Home Renewal: A Restoration Drama in Holy Cross: Fifth in a Six-Part Series

The house in the midst of renovation.

Larry Schneider is racing the clock. As the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference approaches, Schneider, the owner of Schneider Construction and Restoration, is hustling to get the
Comeback House in Holy Cross in shape for its show-and-tell debut.The problem is not that Schneider himself can’t beat the clock; it’s that he’s the captain of a large team he needs to bring up behind him. “The biggest challenge for us is not necessarily performing the work, but being on such a tight time frame and with so many players,” he says. “The project is more of a management and logistical project than a construction project.”With so many donors delivering featured products on various timetables from scattered locales nationwide, it’s easy to understand why, says Maryann Miller, acting director of the Preservation Resource Center’s Operation Comeback program, which owns the house. “There is no end to the number of team members we have recruited,” she says.“It’s not like a basketball team—it’s like a football team.”The team includes structural engineers. The delays have come not just from logistical problems, but also from nasty surprises underneath the skin of the house. Schneider had to replace the rotten sills along the left length of the house. He also had to replace much of the roof and rework the walls to allow them to accept the new top.More significantly, munching termites and old jerry-rigged fixes had undermined the all-bargeboard wall construction. As a result, Schneider had to frame up the entire left and back sides of the house, and the team made the decision to completely part with the bargeboard in those areas.
At work on the interior.
“We decided we were not going to be able to keep this bargeboard and guarantee the house was safe,” Schneider says.Now working on an accelerated schedule, with double Schneider’s normal size crew at work, the bones are in place. A new roof and walls now fill the gap where an enormous tree fell on the house in 2005. An adjoining side porch now reveals a view of the river’s levee and the tops of CBD skyscrapers. Now the guts are on their way in, but there are sequencing issues to be considered. For example, one of the donors wanted to ship in a $10,000 copper bathtub before the plumbing was set up to receive it. In a city plagued by copper bandits, Schneider thought that inadvisable. “No,” he says. “We don’t want that thing on-site until the actual day that it needs to be hooked up. We don’t want it to walk away.”Then there are the highly specialized items that require serious exploration to find installers with the requisite experience and skill. This includes the high-end Unico HVAC system, which features ducts that are only a couple of inches wide. In the kitchen, the island cooktop cannot be installed without its “integrated downdraft vent.” It pops up from the stove when you want to use it and blows out beneath the house, rather than drawing up into a hood. Much of the burden now falls to subcontractors and depends on getting donated items shipped.“We just hope this little house knows how hard we’re trying to set it right,” Miller says.

rebirth at 4804 dauphine street
For the past couple of months, the house at 4804 Dauphine Street in Holy Cross has been busy with activity. Why? The Preservation Resource Center, through its Operation Comeback program, teamed up with the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference to renovate a local home to use for educational tours and to showcase the products featured at the conference, which is Oct. 16 to 20 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.  Seminars and workshops are also planned, including those on the repair and care of historic windows, plastering, New Urbanism and green building, to name a few.For more information, call 800/ 982-6247, or go to www.traditionalbuildingshow.com or www.prcno.org.

Categories: Home Renewal, LL_Home