Helping Houstonians Recover From Harvey: Resources, Contractors and More
This is totally out of the realm of topics that I normally blog about here in my Creative Momista space. I am normally writing about my experiences the last 16+ years of being a full time mompreneur and my passion for helping other women and moms own their worth and embrace their enough but if there is one thing that has pulled everyone together during this time of so much heartbreaking loss is the willingness of people to step up to use their gifts, resources and talents to serve others.
I don't have a boat to perform rescues or a tractor to move piles of debris like what my husband has been doing the last several days but I do have a blog, a love of writing and expertise in home construction.
My husband and I bought our first home in 2000, 2 years after getting married. It was a dump but it was what we could afford at the time without stretching ourselves too thin just starting out as newlyweds at the ages of 27 and 24.
It was a huge Fixer Upper project and we remodeled just about every inch of that house ourselves. In 2005 we became the general contractor and built our first home, again doing most of the work ourselves. In 2007 we sold that home and built a second home and in 2012 we contracted the construction of a third home where we currently live in now.
So we know a thing or two about the work involved in building and remodeling a home, the ups and downs and hard lessons that are learned a long the way. In this post I hope to share some tips that can help those who are dealing with the reconstruction of their damaged homes from Hurricane Harvey. I hope it will ease the overwhelm you are feeling and give you some good resources to tap into.
Take A Deep Breath
First off, I know this ordeal has been a lot to take in so take a deep breath. Be patient with yourself and those around you. Give yourself some grace when you feel like you are falling apart because it's okay to have bad days. I know everyone says "oh it's just material stuff" but it's stuff that meant something to you. Allow yourself to grieve for the losses you are dealing with while always finding gratitude in the moment. Gratitude and focusing on your blessings can get you through a lot. This will be a situation that you will get through hour by hour, day by day, week by week.
Where To Start
It's important that you know before you start doing clean up or construction work on your home what you need to do and document for your home owner's insurance and for FEMA. Here are some good resources to start getting some of those questions answered and next steps for insurance claim help:
File A Claim Through FEMA
Document The Damage
List Of Resources
For legal mumbo jumbo purposes, it's important for me to disclaim that we are in no way affiliated with these contractors and resources. We can only share our experiences which do NOT take the place of you doing your own due diligence. I will provide the last known contact information we have. Try to only hire contractors that you get from referrals of friends and family and can speak to their workmanship.
Once you know the steps that you need to take to document the losses you have incurred you can begin the necessary work to restore your home over the coming months. It's important to take your time during this process. I know having your home turned upside down (literally) is a huge hardship but by not doing your due diligence and hiring reputable contractors you will cause yourself more anguish down the road.
It's a sad reality but in times of natural disasters, there will be those who swoop in like vultures to take advantage of people when they are vulnerable, distressed and not thinking clearly. Don't rush to hire the first person or the cheapest person. One of the best things we did when building our homes was to get 3-4 bids from contractors. Yes, it took extra time but we had a contractor bid us over $10,000 to paint the interior cabinets and through some extra leg work found someone to do it for $3,800 and they did a great job.
It's important to know as a homeowner you don't have to hire someone and give them full control over materials. In remodeling our first home and contracting the construction of all three of our homes, we rarely allowed a contractor to buy materials. Why? Because they will buy the cheapest product they can find so they can pocket as much for labor as possible. You will save a TON of money by buying the materials yourself so you can get what you want and hire a reputable contractor to install it for you ensuring that you also get to keep any left over material as well.
We always purchased our lumber from McCoys. They were always the cheapest but do your research. 84 Lumber in Conroe also has good pricing on lumber. Lowes and Home Depot are going to be the highest unless you check into their contractor program and can do an account to take advantage of their 5% off. It always pays to do your research. We always had the lumber delivered to the job site and had our framer do the work.
It was always cheaper to let the insulation company come out and bid the job and let them bring the insulation than what we could buy it for. We always used Quality Insulation and were always happy with the work they did. (936) 539-9739
Electrical work is nothing to mess around with. Hire a professional, reputable, licensed company or contractor that is insured/bonded to do your electrical work. Some fly-by-night contractor may be cheap but the work will be cheap and you could have a fire on your hands down the road.
We bought most of our ceiling fans from Home Depot, we happen to be in there at the right time one day and they had a lot of great ceiling fans that fit our style on sale so be sure to watch the sale ads and comb the store when you are in there for other supplies to see what you can find at a good deal.
The pendant lighting over the island in my kitchen took me a little longer to find. Most of the fixtures I found in stores were not what I was looking for and online the prices were crazy. I was not paying $285 EACH for pendant lighting. So I did some thinking outside the box and found 2 glass pendants made out of recycled glass on eBay for $75 each. So get creative when looking for what you want and at a good price.
You can buy most electrical supplies yourself and save money while hiring a contractor to do just the labor.
Again, plumbing work is inside your walls. How horrible would it be to get your house put all back together and 6 months down the road the piping inside your walls breaks apart? Don't go cheap on this type of work. Hire a good, reputable company or contractor who is LICENSED.
This is where it's important to note that you can have full control over your plumbing fixtures. You can buy the materials and just pay your contractor for the labor. You will save a ton of money this way. You can buy your sinks and faucets at your local home improvement store or online (there are lots of great online home improvement stores).
And here is some insider knowledge on best brands to buy (my dad is a Master Plumber)
For Hot Water Heaters: State, Rudd and Bradford-White are good brands.
Toilets: Crane or Kohler, but NOT American Standard
ClawFoot Tub: I bought my clawfoot tub from www.VintageTub.com and had it shipped directly to the job site. They were by far the cheapest place to get free standing tubs. At Lowe's and Home Depot and even a Kohler store they are special order and the price will give you sticker shock.
Faucets: I purchased most of our faucets from KingstonBrass.com including the special faucet for the clawfoot tub and some of our faucets I bought at Lowe's when we were short on time and I couldn't wait for shipping.
Shower Fixture: Moen is one of the best brands
A/C - HVAC WORK
It's no secret that A/C contractors and companies can be some of the biggest shams. We were fortunate enough to have a good friend do our A/C work on our home construction but we just recently had to have both coils replaced in both of our a/c units and we were very happy with Albin Air Conditioning. (936) 447-3149
•••• BE SURE TO ASK ABOUT THE WARRANTY ••••
When we bought our a/c units in 2012 we were told that the company where we purchased our units would be sending in the warranty information to Carrier (which had to be done within 90 days of the purchase date). That never happened. So our 10 year warranty was voided. The company has since been bought out so we are just out of luck. Our unit came with a standard 5 year warranty but we would have a full 10 year warranty if a simple post card had been sent in to register our units. ALWAYS ask about warranty on parts AND on labor and ensure YOU send in all necessary paperwork yourself.
If you had roof damage and need to replace your roof, Aggieland Roofing is a great company. I personally know the owner who has been in business since 1995 as a commercial and residential roofing contractor. They are Aggie owned and operated. (979) 777-1432
We have also worked with RoofTec out of Houston (281) 807-9993 and was very happy with the job they did on one of the houses we built.
You can also buy your roofing material from McCoys and hire a contractor just for the labor. We have done that too on our houses with composition roofing and saved a lot of money. Our house now has metal roofing and we hired a metal roofing company to do that work.
We have used Kinsey Drywall on our last two houses and were very happy with them. A sheetrocking company can buy sheetrock cheaper so it's usually better to let them take care of materials and labor turnkey. (281) 356-6031
When hiring a contractor for sheetrock ensure you ask them if they will cover any damage done to plumbing or electrical from sheetrock screws and get it in writing as well as asking what their policy is about coming back to do repair work from other contractors. Kinsey included a free trip back to our home right before we moved in to repair nicks and gorges that happened from all the work being done inside the house.
If you need your windows replaced from flood damage we have worked with McCoys and Champions Windows (ask if Ed Scofield is still there). Champions will install them for you, but be sure to ask if McCoys can also install or if they can refer someone to install them for you and compare pricing.
There are lots of resources when it comes to replacing cabinets. Hiring an independent carpenter who does cabinet work, just be sure to get a referral. Cabinets To Go and Ikea has some great design options for cabinets. They are a big investment so do your research. Our cabinet guy was great and wish I could refer you to him but he had to return to Mexico a couple of years ago to help with some family issues.
You can also contact custom home builders in your area and ask for a referral. Be willing to do some extra leg work for it can help you find some great contractors to work with.
We have always chosen granite and have used Tomball Marble and Granite on all of our houses. As far as I know, it's still owned by Richard and Jeff and they are super great to work with (281) 290-0851.
There are lots of options with countertops, soapstone, quartz, butcher block, so shop around and spend the time to do some research and pricing.
TRIM OUT WORK
For exterior doors, interior doors and trim we have always used McCoys or Tri-Supply. We bought our interior doors and paid a carpenter $500 to install them all. Well worth it. We purchased our exterior doors and interior doors from McCoys and saved a lot of money.
We purchased our floor trim from Tri-Supply. We could not find anyone who could come close to their prices and installed it ourselves We set up saw horses, painted them, measured, cut and installed with a trim out nail gun. If you are handy try to do as much work yourself and you can save a lot of money to use for more upgrades on materials like tile and countertops.
Door handles, cabinet knobs and mirrors can get costly but they don't have to. I could not believe how much cabinet hardware was at Lowe's and Home Depot, I mean, when you need to buy over 100 knobs to go on kitchen and bathroom cabinets and closet built ins, $3+ each starts to really add up. I found a hardware company on eBay and got nice large brushed nickel handles for $1 each saving me a ton of money.
If you are looking for specialty knobs for a specific room or cabinet, Hobby Lobby has a great selection. Just wait for them to go on sale half off. We also bought many of our mirrors there, again just waited for them to go on sale. They rotate their sale stuff out weekly so eventually the item you are looking for will go on sale.
Door knobs for our exterior and interior doors were purchased from McCoys, they were a lot cheaper than Lowe's or Home Depot.
We always worked with Jose Adame of J.A. Construction. He is one of the best stone masons we know and were always happy with the job he did. He does brick, stone, fire places, mail boxes, drive entrances and custom paving. (979) 482-3680
PAINT & PAINTER
We always purchased our paint from Sherwin Williams but definitely shop around. Try to go with a satin or eggshell finish as its more durable and easier to clean. We enlisted friends and family to help us paint the walls, offering to grill lots of yummy food and serving wine always helps.
For cabinets, doors and trims, you want to go with a semi-gloss paint and we hired a painter to do this type of work for working with semi-gloss paint is tricky and I did not want to tackle this type of job. We purchased all the paint and just paid our painter for the labor. We wanted to ensure we were not being charged for too much paint and we wanted to be able to keep any paint left over.
It took us getting several bids to find a painter within our budget to paint cabinets and interior doors but we finally found someone through a referral at McCoys (Carlos 281-260-8085) The men and women working at home improvement stores can usually give you good referrals. They know them as they see them often coming into the store for supplies and negative feedback travels fast so they know which ones to refer and which ones not to. So don't be afraid to ask. We have found some of our best contractors this way.
We have cultured marble in all the showers in our house and JCS Granite in Conroe did an amazing job. (936) 443-3969 and worked with Jennifer.
We bought most of our flooring from Lowe's and Home Depot and did the work ourselves. In our current home, we have travertine flooring that we bought from Home Depot. Its the worst flooring EVER. Travertine is beautiful but very brittle and does not deal with high traffic areas well. We had always used porcelain tiles and should have gone that route. We will eventually have to rip it all up as it's falling apart and has huge holes in some areas.
We have Pergo wood flooring through out the rest of our home and it has held up very well with two active boys and one crazy Boxer dog.
We installed all of our flooring ourselves. Tile and laminate are not hard to install. There are numerous DIY YouTube tutorials so if you are feeling adventurous and want to save a lot of money go for it!
We purchased most of our appliances from Lowes or Sears ensuring we handled all necessary warranty and registration information ourselves. For appliance repair, we only trust James Archer of Archer Appliances (832) 212-5434
• As you go through this process ensure you are patient and do your homework.
• Never pay a contractor in full up front for work.
• Get bids in writing
• Make sure your contractor is bonded, insured and when appropriate licensed for the work they will be doing
• Only hire reputable contractors and companies. Check reviews and ask for referrals
• When you hire a contractor, get a scope of work and contract in writing
• Contractors don't like to turn down work so they are notorious for spreading themselves too thin, make sure you also get in writing how long the project is expected to take
• Don't pay a contractor until 100% of the work is completed and you are happy with it. Once you pay them it will be difficult to get them to come back.
To find reputable contractors, ask people you go to church with if they can recommend a good Christian contractor to work with or call your local Chamber of Commerce and ask for a referral from their membership list. If you work with a great contractor, ask him or her for a referral. Contractors are very well networked with each other. Take to social media and ask your friends and family for a referral.
It's important to stay a step ahead of the work being done on your home. In other words, right now while your home is drying out, be reaching out to plumbers, electricians and insulation contractors so you know what will be needed to get your repairs under way.
When your insulation contractor is working on insulation start getting bids for sheetrock so you can have someone lined up ready to go. Especially with so much work being done on such a large scale after so much damage, you will need to get on a schedule that could be several weeks out.
When your sheetrock contractor is working on your sheetrock repair start getting bids from painters, start shopping for interior doors and getting referrals for a carpenter for cabinets or if you will be ordering them from Home Depot, get someone lined out to come take measurements and get them ordered which could take 6-8 weeks.
You always want to stay a step ahead of the work that is being done to ensure the project moves a long in a timely manner.
In your downtime, create a Pinterest board for your Harvey Remodel and save some ideas that you can pull from later. It will lighten your mood and inspire you through this difficult time.
Hang in there. I hope these tips have been helpful and will ease the work ahead you will be dealing with. I will continue to update this post as I think of more resources and info that can be helpful. If you have some helpful info to share that could help others please leave a comment would love to hear from you!
April Williams is the #CreativeMomista of two boys • Storyteller • Coffee Addict • Woman Warrior Of God • Texas Country Girl • Creative Expressive • A vintage soul passionate about inspiring mompreneurs to embrace their enough.