Turning Tragedy Into Remodeling Triumph
After a fire partially destroyed their New Jersey home, John and
Millie Porpora paused while picking up the pieces, and asked
themselves how their home could be rebuilt and improved at the
same time. The end result of their story, reported by Better
Homes and Gardens magazine, was a redesigned home that better
reflects their lifestyle. In the process, they learned lessons
in surviving not only the house fire but the intransigence of
their insurance company.
Starting from scratch, the Porporas realized things had changed
in the 20 years since they bought their home. With one daughter
in college and the other in high school, four bedrooms were no
longer necessary. They converted the second-floor guest bedroom
into a casual sitting area. Warm, yellow walls complement the
colorful, striped upholstery. The sleeper sofa can be pressed
into service if an extra bed is needed.
Their next goal was a lighter, more spacious master bedroom.
Doing away with the second-floor Dutch roof, they installed
cantilevered dormers and a vaulted ceiling that delivers sunshine
in the day and views of the stars at night. Also gone is the
dark, Oak canopy bed. The new, wrought iron version better suits
Today, the formal living room downstairs lives only in memory,
replaced by more casual furniture grouped around the fireplace
(instead of backed against the walls in the old version). The
fireplace itself received a new, white-painted mantle and slate
Although pleased with the end product of their adventure, the
Porporas had to endure 14 months of haggling with insurance
adjusters before finally settling their claim. Here are tips
they suggest for avoiding some of the problems they encountered:
1 - Make a thorough inventory of the entire contents of your
home. Walk through the house with a video camera and make an
audio-visual record of everything, from attic to basement.
2 - Keep receipts of all major purchases, or charge them to a
credit card. (Credit card companies keep records of expenditures
as far back as 10 years.
3 - Go over your insurance policy. Make sure that expensive
items such as computers, jewelry, electronics, etc., are covered
to full replacement cost.
4 - Make sure older homes are up-to-date with building codes.
5 - Finally, don't be afraid to challenge the adjuster's
estimate. Hire your own expert, if necessary.