The End of the Levee

April in New Orleans.  What a tease.

Beautiful, beautiful weather, low humidity, sunshine, and music, music, music.  She comes to us at the height of our crazy spring, coinciding with finals, abstract submission deadlines, and all of the other stress-inducing things that come when folks are trying to wrap up their lives to prepare for summer.  In New Orleans, you learn to stop and smell the roses when you may… because if you wait until you’re ready, it’s too late.  She’s gone.  April has run off into a breezy dreamland and you’re stuck with sticky, unpredictable May.

In an effort to keep the stifling grip of May at bay, Paul has been dedicating his afternoons to the repair and renovation of the yard.  Yup, we’re shifting gears yet again, before the summer hits full swing.  It’s yard time.  The schedule is a familiar one… he leaves for work before 6am, works until I’ve taken the kids to school and comes home to continue work, stopping around 3.  Then he starts on the yard and works until dark, when the kids are going to bed.  He eats dinner and showers and then works the second job for awhile, until he’s too tired to think and crashes.  We do this schedule a lot, with me sort of flying around trying to keep all the pieces from collapsing in order for Paul to make progress.  This is why DIY home renovation takes a lot of time.

The current project is the next phase in one we begun before Katrina, when the builder next door (Todd Tedesco) built the house roughly a foot and a half above grade and then brought in truckloads of sand to build up the land around it.  Paul realized quickly that the run-off would severely erode our foundation and built a “levee” to protect our house almost overnight.  We’re glad he did… the neighbors on the other side, who do not have nearly the proximity and volume we experience, have severe settling to their handicap ramp (and likely to their home) so it’s alarming to think about what state our house would be in if Paul hadn’t acted quickly back then.   (See the depth of the shovel?)

The levee was a temporary fix.  We had a site surveyor come out and was preparing a report about the problem… this was literally a day or two before Katrina.  After the storm?  Well, nothing is the same after. So we’ve had to deal with the problem ourselves.  The run-off, while not going under our home, is still a tremendous problem.  Rather than erode our foundation, it’s eroded our front yard.  We haven’t been able to plant anything in the front because it is washed away.  The entire front sidewalk has a lean that wasn’t there before due to the weight of the flowing water… it’s that dramatic a problem.

So, Paul has brought our side of the yard to grade.  Where it was when we bought the home.  Down to the original sidewalk.  This matches the other side of the house, where Paul installed a drain long ago to great success.  He exposed the downspout, created a bed of concrete to slope to the drain, and unearthed the original sidewalk, which naturally leans inward to prevent water from going under the house.  We are just thankful that the contractor the builder used* didn’t tear up the bricks when he dug up the area between the house to lay down plumbing from the backyard.

The other plus is that the wood used in the previous solution’s ‘levee’ was creating a termite draw.  Much better that these old pieces of lumber are away from our foundation.

Another benefit is that Paul will be able to access the underside of the house on this side — rather than having to crawl all the way from the opposite side to address an issue that is right there.  Considering this is the side that has the junction box, this is a big deal.  (Look below… see the light sand over the dirt?  It’s several inches thick.)

There is much work still to be done, but so far he’s laid more than 800 pounds of concrete and moved several hundred pounds of dirt.  In less than 5 days.

* Remember him?  He was very nice.  Let Will drive the bulldozer.