Saving Etta: Chapter 16 – More Surprises
This is the true story about a house built in 1900 that is in serious disrepair. It’s also the story about my journey toward becoming a general contractor and my attempt to save a home from being bulldozed. I hope you’ll follow along as I embark on a journey into the unknown perils and rewards of flipping a home in downtown Raleigh, NC.
If you are just joining the story, you may want to read all the Saving Etta chapters for more of the back story.
I carefully pried up the sheet and found yet another layer of linoleum underneath. It was a brick red color and solid instead of the patterned berber print. Reaching into my tool box, I extracted two ziploc bags, a utility knife, my respirator, a paper towel, and a spray bottle. Using the technique that Jeff (the asbestos abatement professional) had showed me, I misted the vinyl with water from the spray bottle. Then gently cut a section out of each piece of linoleum with a sharp utility knife. I placed the samples into the ziploc bags and sealed them. Then I cleaned off the knife with a damp paper towel and threw the towel away in a sealed bag. I labeled each sample to differentiate them for the lab results.
Looking back at the hole where I had cut out the linoleum, a brown patch beckoned me closer. Using the flat end of my pry bar, I gently scraped away the years of dirt and grime. What I discovered left me with a range of emotions. Framed by the square edges of linoleum, I could clearly see a wood grain pattern beneath the hole I’d cut. I gently pulled up a larger section of linoleum to expose 3″ wide wood flooring planks.
“Finally! Some good news.” I yelled out loud.
I restrained myself from pulling up any more linoleum until I could get the samples tested for asbestos, but I was hopeful I’d be able to save the original hardwood floors.
Turning my attention to the other room, where the mold smell still lingered, I decided I could stand it no longer. The mold remediators weren’t yet scheduled, but I knew they might not handle pulling out the carpeting. Instead of waiting to see if they would or wouldn’t, I decided to pull on my “big girl britches” and take care of it myself. I strode out to the truck and suited up in disposable coveralls and rubber gloves. Then I pulled on my respirator and full coverage goggles. I confidently marched back into the house ready to do battle with the moldy carpeting. Anyone walking down the street would have thought I was either dressed for a costume party or a full HAZMAT clean up. After reading about the damaging health effects of black mold, I wasn’t taking any chances.
Using a utility knife, I carefully cut out 3′ sections of carpeting. Each section was rolled up, bagged in heavy black plastic, and double knotted. Then I hauled one bag at a time out to the trash to heft it into the 6 foot high dumpster. By the time I reached the last bag, I had to gather all my strength to muscle it over the rim. Next time I will order the four foot high dumpster and save my arm strength for other tasks. I was as sweaty as a wrestler in a foil suit before weigh-in. The coveralls, rubber gloves, and mask offered no air flow and sweat dripped down my neck and back.
As I peeled off the rubber gloves and lifted the respirator over my head, a big white truck pulled into the driveway hauling an open trailer. Strapped to the front of the trailer was a stuffed animal— a small Kermit the Frog. A man sporting a pinstriped train engineer’s cap and graying beard stepped out of the truck. I was confused at this stranger’s appearance until I remembered I had called someone to get a quote on demolition. He looked at the dumpster and said, “Starting without me?” Kent, the demolition guy, held out his hand and introduced himself. I invited him inside the house to show him the scope of the project.
Kent looked at the walls and asked what was behind them. I told him I knew there was lathe and plaster behind the front room walls, but thought it was just insulation behind the drywall in the addition. He made a fist and struck the drywall with the heel of his hand a few times.
“I think there’s more than just insulation behind the drywall,” he said.
He asked to borrow my hammer and a small flat bar that was lying on the floor near our feet. Hammering the flat bar into the wall, he ripped off a piece of drywall. Behind the cream-painted wall appeared a beautiful green and aqua blue-striped pattern. Pulling more drywall from the wall, he pointed to the area and said, “You have beadboard behind there, this will mean a little more work for us to tear into.”
I stood there with my mouth hanging open. Etta sure was hiding a lot of secrets from me. I wondered how much beadboard was behind the walls. I told Kent I’d prefer to save the beadboard before demolition.
Kent looked around, inspecting the walls. He opened closets and climbed into the attic. He asked if I would be building back in place of the additions.
“Yes,” I said. “The goal is to remove the rooms that aren’t built correctly, and build back, essentially in the same footprint.”
Kent told me to make sure I had the plans approved and ready when he came out with his crew.
We went outside and stood in the backyard to study the various rooflines that made up the hodge podge of additions. The additions had probably been added on one at a time over the years. Kent explained how he and his guys would separate the additions from the main house before the excavator arrived to make quick work of removal. He spoke in a slow matter of fact voice that gave the impression that this project didn’t phase him in the least.
I thanked him for coming out and said goodbye. As he drove off, Kermit the Frog seemed to wave goodbye to me.
Running inside, I could tell the smell of mold was much better now that the carpeting had been removed, but I was most interested in getting back to the back bedroom. I was anxious to remove more drywall to see how far the beadboard extended. After an hour, I had uncovered an entire corner of beadboard. I lost track of time until the alarm on my phone chimed. It was 3:30 pm and I knew I had to pack up soon to meet my two boys at the bus stop.
The truck was loaded and I quickly scrolled through my emails before heading home. One email jumped out at me. I opened it and clicked on the attachment. Scanning through the spreadsheet, I saw the words “negative” and let out the breath I’d been holding, relieved to know the lab results for the linoleum were negative for asbestos. Now I only had to deal with the asbestos in the joint compound and the black mold in the front two rooms. On the thirty minute commute home, I called the asbestos abatement company and the mold remediation company to schedule their services back-to-back. Within two weeks I’d have a mold- and asbestos-free property and could start rebuilding Etta. . .or so I thought.
If you are just joining the story, you may want to read all the Saving Etta chapters.
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