The road to recovery

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HURRICANE MATTHEW DAMAGE CREATED OPPORTUNITY FOR A FABULOUS REBUILD

Ted Buchanan and Patra Evans couldn’t believe it when they saw the text while home in Atlanta: Hurricane Irma had blown through the South Beach area in Sea Pines with nary a scratch to their getaway villa.

“We were kind of biting our fingernails looking at Irma,” Evans said. “We didn’t want to go through it again.”

Fortunately, the retired couple didn’t have to.

recovery2“(Hammerhead Custom Builders) came by after Irma to check things out, and they were the first people I heard from that the house was OK,” Evans said. Tyler Gartner, project manager and brother of Jake Gartner, owner and chief executive owner of the Hilton Head company, texted the good news: “I just left your place; everything is fine, and while I was there, the power came back on.”

“That was the piece of information we were waiting for all day,” she said.

A year ago, Hurricane Matthew’s Category 2 winds and rain turned the couple’s stunning villa on Lands End Road, with its gorgeous view of Braddock Creek and the Harbour Town Lighthouse, into an uninhabitable mess. The bad-news phone call came from Ed Bray, a property manager with Beach Properties vacation rental agency, on that life-changing day in October 2016. The couple didn’t know the extent of damage or what to do first.

Enter Jake Gartner. A year before the storm, he and the couple had discussed remodeling and updating the 1,771-square-foot, three-bedroom villa, which was built in 1980. At the time, the couple decided to hold off, but they reached out to him after Matthew blew through town.

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“When we called him in the middle of the chaos after Matthew, he showed up when he said he would, right on time,” Evans said.

“They reached out to us and we jumped on it,” said Gartner, who founded his company 10 years ago. “The hurricane hit on Saturday and we were working on it by Wednesday.”

And there was a lot of work to be done. Because of the extent of the damage, town officials declared the villa as “hazardous.”

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 “It was a complete gut,” Gartner said. “Water came in through the big louvered gables on the end that faces Calibogue Sound and filled up the attic. Then it went down into the sheetrock of the ceiling on the second floor, which eventually collapsed, which then trashed the flooring, and all the water from the flooring seeped through and trashed the ceiling on the first floor, and that went down and trashed all the flooring on the first floor. The insurance adjuster told me it was a 90 percent gut and to take it down to the studs. The only thing left was the framed structure and the roof. We kept the shell as is.”

It was hard for the couple.

“You really can’t understand the damage until you the walked in the door,” Evans said.

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But starting from scratch gave them the chance to re-create the living space and make it exactly what they wanted. Evans enlisted the interior design talent of M.J. Bucci, and the team shared their ideas about renovating and remodeling.

“It was a collaboration: my vision, the homeowners, Beach Properties and M.J. Bucci,” Gartner said. “Everything we do is a collaboration.”

An emergency master application permit was pulled on Oct. 24, 2016, to “repair from whole house flooding.” A summary of the work involved reads like pages out of a disaster recovery manual: install new flooring and insulation throughout; replace drywall, base, crown and casing; replace counters, cabinets, plumbing and appliances in the kitchen; replace cabinets, counters, plumbing, tiles and shower glass in all three bathrooms; new electrical devices and redo all electrical elements in the entire villa; relocate the HVAC unit; install ceiling beams; and repaint everything.

“Most of what was here we couldn’t save,” Evans said. “We had to replace just about everything.”

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The couple decided to remove a wall in the kitchen to open up the space to the adjoining living room. The master bathroom upstairs and junior master downstairs were reconfigured and enlarged. The structure beneath the villa was strengthened to neutralize sagging of the floor above. Bucci and Evans worked together to pick colors, trim, lighting fixtures and tile.

After seven months of work, the aging villa had a renewed life on the rental market. It has been occupied since it was relisted on May 16, and Evans and her husband squeezed in a visit themselves in September during the only slot available on the rental calendar.

Now the couple can look back at the seven months of tears, blood and sweat and enjoy life in the Lowcountry again. And it helps that Mother Nature left one part of their villa untouched.

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 “We have the same wonderful view” of the marsh and creek from the backyard porch, Evans said.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF BEACH PROPERTIES OF HILTON HEAD

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

BUILDER
HAMMERHEAD CUSTOM BUILDERS

INTERIOR DESIGN
MARY JANE BUCCI

APPLIANCES
BILLY WOOD APPLIANCES

TILE WORK
FLOORS TO GO

INTERIOR PAINT
PARENT PAINTING

CABINETRY
ADVANCED KITCHEN DESIGN

PLUMBING/BATH FIXTURES
CREGGER COMPANY