If you’ve read my blog before, or if you’ve been following along on Instagram stories, you’ll surely have heard about the disaster in our kitchen. When we filed the homeowners insurance claim back in November 2017, never in a million years did we imagine what lay ahead. I thought I’d document our journey as a resource in case anyone else could benefit from our bad luck with a shoddy construction disaster in Florida.
In many ways, we’ve felt like the frustrated Odysseus in a never-ending detour to normalcy. (Yes, I just did bring it back to my sophomore year of high school English. And, yes, I’m aware I’m a nerd). Just when we thought we had some forward-moving momentum in resolving this water leak, several roadblocks dropped in our path.
It’s almost like a running joke. Whenever someone asks How’s your kitchen coming along? our response has oscillated between No progress yet and We have not a clue for approximately several months. We have been without a kitchen since January. Another way to look at it: we have been without a kitchen for five (5) months. To say it has been stressful, emotional, and inconvenient would be a tremendous understatement.
Not to mention, a huge expense in eating out and getting creative without an accessible stove and microwave for all of this time. In order to keep this post short(er), I will leave all the processing details of our harrowing, unbelievably drawn-out ordeal for another post. This experience has undoubtedly been the most frustrating thing either one of us has ever been through, oversaturated with the bullshit of bureaucracy, lack of communication between contractors, unlicensed individuals trying to skate around legal proceedings, and more.
It all started right after we moved in November 2014. What we thought was condensation on the windowsill (DR Horton installed the cheapest windows possible) due to the temperature fluctuations was actually a water leak (more about that in this post). After we filed our claim, our insurance company gave us a dollar amount they believed represented the damage. In this estimate was an amount allotted for new cabinets and all the trimmings to repair the damage to the stucco and drywall.
After 2.5 months of our cabinets sitting in our garage, we FINALLY secured a general contractor (more on that in another post) that was a) willing to take on the job and b) has proper licensing and c) got the ball rolling. We had a crew out to start demolition of the stucco to see the source of the water entry. It didn’t take long to find this atrocity.
To be honest, we were not expecting to see THIS much damage. Not us, and not the contractors. The sub-contractors immediately told us that the water was coming in from the expansion joint in the stucco (the useless, decorative straight-lined indents in the stucco), and that they see this all the time. In fact, correcting this mistake is the main source of income for them.
Our home’s builder, DR Horton, took a shortcut during the housing boom and used plastic guides to help them make those decorative lines quicker. To make matters worse, they didn’t bother to caulk that divider for waterproofing. We had the same issue on another window around the corner. Sure enough, as soon as we caulked the expansion joint above the window, water stopped coming in.
Our kitchen’s east wall gave a whole new meaning to “total gut job.” Thankfully the other two walls were intact. We brought in ServPro of Jacksonville to mitigate the mold. We initially thought the job was much simpler. However, once the stucco and rotted sheeting were removed, we realized the studs were not salvageable AT ALL. The entire wall had to be dismantled. We even slept without a wall overnight and it didn’t faze us. You know you’re desperate for a kitchen when you sleep without a wall in your house.
A sight for sore eyes. A new window! Since the entire wall had to be torn down due to all the water damage, we opted to go with a slightly taller window. The width had to stay the same because of the metal bars on either side (36″). But now, we will have a little more light in this previously dark kitchen.
Once these guys tore down the wall, the framing of the new window, new sheeting, stucco mesh, and the application of new stucco went by pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it’s been raining for the past two weeks, so we haven’t gotten more than 2 coats of stucco up. It is what it is.
All of the work you’ve seen done has taken place during the month of May, even though we filed the claim in November. Tune in next time for progress on the inside of the kitchen!