Monday, September 25, 2017

Harvey: the Aftermath

As soon as the storm cleared town, it was time to assess the damage and start putting it all back together. The dryer, oven, and one fridge had drowned, and there was a circuit out in the kitchen. Overall, though, it wasn't so bad. The house remained livable if a bit moldy, and everyone's vehicles survived. The dryer even fixed itself once it wasn't full of water anymore.

The first thing we did, after mopping the main floor a couple of times to get the dead frogs and roaches out, was help Scott clean out his gym. It had gotten just enough water to be gross but not enough to need renovation, so an afternoon of moving mats and gym equipment and mopping with bleach got the job done.


We didn't want to wait for a contractor to be available and demolition doesn't require much skill, so Rogue and I immediately started ripping out the bottom 18" of drywall and insulation from the first floor. The amount of mold we found indicated that this was not the first flood the house had experienced, although legend says it was by far the worst. Scott and I made an excursion to Home Depot to acquire cement board and drywalling supplies.



When that was done, we began a larger-scale demolition of bedroom 5, the room with the roof that we had tarped with marginal success. All of the drywall and insulation was removed from the walls and ceiling, and then we sprayed mold killer on the remaining structure. Danny, who had been trapped in Denver during the hurricane when the Houston airports closed, returned home and joined in on the messy fun.

Not only is this cheaper than therapy, I get paid to do it!

Everyone in the neighborhood was doing the same. Over the course of the week, the stacks of contractor bags and drywall and ruined boards piled higher along the sidewalks until most of Houston looked like a construction zone. Trash pickup couldn't deal with all the debris, making only their regular rounds to pick up a single can of garbage a week, which was laughable next to the stack of forty or so brimming bags of junk at the edge of our driveway.

The new Houston

Somehow we stuffed ourselves into the schedules of multiple contractors, and the professionals took over the upstairs room, installing a new roof, spray-in insulation, and new drywall. The contractor dealing with the main floor was a different story.

The landlord was paying us hourly to work on the house, but none of us have professional training in construction, so we had planned to limit our participation to removal of drywall and eventual repainting. But one day the contractor disappeared, and it was eventually discovered that he'd had trouble with his driver's license and been arrested as a result. His truck was impounded and his dog taken to the pound. As a personal favor, Scott picked up the pup from the pound and brought him home to us. And then we had an 8-week-old deaf pit bull to add to our list of difficulties.

You can tell I complained loudly.

Shithead, as his owner named him, was adorable, and well-behaved for a puppy of that age. I learned something about bathing a puppy, namely that I get at least as wet and soapy as the dog does. We weren't prepared to have a house puppy, though, so after a little over a week, Andrew drove out and delivered him back to his owner, who was out of jail but had no transportation.

But there was still the wall situation to deal with. I have some experience with mudding and taping from other peoples' DIY projects, so with no contractor in sight and money on the table, I dove in and did my best, teaching Rogue what little I knew along the way. One of the contractors from upstairs took time to hang the boards for us but didn't use shims, and the cement board was 1/8" thinner than the existing drywall, so we had the added problem of trying to make them match.

As of this writing, it's been five weeks since Harvey left. The fridges are both running. The oven still doesn't work but the stove does. We're on the last round of mudding, except for the front door and coat closet areas, which need structural work that we can't do. The damaged bedroom is fixed although not painted, and another bedroom is in the process of having its floor replaced, since the contractors discovered that it was at risk of collapsing into the driveway below.

The stress of living in renovation is getting to all of us, but I have to give my housemates credit for being amazingly tolerant of the whole situation even though it's obviously a major upheaval. I'm glad to be going through this knowing that all these awesome people have my back. To wax sappy for a second, in a way I'm grateful to Harvey, as it's brought us closer together and forced us to prove that as a team, we accomplish amazing things. Much love to Rogue, Scott, Danny, Mike, Andrew, Teresa, Ash, Joseph, and Austin for making the absolute best of a bad situation. I could have washed up from the road in any of a million places, and I'm really happy I landed here.

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