Sunday, November 25, 2012


As this is the 10-week anniversary of the beginning of the crisis, I can just now write about this with a dispassionate perspective. Mary is contributing as well to make this a true team effort.

Mary and I – along with Sammy and Pal Joey – were put out of our house after a roofing error left three of our four floors damaged by water from a rainstorm back in September.

Worst hit was the first floor: It had to be completely gutted. Gone were the iconic wood-paneled ceilings, the wood beams, the hardwood flooring, even the kitchen. 

Downstairs, the Orbit Room Lounge’s unique fabric ceiling panels and glossy flooring was damaged by rain flowing from the hardwood floors into lounge below. On the second floor, rain damaged the ceiling – from the master bedroom to the Bears bedroom.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to discuss legalities. Suffice to say we have been well served by our State Farm team and the roofer had significant insurance, as well. This will get legal between those two companies in a thing they like to call “subrogation.” But the house was so damaged and the remediation work was so extensive that within 48 hours of the storm, we were put into a long-term housing hotel.
We never thought we would be out of our home for 10-12 weeks. They told us, but we just refused to listen.

As I tell this story, I will try to coordinate some of the pictures I took. I have to confess: My journalism skills at documenting this while it was going on suffered. I was a panicked homeowner, first. I regret not having had the presence of mind to run some video early on. And the pictures of our towels and buckets were taken well after the first towels were replaced and the first pails emptied. I got better as we went along, though.

This started on Sept. 18 when a roofer we hired – after State Farm approved the insurance claim – tore off our large roof to replace it. We had sustained a lot of hail damage and the roofer checked out via the neighborhood and the Better Business Bureau. The work continued through the evening and at about 8 p.m., it had gotten too dark to continue. With about two-thirds of the roof done, the crew stopped work, telling me they had covered the remaining exposed roof with roofing paper to protect from moisture. I have since come to learn that tarping is the industry standard.

I went to bed at about midnight and thought nothing of some sprinkles. When the alarm woke us at 7 a.m. we did not notice the bed was already wet on the covers near Mary's feet. I went to the bathroom and I heard what sounded like the coffee pot, which also starts at 7 a.m., making a crackling sound. I thought: “Great. We broke another coffee pot.” We seem to go through those a lot …

When I stepped into the hallway, my feet hit water. I looked up and saw the ceiling leaking behind the fan. I looked down the stairs toward the dining room and froze: Water was cascading down from the ceiling. 

That “crackling” sound was water hitting the hardwood floor. In several areas.
It was coming down the far wall and in-between the glass panels in the large picture window. 

It was coming down the back wall behind the buffet.

 It was pouring into the dining room.

 It was going behind the kitchen along the back wall. It was going down a wall in the family room hitting the TV on one side and the fridge on the other. It was hitting the wood floor in the family room. 

I screamed. Mary got her mom. We used towels – discovering we can muster 36 if we need to – to try to protect the wood floors, not knowing how long they had been exposed to water. We used buckets and pans and pots on three floors. The basement ones began to take on water quickly. 

We had to dry towels to replace wet ones in what seemed like an endless cycle. I called – screaming – at the roofer and he called ServPro and it took them both what seemed like an agonizing 90 minutes to get there.

Mary's mom's apartment, the Elvis bedroom and an upstairs bathroom were unaffected as was the Rat Pack Tiki room. Water was everywhere else.

In between emptying pots, pans and towels, we grabbed everything we could and took them up to the areas of the house not leaking. We were able to save the framed pictures that Dad had taken of Mill Creek Park bridges, paintings, our wedding album and our wedding portrait.

Essentially, in the hard rain, water hit the top pitch of our roof and then flowed down over the unroofed area, underneath the part that was completed. Once it hit that area, it did what water does as it followed the lines of least resistance and spread in a haphazard way across the width of the roof – the width of our entire first floor. 

Ceiling. Walls. Floor. All water damaged.

ServPro: God help you if you ever need them, but thank God they are there. They sat me down (I was a hysterical dervish) and took over. In the end, almost two dozen commercial dehumidifiers and fans ran for two weeks, 24/7 to save the house. The dehumidifiers were often connected to plastic tubes to concentrate efforts on the most affected areas.

We stuck it out two nights living in what sounded like a beehive-from-Hell before being forced to grab the cats and flee. Our leaving looked a lot like that scene from “Poltergeist.”

Our Brady Bunch-styled house has no attic. That is why we were so concerned about hail damage. So, in the first floor great room, the ceiling is only separated from the roof by insulation. Almost immediately, the ceiling began to bow.

 The ServPro team popped off the sides of the ceiling to find the water damaged was extensive. 

The entire ceiling was removed exposing the underside of the roof, which needed to dry out. This broke our hearts because the ceiling's mid-century modern vibe was one of the charms that made us fall in love with the house. The destruction as the ceiling came down was staggering, frankly.

The kitchen – especially the wall behind it – took on far more water than they first knew and the only way to dry the walls was to remove the kitchen: Ceiling, hand-made cabinets, counters and all. Holes had to be punched into the kitchen walls and the garage ceiling to help dry that part of the mess.

Most crushing of all: Those hardwood floors we had tried so hard to protect began buckling within days, despite the dehumidifiers and the fans.

Everything had to go, including us.

An onslaught of insurance agents, estimators, etc. then took over. A pod containing our first floor possessions was parked in the driveway. (We really only lost the TV and the fridge in terms of possessions due to our quick work.) 

Dust from the work and the fans covered everything. Finally, ServPro certified that the house was moisture-free and that mold had been abated. By then, the house on the main floor had been gutted from the rafters to the sub-floor. It was eerie.

Then, we had to hire a contractor.

We’ll pick that up in part two…

More later,


P.S. Here are the cats safe and sound at the hotel:


Suzanne said...

O.M.G. - As they say. This is a revolting development and I'm pretty sure that someone lost their job over that mistake. I'm so sorry that you and Mary are having to deal with this disaster.

Was Mary's mom able to stay in her "suite" or was that damaged too?

I really hope that you are able to put Humpty back together again. Ten to twelve weeks in a hotel is definitely NOT fun.

Sports Blogger said...

Sad to read this news.

Hopefully this is an opportunity to "fix" those little things you wish you had done slightly differently, when you embarked upon your renovation.
Not sure that makes up for 3 months in a hotel room though!

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger - if we don't kill each other in the process!

Thinking of you guys - hope all is restored for the holidays.