Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Pothole on the Road to Recovery

I’ve been waiting for a good time to give an update on how our house is coming along and I thought that, tonight, the eve of firing our first contractor, might be a good time. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, our home was “essentially destroyed by a fire” back in October. You see, Floyd took a two-year assignment over here in Ireland so we left our home in the Northwest. I think for some folks this would be a no-brainer, but there were two things that we struggled with in deciding whether or not to move over here. 1) was my job/career, which I was really engrossed in, and 2) our home. It’s an 1899 Victorian that we had put a lot of sweat and money into and, frankly, we were just way more attached to it than any sane people should be. I had bought it before I met Floyd and everybody thought I was crazy. It needed loads of work and it was in the “wrong” neighborhood. My first night in the house was marked by some dude running through my yard blazing a handgun and shooting at lord only knows what. Call it the welcome wagon if you will. When the cops came and laughed in my face for buying the place, I dug my heels in pretty good. Ever since then that house and I got pretty attached.

So, fast forward about 10 years and she’s gutted to the studs because some fucking toads that were renting the place couldn’t see fit to use an ashtray. Sometimes I think our home was just so pissed to have these toads living in her that she sacrificed her innards to see them leave. It just seems like something she’d do. She’s that kind of a gal. Uppity I suppose.

We hired two contractors when we were back in the NW. One is a specialist in disasters, fire, floods, wind storms, etc. An ambulance chaser to be sure, but we were in shock and were steered towards these folks because of their experience in dealing with fire (and saying all the right things to people that are in a state of shock). But they knew nothing of working with older homes so we got another company that would do all the finish work. This second company is well-respected in the area and we really liked their portfolio. Not to mention the fact that they’re just really nice people. So we had our team together, everybody agreed to play nice and get along, and we felt good enough to come back to Ireland.

So, if you’ll forgive me for stating the’s really hard trying to rebuild your home when you’re on the other side of the planet. Especially when the ambulance chaser doesn’t see fit to call you back or return e-mails. Yea. That makes it a little bit harder. And then they’re ripping the shit out of the inside of your house, and you don’t know if they’re making the effort to salvage the 100-year old straight grain fir molding that you and your friends busted your asses trying to restore, or if their crew of illegal workers, that are undoubtedly underpaid, are deciding whether to pocket the door hardware that could go pretty far in supplementing their meager income. You think about these things in the middle of the night. Especially when nobody calls you back. Yea. It gets rough.

And then you try to share your frustrations and fears with folks and they just remind you of how fortunate you are that you get a new house at the end of the day (!). Well, let me be the first to tell you that burning your house up is NOT a good way to get a new house...especially if you never wanted a new house and especially if the thought of a new house kind of makes you itch. So, while I realize all of the ways in which Floyd and I are blessed, I think I’ll continue with my story of the blessed re-building of our house. Thankyouverymuch.

Thankfully we have a few friends in the area (like the Fire Chief and family) that are willing to check in on the homestead for us. Based on pictures taken through cracks in the boarded up windows and doors, it looks like things are progressing just fine. The charred and melted material seems to be decreasing and we can see studs. Progress. This is good. But, still, the updates are woefully few and far between from the folks that we’re paying and the ulcer-causing knots are growing.

In the meantime we’re getting excited about a few things. We decided to take the “opportunity” to make some changes. Knock out a wall, tear out an unused chimney, make a bigger kitchen, create more storage space, build a staircase that’s more suitable for little people and....drumroll please....putt in some solar!! Actually, we don’t know if we can afford the solar stuff but Floyd’s a big solar freak and he’s working on a system that would hopefully heat water for space heating (radiant floor heat) and our domestic hot water. Joy. Big joy. But I’m containing my exclamation points because we don’t know if it can happen yet. So if any of you have experience with solar power or radiant floor heat, give us a shout, we’d appreciate the opportunity to pick your brain. I really like the idea of walking the talk (the “sustainability” talk) and taking a 100-year old home and getting her geared-up for the next 100 years. This gives us joy.

But then there’s the ambulance chasers. Ugh. We’ve been waiting on an “engineers report” from them for over a month now and it just came in yesterday. Completely worthless. Like completely. Nothing redeemable at all. I don’t even think the few crayon drawings were of our house. And we waited over a month for this? We postponed all design work as well as delayed submitting the budget to insurance AND pretty much guaranteed that we won’t be able to move into our house when we move back to the NW....for this?! Whew. Now that’s some fine project management right there.

Thankfully our other contractors, the nice people, are willing to step in. Unfortunately, their employees are all paid livable wages (haha) so we don’t know if our insurance can afford them. But we’re going to try and make it work. You know all of those magical incantations and de-smokifications that the ambulance chasers claim that only they can perform? Turns out anybody can do it. The magical mystery ozone chamber (that can suck so much smoke it probably cures lung cancer)? Yea, you can buy one for like $300. The witchy “smoke-sealer” that they paint all remaining surfaces with, the one you thought might be made with the eyes of newts? Yea, it’s called primer.

Firing somebody is not something we take lightly. It’s serious stuff to mess with somebody’s bread and butter. And the guy we’re working with seems like a pretty nice guy. Family man and all that. But we can’t let our old gal get burned again, so it’s gotta be done. Besides, I see sunlight on the horizon...and the soothing of my pre-ulcerous knots...once we get him out of our lives.

So that’s where we’re at. Maybe once we get this icky stuff out of the way I can post about the wet dream/nightmare of getting/having to pick out an entire house worth of appliances, countertops, cupboards, flooring, hardware, sinks, baths, tile and fixtures in one week. Oh...and paint colors...for the whole house (jaysus, I’m starting to sweat-I wrote a post back in July '06 about what a color freak I am but I have no clue as to how to provide the link to it-go to my archives and check it out if you want to get a glimpse into crazy). I think you can see the whole wet dream/nightmare thing going on here.

If any of you have some remodeling stories to share, I’d love to hear ‘em. Or maybe you have a favorite range (we know what wzgirl’s is!-once again, I can't figure out how to provide a link to that one post of hers where she raves about her AGA), or a favorite faucet, or a fridge, or a light fixture, or get the picture. We’re open. Oh, and blessed.



Blogger walternatives said...

100 year old straight grain fir molding...that word combination makes me drool. Your lovely house is going to rise from the ashes, sweetie, better than before (solar, new staircase, storage, etc.). Can we be there to help you re-christen the Grande Dame? Congratulations on firing that sorry-ass contractor. You're in good hands now. Fingers crossed that the insurance switch goes smooth. Thank you for the update. I've been wondering.

9:38 PM  
Blogger atomic mama said...

Same here - been wondering. I can't begin to imagine what you've been going through, and how complex and frustrating the situation is, but I am delighted to hear what sounds like a more positive than negative update, and to know that Fire Chief and others are there to snoop around for you. I won't say how lucky you'll be to get a new house - there is so much wrong with that sentiment! But I do hope there are parts of the process you can come to enjoy. A little.

10:07 PM  
Blogger wzgirl said...

I was Tooootally thinking about your color-thing, Millicent. LOL!! And, noted today that the color of your blog has changed - I suppose that I have a bit of a color thing myself.

I can NOT imagine the feat that is ahead of you with all of the color choices not to mention all the OTHER choices right now! It is inCREDible. You could always ask jzboy for more recommendations - you know that he's quite verbose in his opinions. We've got a lot of tales in the kitchen remodeling department. A couple recommendations that I could make are: a) if you decide to get stainless, choose fingerprintless if possible b) bamboo flooring is quite lovely c) install ceiling speakers while the walls are open and d) the AGA rocks.

Best of luck to you.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Johnny said...

Thanks for the update. I saw the fire pictures and then nothin' for quite a while.

Errr, I know a little bit 'bout that home remodeling experience - but from a much closer perspective than your situation.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous joelle said...

Glad to hear things are moving forward! I do have a question - why do you have to pick everything in one week? They certainly can't install everything in one week - what's the effing rush? Well, this is one area I can be of help if you want - I am an interior designer - primarily hotels, but I have done some residential. Let me know if you need anything.


3:59 AM  
Blogger CA Momma said...

OOo radiant heat, solar, more storage. My mouth is watering. I love houses. Funny thing... my first week in my house there was a shooting next door. You can't pry me outta here either.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Jessi said...

The thought of having to pick all that stuff out in a week gives me hives. I'm getting all itchy just thinking about it.

It completely sucks that you have to do all this. I'm glad, though, that things are progressing.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Con said...

just a quick FYI, regular primer will not seal out the smoke smell. It has to be "Kilz" and they do make what is often used as a primier. I used it my house. just make sure they are using it becuase you will never get the smell out otherwise. this happened to a friend of mine. 15 years later, I can still smell the dang fire at times. hang in there and I'm so sorry this happened to you.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous SBird said...

So glad you cleared out the bad contractors and can get on with the good (better?) stuff...COLORS. (Actually, I am into the *names* of colors, more than the actual hues. I wanted to be the color-namer for JCrew for awhile--"basil" beats green anyday.) I hope things start to go more smoothly from now on. Wishing you the best!

9:43 PM  
Blogger FDChief said...

Homegirl, I gotta say this first: The Peeper is a Fire Chief. I was a Fire DIRECTION Chief. The former puts 'em out, the second (with the love of Jesus and a battery three of White Phosphorous) starts 'em...

Anyway, I'm glad you cleared out the deadwood. We'll be stopping by next weekend to check on things and give you an update.

Big monkey love from your homeslice in PDX...

8:38 AM  
Blogger a&mg said...

I'm so sorry for this sucky situation you are in. I hope the progress continues.

2:06 AM  
Blogger MattDaddy said...

Hi guys! I am sorry that things are a struggle...but like they say, what does not kill you, makes you stronger! Bullsh*t I say! It sucks no matter what! I wish I had some words of wisdom...but none. The only spanish I know is, "mas cervasa, por favor! and donde esta el banyo?" Probably won't help in your quest for advice in remodeling. Just miss you guys and hope we can make it over to visit before you head home!

5:18 AM  
Blogger Wicked Witch said...

Need a hug?

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Mrs Pushy said...

Sounds like your decision to progress without the Ambulance-Chasers is a good one. Anything to help with your peace of mind while trying to deal with the current situation. Glad to hear that things are coming along, albeit more slowly than is desirable.

As far as the remodeling stuff,we just built our house this past year (through a development, so not a ton of options or I would still be sitting here designing the house instead of living in it!) We had ONE afternoon to pick ALL of our design options. My advice is to just be prepared- write down your ideas, make folders, do whatever you have to do so that when it comes time to choose everything in a mad flurry of activity, you aren't overwhemed or just ready to point to the nearest thing and say 'yeah, that looks good'.

I don't know if this is something that you would be interested in or not, but when we had our house painted on the inside, we chose a creamy/buttery color instead of plain white (there was no option to get Real colors). It bought us a lot of time to figure out what we really wanted to paint all the rooms, without looking too stark.

Good luck with everything, and thanks for keeping us updated.

6:02 PM  

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