Everyone likes first hand knowledge. So we were thinking... What do you do when your house floods or you incur other disasters like earthquakes, tornados or windstorms? So based on our own experiences when we lived thru Florida hurricanes, those of clients who have had damage from major storms ... plus the general advice we have read recently,... We offer this list of things to consider when disaster strikes.
1. First and Always... Ensure physical safety - everything else can be replaced - you can’t so don't put you nor anyone else in any type of jeopardy.
2. Take a deep breath. You are in a marathon now, not a sprint - everything will take much, much longer than you want it to. You will be dealing with the federal government (national flood) and they move at their own pace.
3. Take pictures - lots of pictures. Establish how high the water was inside and outside of your house. Take pictures of structural damage that is critical to the "building envelope" such as doors and windows. If a flood, you need to prove how deep the water was as part of your flood claim. Use a yardstick or ruler on the outside of your house to establish the high water mark. Make a written list of the main items that have occurred damage and with a date and time stamp.
4. Remember.... File your claim as quickly as you possibly can. You will need to get in line to meet with your insurance agent, adjustors and contractors.
5. Flood insurance will not reimburse you for loss of use, so any hotel or lodging expenses will be out of pocket. But you may be able to use the receipts from lodging against your taxes.
6. Save all receipts - all of them. One way is to to take pictures of all your receipts.
7. Order a POD or storage container to be delivered to the residence FAST as they will sell out fast since everyone one will need one that have to empty out rooms or entire homes.
8. As soon as the water recedes, start mitigating the damage. Shopvac out what water you can, remove the wet carpets, remove the baseboards and start removing wet sheetrock. Cut a line about 2 feet up the wall. The straighter you cut, the easier the rebuild will be. Bag debris/insulation etc and take it outside. Save a square of ruined carpet and ruined carpet pad for the insurance to verify replacement value - if you have multiple carpets, save multiple samples. - Your goal is to get anything wet out of your house so it can begin to dry. Don’t worry about removing glue down hardwoods, let the contractor handle that during the rebuild
9. Take pictures of any damage you see such as wet sheetrock, wet carpet, wet furniture, anything you want to claim - document. For contents, document individual items - each shirt, book, etc needs to be enumerated and documented for the claim - if you say 20 books on your claim, you need a photograph where 20 books can be individually accounted for - be exact and over detailed.
10. Be very careful about hiring “the experts” ...those companies that will bring in fans, etc and eat up a lot of your claim check by “drying” your house - once the walls are open, the studs will dry in time. Every dime you spend renting expensive blowers is money you can’t use towards granite countertops or tile upgrades when you rebuild. Fans, your air conditioner a dehumidifier from Home Depot will do the job. You can spray the studs with bleach as they dry out.
11. Be careful hiring contractors - ask for multiple references, ensure they use sub-contractors they know - they will be busy and be prepared to wait. We saw a huge influx of so-called contractors flooding in Florida after the hurricanes in 2006. And some were not licensed to perform any time of contracting work... just a tool box and a pickup truck.
12. Plastic storage tubs work better than cardboard boxes for storage of your undamaged stuff.
13. Wear a mask when you begin to dig around as mold and mildew will likely be an issue. Look for the tell tale signs of wood, sheetrock or other materials becoming black, grey or dark green. Those are sure signs of things growing.
14. Have a LOT of patience. Be very nice to the adjustor - he or she will be valuing your loss and establishing the rebuild - every dollar counts, so be a pleasant memory for the adjustor, rather than “that” person.
15. No matter who your insurance company is, all flood claims go through the federal government, all money comes through FEMA, so the time between the adjustor visiting your house and you getting money takes weeks/months - be patient - it is challenging and horrible waiting, but you are dealing with the government and all the other claims that are in flight as well.
16. Your first estimate will likely be less than you expect, so work with your contractor to file a supplement for things that were missed. Be wary of working with 3rd party arbitrators as they will take a percentage of your total claim, not just any extra they get you in the supplement.
17. Accept help when offered and be specific - if someone asks “what can I do?” tell them something specific - I need candles, contractor bags, sandwiches - be grateful of those that reach out and be honest with what you need.
18. You will get through this. It will not be easy. It is a struggle, but you will get through it. Lean on your faith, your friends and family. Call in favors and trust that karma will provide much needed blessings.
19. Don't blame yourself for such natural disasters such as the one that Houston is experiencing,... nor for not preparing in advance. Things like this happen and many of us that have experienced such challenging times may still not be prepared as we should. We have started a small "earthquake survival kit" that surely will not fulfill all the personal needs such the "big one" hit... but it is better than nothing at all. And we continue to add to it over a period of time.
20. Eat well. Get sleep. Rest when at all possible as you will need all the energy that such events require to manage.
Help Hurricane Harvey survivors! We used to live in Houston and we are amazed at the depth of destruction and devastation that is occurring in South East Texas. Those people will need help... your help. This is NOT a time to sit back and reflect that other people will be stepping up. This is YOUR TURN to do something... no matter how small... but collectively offer resources for these organizations.
• Please see the following organizations for donations to those affected by Hurricane Harvey:
Also check out this excerpt from article by NPR’s Pam Fessler:
“… Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, has some words of caution for those who want to help. "This is not the time to be donating products or even services," he says. "That's frequently the urge, and most often that is the wrong thing to do. ...With the floods blocking off streets, when warehouses are not available, there's no place for these products — there's no place to store anything, there's no place to distribute anything. And that's going to be the case for some time."
Instead, he says, people should give money to groups they trust, and that have the ability to provide aid where it's needed most.”
By: Michael A. Thomas, FASID, CAPS
The Design Collective Group Inc.
The kitchen is an important component of any home and getting it arranged properly to make the most of the space is critical. A kitchen can be filled with beautiful materials and high styled appliances but if the layout and space doesn't function as intended, it won’t be successful.
And because creating a new kitchen takes a lot of time, energy and dollars to get it just right, it makes good sense (and cents) to plan the kitchen on paper by first considering how you plan to use it before you think about how it will look.
We came up with five questions that can form the framework around which your design plans will develop. Grab a pencil and jot down the answers to the following:
(1) What types of cooking do you plan to do in your new space?
While cooking is a daily necessity for most, others look at it as a place to develop their culinary skills while, others see the kitchen as a space for entertaining. And if you do entertain, consider how you use the area… a casual affair or for a more a formal gathering?
(2) Who else may be using the space with you?
Consider the three critical tasks of prep, cook and clean-up and then think about the traffic patterns that you need in order to keep from crossing paths with others. Too many cooks can indeed spoil the broth when there are many in the same space. And if you entertain frequently or hire a caterer for special events, you might need an abundance of counter space.
(3) How long will you be in this residence?
A great kitchen that is both functional and attractive can provide you with a great return on your investment (more than any other room in the house), but kitchens can also be an arm and a leg. So in your budgeting, be cautious that you don’t over-design since you may not recoup the dollars spent. Consider the resale values of your neighbors and review what others may be doing to update their space. You might also speak with a real estate agent to provide some guidance.
(4) Which appliances are needed and which might be a luxury?
Cook tops, refrigerators, microwaves and ovens will make up the single largest expense in any kitchen. But while other kitchen equipment like a warming oven or a second dishwasher may seem like a luxury to some, it may be essential to you based on your specific needs, so identify what you might like to have and set aside a few dollars for any special piece of equipment at the beginning of your project.
(5) Do you, a member of your family or anyone who may visit have special needs due to a mobility issue?
Plan your kitchen to have added functionality. For instance, use handles instead of knobs, design cabinetry with full extension drawers and additional lighting can help everyone but may be really important to those who might be elder or have a physical impairment.
With answers to these questions in hand, your next step is to bring in the professionals. An interior designer or a kitchen planner who has a thorough understanding and wealth of experience in creating great kitchen spaces will be an important key to your success and to that of your kitchen.
And where do you start? Start by giving us a call. (760) 322-3784
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Springs, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.