Homeowners spin Charley repairs into upgrades
BARBARA BOXLEITNER/FLORIDA WEEKLY Brenda Smith, owner of Interiors By Design in Punta Gorda, displays the pink and green fabrics and patterns, at left, she is using in a girl's bedroom of a residence being upgraded from extensive Hurricane Charley damage. Hard to believe, but some Charlotte County residences are still undergoing repairs five years after Hurricane Charley, certainly not to the extent they were in the two years immediately after the storm, but some residences with extensive damage and those of part-time residents are still being worked on.
However, with renovations due anyway, many homeowners decided to use insurance money to improve on what they had, Realtors and interior designers report. "Many took the opportunity to upgrade while everything was torn apart," said Jerry Hayes, Realtor at Five Star Realty in Punta Gorda. "The upgrades across the board have made this community stronger and better."
Brenda Smith, owner of Interiors By Design in Punta Gorda, earned a certification in redesign from Redisign America. She said she usually came in to assist homeowners after contractors had done the substantial rebuilding, suggesting changes in wall paint, window treatments and furniture designs. "Everything was so dated," she said.
Her paint consultations resulted in more colorful interiors. "A lot of people just had white. That's a safe color," she said, noting that beige, mossy green and gold became more everyday choices for walls. For instance, she used a darker shade on the walls of a home that had a lot of windows and sliders because the natural light would lighten the paint color.
As far as furniture, she said, there wasn't too much difference in the types of pieces or styles. Seating arrangements tend to be neutrals in the brown family. Usually the color and texture are in the pillows of the main sofa or sectional and in the chairs. "People are still buying a lot of leather," she said. "They came from up north, and they are still drawn to leather."
Candy and Paul Holmes were on the other coast of Florida visiting a relative when Charley struck their then 4-yearold Punta Gorda home, where they had lived for two years. Mrs. Holmes said the storm gained speed crossing a nearby vacant lot. "It came through our front door and went out the back," she said. "We came back to a mess."
She said a 30-foot mahogany tree on their front lawn was gone, somebody else's pool solar panel wrapped around the trunk. "The majority of our damage was done due to the fact that some object came flying through the front window," she said. "A palm tree came through the back."
The retirees had to replace carpet in the dining and living rooms and bedrooms and tile in the utility room, kitchen and one bathroom. "The problem was the whole center of the house," Mrs. Holmes said. "They had to jackhammer to take the tile out. You had a mess."
Friendly Floors of Port Charlotte upgraded the carpet and tile. "With all the tradesmen we had, and we had a lot," she said, "Friendly Floors was the only subcontractor that told me they would be here a certain day, and everything they said was to the day and time."
She said they upgraded to porcelain tile, choosing the same whitish variety as before, and to a higher quality carpet, a light coffee color. "We did what we wanted to do," she said. "I think our entire house was back to as good as it was going to get in 15 months."
Marjorie Benson, Friendly Floors president, said the company did floor jobs for damaged homes into 2007. During renovations, people opted for larger tile and hardwood floors. "The majority will still stick with a type of neutral, the terra cotta and light beige," she said about the tile. "Probably the most common is the 5-inch wide hardwood, lots of maples and deeper tones. We're selling more and more dark. I think it's just the trend to richer, deeper tones."
From the homes he's seen, Mr. Hayes said, tans and beiges have replaced the white of years ago, and granite countertops and wood cabinetry have replaced outdated designs in the kitchen. The Holmes had newer granite countertops and newer cabinets installed in their kitchen.
In recent years, a kitchen remodel has been a common project and ranks high in cost recoup, according to Remodeling magazine. Minor kitchen remodels among midrange projects ranked third in cost recouped, at 79.5 percent, the publication's 2008-09 Cost vs. Value report shows, and a major kitchen remodel ranked sixth, at 76 percent. Among upscale projects, major kitchen remodels ranked fifth, at 70.7 percent, the yearly report indicates.
As far as exterior features, backyard pools needed to be redone. Like many others, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes had the pool cage and pool heater replaced and the pool deck resurfaced. "Some people chose to renovate the whole pool," said Dave Habig, operations manager at Fountain Pools and Water Features, but the Punta Gorda company handled mostly acid washing jobs.
He said this spring the company acid washed the pool interior at a home that has part-time residents. "They had the pool up and running. They cleaned all the debris out, and they were circulating it," he said, but the homeowners hadn't had the stains removed.
"A lot of debris went into the pools," he said. "We had a lot of interior washing. It was a lot of limbs and palm fronds. When it lays there, it (the pool) gets stained. It's like coffee on a white shirt."
Pools were drained, acid washed and rinsed before being refilled, typically a one- or two-day process, depending on the type of interior surface.
With the real estate market showing positive signs, homes have more to offer than what might appear based on their year of construction. "Don't turn your nose up at the older homes," said Kim Platzer, Realtor, GRI, at RE/MAX Palm Realty in Port Charlotte. "They've done a good job at updating." ¦