The Rapidian

My Furnace Adventure: Part three

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

This is Part Three in a series about the Grand Rapids Housing Rehabilitation and Grant Program. Part One told of Sharon’s broken furnace that led to her interest in the program. Part Two talked about the application process. This installment discusses working with the city and choosing a contractor.
Underwriting support from:

City of Grand Rapids Community Development

Find out more information about the Community Development Department

   By: Sharon Zils

There is a position called the Housing Rehabilitation Specialist at the Community Development Department. They are trained to know what to do, when to do it, and most importantly, to assist the homeowner with any questions they might have.

    Mine was a god-send because the stress that I was experiencing over not having a working furnace was tremendous and it showed.

    Lisa had called me within a few days of my loan approval to schedule an inspection. She also needed to make sure that my furnace was beyond help. It would be the fourth declaration of that fact.

    I didn’t know what to expect during this initial meeting, so I had a notebook and pen in hand as we did the walk through of my house.

    I understood the various programs offered by the City, but Lisa explained how their process applied to me and my situation as we went room by room. In her experience performing these inspections, she was able to visually determine that by the age of my windows and the looks of the interior ceilings, walls and trim that lead paint was more than likely present.

    It was about this time that I decided to go for broke and add replacement windows to the mix. I already knew that the pay back amount for the loan would be the same, so I went for it. In addition, the original wooden front and garage doors would also be replaced. Things were moving along, slowly but surely

     Another appointment was scheduled so that Lisa could go over the lead paint report and explain it to me in plain English. It had many pages written in scientific jargon with charts and it was complicated. She spent the time to translate that the bottom line meant remove or cover lead paint hazards.

    This work would be covered by the loan amount, or in my case, I could do some of the interior work myself. The condition of the paint on my walls and ceiling wasn’t in the “very severe” category. She suggested to me what to buy and how to do the job. 

    Her most helpful hints involved preparation for the contractor.

    By now it’s the end of July, more than two months after my furnace stopped working, and the next step was to post the job for contractors to bid.

    But first they also had to do a walk-through of my home. Lisa told me that as many as 10 contractors would show. There were 7, plus a subcontractor for the furnace. Some of the men  greeted Lisa as if they were old friends. Most have been doing this for a long time just as Lisa has for the city.

    Bids were due on August 15. The lowest one gets the job.

    It turned out that Dale of Builders Unlimited, the contractor I most liked, got the job. He was the only one who spoke to me on the day when the contractors’ had the “look-see” before submitting a bid.

    A week later Dale, Lisa and I had met to go over the contract and sign the papers.

    Before this occurred, Lisa asked me if there was anything else that I could think of that needed to be fixed. I disclosed that there was a problem with the toilet. The wax ring needed to be replaced because the flange was cracked.

    My brother discovered the problem when I told him about my rocking toilet, but he had told me the repair was beyond his expertise.

    Lisa was able to add that on to the contract because it fell under a different repair program for which I was eligible. All in all, I was beginning to believe that my “no heat” problem was finally going to be solved, along with a few others.

    Five days later, the furnace was installed. The window installation was scheduled for September 23. In between, a very nice licensed plumber by the name of Ruben repaired my toilet.

    The only thing that I had to really scramble over was moving out for the five day duration. The cat went to my brother’s and I went to my aunt’s condo. I was grateful that my family stepped up to help me, but I hope never to repeat that scenario. I didn’t want to be known forever at the family reunions as the “smelly fish” who over stayed my welcome!


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