Une Petite Maison - the project begins! / by J.C. Schmeil

We bought our little house in South Austin in 1998, fresh out of graduate school.  We were living in Clarksville at the time and we loved the area, but couldn't find anything in our price range.  When Ashley's mom heard we were going to pay $108,000 for an 820-square-foot cottage that needed work, she thought we were crazy.  The house had been a rental, inhabited by a man with an apparently incontinent cat.  Fortunately there were some nice oak floors under all the stained carpet, and we managed to fix it up pretty well over the next few months.

The day we closed on the house, the porno theater on the corner closed (photo above of its transformation into office space by Miro Rivera Architects).  Back in those days, South Congress was still a bit seedy, and the Hotel San Jose rented rooms by the hour.  Needless to say, the neighborhood has changed a bit.  Though we are technically in Bouldin Creek, we're part of an island between South First Street and South Congress, and our neighborhood definitely has more of the SoCo vibe.

We added on to the house in 2002, when our first son Corbin was two years old.  I contracted the project, which consisted of a 700-square-foot addition that contained a family room, master bedroom and master bathroom.  We also remodeled the kitchen, doing a lot of the work ourselves.  We just recently decided to expand again, and now we're in the process of moving 14 years worth of accumulated junk out of the front part of the house (the original cottage) so that we can get the project started.

The first step was to obtain a "life safety permit" which is required when previous work has been done without a final inspection.  Unfortunately, that was my fault-- we were in a hurry to finish up the first addition so that my parents (who were coming from Singapore) could stay with us.  So 10 years after the fact, we got our final inspection.  We also needed to obtain a tree permit-- we have two large live oaks in our back yard, and any tree over 19" diameter is considered a "protected" tree, subject to inspection by the City Arborist prior to the start of a construction project.  Fortunately our addition will be almost entirely above the existing house, so it won't affect the critical root zone of either tree.

We have been getting bids from subcontractors and we started the project two days ago.  The first task was to remove the asbestos shingles that were put up over the original wood siding.  It only took about four hours and the work was performed by CAP Construction, a San Antonio company certified for asbestos removal and transport (suits, masks and all).  Here's what the house looked like afterwards:

Now we can see the original wood clapboard siding, painted white.  There's still some black felt paper on the house which we'll remove soon.  Next up: foundation repair!