Happy Friday – Hurricane Who?

I cannot begin to describe how happy we are this Friday that our memories of the hurricane are finally starting to fade a bit as our outstanding hurricane related items are finally pretty much all addressed. (Well, mostly – there are a couple of small lingering ones, but the big ones are finally taken care of.)

Solar panel or projectile? Why not both?

Solar panel or projectile? Why not both?

While we know that we were incredibly lucky not to have any major damage, as it turns out, even having relatively minor damage (ie, not worth filing an insurance claim), can make returning to normal difficult.

Despite a supply of contractors and handymen flooding the area, the increased demand for those skills rose so rapidly that in many cases it was a battle even to have our calls or emails answered at all (much less in a timely manner).

In no particular order, here are the last three of our “big” issues that we’ve been able to get resolved over the past few weeks.

The Solar Panels

When we came home after the storm, one solar panel was shattered and lying in the grass.  Not a great sign for the (MSRP ~$29K) solar system we had installed just a couple of years before.  We shut the system down (we didn’t have power from the electric line anyhow, so it was already off from that override), and called our solar installer.

Within a day, they sent someone out to look at the damage, and he pointed out another panel that had been damaged (most likely by the first panel hitting it cartwheeled off the roof). They would need to order the replacement panels, but then he expected to be able to install it right as they got them.

They were so speedy that I was even worried they might get to the job before the power was back on in our neighborhood that they wouldn’t be able to properly test it.  Alas, (and despite our power being out for 11 days) that worry was for naught.

There was a significant delay in sourcing the panels, and I actually felt like I had to keep calling the solar contractor so they wouldn’t forget about our little job.  It just felt like such a waste that two bad panels were keeping the other 26 from performing their function and creating clean energy – it frustrated the optimizer in me!

We ended up waiting about two months to have the new panels installed. In the meantime, we used up all of the kWh credits we had built up over the course of the year, and even had to *gasp!* pay for electricity over the two months. That was the first electric bill that had more than just our connection fee on it in over two years, and I’m so very glad they are back up and running and the sun is working producing energy for us again!  The system has been back online for almost a full “month” cycle, so I expect our next bill to be minimal again.

Trees at the Duplex

Removing the tree that fell in the driveway of our duplex.

Removing the tree that fell in the driveway of our duplex.

When we were dealing with the immediate aftermath of the hurricane at the duplex, Mr PoP and I went out there and removed the good-sized tree that had fallen down into one of the driveways. It was a huge pain in the butt, but had to be done to allow the renters to get back to their home!

What we neglected in that immediate aftermath were two palm trees in the backyard. They had been pushed by the wind, and though they didn’t fall over completely, they did hit the power lines, so we weren’t supposed to touch them. That was to be left to the tree companies that were subcontracted by FPL.

The tree companies came by pretty quickly (<10 days, which was quick then!), since the trees were preventing the power from coming back on, and basically just beheaded the two palm trees. That left two palm trunks, sticking out of the ground at a good 30-degree angle, leaning across the property line to the neighbors behind the duplex.

That beige stuff is a house hiding under the tree. And it stayed like this for 2.5 months!

That beige area is a house hiding under the tree. And it stayed like this for 2.5 months!

We needed to remove the trunks, but that wasn’t a job we wanted (or felt able) to do. But, wouldn’t you know, tree people have been a bit insanely busy since the storm.  So busy that some trees are taking a lot of time to get to – like this one in our neighborhood laying partially on a house that stayed like that for about 2.5 months before being touched.

We were lucky enough that our palms were stable enough  that we didn’t have to pay the usurious rates that were getting quoted by many providers after the storm (if they returned your calls at all…). But we did finally get the job done. Last week. We no longer have to worry that the trees will topple and cause more issues, and the guy even ground the stumps down.

Honestly, it was a huge relief to have that job done, even if we didn’t have to stare it in the face every day.  The biggest relief though, was probably…

Re-Screening Our Pool Cage

This was our pool cage right after the storm. there should be screening pretty much everywhere...

This was our pool cage right after the storm. there should be screening pretty much everywhere…

The pool cage (aka lanai) lost virtually all of its screening in the storm. We were lucky that the alumninum structure itself was mostly okay. But without screening, there’s only so much an aluminum cage can do. After all, it’s the screening that performs the two essential functions of the lanai:

  1. Keeps the bugs out, and
  2. Keeps Kitty PoP in.

All of the sudden we were targets for ever more biting from both the bugs and the cat. It. Was. Not. Fun.

We were actually able to get supplies to re-screen the walls of the pool cage pretty quickly, and Mr PoP and I knocked that job out in about a weekend at the end of September.

That solved the first problem that we could let Kitty PoP out to prowl around the pool at night hunting lizards (his favorite!), but did nothing for the bugs.

And we kept getting stymied in our attempts to get someone out to replace the roof panels. As you guys know, we DIY a lot of stuff (*cough* crazy kitchen renovation *cough*), but climbing around on top of tiny aluminum bars installing 8 foot x 8 foot screening panels is something we are more than happy* to pay someone else to do.

*As Mr PoP did not hesitate to point out, for someone that manages to trip on nothing or sprain her ankle in her sleep, or even hurt myself pretty badly falling off a chair, attempting to stretch and install screen 12 feet off the ground above a concrete pool deck feels like tempting fate.  While I could be insulted when Mr PoP points out my klutziness, the truth is I have done all those things and more.  I have TERRRRIBLE body awareness. 

The problem is we couldn’t find anyone (licensed and insured) to do it.

The first guy who came and gave us a quote misspelled “licensed and insured” on his business card. And when we asked for proof of insurance (something I might not have done were the words spelled correctly!), we never heard from them again.

Leaving messages with the company that we had used for this work in the past was like screaming into a void. I can’t tell you how many emails Mr PoP sent out (since all of the company voicemails were full!), and if we got a response at all it was weeks later!

We could barely get anyone to say they would come out to the house to give us a quote, much less do the work! We were getting ball-park quotes (where they don’t even come out to look at it first) that even at the low-end were still almost 3x what we would expect to pay for this work were it not for the storm.

Then, right after Thanksgiving, we went for a walk around our neighborhood and ran across a crew (from a local licensed/insured company) that was doing some repair work for a neighbor a block over. We begged one of the guys to stop by our house and give us a quote for the job.

Blessedly, he did. And even more blessedly, it was the most reasonable quote that we had seen from a legit company and he had actually seen the work so couldn’t realistically revise the quote later upwards. The only question was how long it would take for them to get to us, since as we were being told by every screener we called, the supplies were scarce and manufacturers weren’t sending it to Florida fast enough!

About a week ago, we got a call that if they could, they would stop by our house and fix the screening. We basically took that to mean that if they still had time and supplies left at the end of the day, they’d give it their best shot. It was better than nothing and I spent the day in eager anticipation wondering if there was going to be screening when I got home.

Miracle of miracles, there was!  And just in the nick of time.

The weather has pretty much been beautiful since the day the screen was installed, so we have had the A/C off, and the windows and doors open enjoying the fresh air bug free!


Having these big items done is a huge relief.  We have friends and neighbors that will be dealing with the after effects for quite a while yet while waiting for their roofs to be redone or their pool enclosures to be completely rebuilt (not just rescreened), and we don’t envy that one bit.  It’s just so freaking nice – 3 months later – to be able to say we’ve got this mostly in our rearview mirror.


What are you happy about today?

10 comments to Happy Friday – Hurricane Who?

  • Glad to hear that things are getting back to normal.
    Money Beagle recently posted..7 Ways To Save Money At The DrugstoreMy Profile

  • Is your lanai attached to your house? I didn’t realize that. Both beautiful and hard to need all of that screen perfect to keep bugs out of your house.

    • yeah, the lanai is attached to the back of the house and is kindof integral in having fresh air move through the house. The only “windows” in our bedroom are the sliding doors to the lanai (no separate screens on that). Nice and open, but a vulnerability against buggies when the screens are missing. =P

  • Wow! I remember when you were putting in some of those pool panels. Glad it wasn’t leveled anyway, and that you were able to get it put back together. My gosh, what a lot of work you’ve had to farm out…did insurance cover the cost of things like removing palm trees from live power lines?

    It’s amazing the number of fly-by-night “contractors” who climb out from under the refrigerators after a disaster like this. Happy to hear you found some competent guys!
    Funny about Money recently posted..Nutter Season on the RoadsMy Profile

    • This level of damage (our house is in the $3K range, and the duplex will be a little less than $1K) isn’t really worth filing an insurance claim – in our case we have a high-ish wind deductlble (5% of the insured value, a little under $10K). Most people have a 2-3% wind deductible, but even at that if you’re close to the borderline, you’re actually much better off NOT filing a claim from what we’ve been told. The claim history can make it harder to get coverage or lead to higher premiums down the line. =/

      • Gosh. It’s hardly even worth paying for insurance, if you’re afraid to use it. Is it possible to get a really high deductible policy that would be cheaper than the usual policy, so that you’re not paying for coverage that you dare not use?
        Funny about Money recently posted..Merry Christmas!My Profile

        • Ours is a fairly high deductible wind policy, 5%, which is the highest our mortgage contract allows. I think they go up to 10% of the insured value as well, maybe higher. We saved a significant amount when we went from a 2% wind deductible to the 5%. Well worth it in my book. Even if we still had the 2% deductible, we wouldn’t have filed a claim since our damage was right around $3-4K, and our deductible would have been ~$3.5K. Not worth filing, in our book.

          And I wouldn’t say we “dare” not use it, it just makes for a calculation. The same way if you had an incident that damaged your car (say you accidentally swiped a post at a gas station), you’d look at your deductible and see if it made sense to file a claim or not, knowing that your insurance company would undoubtedly ding you afterward for the claim with higher premiums on subsequent renewals.

  • So glad that you guys are able to get things closer to normal again. I bug out every time I see that photo of the tree at your duplex. So close to being a bad outcome.

    Now I look at all the trees in my house, especially the one RIGHT by our east side of the house, and wonder if we should be proactive instead of just waiting for a bad monsoon…

    The half-assed wannabe economist in me thinks that contractors are right to raise prices after a storm, but it sure does seem wrong on some level.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Football, Choking Puppies, and PerspectiveMy Profile

    • After the storm it’s nice to see the contractors doing well (Mr PoP and I occasionally joked – in poor taste – during the recession that what Florida needed was a hurricane to get the contractors working again!), but it does leave a bad taste in your mouth when they get super gouge-y with their prices.

      How close is the tree to your house? And how healthy is it? My parents lost half of a decent sized tree during a monsoon as a kid, and the tree also took out a good chunk of 6 ft cinderblock wall at the same time. In hindsight, though – the tree probably wasn’t the healthiest and had some splitting, so getting it properly pruned in advance might have prevented that.