I just got back from New Orleans last night after spending Purdue’s spring break working along with 12 other people from KSBC (mostly Salt and Light). This was probably one of the most well-documented trips or events I’ve ever been on…upwards of 3000 pictures as well as many movies. We spent the whole week gutting houses, and naturally, this devolved into senseless acts of destruction and stunt work, which we captured on video. I’m hoping to put together a movie montage sometime in the future.

More importantly, I learned several important questions to ask when renting a house in the future (apart from the obvious “has the house sustained hurricane damage recently?”):

  1. Have the load-bearing walls been compromised?A formerly load-bearing wall
    That is, have the studs that formerly held up the house been cut away and replaced with inferior material? Do the new studs even reach the floor? If the load-bearing walls in the interior of the house have been compromised in any way, it’s not recommended that any work crew — such as, say, volunteer gutters from Lafayette — continue tearing apart the house from the inside. It may also be unwise to live in such a house.
  2. Are any new walls in the house improperly installed?
    Horizontal studsFor example, you may want to turn a house into a duplex by building a dividing wall down the middle of it. In this case, the studs supporting this wall should be run vertically, just like the studs in the rest of the house. Running the studs horizontally is not recommended because it’s dumb.
  3. Is there a massive termite infestation in the house?
    Termite damageTermites are a real nuisance. They live in colonies within the wood of a house and eat it for food (unlike carpenter ants, which just chew tunnels). They can turn the beams that hold up your house into so much tissue paper. A termite infestation can be hidden by wily landlords at first, but when the house collapses on you while you’re lounging on the couch watching Oprah, the damage becomes all too obvious.
  4. Has the house been damaged by fire?
    Fire damageFire and wood don’t go well together. A fire in the attic can cause serious damage to the rest of the house, including the parts that make the house not collapse. Charred studs hidden behind carefully painted walls may indicate that the landlord is trying to pull something on you.
  5. Are there any disturbing or incriminating photos lying around the premises?
    Three men cross-dressingSometimes the pictures may be of an innocent and fun time, but you can never be too sure. A Polaroid of three men dressed as women — and enjoying it — should raise a few warning flags. Such a house may have a reputation for being a drag queen emporium.

If the answer to any of the above five questions is “yes,” you may want to consider living elsewhere.

P.S. Believe it or not, these are all from the same house.