding cut from an old glove, flooring strips to support the body and there it was.
And a really good solid clamping-I would have liked the hot hide glue but one makes do.
My next trip down will be October 27th, just for the weekend so I won't miss any of my teaching (I teach Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday) One of my fiddle students has a Dad who is a pilot for Southwest so he gave me a pass!! Sunpie and I are going to bust butt over the weekend to wrap up the drywall and lay out a design for the kitchen cabinets. I had a great cajun fiddle lesson with Gina Forsyth and I hope to get another one then.
we moved the pallet of tile (about a thousand pounds or a bit more) to the back of the truck to unload by strapping it to a tree and pulling the truck forward.
How did you get it to the front of the truck in the first place?
How did you get it to the front of the truck in the first place?
Five bucks says that the forklift pushed it in with the fork tips.
The fork tips were not long enough so we put another pallet behind it and pushed THAT in! I was happy that my tires were good, between that and the hitch weight on the trailer, that truck squatted down a good bit.
I WAS amazed at Amy's pallet-moving technique--my brain just doesn't work like that! I probably would have set up two people inside the truck and had them pass the boxes of tiles to a third person at the rear. This was much easier--especially since there was only two of us there at the time.
I have to say, I've learned more stuff about construction and carpentry on three trips with Amy than I did in th past twenty years on my own. With a little help from my friends I could probably build my own house now.
I may have some other photos to post soon--I'm getting them developed and will scan the prints if they turn out OK. I would have used a digital camera but after all, I'm simple folk, salt of the earth, you know, a moron!
Amy was a trooper on the drives down and back. She did not complain once about any of the stranger selections on my iPod (not even the ones from the soundtrack of the movie "Babe"). The "Mean Rooster" chicken sandwiches were indeed the best chicken I've ever tasted. And there's nothing in the world like fresh baked scones with clotted cream and jam, bacon and eggs and espresso consumed while sitting on the back of a trailer parked in front of a primitive Baptist church on a lonely road in Alabama.
I thought it was Mississippi! And the scones were really good but clotted cream is a bit weird. So were some of the ipod songs but after fifteen or sixteen hours of driving, anything sounds funky.
You're right--it was Mississippi. I've finally caught up on my sleep and my memory's working better now.
Well, I'm flying down for the weekend (Halloween in New Orleans and I will be working, Bummer!) One of my fiddle students dad is a pilot for Southwest so....free tickets!! I was invited to something called Voodoo on the Bayou Saturday night! But I'm hoping to finish sheet rocking the kitchen, the bits and pieces inside the closets, and lay out for a good kitchen design. With a lot of help from Clint Searcy and Sweetie and a bunch of the guitar students here, we finished the flooded Jazz bass for Jim Markway and I hope to give it to him Sunday. New Orleans is becoming a home away from home.
I just talked to Sunpie Friday, I'm flying down for the weekend of the 13th of January. One of my fiddle students has a dad who is a Southwest pilot so I got a pass in the lovely Christmas bag of chocolate and popcorn that she brought! This is mostly an organizational trip, I have a bunch of chickies from around here who want to go down. The first week of Febuary we will go down as a group. Since Sunpie's house is further along than most of the houses, we will stay there and work on another house. Now that a bunch of chickies are committed to going, the guys are offering to come along too! Like a carrot in front of a donkey we will have a good crew! New Orleans is becoming my adopted home away from home.
I'm closing this discussion unless Amy has more to add later. Thanks to everyone who contributed to helping fix Sunpie and Maria's home!
Hard to believe it's been five years since Katrina! Sunpie was interviewed as part of a commemorative story that aired on NPR today.