Monday, February 9, 2015


Tl;dr Taking a break from the Internet. Going to unplug and do some writing.

In July, our home was damaged by a tree limb that I estimated to be sixty feet in length. The widest portion was well over two feet in girth. The roof acquired a hole, lost shingles, and likely received structural damage. Windows were broken, sashes knocked out of place. Siding, soffet, facia, and gutters were wrecked. The gate into our back yard was crushed, as was the trellis standing guard over it. The back door was knocked out of place and had to have an emergency repair performed. Yet more problems would occur throughout the process.

It is now February and the work should be done. We found a piece of J Channel siding that needs to be fixed and informed the contractor on Saturday.

The insurance company would only cover so much of the damage. Some of it was understandable, some of it made no sense to us. The siding was only damaged on two sides of the house, so they only wanted to cover two sides of the house. The siding was so old, it was impossible to find the material to match. The windows were also only damaged on two sides of the house, but I wanted all of the windows to match.

We lost contact with the insurance adjustor at one point. At another, we contacted a second contractor for a quote, because the first was taking too long to respond to communication or things were miscommunicated. I estimate we lost two to three months from this.

High summer came and so did a wasp nest. The tree limb hit power lines on the way down. It knocked several out of their holders on the house. This created an access point for wasps to use for entry into the house. As it turns out, the house has balloon framing. This allowed the wasps to build their nest throughout two rooms in our 1920 American Prairie Foursquare house. I spent one weekend doing nothing but killing wasps in those two rooms. I would spend thirty minutes in one room killing up to 15 wasps as a time, before moving to the other room to do the same. I attempted to spray the hole at night, but it did not do much to help. I made a desperate call to Terminix, Orkin, and a couple of local bee keepers.

Bee keepers do not want wasps. They will, however, come out and remove bees from your home. Depending on where you live, it is against the law to kill bees. Terminix and Orkin do not set up emergency visits for the weekend. If you do not contact them by Friday morning, you will not see them until Monday, at the earliest. I set ours up for Monday morning. The agent put the call in for Tuesday morning. So, Monday morning I waited until 5 minutes past the time they were to arrive and then I called to see what was going on. I had to travel that afternoon for work and was not about to leave my wife and dogs home with the wasps having the run of the house. The agent put the appointment in for the wrong day. The local salesman was nice enough to move things and make things happen for the correct day. The technician came out several times and made sure the wasps were dead. D.E.A.D. However, we would need to remove the nest to ensure our safety.

The roof was completed months later, in the late fall. The contractor had to remove one set of Sherriff-Goslin roofing, two layers of shingles, the original cedar shake shingles, and then put down new boards and new shingles. In the process, a section of shingles was found missing under the Sherriff-Goslin roof.

All the while, we had to look at a boring house, made ugly, due to the damage to the house.

Just before snowfall began, the siding to the house was removed. We had hoped to be able to cut open the cedar siding and remove the wasp nest. However, the house had asbestos siding under the aluminum siding and before the cedar siding. The insurance adjustor decided it would be better to go after the nest from the inside of the home. It would cost them less.

As snow began to fall, the contractor began putting up the siding. We were lucky in that most of the original siding was down and cleaned up before the first heavy snowfall. Throughout the months of November, December and January, the contractor worked on our home. One of us needed to be there nearly every single day. This meant coordinating our work travel schedules and taking on costs to do business on ourselves. It meant explaining to our clients why there was a pounding noise in the background, listening to country music, and dodging nails in the yard. We were lucky in that our supervisors were very understanding and allowed us to work from home, when needed. The dogs even behaved well throughout the process.

In January, the contractor began the hunt for the nest. The contractor eventually found it and removed it. I think it likely had hundreds, if not low thousands, of dead wasps in it. Then, it was time to replace the lathe and plaster with drywall in both rooms.

We had to move everything from one bedroom and the dining room into other rooms of the house. This led to very cramped conditions, very dusty conditions. At this point, my wife developed allergic reactions to something in the air. She had trouble breathing, couldn’t sleep, and had hives. The dogs and I simply had trouble breathing and I think we had a slight allergic reaction. We treated with Benedryl, but that was not enough to help my wife.

We worked with the contractor and adjustor to get moved immediately into a hotel. We left the contractor a key, which he would lose in the snow and then find. It allowed him to work throughout the weekend to complete the house ahead of schedule. This meant, something else would need to go wrong. Let me count the ways.

We used two hotels, three times. The first hotel was nice in that it had a laundry area. However, it was, as my wife called it, a “hooker hotel.” My wife was propositioned by drunk construction workers and I saw at least two working girls in the hotel. We moved after the weekend when people would be back in the office and we could arrange to move. From there, we moved to a hotel brand I am more accustomed to. We should only need to stay there one night at this point. Tuesday morning, I found out we couldn’t move back in until Wednesday. So, on Wednesday, I loaded the car up (full with clothing, left-over food and soda, and various personal belongings), checked out of the hotel, and went home. I wasn’t feeling well and took a sick day from work. I just wanted to be in my house and able to rest.

Because of the allergic reaction and the fact that the house operates with cold air returns, we asked if the ducts and returns could be cleaned out. The insurance adjustor graciously agreed. The contractor hired a nation-wide company with agreeable costs and reputation. They showed up, got started on Wednesday, and then their machine broke. They would not be able to have the machine serviced and be back until Friday. They would try for Thursday afternoon, but did not think it was likely. I told the contractor and the worker I needed to know if they were not going to be able to finish Friday, I would hire someone else to do an emergency job. Then, I made the calls to get our hotel set back up.

They showed up Friday.

After calling to let my contractor know they machine was still broken, but they would go rent one to use. Both of us had to work Friday. We coordinated to have lunch together and then reconvene at the house to finish working for the day. They finished around 3:30pm. We set up laptops to finish working for the day.

The guys cleaning out the ducts informed us one of our cold air returns goes nowhere. It’s just a closed box. Then, there was the heat duct in the 2nd floor filled with concrete. Great. Whatever.

And then it was a weekend of cleaning. Every surface had dust on it. We were cleaning nooks, crannies, floors, trim, and doing laundry. We vacuumed and mopped floors. We did more laundry. We went and got the dogs from her mother’s. We did more laundry. We cooked on our own stove and had a homemade meal. And yes, we did even more laundry.

We have a little more cleaning to do in the house and probably more laundry. We’re taking time off. We need to unplug and recover. We need to follow up on hobbies and second jobs we have neglected. We have new projects around the house to complete. We need time to spend with each other that isn’t overly cramped, overly dusty, or overly loud. Maybe we’ll both sleep in. I’ll get some writing done and clear up backlogs of email I owe people. She’ll catch up on home & garden shows and come way with even more ideas of cool things to do with our home.

The house is repaired. The exterior and interior are looking good outside of the J Channel on the porch and some dust in the house. It would be a great time to sell it, if there weren’t five other houses in a block’s diameter around us. I guess we’ll have to stay here for now and enjoy being the pretty house in the neighborhood, instead of the ugly one.

Special thanks to our friends, relatives, and coworkers who have provided physical assistance moving furniture, spending time with us to keep us distracted from what would become a crushing reality, allowing us to vent when we needed to, keeping us focus on the task at hand, watching the dogs, and understanding when we forgot to do something or didn’t complete something we said we would.

PS:  Pictures to come. Later. Some day.

PPS:  I’m sure I’m forgetting things, like discovering which antique shops are good and which are not and which one we purchased our new dining room set at.