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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Really, Really Long Post About Water Mostly...And Mold...And Me Whining A Bit

Will you walk with me and hold my hand while I tell you this frightening story?

Beware this is a picture-rich post.

It all started in February when we moved out of our old house (which we had grown out of years before) and into a gorgeous, much larger home.

On February 21st, 2013 Joe went to check on the old house and found Niagara Falls. Everywhere.


At the risk of boring those of you who have read my other posts about it, I'll summarize.

*Pipe burst
*Flooded the kitchen and the basement
(the carpet actually *waved* in the basement when you walked across it)
*The kitchen and the basement had to be gutted down to the studs. No walls, no ceiling, carpet and pad pulled up in basement. Original hardwoods in kitchen completely ruined.

The house had to be "dried out" for 5 solid days, 24 hours a day with some gigantic air blower/sucker thing.

*Then we entered remodel hell with a company out of West Virginia that we will NEVER use again, nor refer. Ever. Even if you PAID US $1,000,000. Which is roughly what it cost us to have the water removed and the rooms remodeled.
*Then we waited 3 weeks while our insurance company "investigated" to determine if they would pay for the damage.

3 EXCRUCIATING WEEKS.



*We stewed and fretted and lashed out at one another over who was to blame for the pipe bursting to begin with. With a $26,000 price tag just for the damage and another $23,000 estimate for the remodel, we dickered back and forth about which child we'd have to sell. I called the insurance company almost daily, awaiting a decision.
*Finally, after being phone interviewed (and recorded) twice, the insurance company agreed to cover the damage and remodel.

I literally fell to my knees and cried.

*Work began on March 5. I met with the contractors and made counter top, carpeting, and cabinet choices.
*A few weeks in we discovered our lawn mower had been stolen out of the garage along with our water meter from the basement.
*A couple of weeks after that, our upstairs toilet was vandalized and shattered at the base. (That room had previously had no damage)
*Our contractor ignored 2 phone calls from Joe and myself and several emails asking about the damage.
*Finally, after being baited with an email about something else, the contractor answered our question: "Don't worry about it, We'll take care of it."
*Joe and I visited the house frequently, noticing very little, if any, work was being done during the following few weeks. Our neighbors also commented that they never saw anyone at the house.

For the better part of 3 weeks, this is how the house looked:






I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of the basement after it had been demo'd. It looked even worse.

Finally, after many phone calls, complaints and coming to Jesus talks with the contractor, there was some progress made. Drywall was put up. ceilings were added and we breathed again thinking we were finally on the way to finishing this so we could put it back on the market.

Um, yeah....we still have a mortgage on this house.

And being that we aren't independently wealthy, paying to live in 2 different houses makes things very stressful. 

*Soon after things started looking up, I arrived at the house to be greeted with this sight:



And after I picked up my jaw from seeing that I found this in the basement:




No, we had not upgraded to an indoor pool. 

I immediately got on the phone with our contractor. He sounded annoyed that I called. 

They graciously dried out our basement again. I will give them kudos for that. 

*Fast forward another week or 2 (I've lost track at this point.) We got a call from our contractor that our copper had been stolen, so in order to repair the upstairs bathroom, (the one with the broken toilet and where the pipe originally burst inside the walls), they would have to run all new pipes.

Great.

That's in the budget.

Oh...did I mention our insurance company dropped us from their policy about 2 nano seconds after the approved the claim?

Apparently they saw us as a risk? Pfffsht.

So we're on our own for the pipes.

Our contractor offered to do the work to replace the pipes (which meant he called in a very expensive plumber who WE paid for.)

Then I got an email from him that said this:

"What do you want to do about the upstairs toilet? You buy we'll install."

Wait a minute...didn't he tell me earlier after avoiding 562 emails and 273 phone calls that they would "take care of it"? 

I responded with, "Well, since I'm pretty sure no one will buy a house without a can, I guess we'll buy one." Verbatim.

So we did. I dragged 6 kids into Lowe's to buy a toilet and hand delivered it to the contractor at our old house. 

By this time, we were seeing this at the house:




Deep, cleansing breaths. We're going to make it through this.

And then they stalled on adding the counter tops for about 2 weeks for still unknown reasons. 

And then we got into a big, fat, phone war with the construction company because things had been at a stand-still for so long and our contractor was horrible at communication. As in, he never communicated with us. 

Enter a higher-up who is as sweet as honey to me, promising that he will take care of things and get us back on track. At this point, we were about 10 weeks into a job that was estimated to be 4 weeks. We were getting desperate to get this done and get our house re-listed. 

Finally, after a phone call from the contractor, angry at me for complaining about him to his boss, I gave an ultimatum that they had to finish the job in 10 days.

I also asked for a detailed cost sheet for all that they had already done in the event that we had to switch contractors. 

On June 12th, Joe and I did a walk through with the contractor. We noted several things that still needed done: baseboard needed painting, there was drywall/plaster gunk splattered on the built-ins cabinets in the basement, the broken window pane in the back door (which he said he would have to special order, but he could replace) and several other things. 

With one day left until the "deadline", I went to the house the next day to clean, in anticipation that we would have an open house that weekend. I was there from 2-4. No one had been there before me. 

We received an email from the contractor with a detailed "scope" (bill) that only had one dollar amount on it: the final amount +$23,000, with $1500 of that being our out-of-pocket.

It was not itemized as far as the cost of each item.

Major red flag: They listed the kitchen floor as having been replaced AND refinished. 

It was not replaced. 

Joe and I refinished that kitchen floor on our hands and knees a couple of years before, so we knew every nook, cranny, and grain in that hardwood by heart. There were quirky things like nails from decades ago still in the floorboards. The funny divot in the floor between the kitchen and dining room from a transition strip that used to be there, etc.

We had pictures showing every inch of that floor from when we refinished it. The floor had NOT been replaced. 

We asked this guy about it. He answered that because of the water damage, the floors took longer to REFINISH (emphasis mine.) 

Even he admitted that they did not replace them. 

When we brought this to  the attention of the owner's son and the higher-up who had been "helping" me, the response was always, "Well, I think the floors look great." 

Um, yeah. They look fantastic. 

Who cares...that's not the point

The point IS, we were being charged $1000 for having floors ripped out and replaced that were NOT ripped out and replaced. In addition to being charged $+500 to have them refinished. 

I know I'm not in the business, but isn't that insurance fraud?

Now to keep a long story from getting longer...we went over to the house to find the "finished" product.

This mess greeted us on the back deck. Left over stuff form the demo, garbage that was never disposed of, random, BIG pieces of broken glass...




Chair rail was removed in the basement. Obviously. They did a horrible job of dry walling/patching where it used to be. 



 Let's play "Where did the old towel rack used to be?"


And the BEAUTIFULLY {un} painted trim in the kitchen. We specifically asked our contractor if they would be painting this since it wasn't chipped until the demo took place. He assured us they "could" paint it. Call me crazy, but if you are reno-ing an entire kitchen, from the studs out, wouldn't you WANT your finished product to represent the best possible quality? Is there no pride or craftsmanship anymore?


Needless to say, we were livid. THIS is what they considered "finished"?? Did they NOT understand and agree to the deadline (that was 2 days past due by the time we were able to see the house)??

Another round of emails (with pictures included of of the mess we were left) and we received an email response from our contractor. 

He sent us a detailed scope, that itemized every item they did along with price for each. 

We were able to get the crew back out to actually finish things up--at least until it was presentable to show. 

And then we discovered this little tidbit about charging us for a floor that was not removed and HOW MUCH that was going to cost us. 

We emailed--again--this "higher-up" who was for sure sick of hearing from us by now. 

Our contractor responded. 

He also alerted us that he had resigned and the following day would be his last.

WWWWWWTTTTTTTTFFFFFFFF?

We vacillated between between being absolutely stunned that he was leaving with NO notice and feeling heartsick that we could have {inadvertently} played a part in his "resignation". Clearly, we never want to be the impetus to someone losing his job. We just wanted him to DO his job. 

And then we reminded ourselves of the countless phone calls and emails between the construction company, our insurance company, this contractor, and our mortgage company, and we quickly regained perspective.  

This guy is a putz. He is sorely unprofessional and obviously so is his "crew".

Let me add that in this time we watched a new house--all three levels including basement--be built inside and out in LESS TIME than it had taken this company to RENOVATE 2 rooms. 

As a desperate, last resort, I contacted our local insurance agent and he stepped in to mediate. He went with Joe to look at the house and see first-hand what our issues were. 

Do you know what they found? 

Mold.

Creeping up through the baseboard. 

So we had to go back to the company and ask that they test the moisture level. Again. 

An appointment was made for the owner's son to meet Joe at the house and see for himself. 

The night before the appointment, Joe received an email that this guy couldn't make it. But......they were generously willing to waive the $1500 balance in lieu of just walking away, calling it a day. 

WHUUUUT?

We were both rushed with relief at having a $0 balance AND met with a nagging curiosity about why the company was so willing to walk away now that there was mold present on the walls. Was it because they knew this would be on them and they'd have to repair/replace on their own dime?

We conferred with our local agent again who said to leave the mold until someone from the company could meet with us and determine if it was from the house not properly being dried out before. 

We did. 

And when I went over to meet with the construction company's rep to look at the mold and test the moisture, this was waiting for us:













Insert wailing and moaning here. 

What did the guy say?

He said it all has to come out. The carpet. The padding. The walls. All of it.

I drove home like I just left a funeral. 

For the next 2 days Joe and I commiserated and sulked and wrung our hands.

What are we going to do? I have no idea. 

We're not in a place to gut it again and start over. 

We've run out of time and resources. 

And, the cherry on top the other day, still stinging from this latest development,  was when we planned to take the kids to a spray park nearby. This summer has been spent with lots of worrying and stress and not much fun for them. No vacations ( in 8 years) and not many day trips, so this was something we were excited about.

And it thunder stormed.

The trip was off.

But the good news was, it was a quick storm and then the sun came out again. 

The trip was back on!

And then, as I glanced out the front window of our upstairs room, I caught a glimpse of this (well, something like this. I didn't have a chance to snap a pic before I panicked and ran down the stairs yelling for Joe):



So maybe it wasn't THAT dramatic, but it had blown about 100 feet across the street and landed on the neighbor's hillside. Thank God it didn't hit any cars driving down the road. 

This was the trampoline that I scouted on Craigslist and we scored for FREE. Joe drove 40 minutes, took this beast apart by himself, loaded it into his truck, came home, put it up by himself, spent $90 on a new enclosure and we surprised the kids with it. 

We didn't think our hearts could sink any lower but they did.  

Joe and I dragged it back home and pieced it back together (which was fun to hold huge metal rods during a thunder and lightening storm that just passed over but you could still see in the distance), but it's looking a little worse for wear. 

I see a new one in our future. 

And that brings us up to date. 

No real earth shattering reason for this post except I wanted to get it all off my chest. 

It's been a bumpy road with our other house and I don't see it improving any time soon. Prayers are welcomed. We are absolutely, positively, 100% blessed to be living in the home we are in now, but that doesn't remove the strain of having to deal with our old house. Especially when we don't know what that entails right now. 

Yes, there are many, many other things that could be happening in our lives and we are so grateful that they aren't. We realize that our kids are healthy and we don't  take that for granted. 

But this still really blows. 

If you made it to the end of this War & Peace post, thanks. You deserve some kind of an award. :)

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