If you’ve been following along on Instagram stories, you’ll know that we are in the middle of what seems to be a never-ending involuntary kitchen renovation. We submitted a homeowners claim at the end of November. It is now March and we have not had any substantial progress in our kitchen.
After the whirlwind home-buying process was finally over, the REAL fun of homeownership began. Unpacking, plans for decorating, planning our landscaping, and doing routine homeowner maintenance among many other things. Before we got around to installing actual blinds, we put up temporary paper ones because when you have 15 windows, each set of blinds adds up!
One day while doing the dishes, I noticed some dampness along top of the paper blinds of our kitchen window. At first I thought it was just condensation from the glass pane during the winter, but in time, it became apparent we had a leak above the window.
However, sometimes it would downpour outside, and there was no leak. Other times we would get a light drizzle, and we would see lots of water come in. It seemed as if it depended on which direction the rain was coming down, and whether or not wind was involved. It was obvious this was NOT hurricane damage.
I eventually came up with a funnel + PVC pipe contraption to lead the dripping water into the sink and stop the water splatters everywhere. We called a couple of “leak detection” companies to tell us where the source of the water was coming from, but no one knew for sure. We caulked all we could along the window, stucco, and the roof flashing after heavy rains (or before, hoping to stop more damage) thinking we “finally found the source of the leak.” Water still came in.
We followed the leak detection companies’ recommendations and first caulked then applied Flexi-Seal along the expansion joint in the stucco. Unfortunately, nothing was keeping this water out. Up until this point, we didn’t want to open up the wall without knowing where this leak was coming in from because of the busy hurricane season last year.
After hurricane season was over, we thought we had nothing else to lose by having our neighbor help us open up the wall, find the source of the leak, and at least get rid of the vomit-hued backsplash tile that has forever plagued my eyes. At the end of November, he dismounted the upper cabinets and removed the drywall by the window. Then he immediately stopped and told us he didn’t feel comfortable moving forward because he thought there was structural damage. Boy, was he right. This really was not a simple DIY job as we initially thought.
At this point, we knew we had an insurance claim on our hands. There were visible signs of structural damage, and the smell of mold was unmistakeable. The window sill was so soft you could insert a finger into it. So in the beginning of December, we filed a claim. Being the newbies that we were, we thought this would be an easy, streamlined process to get it all fixed. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
The story behind the horrors of this insurance claim are better left for another post (because it’s a LONG one). I will, however, walk you through what this kitchen has seen thus far. In early January, we had ServPro of Jacksonville and their affiliates come and remove the lower cabinets and also seal off the kitchen so that the mold could not spread. They were kind enough to move the fridge out of the kitchen so we could at least have access to it. After the lower cabinets were removed, and after ServPro removed more drywall to see the extent of the damage, was when things got real.
January 12th (my birthday no less) brought me a nasty, nasty cold that had me down for the count for a week. So, no cute birthday posts from me on Instagram or the blog. In addition, my birthday also was the beginning of living without a kitchen. The smell of the mold was bad, and you couldn’t be in the sealed off kitchen (there’s a zipper for access) for more than a few minutes without a respirator for health and safety reasons.
Since insurance approved new cabinets, I got to work on designing the new space. However, it also meant that I had to empty ALL THE CABINETS and find somewhere to put ALL THE THINGS. Do you want to guess how much fun it was stepping through a zipper multiple times a day, emptying cabinets by yourself, with two small dogs wanting to follow you through each time? Buckets of fun.
These images are much, much worse in person. I edited them to make them “pretty” but really, you can’t fix ugly. I snapped these pictures over a month after the exposed mold had time to dry out. It no longer smells as bad, but it’s also been two months (and counting) since we have been able to boil a pot of water. You take things like these for granted until something like this happens to you.
Not pictured in this post is a super basic sink we set up in the laundry room to allow us to wash dishes. I originally was against it (because it’s fugly) but it has been super helpful. I’m not sure I would remained sane washing dishes in our bathroom sinks or bathtubs for very long. When my parents went through their kitchen reno, she was washing dishes in the gutter. (True story. Lord help me).
I never thought I would know what things like expansion joints, studs, trusses, sheathing, window headers or roof flashing meant, but here we are. Between the insurance adjuster and the inspector, they determined that the water was coming in from the flashing of the covered porch‘s roof, where it meets the frame of the house. From there, the water has traveled behind the stucco and down the sheething (the particle board looking frame of the house) and through our drywall. The most frustrating thing is that, we have caulked along all of that roof flashing, so the issue was never one of negligence.
Eating healthy has also been a challenge. Even though I am a creature of habit and have almost the same foods each day, having to cook with this mess has gotten the better of me. I am guilty (and slightly ashamed) to admit that I’ve had McDonald’s and Chipotle more often than I’m comfortable with. I do cook, but sometimes at the end of the workday, the last thing I want to do is spend time with the mess below.
Our over-the-range microwave is sitting on our stove so I can’t easily reheat leftovers or prepped meals. I have to use an electric skillet on our dining table to reheat leftovers, just like the good ‘ol days. Since we’ve lost access to a stove, I’ve purchased a rice cooker (that also doubles as a veggie steamer), and an electric pressure cooker. This instant cooker does the job of the expensive Instant Pot at a fraction of the price! It’s great for making pot roast in 45 minutes flat! I’ve enjoyed eating brown rice more regularly since the rice cooker makes it super easy to cook brown rice. (Be sure to add more water than it recommends for fully cooked brown rice. I add 1.5x the amount of water to brown rice).
In another post I will outline the REALLY fun part of this process. And by FUN, I mean things like fighting for insurance checks…and having your contractor back out the week before work is supposed to start. Not to mention he was the person that was delaying the project to begin with.
Accepting home cooked meals. Inquire within.
I honestly wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.