There are days I want to scream, "Stop Giving That Mouse a Cookie!" Maybe it has been years since you have read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" or perhaps you are unfamiliar with the story. If you have read it, you probably know where I am going with this.
Often described as a circular tale, in 1985, author Laura Numeroff launched the first book in this award winning "If You Give..." series. One single action sparks a chain of events until it finally circles around to the initial action to complete the cycle. The tale goes like this...if you give a mouse a cookie, he will want a glass of milk. If you give him the milk, he will want a straw, then he will want a mirror to ensure no milk mustache. However, the mirror will remind him that his hair needs trimming which results in a request for scissors. And so it continues on and on.
Where is the hungry mouse in my life? It's no secret Mother Nature's tempestuous wrath left its mark on many homes and cars this winter. My home included. The beautiful snowfall landed in my gutter. Days later compressed by a slice of ice topped with about another 6-8" of snow, the melting commenced. Water taking the path of least resistance found its way onto my kitchen window pane. Unfortunately the dripping was on the inside of the pane.
My series of actions began with a call to the insurance company. They sent in mitigators to cut open walls and ceiling to investigate the damage and set up enormous, tornadic dehumidifiers and fans for a 2.5 week dry out. Well, if you have a leak, you need to determine the source, so enter the roofer and gutter companies for some detective work and estimates. A month later and the cause is still unresolved beyond theories.
Since the window panes are relatively gutted and the warped vinyl windows perpetually facilitate drafts, why not investigate new window options? Next, collect window company referrals, set up appointments for estimates and be available for their arrivals.
Then the parade of drywallers and painters to provide their estimates for the eventual repairs. But one contractor noticed some suspicious areas that might also have leaks or condensation issues. He handed me a card for a forensic building inspector to sleuth the sources. One step begets another into a maddening spiral.
All in all, this parody of the mouse tale has been consuming over a month plus of my life, but it has also provided me with 5 valuable tools and tips to share with you for when the mouse gets feisty.
1. Contact Your Insurance Company Immediately
Find out if the damage is covered by your insurance policy.
Confirm your deductible, inquire as to how they recommend you proceed even if they won't cover the damage.
Ask for suggested contractors. However, a word of caution. One contractor confessed that he would not provide supplemental bids because his quote will be as high as the preceding contractor's bid (he had no idea what the first estimate was). He stated his company will try to get the maximum amount possible from the insurance company. He then relented and said he would be available for an estimate. I thanked him, but told him that his business model was unacceptable to me.
2. Take Photos
Not only will your insurance company likely ask to see photos of any damage whether to your home, car, or other possession, having before and afters can provide useful historic information.
3. Get Referrals & Build Your Contractor Database
Use anonymous online reviewers and the Yellow Pages as a last resort. Consult friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. Referrals from trusted sources add a level of comfort. Ask each contractor you interview for referrals for other parts of the job, if you trust their judgment.
Maintain a spreadsheet or database of contacts. This process will allow tracking competent contractors or note those whose business ethics and work standards are not congruent with yours. I keep a spreadsheet of contractors I like or don't wish to use with explanations.
4. Get Multiple Bids
While this may not be ideal for your schedule or sanity, the difference in price and more importantly methods can be stark. The second drywaller informed me that a platform would be necessary to protect my granite counter tops. The second window installer suggested that my picture windows could be replaced with a crankcase (something my husband and I frequently discussed on hot summer days) to increase cross-ventilation. The drywaller also noticed a few things the roofer missed. So the more eyes and expertise, the better.
5. Project Management (PM) Software or Lists
I began using Trello for another home improvement project, and I am now using it for this repair as well to keep me on track with tasks to complete. There are numerous free and subscription project management programs. Life Hacker ranks these as the top 5:
3. Microsoft OneNote
Below, please share any project management programs that you love and why.
Sometimes PM software can be unwieldy esp. if you have no electronics available or if you are not a fan of such systems. In that case, keep a paper task list. Break it down into small items if the large jobs are too overwhelming. Not only will you get the tasks done quicker, you will enjoy a more immediate sense of satisfaction.
Use these tips for home remodels, auto repairs and other projects as well. Cookie munching mice are apt to show up in all aspects of life, not scurrying in solely for home renovation projects. In fact, as I have been typing this blog, I noticed that I have not updated my contractor database. That led to revisiting my PM software to check what needs to be done for the day. That prompted me to phone the forensic building inspector. While talking to him, I realized that my phone had not been backed up in months. I don't want to lose my contacts stored there. And so the morning goes. Diet time little mouse.
Finally, and probably the most important factor that I will always need to work on is PATIENCE. This particular project is moving at a snail's pace, but it is important to address the root of any problems, find qualified and reasonable contractors, and ensure the job is done well.
In the meantime, before you even think about giving that mouse a cookie, a piece of cheese or any other goodie take note of the tips above, and I wish you well with any projects on your to-do list.
If you need an extra hand with your project management, contact ThePracticalSort.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get you sorted right away.