- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - The 2011 flood had been devastating to residential neighborhoods of Minot’s river valley. From older homes with multi-generational histories to newly-built dream homes, the raging Souris River played no favorites and showed no mercy.

In the flood’s aftermath, some properties were beyond recovery. However, many houses were restored frequently to a condition as good or better than before the flood.

The home of Suzanne Caldwell and Carlos Mathena at 818-4th Ave. NW is one such house.

“This is my old neighborhood,” said Caldwell, who purchased the house after the flood, having moved back to Minot from Minnesota. She had been in the house as a child, but when she saw it for sale post-flood, it was stripped to the studs. She looked at other for-sale properties only to keep coming back to the house on Fourth Avenue, built in 1937. It had a round-top front door and nine-foot ceilings, both features that attracted her.

“It just had a good vibe, even in its dilapidated state,” she told the Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/1iDxxwT ).

She bought the house to convert to a rental property but loved it so much that she decided to call it home. She and Mathena moved in during October 2013, after 7 1/2 months of remodeling.

One of the biggest makeovers occurred in the kitchen. A drop ceiling was removed and a deep closet in the adjacent living room was shortened to create a recessed space in the kitchen for a refrigerator, thus opening up kitchen floor space. The new kitchen with its quartz countertops, high-gloss cabinets and double-pane windows remains cozy but more functional.

The overhaul of the basement also resulted in remarkable change. It’s believed there had been a coal chute to the basement in the house’s earliest years. Indications were that the basement had provided only limited living space previously.

Caldwell and Mathena transformed the basement’s furnace room into a laundry room with a laundry chute from upstairs. A higher efficiency, smaller furnace and water heater are tucked away, and the former laundry room now is a bedroom, which Mathena uses as his home office. The bedroom includes a walk-in closet. A small bathroom was converted to a full bathroom with heated floor. The remodeling retained the recessed window in the bedroom and block-glass windows in the laundry room. The once steep and narrow stairs to the basement were rebuilt for better accessibility.

Upstairs, the red brick fireplace in the living area was redone and painted white. A picture window was enlarged and converted to French panes.

“Everything is energy efficient, too,” Caldwell said, noting the house was re-insulated.

The main floor has two bedrooms and a full-size bathroom with heated floors and towel racks.

Caldwell studied art in college, which is reflected in the way color is used throughout the home. With gray as the base color, Caldwell used soft hues of violet, blues and other shades that create a pleasing blend in moving from room to room.

Caldwell said one characteristic of her decorating is lots of wall hangings. About 50 pictures and hangings decorate various rooms in the house.

The remodeling didn’t stop with the house but continued into the backyard.

Caldwell and Mathena removed three feet of soil to level the yard and eliminate the pooling of water that occurred whenever it rained. They put up a wood fence and installed a curved concrete patio.

“That was the biggest transformation,” Caldwell said. “The yard is nice in the summer. We love going out there.”

The house itself needed its front steps redone. The house’s cedar exterior survived the flood, although Caldwell made sure the mint green paint did not. Mathena recalled many hours of paint removal before they could repaint in white.

Although Caldwell and Mathena were involved in the process, they did have a contractor handling the work. Their contractor, one of many who came to the area to fill a huge demand in the wake of the flood and oil boom, was not one they would recommend and added some extra cost to the project. However, he basically was a middle man for the subcontractors, who did excellent work and ensured the project turn out great, Caldwell said.

Jeff and Michelle Jacob rebuilt their home at 616-18th St. SW as quickly as they could after the flood.

“We did a majority of it ourselves. We had some help from family, friends,” Michelle Jacob said.

Jeff Jacob, who works in the construction industry, was able to facilitate contacts with tradespeople to move restoration along. They were able to get into the house in mid-July and worked on the main floor while pumping water out of the basement. Their home was finished by the end of October.

“We did everything pretty much the same,” Michelle Jacob said of the remodeling. “That, obviously, helped it feel like home again.”

There also wasn’t a need for much updating because their house, built in 1998, had been remodeled just before the flood. Between an initial neighborhood evacuation, which was short-term, and the final evacuation when it flooded, the Jacobsons hired a contractor to have new flooring installed and new paint in the kitchen and living room.

When they were told to prepare for evacuation the final time, they tore up as much of the flooring as they could remove and placed all their home furnishings in storage, saving most of their belongings. So when flood waters receded enough to get back in, they re-connected with their previous contractor, North Country Home Improvement, to redo the work that had formerly been done.

One significant change was made, though, to open up the basement space by creating one room from two. Rather than have under-stair storage, they opened that area, establishing a more spacious feel. The basement is used as a family room by the Jacobsons and their two teenage children and displays their taxidermy collection. On the main floor, the Jacobs built a partial wall to set off the stairwell to the basement, which previously had been protected by a banister.

The Jacobs had removed their kitchen cabinets, but in restoring the house, they decided to upgrade to new cabinets in a somewhat lighter oak.

Shay Jacob, 15, said the changes brightened up a home that was ready for a more current look.

“It definitely needed an update,” she said.

She moved her bedroom to the lower level, giving up a bright pink-and-green little girl’s room for one painted in classy gray tone better suited to a teenager.

“I love it,” she said. “I don’t like how it happened, how I got the update, but I like the update.”

“It’s definitely better than it was,” Jeff Jacob said of the house.

After the flood, the house had been stripped to its framework, giving the Jacobs essentially a new home when it was rebuilt. All doors and windows required replacement. The new oak doors with recessed design offer a different look from the former solid doors. The formerly white house exterior now is a light green.

To get their home back to the same condition, and even better, as quickly as it happened for them has been a blessing, the Jacobs said.

“We consider ourselves very fortunate,” Jeff Jacob said.

Although they moved fast to restore the house, they took all precautions, including hiring an environmental company to guard against the return of mold, which can be a problem with rebuilt flooded houses.

“We oversaw everything,” Michelle Jacob said. “I feel safe with the way it turned out and I feel comfortable.”

Blake Krabseth, broker at Watne Realty, said there’s been few reports of problems with flooded houses, which indicates people did a good job of controlling for mold. Real estate agents also have been requiring documentation of mold remediation before marketing houses.

Clyde Thorne, real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, said there are anecdotal reports of homes where mold has returned but it isn’t a widespread problem. Homes that were properly sanitized and rebuilt with the appropriate gutters and landscaping do not have problems, he said.

People who rebuilt homes that they planned to live in tended to be especially careful, Thorne said. He said he’s aware of one instance in which a home was sanitized three times “just to make sure.”

Even before flood waters fully receded, Tracy and Sandi Larson were back to assess the damage to their home, greeted by a snake on their front step and a bullhead swimming in the house. They immediately set to work gutting, cleaning, re-cleaning and cleaning again. They hired a professional who could certify mold remediation.

The image of the inundated Larson home at 600-24th St SW became a familiar one around the state. Various publications featured a photo taken shortly after Minot’s dikes were overtopped, showing the house half buried in water but with its U.S. flag flying.

Tracy Larson said his wife had reminded him to take down the flag as they and their three children were evacuating with the last load of their possessions. He decided to leave it. He said the flag represented their “orneriness” and signified they were “not going to give in.”

Today, their house looks almost the same as it did pre-flood.

“It’s as good as it ever was. It’s home,” Tracy Larson said.

“This was our dream house,” Sandi Larson said of the home they built 2 1/2 years before the flood. The Larsons had spent a few years making plans before settling on a design and beginning construction. When the flood destroyed the house they had worked on so hard for so long, they were determined to bring it back just as it had been. Sandi Larson said the only changes were to move a couple of vents, make a bathroom vanity longer and add a hot tub. They also replaced a deck that had washed away.

“It’s actually better,” Tracy Larson said of the house. “We spent a little money to put a real nice, permanent deck in.”

They moved back on Christmas Eve 2011, living upstairs and washing dishes in the bathtub while making repairs to the main floor and lower level.

Sandi Larson produced a video of the challenges of their recovery efforts, including issues related to their daughter’s asthma. The video won $5,500 toward their rebuilding efforts in a contest sponsored by Minot State University’s broadcasting department. The reconstruction was completed in the summer of 2012.

The Larsons had saved furniture, flooring, cabinetry and nearly everything but sinks and a kitchen island, which enabled them to rebuild the house almost exactly as it had been.

Just before the flood, they had finished their basement with a bedroom, bathroom and living area. The carpenter who built the cabinets wasn’t about to make another set. He arrived before the flood to take the cabinets out, then put them back in again during the rebuilding.

Ready Builders of Minot handled the main construction, but in their eagerness to get back in, the Larsons hired out-of-state workers to more quickly get to the electrical, plumbing and heating. Although they experienced some issues with one subcontractor, they also encountered some good people. Their electrician volunteered a portion of his labor and became not just their electrician but their friend.

The experience of rebuilding also has made their dream home even more special.

“It makes you appreciate having a home,” Tracy Larson.

As for the flag, the Larsons have stored and preserved Old Glory in a case.

“I just thought I can’t get rid of that,” Sandi Larson said. “That flag is kind of famous.”

___

Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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