2017: The Redux
We’d been back at the property for nearly a month (since mid-June), and were still feeling sick – despite all our efforts to get to where we could start rebuilding the house in earnest. All this — after spending the last 7 years valiantly keeping our home in good repair, making incremental upgrades, and putting so much love into it and the surrounding landscape too. It had been a passion for both of us for the entire time that we’d lived here. Especially since I was too sick to travel – as an alternative to vacations, our goal was to make the property a great place to simply BE.
Originally, we chose this house precisely because it shouldn’t have had a mold problem! It had a slab foundation with radiant heat, and no basement. A simple one-story building- it was built on a hill, snugged up to a mountain, had good southern exposure for sun, and got cooling breezes coming up the valley. Perfect, right? It now stood there, as a shell of its former self.
The house was completely gutted. The exterior walls were missing the siding 2 feet up, all the way around to the back section — which includes the bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry and mudroom. There was only thin plywood sheeting, covered in temporary Tyvek house wrap and tape to protect it from the weather until we could get it fixed properly. Likewise, the house was missing the bottom 4 feet of drywall and insulation on the inside of all the exterior walls.
The wood flooring and carpets were all ripped out, so nothing was left but the cement slab floor, and some tile that was in the mud room and the laundry. We also had to toss most of our appliances: refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, and laundry machines, due to contamination. There was absolutely nothing left of the kitchen – all of the cabinets were contaminated with toxins (which bond to grease), so they would have to be refinished in an attempt to save them. Initially we spent hours out on the front deck trying to save them with Dawn and a lot of elbow grease.
Cooking entailed using the grill out on the deck, and a microwave we had purchased for the apartment, that was now in the living room. We had removed the stove/oven/microwave set so we could work on replacing the walls in the kitchen. Eventually we dug out our old Coleman two-burner camp-stove from the garage and set it up out on the covered porch next to the grill. We used an old re-finished folding table in the living room as a prep table. Meals were generally eaten outside, or in lawn chairs in the living room, using a 5 gallon bucket as a table.
The original refrigerator was contaminated, so we had plugged it in outside on the covered porch until we could purchase a new one to replace it. Having to go outside to get your food for every meal felt like Bizarro World. Chaos ruled, and it became next to impossible to “be good” with our diets under the conditions. Sometimes driving to McDonald’s was the only answer because we were too exhausted to even think straight, let alone whip up something edible with the limited resources we had.
Although we had been able to sleep in the guest room for the first couple weeks, we were still using an air mattress on the bare concrete floor. It was too sketchy to bring the real one (that we had replaced in March) inside yet. We had carefully wrapped it and stored it in the garage for safekeeping. David also did a stint in a tent in the yard for a few weeks to see if he could make additional improvements. (I was too scared of bears to join him! Hah!)
On top of all the aforementioned chaos, we were also left with no functional bathrooms. The master bath was gutted. It still had a tub, but nothing else, and there was no ceiling above the room – leaving it completely open to the attic above. The guest bath still had a shower stall, but the remediation left us with a detached toilet and sink. We had been using a port-a-potty rental since March to get by. Prior to that, when we were trying to live in the studio back in February, we had resorted to peeing in snowbanks. Fun times for a Vermont winter – oh so thankful we were living in a rural area for some privacy at least!
It was surreal to watch the neighbors go about their lives, while ours had turned upside down and backwards. We felt like hillbillies in survival mode, in our own home. It was hard to believe we were still paying a mortgage and this was how we were living now.
Now here we were – seven months later, having paid an astronomical tab for the remediation, and THIS is what we were left with. We couldn’t start putting things back together, because of the issues that remained within the exterior walls, as well as the problems in the attic, and all the failed windows. The “Redux” or “Return” was basically a failure, and we were back to square one trying to figure out what to do about it all.