Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Day the Wall Fell In.

I can remember being a child living through my parent’s feast or famine roller coaster lifestyle.  When things were going fine and we had money to spare, a part of me could only be partially at ease.  I’d always think, “Things are too good right now, a bomb must be waiting to go off soon.” I suppose I still have the same tendency and for good reason. 

The euphoria I felt a couple weeks ago when life was totally perfect, was extinguished Tuesday night as I cleaned my master bedroom shower.  I had just returned from Orlando picking my parents up from the airport.  It was late but I was wide awake.  I decided the shower had waited long enough for a good cleaning and as I scrubbed forcefully away, my hand suddenly went into the wall.  At first, I thought it was me, perhaps all the spinach I’d been eating lately gave me some sort of Popeye strength. But then I gingerly touched two tiles on either side of the gaping hole and saw that they too came crashing down with a scratchy-crack. I stared confused into the black abyss and what do you think I found? Crumbling, and drenched decaying drywall.  

I called my homeowners insurance and they informed me that an insurance agent would be contacting me within the next 48 hours.  Sam arrived the next day and surveyed the damage.  It appeared to be a leaky pipe which usually is covered by the insurance company.  But we would have to open the wall to make sure.  The contractor arrived the next day and did just that, revealing a cockroach infestation, mold, and mildew and rotting wood beams. The pipes were intact.  Now normally a person would be overjoyed that they didn’t have plumbing to replace, but with insurance companies being the evil breed they are, this was not good news to us. 

The probable cause of our crisis? Apparently, there was never a shower pan placed in our 28-year-old house on the day they installed the shower.  The grout failed and the water seeped through and then wicked up the walls, slowly destroying the walls and everything in them.  It was so water saturated that the siding on the front of our house is even showing damage. Apparently, tile is a maintenance issue and therefore the responsibility of the homeowner.  If the homeowner chooses not to maintain their property the insurance company is not responsible for the resulting damage. 

Upon hearing this I could feel the veins in my neck and forehead starting to expand and just as my pulse accelerated and I expected to morph into some red-faced version of the Incredible Hulk, Sam spoke some comfort.  “But Hidden and Unknown situations are often covered.” Hidden and unknown refers to the fact that I had no idea there was even supposed to be a shower pan and the fact that there wasn’t one was not my fault.  Because this calamity happened “suddenly”, example-hand unexpectedly crashes through the wall; the insurance is likely to cover it.

The formal report won’t be ready until next week sometime.  I have to meet $2,500 for my deductible. And even then the insurance rep told me today on the phone that it could be 90 days before we see our money.  Mike and my small nest egg quickly flew the coop when our two cars needed repairs this summer, so the news that we would have to have the work completed and then be reimbursed later was not fitting into our just mama for a year budget. The estimate stands at $5,900-way above anything we could hope to afford.  We attempted a loan at our bank and were denied because my debt consolidation isn’t over until November and we have too high of a debt to income ratio. We are currently searching elsewhere and clinging to God that he works it out somehow.   From all my late night prayers and figuring’s, we only have three options:
A: Win the lotto or
B: Get approval for a small bank loan or
C: The insurance comes through and all we have to do is sell the Camry and then pay the $2,500 deductible.

Time will tell. But in the meantime, I have learned a great deal about insurance companies and what it means to be a homeowner.  For instance, if the tile is properly installed, the grout will have received a coating of liquid sealer to give it more protection. On most floors, the sealers are generally effective for two or three years before they need to be resealed, but on a tiled shower stall or sink backsplash, you should do it once a year or even more often. We had our tile re-grouted two years ago but apparently, the disaster we have in our shower shows about 7 years of damage.  Needless to say, our two-year revamping didn’t do much. 

I also learned about roaches too.  Apparently, there is a difference between German Cockroaches and Palmetto bugs.  Palmetto bugs are more commonly referred to in scientific communities as American Cockroaches. They are flying insects that prefer the outdoors and usually only enter homes in search of water.  German cockroaches, on the other hand, have fully developed wings but do not fly. They are usually found in kitchens (near dishwashers, stoves, and sinks) and in bathrooms of homes because they prefer a moist environment with a relatively high degree of warmth. Like all roaches, they are mostly active at night but may be seen during the daytime, particularly if a heavy population is present. Oh, the joy! Mike and I had just set out roach traps two weeks prior to the wall falling in and attempted to spray around the perimeter of our home with organic/pet & kid friendly recipes. I can just see the little buggers laughing at Mike as he sprayed that citrus smelling pesticide. But they got what they deserved when I shelled out $125 for the pest control guy to decimate their filthy little colony.

The last thing I’ve learned is probably the most important for our family.  My mom, who happened to be present during one of the many trips made by our contractor, asked Pat what it would cost to make our home sell worthy.  He clicked through a list of all the repairs required, like new kitchen cabinets because ours are falling apart, new sliding door because ours is broken, new bathrooms (because the girl’s bathroom most likely will have the same problem too), new ceiling treatments, new windows to replace the rusted ones, and of course all new siding because the composite board brand they put on the house was apparently garbage from the day it was put up. $40,000-$50,000 would make this house HGTV worthy.

“But, it’s not worth it.” As Pat pointed out, and as I probably always knew in my heart, I am already upside-down on my investment in this home.  Although the $158,000 I bought the house for in 2006 was a good deal “back in the day” it is a ridiculous amount for a 2 bedroom 2 bath home in 2011. Now it’s worth half that amount. This gives me a lot to chew on as my dream to fix up and resell is tailored to a reality of a short sale.  Sometimes we hold on to things because we think it’s what’s best for us. Better to own instead of rent, better to live where things are familiar, better to wait instead of taking a chance. For years Mike and I have talked about relocating to North Carolina. Perhaps this is God’s direction that my family and I need to be moving on…

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