Fire: Full Review

I've heard horror stories about people who have had a house fire. The insurance company didn't pay for this, they denied that, the contractor didn't do the right thing, etc. I am so grateful that my experience was exactly the opposite.

If you've been following along, you've seen the progress as things unfolded in the past four months. However, I'd like to take some time to thank all of the wonderful people that made this happen, and who went out of their way to eliminate any stress on me.

If you're new here, you might want to start at the beginning of this ordeal here.

My Parents

Well, we have to start here. They were the first people I called (after 911) and with no questions asked, they jumped in the car and drove up to get me. The insurance company would have put me in a hotel or apartment for the duration of the rebuild, but the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I was with staying at my parents' house with them. It truly was wonderful. Of course, I have been joking with people saying, "I'm 39 and live in my parents' basement," but it honestly has been a great experience. I am very much a "homebody" and by that I mean I am very uncomfortable sleeping in strange places. I hated sleepovers when I was a kid. I enjoyed the time with my friends, don't get me wrong, but I could never sleep in a strange place. I hate traveling. I hate hotels. I like to be in my own environment with my own stuff. In my natural habitat. My parents went out of their way to give me my own space and accommodations, and for that I'm so grateful. I couldn't ask for a better situation given the circumstances!

The Brady Bunch

No, not the TV family. My Brady Bunch consists of my best friend Eric, his lovely wife Katie, and their completely awesome six kids (I'm their Alice). They were the second call the night of the fire, and they were all zonked out and I got voicemail. I did get a call the minute they woke up on Saturday (and it was early, but I had been up all night so why not). I really can't say enough about them. They are family, and they even offered to take me in (keep in mind, 6 kids), and I know that wasn't an empty offer - they definitely would have...and they sort of did because whenever I was visiting my house during the rebuild, that's where I went potty! And yes, it's nice to have my own potty now!

No matter what, I know that I can count on them (and they can count on me), through thick and thin, any hour of the day. Even though Katie and her kids are new to this equation, it feels like I've known them forever. They're the kind of people who you just get on with right away, welcoming and warm-hearted. And the kids (all of them) are just outstanding. Without them, my unpacking would have been slow going, they were at the ready, looking to help. Just awesome!

American Family Insurance

From the first phone call, American Family Insurance has been amazing. I was assigned an on-call adjuster who was in touch with me immediately. Compassionate, empathetic, and knowledgeable. Right from the start, I felt at ease, which was unreal. Once Monday rolled around and I had a "regular" adjuster (not the on-call sort), Chris walked me through every detail and helped me understand what to expect through the process. Anything I needed, she was on top of it. Cash advance? Done. Hotel room? No problem. Water in my basement where all my doors, cabinets and trim are hanging out? On it.

Paul Davis Restoration of South Central Wisconsin

When my adjuster told me I would have to hire my own contractor, I had no idea what to do. I had no idea how to go about selecting a contractor and worried about selecting the right one. I needed the peace of mind that the work would be done right, done well, and done on time. My adjuster let me know that they would be working with Paul Davis Restoration to determine the estimate and offered to have me talk with the project manager. I spoke with Brent, the project manager, for a bit and it turned out that he knew a friend of mine who does flooring and so I told him I'd call my friend and see what he thinks of Paul Davis. I got the thumbs up and told Brent he was hired.

Throughout the entire project, Brent was in contact with me regularly, giving me updates, answering my thousands of questions, explaining the process, helping me make decisions, you name it, Brent was on it. Unbelievably responsive, courteous, knowledgeable, patient...the list goes on. He truly made this whole thing go so much easier.

Plus, all of their subcontractors were fantastic. The roofers, gutter dudes, painters, "Drywall Dave," carpenters, electricians, siding installers, plumbers...everyone was so nice and easy to work with. With a project as big as this, there were bound to be a few speed bumps, and everything was dealt with expeditiously. Brent's backup from Paul Davis (Dave) noticed that my new toilet was leaking right after I moved in. Right away, he had Southern Lakes plumbing on the case and Eric the plumber is a standup guy. He really did everything he could to troubleshoot the toilet situation (turns out the toilet was defective) and fixed up the shower leak without having to cut into the drywall. Plus, I learned that Eric the Plumber is my neighbor (as I was talking to him outside, his kids rode by on their bikes and gave him a "hey Dad," which opened up that conversation). So, I know where he lives if anything goes wrong! Ha!

CRDN of Waukesha

CRDN was called in to handle the cleaning of all textiles and electronics. These guys take rubber bands and bubble wrap to a whole new level you didn't know existed. I have never seen rubber bands so tightly wound around every power cord to every electronic device. And, they know how to treat your belongings with of my guitars (that I left in their storage) rode shotgun on its way home, wrapped in more bubble wrap than you can imagine (it took forever to get it free). Every single item they took came back perfect. There were only a handful of items they couldn't clean, which is amazing given the enormous amount of textiles I had...which includes an ungodly amount of clothing and my entire sewing fabric stash.

Scott was my "handler" at CRDN and he was awesome. He was there right after the fire, walked me through what happens and was Johnny-on-the-spot anytime I needed anything. I even went to their facility to visit my belongings and pick up some clothes (and sewing machines), and their crew is really awesome. Alessandro was my guy when I went to visit, and he was a rockstar. The crew that came to drop off my stuff on move in day was just hysterical. They had me in stitches the whole time - who knew that unloading vans of clothing and electronics could be so fun! One of the guys wanted to hang around and play Guitar Hero with me, and believe me, if I had all my crap hooked up, I totally would have taken him up on it!

They really did a spectacular job of cleaning everything. Their tagline is "Respond. Restore. Resume" and they truly lived up to this in every way. They were just outstanding!

ServiceMaster Restore of Lake Geneva

I called ServiceMaster to come out and board up the garage the night of the fire. They wound up being the ones to pack out my personal belongings and furniture and they did a great job. I got to know my project manager, Glenn, and he's a pretty cool dude. Right off the bat, we found that we have common interests in music and the bond of metal runs deep! He always made sure that I felt like I was in good hands, and his crew was so friendly and helpful. One of the guys took some of my fish off my hands, which made me feel like less of an asshole for leaving them to die. But, in my defense, they were inbred whores who wouldn't stop procreating. They had it coming...

...But, I digress. ServiceMaster delivered my bed to me at my parents' house, and that made all the difference in the world. I love my bed. To go four months without my own bed would have been torture. They cleaned it so well, there was not a hint of smoke. And when I was ready to come home, they went and got it and delivered it back to my house. On top of it, my move-back-in time was right after widespread flooding had occurred in my area, and I know they had their hands full. But, my stuff was delivered on time (they were even 2 minutes early...just my style!), and there were just a couple items that were damaged (either from the fire or from moving/storage, which is to be expected), and they were completely reasonable about everything.

Four Seasons Flooring of Delavan

Of course, I met my designer, Linda, in December when the mood struck me to look into what it would cost to redo the flooring in my kitchen. I know the owner of this fine business, so I knew that's where I had to go for my flooring needs. I had the estimate in hand and was ready to go, but then I got sick so the project was delayed. Then, the fire happened, and so I went back to Linda with new plans...all the floors...everywhere. And hey, let's throw in a tile tub surround and some backsplash in the kitchen.

Linda got to know me, walked me through several options (and let me tell you, choosing the flooring and tile was overwhelming for me). She provided her input on the various spaces and what would work best, and she was 100% spot on. She stayed with me through a few "I think I changed my mind" episodes (I mean, come on, I was going to have to live with this, I needed to really think on it!) and in the end it all came together. I think what stressed me out the most was the backsplash in the kitchen. Linda understood that I had a fear of color with things that are permanent. All my walls are white, and they will stay that way. I prefer to accent through other things like curtains, throw pillows, etc. So, when it came to the backsplash in the kitchen, she wanted to do something jazzy and I was a little scared, but when she unveiled her plan, it was perfect. It was neutral enough for me to not be overwhelmed by "jazziness" but still pops enough that it's not boring. It's literally perfect for me. I was blown away!

And, their installers were awesome. The guys who did the tub tile and the LVP flooring really deserve a medal, because it was July and my AC wasn't on because the ducts hadn't been cleaned yet. They were total troopers. Very cool guys who were super nice and even gave me some great when I realized all my floor vents were white, and asked if these were standard sizes (as I was about to go buy new ones), Ron suggested I take the existing vents and spray paint them a darker color. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Crafted Countertops of Genoa City

I didn't really need new countertops, but thought I might as well since everything else was under construction...I wouldn't want my kitchen to feel left out! From the moment I walked in, I felt like I was in the right place. Michael got to know me, what I was looking for, and was able to give me great suggestions and ideas on what I could do. In the end, I'm thrilled with the granite I (Michael) chose and it looks wonderful. The installers were extremely nice and did a nice job explaining what I needed to know about caring for the granite.

It was so worth it. I look at my new kitchen and it really looks stunning. I walk into my kitchen in the morning and smile because it looks so fabulous. Nailed it!

In Summary

I'm just so thankful that this process has been as easy as it has been. I seriously did not know what was going to happen, and when it all went down, I was still sick and couldn't really wrap my head around what was going on. Everyone I dealt with was absolutely fantastic...and given the sheer number of people involved in this process from end to end, I really think that's amazing. You'd think I'd run into at least one asshole, but I really didn't. (and I can be a tough critic). Everyone demonstrated compassion, empathy, responsiveness, attention to my needs, courtesy, and even the right amount of hilarity to keep things light. When demolition started, one of the guys from Paul Davis who was working at the house commented that he'd never seen anyone paint a funny-yet-somewhat-inspirational quote on their boarded up house as I had done (I painted "The force is strong with this one" on the plywood covering up my garage). He told me that when he saw it, he smiled and thought that this homeowner must be something else and he made a comment about how well I was handling all of it. Well, I am something else. I've had to deal with a lot of adversity in different ways throughout this lifetime and I've learned that life is short, and it's far too short to sweat the small stuff. Now, a house fire is certainly not "small stuff" but the way I see it, it could have been so much worse. Like the phoenix, I have risen from the ashes!!