Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Which I Meet The New Building Inspector

We have a new building inspector in town.  My first inkling that a new "building sheriff" was in town was when I saw warning notices taped to the front doors of two houses in my neighborhood.  The first house (a cute little Victorian catty-corner from my house) is a foreclosure and has had a tarped roof for close to three years.  The other one (another Vic down the street) is in such bad shape that I think the only recourse may be to tear it down.  Then I started hearing talk around town about her:  she told the guy who owns the old Chinese restaurant that he couldn't paint the bottom half of his building pumpkin orange, she made the folks at Maid-Rite repaint their faded sign out front, she made people clean up the junk stacked in their yards, she's issuing warnings right and left. 

After all I heard, I expected her to look something like this:

Ursula from The Little Mermaid

In reality, she looks a bit like the actress Maura Tierney and I found her to be quite intelligent and pleasant.  I would not want to be in her shoes.  The mindset of "It's my property and I can do whatever the hell I want to with it" is rampant around here, and city ordinances relating to nuisances and Historic District violations have, in the past, been enforced hit-and-miss or not at all.  Add to that the good-ole-boys who don't want a woman telling them what to do, and the tendency of native Lexingtonians to view newcomers with a large amount of suspicion, and the woman can't help but become a lightning rod.  I, for one, am glad to see that she's trying to clean up the town and enforce the ordinances fairly and equally.  (Give me just a minute here to step down from my soapbox...)

Okay.  Now the reason I met the new Building Inspector is because I have well and truly lost my mind and I'm planning to repaint my whole entire house.  Because I live in the Old Neighborhoods National Register Historic District, I have to have my exterior paint colors approved.  (Incidentally, there are three other National Register Historic Districts in my little town of 4,700 people:  the Commercial District, surrounding the 1847 Lafayette County Courthouse; Highland Avenue, the mostly pre-Civil War houses built on the bluff overlooking the Missouri River; and Wentworth Military Academy, in operation as a private military school since 1880.) 

I stapled paint chips onto my Application for Certificate of Appropriateness (yes, that's really what it's called) along with an explanation:  Body of house, either Woodlawn Colonial Gray or Montepelier Ashlar Gray (I'm leaning towards Montpelier); Trim and window frames: Woodlawn Bedroom White; Window sashes, Lincoln Cottage Black (the color they are now); and other trim details, such as porch post bands and porch bracket details, Mark Twain House Ombra Gray.  All colors are Valspar National Trust For Historic Preservation Colors.   

After approval, I have--gulp!--180 days to complete the work or file for an extension.  To which Charlie said, "We better get to scrapin."  Not so fast.  The Bulding Inspector wanted to be sure we're compliant with EPA recommendations for lead paint removal, so she told me we have to wear long sleeves and pants, masks, eye protection, and we have to put plastic down on the ground and clean up the paint debris every night.  Long sleeves?  In June and July??  Oh well, I still like her.


  1. My son and I had a discussion recently about the pros and cons of homeowners associations. I guess I have high standards and don't see them as a problem. For those who don't want to answer to all the rules....well, there are neighborhoods for them too. :)
    I think it's great you have someone who's trying to do her job right. I bet those complaining are men who don't want a woman telling them what to do. Personally, I think women might be better at those kinds of jobs anyway.
    In our town we have city ordinances that fine you for not mowing your yard but they never get enforced. Last summer our newspaper posted the photo of a house each week that was in violation and this ordinance. The photo included the homeowners name and the amount of back taxes they might have owed. Humiliation got some of those homeowners to clean up their properties.

  2. Paint scraping - check out this little hand tool that Casa Decrepit just posted about. It is big bucks, apparently (seems to be $199 according to the web), but it scrapes, as well as saws and sands. If I were going to take the paint off an entire house that had clapboards...

    multi master tool

  3. Milah, I think you're right! When people gripe about the restrictions on Historic Districts, I remind them that there are houses for sale all over town. If you don't like the rules, don't live here.

    Karen Anne, I have one of those! It's a Craftsman brand, but it's the same kind of tool. We used it to get in the corners and along the edges of the floors when we refinished them. I thought about using it on the house, but since the paint's a quarter inch thick in places it doesn't work that well.

  4. For starts, at least your paint was approved ! It's great if you can have a friendly relationship with her. We've had our own run-ins with Licensing & Inspection (not historic related) and it was a TOTAL pain. Now, as for the long sleeves/pants/southern summer...EKK. Hope you find a way to stay cool!

  5. Ay, carumba! I'm liking the gray and white color scheme 'cause I am kind of familiar with it... ;-)

    If you ARE doing gray, I'd say err on the side of dark vs. light. We initially went dark, liked it and then 10 or so years later went lighter and HATED it. The color we put on four or five years ago is almost identical to the dark color we first went with in the late '80s.

  6. Check out this house I found in a google search.

  7. We've done a whole lot of lead paint stripping in our renovation. If you're looking for a good mask that's also comfortable, check out the one we did a post about a little while back. It's worked great for us over the years and has protected us along the way. Good luck! It's a big project but so worth it for the great looking coats of paint you'll put onto a smooth and detailed surface.

  8. Milah, That house is beautiful! It gives me inspiration!

    NV, We're leaning towards the bit darker/slightly tan shade of paint. I don't want to get too light or too dark, so I'll definitely buy testers.

    Alex, Thanks for the link to your post! We definitely need to buy those. After we'd been using masks for 2 days that the guy at Home Depot said were good, we got around to reading the insert in the packaging, which clearly said it doesn't protect against lead. Yikes.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Spectro lab offer to testing service like, metal & alloy testing, food testing, water testing, Inspection services, mechanical calibration services, gold testing, soil testing, paint & coating service, coal testing and environment services, Cosmetic Product Testing etc.

  11. Nice Website...
    Hey JOIN now and Increase Facebook Likes your profile and websites.
    Increase Facebook Likes and check your website worth worth my websites
    FB Likes and check your website worth Website Value Calculator
    Hot Wallpapers
    its may be very beneficial for you also really