house made of mud

rescuing a sonoran row house

Month: January 2015

first week: up & down

well, i think it’s safe to say that the word for the first seven or so days of the construction phase of our house is this one:  DRAMA.

on monday we got scaffolding–a long line of it all across the front facade of the house–dramatic in and of itself simply because now there can be no mistaking that we are, indeed, underway. the other big sign of progress is that we’ve started to rebuild one of the walls in the front that we were forced to take out last summer because it was leaning.

the crew has also been busy digging out the dirt bottoms of all of our rooms (which they have to do, yes, by hand with shovels) in preparation for filling them with the sand and aggregate that will help form a base for our new flooring materials.

the only trouble with the digging is that it can destabilize the walls, and that’s exactly what happened with one of the walls in what will be our tiny library. sean, the site supervisor, said he was in another part of the house when he heard it give way. they ran to look and saw that half of one side of the wall was on the ground. opps. the only upside to this is that it happened to be the only wall in the house that for some reason wasn’t made of adobe, but fired bricks. since the rest of the wall was bulging, we decided to just take the whole thing out. we’ll rebuild it with adobes, and then the entire structure will be adobe through and through.

up top, meanwhile, they’ve been removing the roof. the entire process of re-doing the roof–currently a top priority–will take a couple of months. first, they have to take off the old, sheet metal and all of the old beams that to which the metal was attached. then, they’ll take about two feet of adobes off the front facade of the house–which is higher than the back–and put what’s known as a bond beam all around the top perimeter in order to tie the structure together. after that, they’ll build all of the adobe back up over the bond beam in order to restore the parapet. then, once that is done, they can frame out the new roof.

what this means, of course, is that currently we have no covering on our house. which is made of historic, mud adobe bricks. which means, as i’m sure you can guess (and as you know, if you live in tucson) that it is currently raining. a LOT. it started last night and it’s supposed to keep on through tomorrow.  as i write these words, it’s pouring.

so yesterday afternoon, after the excitement of taking the roof off earlier in the week, we got the excitement of four hours of attempting to tarp the entire thing. i went by this morning, and things were looking okay, but i have all of my fingers and toes crossed that all of this water(we’re supposed to get another inch) won’t cause too much damage. ack!

scaffolding.

scaffolding.

new wall!

new wall!

newly much lower bottom to one of our rooms.

newly much lower bottom to one of our rooms.

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and another wall bites the dust.

the wall almost entirely removed.

the wall almost entirely removed.

up top.

up top.

a peek under the roof joists as they were coming off. note the dirt on top of the ceilings.

a peek under the roof joists as they were coming off. note the dirt on top of the ceilings.

bye-bye roof.

bye-bye roof.

a picture of the top of the house--not the ground! back in the 1800s they used the dirt as insulation.

a picture of the top of the house–not the ground! back in the 1800s they used the dirt as insulation.

tarping.

tarping.

more tarping. let's just hope it's enough.

more tarping. let’s just hope it’s enough.

day one

one of the first orders of business is to strip off the old stucco (not to be confused with plaster, which is the covering that goes on the inside and not the outside). and the guys on our crew–who are, so far: sean, herman, sam, rueben, tino and michael–were making great strides with that today. we also got a dumpster! big excitement (can’t say i’ve ever been quite so excited about a dumpster before).

next week: they’re going to start taking off our completely inadequate sheet metal roof (good riddance). until then, here are a few photos from the official day one.

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hey look, we have one of those spray-painted, construction-site, house number signs. it’s getting serious now.

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that’s herman (or the back of him), hauling stuff around.

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a fair amount of stucco came right off the front. they’ll leave the bottom until the walls can be repaired.

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even more removed in back. look at how amazing our adobes look naked!

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more naked adobes. these ones are newer–part of a 1980s stabilization effort by the barrio viejo committee .

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the dumpster! yay!

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sam strikes a pose. that’s michael shoveling behind him.

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there it goes. hasta la vista old, crumbling stucco. pretty sure we aren’t going to miss you.

let there be funding

and then there was. yep, you heard me right: finally closed on our construction loan. woot!

and now, as doc brown would say: you’re going to see some serious sh*t.

falling walls

well, we’re still waiting for the *&$#@# loan paperwork to be done so we can officially start (i TOLD the woman down at the bank that saying the documents would “certainly be finished” by last week would jinx us!) closing is now tentatively scheduled for this week. keep your fingers crossed, please.

in the meantime, as we’ve been waiting for things to finalize, the unusually rainy december and january we’ve had here in tucson (seattle, anyone?) have done a number on one of the walls off the zaguan. when we were initially looking at the place, our realtor took to jokingly calling it “falling walls.” what she didn’t realize is she wasn’t just being funny–she was being prescient.

here’s a picture of the wall last spring (as you can see, it was already degraded at the top).

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and here it is now, after the rains had their way with it (despite our best efforts at shoring up the roof above, water continued to work its way in, and it continued to degrade).

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after i texted our contractor the last two images he said, “crap. guess we’ll have to make more adobes.”

yup. more adobes indeed.

permits!

just got word that the building permits are ready! woot-woot!

which means that we’re just waiting for the paperwork to finish up on the construction loan so that we can close, which should happen in the next few days.

and then–yes–we can START.

after nine months of planning (yes, long enough to have incubated a baby), i’m not sure i’ll truly believe it until the bobcat currently sitting in front of the house fires up for the first time, and they start pulling off the roof.

but’s going to happen.  it’s going to HAPPEN.

and soon.

and the light shines in

some pics from our new year’s day activities. i can hardly say how amazing it felt to take all the boards off the front of the house after nine months of waiting.

thanks to our friends, dane webster, jennifer henderson and susan denis for being our photographers.

the essential supplies: doughnuts, hot coffee, a hammer

the essential supplies: doughnuts, hot coffee, champagne and a hammer.

i think we look a little scared

chris and i are apparently a little scared as we’re gearing up.

trying to decide where to start.

trying to decide where to start.

chris gets busy on what will be our front door.

chris gets busy on what will be our front door.

dane busts through a door while reed assists.

dane busts through a door while reed assists.

walking into the house from the front!

walking into the house from the front!

jen busy with my iPhone.

we put jen in charge of instagramming.

everybody getting in on the game.

everybody getting in on the game.

time for the boards covering what will be the window to our little library to come off.

time for the boards covering what will be the window to our little library to come off.

hey look, a window (& chris).

hey look, a window (& chris).

light in the library!

light in the library!

light in what will be the spare bedroom!

light in what will be the spare bedroom!

light in what will be our bathroom!

light in what will be our bathroom!

light on one of the old adobe fireplaces!

light on one of the old adobe fireplaces!

coffee and crowbars makes for good mojo.

coffee, crowbars and look at all of those screws and nails we removed.

time for the toast: "to light!"

time for the toast: “to light!”

champagne & demolition. yay!

champagne & demolition. it’s a good combo.

quick happy new year smooch.

here's to a new life in an old place.

here’s to new life in an old place.

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