July 5th we got an enormous amount of rain in the wee hours of the morning. As in more than three times the average amount of rainfall for the month, but in the space of an hour. When my husband heard the sound of water gurgling it woke him up, and he sprang out of bed. “I hear water!” And landed in a puddle. In our bedroom.
But the water didn’t stop there. It poured in through the back of the house, our typical home and county drainage systems completely overwhelmed, turning our usually very dry, rural home into a literal watering hole. It was not-quite 5 am, and I put in an emergency call to my in-laws and pastor to bring Shop Vacs and reinforcements, as Sidney, and I rousted the kids to start bailing out the water as quickly as possible. It was astonishing how urgent the feeling was – one task – get the water out of the house. We dipped towels into the puddles that were at our feet, and wrung them out into the sink, like sailors in a leaky lifeboat. We did the opposite of most Julys in Oklahoma – we prayed for rain to stop.
(Below: Some pics we took in the moment – Note the kids took most of these photos as Sidney, and I was busy wringing out sopping wet towels)
And of course, it did stop, as rainy days always do, but not before it touched every room in the house but one. We stood in our house, grateful to have no loss of life or precious antiques (I had made the men lift my priceless wood furniture up on top of couches when the extent of the problem became clear) or pets harmed. We knew whatever else would happen we had each other, we had our faith, and we would get through it. When the sun came out and the day began, we started making phone calls. First on the list was the Insurance Company. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a problem with your house right?
When Home Owners Insurance Doesn’t Actually Help Home Owners
There are lots of times when home owner’s insurance doesn’t actually help home owners. For example, ANY water damage caused by “water over the surface of the ground.” Aka all the damage we were dealing with in our entire house. About 25-30k worth of damage. Pro Tip – Check your insurance policies! TODAY. If you’ve ever had a puddle of water in the yard near your home, assume that you too can suffer flood damage in the case of extreme rainfall. And know that no typical home owner’s insurance policy will help you. At all. That requires additional insurance coverage beyond the norm.
What to Do in Case of Emergency
We also learned that calling your insurance company directly is not always the best policy. Here’s where our naivety really played against us. When you have an emergency crisis, sometimes it is best to work with someone in the insurance industry who can work on your behalf. A friend referred me to Claimside.com where you can contract with a public adjuster who can help file your claim on your behalf. They often work on a commission basis, so if you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid. It’s worth checking out but in our case wasn’t anything that would help us.
It took us a full week to hear back from the insurance company. That we were not getting any help – not a single dollar. By that point, I had already hired Kenco Carpet Restoration from Hugo to take a look and see if my brand new Mohawk Smart Strand carpet could be salvaged. We had to take out any of the carpet padding that had any moisture in it and get floor fans to dry the floor underneath. We had already paid the internet techs to replace the drowned modem and dealt with an AC that went down temporarily due to the flooding.
And slowly we began to sift through mildewed piles of our lives and figure out what was damaged beyond repair, what was OK, and what could be fixed or salvaged. For example, the carpet in the bedrooms (NOT a Mohawk carpet) began to fall apart and pull away from the backing, so we’ve completely ripped it out. It’s a total loss and not worth even attempting to clean. The newer, better-quality carpet in the living room and hallway was worth trying to salvage. The padding and reinstallation is all pending. And so room by room, shelf by shelf, wall by wall, we’ve been trying to assess.
The losses feel overwhelming. The to-do list feels massive. So we’re trying to prioritize and make a game plan. Praise the Lord my husband can oversee the majority of the work himself. Outside of the professional carpet installation, we will need, he will probably handle the majority of the contractor work and labor and engineering himself. Thankfully he can do that. It’s entirely possible we will still need a mold reclamation company to come out and inspect once we remove cabinets and sheet rock that can be hiding unwanted surprises.
We are still trying to assess the full scope of what needs to be done. Here’s the short version:
- All three bathrooms need new vanities.
- Kitchen cabinets and flooring in the kitchen and laundry room where tiles are already peeling off the floor.
- All the sheetrock will be replaced, and thus all the walls painted.
- The bedrooms lost their carpeting – I will probably cut costs by simply staining the concrete and putting down floor rugs.
- Several bookshelves in the school room/office combo room are lost.
- My office desk is a loss.
- Two kids’ computers are a loss.
- Some of the kids’ homeschool curriculum I had purchased on sale in April is completely lost (it was in storage in a box in the closet until needed next month.)
- My internet modem blew up (already replaced)
- The school room floor is peeling from underneath and will need to be stripped, sanded, patched and completely resealed.
- The kids’ game cupboard with some of their family board games (We have “electronic free” days, so they love games!) were destroyed.
- Craft supplies stored in the closet (yarn and fabric plus one really nice finished the quilt top I had started hand quilting and put into storage until I needed a nice baby boy gift).
How to Prevent Future Issues
I huge part of the mental process the past two weeks for me as been that in addition to trying to figure out a game plan for recovery from this situation, we are also trying to assess how to prevent this from happening in the future. Clearly, we don’t anticipate 9 inches of rain in 36 hours again, but just in case. I mean how I can go through all this repair work knowing there’s a potential for “overwhelm” in the system. I would never sleep during a rainstorm again!
After discussing some options with a couple of different professionals, it seems like the following options are our best combination to avoid future issues: 1. Install French drains along the back of the house. There’s a slight slope in the backyard that leads towards the house. Usually water diverts around the house without much problem, however this is (obviously) not fool proof. French drains along with a bit of dirt work in the back yard (thank you country uncles who own bob cats!) would move the water to the front of the house where it belongs. 2. Gutters around the whole house. Preventing extra water from building up alongside the house will help decrease the risk of water getting into the house again. Combined these renovations would give us confidence that all our repairs efforts won’t be undone in the next big storm.
How Can You Help?
We’ve been asked over and over, “How can I help, Angela?”. We need supplies and materials. A lot of supplies. I’m going to start breaking it down here as authentically and clearly as possible. I’ll keep updating this list as I finish assessing areas of the house where we haven’t yet dug into the walls and insulation to check for unseen damage. I’ve been prioritizing the rooms as follows in this estimate list.
When our insurance declined our claim, friends began helping me brainstorm possible solutions. I was so blessed to be put in contact with a friend’s non-profit organization, Activation React. They’ve given us a small grant of $300 to help me get the carpet in the living room repaired and reinstalled, and they have agreed to help fundraise on our behalf. That means if you feel led to give to help us out, you won’t be giving directly to us, but through a non-profit organization, making your donation tax deductible and as transparent as possible.
The goal of the non-profit is to raise $10,000 as our current estimate of materials cost is $8,754.40. This estimate break down is detailed below for anyone who wants to peruse it. The estimate does not include replacing school books and office supplies at this time, but I have included some of those items below and will make an Amazon list for those who have asked for it. I can’t tell you how much it means to me for all you to ask how can you help, what can we do.
Donate if you can. (Even a little bit helps.)
Pray for us.
Gift Cards Update – Someone who’s been through a similar situation in the past suggested I update this with a list of the places that are near us or that I used to get many of these estimates in case anyone wants to donate gift cards directly vs going through the non-profit. Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart are the larger chains for home materials and supplies near us. Sonic and Subway are the main food places near us. Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or message me on Facebook and I’ll send you our address, or you can contact Elizabeth at Activation React to send gift cards through the non-profit it’s up to you.
I’m struggling to find the positive in this situation and to know that ten years from now this will be hill we had to climb and something we overcame as a family. I’m just so grateful we don’t have to overcome it alone.
This has already cost us hundreds out of our pocket between laundry costs, carpet cleaning, and even things like eating out more than usual because all the furniture is pushed into the kitchen and I can’t get to my two freezers in the garage right now. So many considerations and so many ways to feel like a failure if I’m not careful to check my attitude and stay focused on the positives. One of those being – I have the beginnings of a plan.
Here is the priorities and break down of estimated expenses I’ve calculated so far:
We decided to start in the living room, so I have a base of operations from which to begin the remaining repairs and so we have a functional family room again. This will take:
Carpet – Padding $225 estimate for the two rolls of padding we need to match the padding we didn’t have to remove. Reinstallation $125 for professional reinstalling the padding in missing sections and the carpet.
Windows – When we replace the 8-foot section of exterior wall that was water damaged we will take the opportunity to also replace the existing window and put in a bay window. This will allow us to match the rest of the house better and save on bricks needed as they are pricy. Window estimate for that section only (not replacing the other windows along the front of the house to match) $150.
Lumber – Total lumber needed so far for the living room, bookshelves Sidney will build himself, etc. (Does not include potential school room wall damage once we open up the sheet rock in that room). 22 2x4s (12 foot long) $161.48; 15 2×10 (12 foot long) $229.05;
Sheet Rock – This doesn’t include the potential hallway or bedrooms yet as we haven’t assessed those walls yet. I just can’t deal with my whole house torn up all at once. Expect this to double. 15 sheets $135
Insulation – R13 Kraft Faced, 4 rolls estimate (could increase) $80
Primer – Total house primer estimate 11 Gallons. $77.99 in 5-gallon buckets, estimate $175
Paint – Total paint semi-gloss estimate $30 per gallon, $330 estimate
Nails and Misc. Hardware like Sheet rock tape – $200
This room will be the next project because, well, because it’s back-to-school and my kids have nowhere to do their school right now. In addition to the sheet rock and lumber mentioned above are some room-specific needs.
Bathroom vanity – $125
Floor Repair – Renting the machines (concrete grinder and buffer) and concrete sealer estimate $315
Textbooks, coloring books, and others – Lots of books were damaged. I will make Amazon lists of the specific homeschool curriculum, kid’s books and games, as well as a few of my books that were damaged.
Office Desk – I work from home, and my desk is one corner of the school room that is my work zone. An ideal desk layout is an L shape like this that allows me to see over the side into the rest of the room as the kids do school.
Kitchen and Laundry Room
Kitchen cabinets – nothing fancy is needed, but even a plain, basic set for our moderate-sized kitchen will be about $2,600. That’s with Sidney doing the installation.
Flooring – a Waterproof floor that won’t have this type of damage again. $396.21 estimate.
Bedrooms and Inside Bathrooms
Once I have the main living areas done, I can finish the bedrooms. I do not yet know the sheetrock damage in these areas, but as soon as I do, I’ll update that estimate above (along with possibly lumber and insulation estimates as damage is further assessed). These are the area-specific needs for these sections.
Two bathroom vanities – $250
Floor Rugs for Three Bedrooms – Since we’ll be sticking with concrete floors instead of replacing carpet large area rugs in each bedroom would be a good, cheaper solution. $300 total estimate.
Bathroom Walls – One bathroom for sure needs sheet rock replacement behind the wall tile. This means the tiles may need to be replaced. Tile board could be used or inexpensive tile $.99 per sq foot. $155.92 estimate
French Drains – Pipes plus socks, gravel, filter, and fittings for 120 feet estimate $801.74 (We have friends with a trench digger they are loaning us to save rental costs for the machine and/or a week’s worth of labor digging.)
Gutters – $2,000 installed by Lowe’s. I haven’t done the math yet to estimate materials only if we learn how to hang the gutters ourselves.
That’s about it for now. I’m sure there will be more. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I appreciate you SO much. All of the kind messages, texts, letters and emails from everyone has been so amazing and encouraging. I know many of you are rooting for us to get through this hurdle, and you know what? We WILL. We totally will.
More about Activation React
Activation React is a non-profit that exists specifically to help home-owners who find themselves in this situation – in the gap between true, horrific need and help available to them from insurance companies and other programs. I know when I was at my lowest they were here to say hey – we hear you, you aren’t alone in this. Elizabeth and I chatted on the phone today in fact about how it started when her kids had a desire to help people they knew after Hurricane Sandy. We even chatted about some ways to help families get more involved, and we will send some updates on that front in a couple of weeks so subscribe to the updates and keep up with the fundraising efforts.
Untrained Housewife started with the mindset of an old-fashioned barn-raising, so it’s ironic to find myself in the position of a grateful receiver. It’s an unusual feeling for me, but you know my motto is Embrace the Journey. I appreciate you all being part of this journey.