When we last checked in on the Sweetwoods, the shock had set in, our home's main floor was gutted and we were displaced.
And as surreal as all of this still feels, there really is no time to dwell when you find yourself swept up in this kind of event. You have no idea what to do, but everyone you deal with does. For them, there is an order and a familiarity. ServPro knows State Farm's folks. State Farm knows all of the contractors. Everyone knows everybody.
State Farm sent an adjuster, but he quickly called in the major claims adjuster. I heard "major claims" and asked what that meant. "You are probably looking at a $70,000, $80,000 claim once this is done," I was told.
That amount wasn't just to restore the house and repair damage on three floors. It was ServPro's work for two weeks just to dry the place out. It was the cleaners who took all of the clothes, rugs and drapes out of the house to be cleaned. It was the expense of putting us up in a hotel for almost three months.
From Kelly, our hero from State Farm, we got one of those giant red major claims binders that you see the hurricane victims in Florida carrying around on the news. And we started filling it with business cards from the folks suddenly thrust onto Team Sweetwood.
At this point, we had to interview contractors and we met some talented people who had some great ideas for the renaissance of our broken Brady Bunch house. In the end, we settled with a big area company, Zinz Construction and Renovation. Nate the estimator, Bobbie the designer and Jim the project manager really demonstrated the importance of dealing with a smart, reputable company.
After the maddeningly long construction of the in-law suite last year and the nightmare of the roofing project, we were understandably gun shy about another contractor working on the house. The folks at Zinz were simply amazing. Our faith in construction companies has been restored.
First came the design. We decided to tear down the walls that once formed the kitchen to go with a complete open concept. Our restoration budget was dictated by the replacement of our loss. So, since we started with laminate counters, insurance would cover laminate replacements. We had wood cabinets, so we would get wood replacements.
Varying from this master plan would mean more money from our pockets. But we were allowed certain tradeoffs. What we needed was an expert.
Bobbie designed a galley-style kitchen that would be big enough to contain some upper-end appliances we've (read "Mary has…") always dreamed of, including a double oven and a french-door refrigerator monstrosity now nicknamed Godzilla. The appliances – except for Godzilla – would come out of our pockets, of course.
We started by picking colors of the cabinets, backsplash, countertops and ceramic tile. Mary and I turned out to be a pretty good design team.
We obviously wanted our hardwood floors back, but we also decided to have the tile expanded to wrap around the fireplace to the door leading to the garage.
No longer would we be worried about tracking in snow from the garage onto a hardwood floor. We decided, however, against a new wood-paneled ceiling. First, they just don't make wood panels the same way they made them 40 years ago and we didn't want a cheap look. Also, with the open concept, we decided to go with a lighter overall scheme.
Then we chose the paint and went with three colors: Snowbound, a white tone for the ceiling; Silver Strand, a light gray for the walls; and Attitude Gray, a darker slate color as an accent color.
We wanted beams again, and decided to have them match the kitchen cabinets. Along with our lighter ceiling, we added recessed lights on dimmers.
Work officially began with the destruction of the remaining kitchen walls and lasted just about eight weeks. We stayed at the same Residence Inn that I first lived in when we moved to Ohio in 2008. The staff there was friendly and accommodating, once again. We spent the first month together in a one-bedroom suite. After considerable begging, we were moved to a two-bedroom suite which gave us two bathrooms – a necessity for mornings – and a little more space for Sammy and Pal Joey to move around.
The poor cats did not exactly enjoy going from about 3,000 square feet of roaming room to about 700 square feet.
By last weekend, it began to really sink in: We were going home soon! The floors were stained and sealed. The lights were installed. The second coat of paint was added. Our house started to look like a home again. The kitchen is going to be incredible.
I really stalked Sears – and poor Sue who had to endure my purchase of Mary's mom's kitchen last year. I really shopped sales and used every coupon/shopping/bargaining trick in my arsenal to beat the costs down so we could go with the Kenmore Elite line without going broke. That included the dishwasher and even the microwave oven.
The Westinghouse cooktop was a compromise and actually arrived broken, leading to a series of insane exchanges with Sears. You may buy it in Boardman, but if there is a problem, you end up talking to someone in India. The store quickly remedied the problem, but I was still getting calls from India two weeks later as they tried to deliver a new cooktop.
The sink is actually built into an island with a breakfast bar that faces the living room area.
The living room right now is much the same, though it looks better with a floor and ceiling. All it needs is furniture, drapes, pictures – and us!
Which leads to the biggest news of all: I have been joking for a few weeks that with our karma, we would likely move back in on Pearl Harbor Day. Well, we met with the State Farm/Zinz/ServPro team this week and we are moving back into our house on Friday!
We are excited beyond words. We are packing up the hotel room and meeting the team to empty the pod in our driveway; become reunited with our clothes, drapes and rugs from the cleaners; and hopefully sleep in our own bed in our own bedroom for the first time in 78 days.