Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A life in reconstruction

It's tremendously interesting, this life post-Hurricane. An opportunity to see just how I cope (or don't) and where my weak spots are. Those weak spots are bound to give way when the stress levels climb into the red zone.

A generic photo of construction doesn't really explain what goes on.  An audio file would be better - and I actually have one. I recorded the sound one day as one fellow ripped a straight line through floor tile, a second in the master bedroom drilled through damaged joists and the steady thunk thunk of a nail gun provided the beat.

We've held up pretty well but I notice I can't remember anything for long.  Particularly schedules.  I've missed an interview because I confused which day we were planning to talk.  I've shown up at the office when someone else has said they'd cover for me.  I've done that one twice.

"I'm kind of worried about you," KB said the other night.  "I always thought you were really organized."

Well, no.  But I used to be better than this.

It's the chaos.  This is apparently my response...I blank out.

Again, there's a lesson in this when I go out with clients.  So many times we see a house that is "almost perfect, but..." and we blithely discuss the "easy" changes that would fix it.

No matter how easy those fixes are, it's important to understand that construction turns your life upside down. The rewards are great, but you do pay a price while it is going on.

We had no choice this time: there was a massive hole in our roof and branches stuck through the ceilings.  But I will remember this, and be sure that I help my clients prepare for the tumult that will precede the creation of their dream home.

I just hope I'll remember whatever it was I was supposed to do tomorrow.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanks, Sandy

We won't be forgetting Sandy anytime soon at our house.  At about 3 PM as she was just revving up on Monday, a massive pine crashed into our roof.  Bad luck, you say?  Nope.  Not compared to the alternative.  The branch pictured below missed by head as I worked in my office by about two feet.  I was very, very lucky.

So began an experience that will always make me sympathetic to people whose homes are damaged in storms.  First, there was calling insurance.  But nowadays it's not enough to have insurance. I'm persuaded you are wise to hire a public adjuster who will advocate for you with the insurance company you're paying for coverage. The insurance adjuster has one goal: repair the damage at the least cost to the company. That puts you, the one paying for the coverage, in second position. No thanks.

Five days in a motel with three cats is a test of any relationship, but we made it through with a lot of comfort food at the local diner.  We gained weight, but we're bonded.

Then there's the hunt for some kind of long-term temporary housing. It's not home, but it's better than a motel.

And the repairs begin. I'm hoping for our house back by the New Year.

Here's what I've learned that I will share with all my clients from here on:

1. Big pine trees near a house are bad news.  Get them down. They are massive but their roots are incredibly shallow. In a heavy rain or in poorly draining soil, they're a disaster waiting to happen.

2. Pay attention to drainage.  Flooded basements and homes are every bit as horrible as a tree through the roof - in fact, they're probably worse. If a basement tends to take on water, have a battery operated sump pump. If a stream is nearby, make sure it can't flood your home. We know these things, but in the first blush of love with a house we tend to minimize their importance.  Don't.

3.  Reinforced homes are really cool. Rebar is wonderful. Off-grid capabilities are amazing. At the very least, a generator and a woodstove are things you're going to want.  When the heat is out for ten plus days and there's a freak cold spell, you're going to really, really appreciate them.

4. Know contractors. Have a list of experts on hand who will come when you call. I cannot imagine having to look for contractors during the initial chaos after the tree hit. I just picked up the phone, called the good folks I know, and we were headed toward normalcy (someday soon I hope).  If you're buying, get a list from your realtor. If you need someone new and you're established, ask around. Have your arsenal prepared.

5. A bottle of wine and a coconut custard pie help. You won't feel very well, but you'll be comforted.