Where's my porch!? Exterior demo begins

historic exterior home renovation

It's actually happening!  After three years of interior renovation, the complete exterior overhaul of our 125 year old historic home is finally getting underway.

The process took months before work could even begin.  We worked with architect Daniel Zangara from Zangara + Partners to design an exterior facade that would be more fitting with the era of the house.  At some point, I believe the house was "upgraded" to a poorly done Arts and Crafts style.  Since purchasing the house three years ago, I've wanted to bring it back to how it would have originally looked in 1890.  

Working with Daniel and the New Orleans' Historic District Landmarks Commission, or HDLC, we finally agreed on a beautiful design.  The brick foundation, stairs and deck will be completely replaced.  The vinyl siding will be replaced with wood, columns changed out for a new design, fascia upgraded to include dental molding, shutters added, railings installed, roof upgraded, rafters cut back, the list goes on and on.

Even though we're still in the early stages, I can already see my dream becoming a reality!

exterior architectural drawing

Exterior renovation gets underway!

Front Elevation without Parapet, Courtesy: Zangara + Partners The time has finally come!

We're tackling the biggest project in our home renovation... the exterior... and we're finally hiring some pros.  Most of our renovation has been DIY, but the ugly facade of our home is much more complicated.

Because our neighborhood is historic, all exterior renovation needs to be approved through the Historic District Landmarks Commission or HDLC.  They're notorious sticklers, so getting approval for any exterior work is never an easy process.

We did some research and found an architect that we really like.  His name is Daniel Zangara and he has a small firm called Zangara + Partners that does beautiful work.  In fact, his firm built the home of the the NBA Pelican's General Manager, Dell Demps.  Demps' Uptown house is new construction, but you'd never know it from the rich historic detail.

While choosing an architect was easy, tracking the history of our home was not.  The only photo we could find was an undated picture of our neighbor's Gothic mansion, where you can see a little glimpse of our small house next door.  Daniel also tracked down and old newspaper ad from 1914, in which the property was listed as a “pretty little cottage” with “seven rooms” for rent at a cost of $30.

The property was auctioned in 1919 and again in 1923.  Mr. William J. Ford, Sr. and family lived at the residence in the 1940s.  Their son, Captain Thomas J. Ford received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his bravery during World War II!

It's been an interesting and at times, frustrating, scavenger hunt.

I assumed our home was Greek Revival, renovated to an Arts and Crafts style in the 1930s.  However, after looking at the existing architectural detail, poring over the research and taking a trip into the attic, Daniel believes it was simply a New Orleans "cottage."

Unfortunately, that doesn't give us a clear direction.  Our original design included a parapet, which we've determined wasn't in keeping with the original home.  So, we revised the plan to include some of the Greek Revival elements I love, without straying too far from a classic cottage.

I found inspiration in the books New Orleans Houses by Lloyd Vogt and New Orleans Architecture, Volume I: The Lower Garden District, and Daniel revised the original drawing to something slightly more simple, but still gorgeous.  It includes adding decorative brackets, changing the pillars, nixing a staircase and adding railings, new lighting and shutters.

Now, let's just hope the HDLC loves it as much as we do.  I'll keep you posted!!


Blow-In Attic Insulation: READ BEFORE YOU DIY!


Me and the love of my life, the Meyer Model 220 The upstairs of our house has always been terribly hot and a quick peek inside our upper attic explained why.  It barely had any insulation... and between some rafters... it didn't have any at all!  After getting a few astronomical quotes, we decided to tackle the project ourselves.  Of course, Joe decided this on the hottest day of the year.  Fun!

When you buy the eco-friendly cellulose fiber blow-in insulation from Home Depot, they loan you the blower.  I AM WARNING YOU NOW.  WALK AWAY FROM THE BLOWER!!

Unfortunately we didn't do that.

Now may be the time to remind you that it was noon... on the hottest day of the year.  After lugging the machine up to our lower roof and setting everything up, we spent hours upon hours upon hours battling the damn thing.  No matter what we tried, it just wouldn't blow out fast enough.

So we gave up, returned it to Home Depot and got a new one.  With high hopes, we lugged the machine BACK up to our lower roof, set everything BACK up and spent even longer battling the damn thing.  No matter what we tried, it still wouldn't blow out fast enough.

In an effort to save our sanity and marriage, we quit.

A few weekends later with cooler weather and calmer nerves, we rented a professional unit from Sunbelt.  It's called the Meyer Model 220 and it's MAGIC!  It's AMAZING!  It's INCREDIBLE!  It was strong enough to use on the ground, it was easier to operate, and in 2 hours, we blew roughly 35 bags of insulation into the attic.  It took 2 days to blow in just 5 bags with the horrible Home Depot blowers!!!

Our upstairs is now cool, comfortable and more importantly, our marriage is still intact.

So, if you'd like to try it yourself (which I highly recommend), here are a few tips...

  • Make sure your hoses are clamped nice and tight.
  • Give the machine some time to warm up and only start with a handful of insulation.
  • Don't overfill the machine.  One bag at a time.
  • Break up the insulation a bit as you fill the machine.
  • Wear goggles and a mask!  If you're in the attic, wear a full respirator.
  • Avoid any sharp turns in the hose.
  • Fill to at least the top of the rafters, but feel free to add more.
  • Buy more insulation than you think you'll need.  It'll save you a trip to the store if you run out.
  • Start early and pick a cool day.
  • Lay a piece of wood across the rafters to lay on.
  • Wear a headlamp to see what you're doing.


Cellulose blow-in insulation in attic

Insulation selfie