zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
[personal profile] zeborah
(Written primarily for fellow ChurChurians interested in the process, so I bid friends elsewhere be tolerant of old news and unexplained dates/terminology.)

There were, in 2010 and 2011, various EQC assessments - the initial post-September one followed by a more thorough one on February 19th; and the initial post-February one followed some months later by a couple of guys with iPads and about a month after that by a report in the mail. My house wasn't that badly damaged - cracks everywhere but mostly cosmetic and the structural damage was pretty minor all considered; all thoroughly inhabitable once the emergency repairs had been taken care of - so I expected to be waiting a while before I heard any further. I was quite happy with that in fact, knowing there are plenty people far worse off than me. Then late last year I got a sudden phone call saying someone else wanted to postpone their repairs (they didn't want it done in the Christmas period) so a slot was available for me.

So things happened in a bit of a rush. I met with the project manager, who I immediately liked. We went over the scope of the work again. I met with the foreman, who I also immediately liked. The original plan was for me to stay in my house while the repairs were carried out, but someone noticed my asthma inhaler and suggested all the plaster dust involved would be a Bad Idea. My cat and I would have to move out.

This was up to me to organise, so I phoned my insurance company. They'd cover accommodation costs for me, but no cattery. A friend suggested somewhere I might get a short-term rental, but it was too short-term for the landlord. I ended up calling the Canterbury Temporary Accommodation Service, which I suspected was not what it's for (they're mainly for redzoned folk) but I hoped they'd be able to point me in the right direction. They put me through a gruelling verbal questionnaire (nothing nasty, just long and much seemed pointless and I was tired; by the end I was almost in tears) and promised to call me back. To my surprise after that inauspicious beginning, they did so very promptly, a lovely woman who confirmed exactly what I needed and within a couple of hours found two motels that would accept me and my cat. I visited both, picked one, and got the insurance company speaking with the motel about payment. There was some kerfuffle regarding documentation the insurance company needed from EQC and my EQC contact needing some repeated nagging to send it, but it happened in the end.

I packed my house into boxes - fortunately renovations weren't extensive enough that I had to worry about storage, they could just shift things around inside as they went - and moved into the motel for three and a half weeks. (The motel owner was fantastic and left me to my own devices during this time, other than giving me free wifi and the run of the laundry, so it was like a second home except my cat hated it and yowled every time someone next door turned on their spapool.) The 3.5 weeks would let the contractors do most of the work, let me get back home, and then they could finish off the other bits around me.

I popped in a couple of times a week to pick up mail and keep track of things; there was a sign-in sheet I had to use the same as the contractors did.

...There were delays. I'm not sure what happened in the first week other than "very little"; I think some of it involved supply bottlenecks. In the second week things really took off. Of course then in one room when they stripped the lining paper, chunks of the wall fell out. This caused more delay... They pulled the bricks down from the fireplace, which necessitated removing the gas fire, then discovered the gas fire wasn't up to standard so couldn't be put back in. So they were running a bit behind schedule, and then did I mention the day I was meant to move back in was December 23?

So December 23 happened. After a suitable length of time had passed, I sent a text message saying I hoped they were okay and should I plan on staying on at the motel? They phoned back saying someone had fallen off a ladder but just got a bruise, and though a bunch of the guys had wanted to go home to their families the foreman had got them to stay long enough to make the place at least habitable for me to return as planned.

For this alone, I'd ♥ them forever; it really was above and beyond.

So I was home for Christmas. And right from (I forget, the 26th or 27th), and every day except Jan 1st itself, they were there from morning to evening valiantly working on various rooms around me. This was all by arrangement, I hasten to add; they were very happy to work around my schedule. But I was fine to fit in around them too, to get it done. Admittedly it had its inconveniences. The "no curtains and no lighting in the bedroom" thing was okay - being summer, I just took to going to bed when it got dark and getting up when it got light. The paintfumes and my asthma meant I had to keep the windows always open, but it was good weather. I tend to spend great amounts of time sitting in one place on my laptop anyway, so it didn't matter that a couple of rooms at a time were out-of-bounds, but ducking under scaffolding every time I needed to go to the bathroom or make myself a snack was irritating, especially when someone was busy painting said bathroom. (Again I'm certain they'd have got out of my way if I'd been irritated enough to ask.) So sometimes I escaped for an afternoon to friends or family; and in due course I was back at work anyway.

It was mid-January before we got to the point where most things were done. (Relined and painted almost every room in my house, often including skirting boards and windows; rejibbed ceilings; repiled a section of flooring; hammered out an old hearth to put in new flooring there and polish the whole floor in one room; eased doors and cupboards; filled cracks in the foundation ring; replastered the doorsteps; put up new weatherboards where an old chimney was and repainted the whole wall to make sure the colour matched; filled cracks in the garage walls; and various bits and bobs I'm forgetting. And cleaned up of course, and got someone to tidy the garden where they'd been working, and mowed all the lawns.)

At that point I did a walk-through with the foreman to see what remained. Some things were waiting for something (suppliers on holiday delayed the leadlight window and apparently Canterbury Heating has one person who has to sign off on everything in the whole city and is on extended holiday so the gasfire's on hold); some things had been forgotten; some things had become issues along the way - like painters getting a tad sloppy about the dropcloths, so needing to clean up paint or even repaint surfaces; or an admittedly fragile dining table getting its legs dragged off (they repaired it) or a chest of drawers getting a corner irreparably bashed off (the foreman was horrified, asked how I wanted to handle it, and promptly accepted my suggestion).

Of course, Murphy's Law, after the walk-through I noticed a couple of other things. And for a day or two there I thought we were going to get trapped in an endless cycle of painters repainting over paint spilled while repainting something else. (Important Life Lesson: No job is too small for a dropcloth!) What really helped was when I typed up the list of what I thought still needed to be done and gave them a couple of copies so it was all clear and they could tick the things off as they went.

All along the way, they were the most fantastic people ever. They fitted in around me, fixed everything I pointed out, even did a few small things that weren't technically in scope but they couldn't bear to leave undone. And these are people whose own homes are damaged and are waiting on EQC themselves (conflict of interest to work on their own properties, of course), and have other earthquake-related things going on in their lives. Plus, while the newspapers are full of Bad Contractor stories, I heard some Bad Homeowner stories to match....

So finally we got to signoff. (With the exception of the leadlight window and gasfire; these exceptions were noted on the signoff form. Also there's a 90-day period in case anything makes itself apparent later.) This involved me, the foreman, the project manager, and an EQC person walking around to check everything yet again, and then I signed.

To be honest there were a couple of niggles. I ended up taking down a curtain rail and putting it up the right way around myself; I've also been cleaning up some small remaining paint spills with meths. But they've just essentially renovated my whole friggin' house after a series of major natural disasters, so I've got zero complaints.

--Well, almost zero. The January aftershocks have dropped the floor in my toilet, which aside from wrinkling all the lino there and in the laundry, has structural implications; and cracked the fresh paintwork at every corner of the exterior, causing weatherproofing issues. So I could grumble about that a bit.... Ah well, one EQC claim settled, another one to file!

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