Tornado Recovery Update: Iron River Construction Review

Last night I received a disturbing, unprofessional email from the construction company we hired after the tornado. I’m still not sure if the fact that yesterday was exactly 4 years and six months from the day of the tornado makes the ordeal we’ve been going through even more sad, or if I should laugh about the timing of the email.

Back when I wrote Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir, I raced to get it released for the 1st anniversary of the tornado. I thought we’d be done everything, and that anything left would be minor. Little did I know that 4.5 years after the tornado – to the day – I’d find myself looking up what all agencies I have to report the construction company to.

It’s been a long and sordid tale, much of which never made it into the book. So, allow me to update… you might want some popcorn for this, as it’s pretty ridiculous. I actually have no idea how to lay it all out here, either… I think I’ll just post in chronological order, going on a series of Yelp reviews I posted as this happened:

*****

September 9, 2015 : My First Review of Iron River Construction

We hired Iron River for major repairs after a tornado destroyed our house in 2011. It’s now 2015, they’re not finished, and … this review is going to be a really mixed bag.

A friend recommended Iron River to us, and they were really happy with work they’d had done. We met with the owner, Tracy, and really liked what she had to say. She was down to earth, nice, and we could tell she wasn’t one of those con artist types that had been SO prevalent in the area after the tornado. We hired her.

Things started out wonderfully. They were fast, efficient, very patient and understanding. Pete (I don’t believe he’s with them anymore) was particularly amazing. At one point during the tornado repairs, he even offered to go get some chicken soup for me when I was sick. I didn’t take him up on it, but still appreciate the offer. Tracy offered up the use of her roofing crew – directly, not through Iron River – to move a large tree log out of our backyard and into a truck for me to bring to a mill., and that saved us a ton of stress. I appreciated it!

When a problem came up (the roofers damaged the skylight), Iron River replaced it with NO fuss or charge to us. We were very happy with their service, and I enthusiastically recommended them to several friends as a result.

Once the roof was replaced and we started work on the kitchen, the problems started. We were now dealing with Rick as a the project manager, and it was terrible. He was rude, condescending, and kept giving us dates that he would then slack off on – despite having them written in a contract! – when something “bigger” came up. He flat out told us on more than one occasion that a more important job had bumped our kitchen. Well, great. I was less than thrilled about some mansion in Stillwater getting a fancy remodel, when I didn’t have a usable kitchen (ie: after a tree had come through the roof, it was GUTTED. Electrical, plumbing, everything had to be redone.). We asked for a different foreman – ideally Pete – and Tracy agreed, but that never happened. At one point, the gutted kitchen sat untouched for over a week, as we were constantly bumped for other jobs.

The communication with Rick was beyond terrible; there were all sorts of issues. At one point we had a plumber thinking that he was handling our bathroom remodel – that had never even been a consideration. Rick expected me to drop what I was doing to call the plumber up and tell him that no, this wasn’t the case. I had to take time to deal with HIS poor communication.

At another point, Rick gave us two hours notice that there would be a window inspection happening, with a three hour window of when that would happen… and the inspector never showed up. Completely wasted our day, scrambling to make sure we’d be there for it with NO notice.. For nothing.

When the kitchen work was finally complete, we were very happy with the quality of work – just very unhappy with how it had been handled. We had enough stress on our plate from the tornado, and the tons of other things we had to deal with surrounding that . You hire a contractor to deal with a big repair and get all of the individual stresses OFF your plate. We really feel that Rick added far more stress than hiring Iron River for the kitchen actually mitigated, in the end.

Things got extremely awkward for us when they had some interoffice drama. One of their construction guys who’d been working on our house – Steve – apparently had an affair with their receptionist, who was married to one of their other contractors… the guy who would be doing the wrapped trim on our windows, as well as the gutters and everything. It was all kinds of drama that we did NOT need to be exposed to, and got really weird and uncomfortable when the receptionist would invite herself over to hang out with him while he worked, at one point bringing her kid with her. I don’t believe either of them are still with the company, though.

After inspection, we were told that the new windows Iron River installed were not up to code by both the front door AND the back door. They sent someone by to install window film on the back, but he neglected to put the stickers on to indicate that they’d been treated with the film to bring them up to code. This was in 2011.

Since 2011, I’ve been calling and emailing Iron River every few months, trying to either get the information for the installer, or to get them to send him back out with the stickers, and to deal with the front window. At first I was told that Tracy would have to look it up and get back to me, then the calls and emails just went completely unreturned.

*****

September 29, 2015 : My Second (Updated) Review of Iron River Construction.
Had to post as a second review a bit later, as the first was WAY too long, Yelp cut it off and made me wait!

In May of 2015, we were hit with a crazy hail storm, and the insurance company wrote off both new roofs – house and garage. As we were 100% happy with the roofing portion of our dealing with Iron River, we thought that this could be a good opportunity to finally get the windows finished also. We called them in on this set of repairs. We heard back from them on May 13, 2015.The claims adjuster came on May 21, and Iron River sent their new Sales Manager to meet with him / us.

Mark, the new sales manager was VERY understanding and apologetic about the 4 years of nagging with no results. I told him that before we would get the roof done, they would need to bring our windows up to code, per the original contract. He agreed, and was very reasonable about it. He talked about how important customer satisfaction was to him, etc. We believed him.

May 29 the installer sent the stickers to them for the kitchen windows. June 5th, they came by with the stickers. June 25th, they received the window film to treat our front windows, and told me I’d be contacted shortly for install .On Jun 29th, They installed the film on the front windows… and found that the windows hadn’t even been installed properly.

June 30th, we woke up to see that the film was bubbling and peeling horribly. From the street, our front windows looked like they’d been smashed! We immediately got a hold of Iron River, who told us that there must have been sap on the windows to prevent adhesion. … even though there are no trees anywhere nearby, as we lost them all in the tornado. He said that they would go ahead and order tempered glass window sashes, as they should have in the first place.

Then we didn’t hear anything for a month.

July 27th, we were told that the window had been ordered, and should be in that same week, or early the following week. I asked if they were still interested in quoting for roof damage, did not get a reply on that.

August 3rd, Mark emailed to say that they were expecting the windows that week and we’d be contacted shortly.

August 6th he emailed to say that the windows had arrived, and we’d be contacted shortly.

August 14th he emailed to ask if we’d heard from the installers yet. This annoyed me, because it came off like the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing. No, we had not heard from them.

August 17th, we finally heard from Greg, one of the installer, who said he’d be calling us that week. At this point, our front windows have looked smashed for over a month and a half. Very trashy and embarrassing.

August 24th, they brought and finally installed the window sashes

As I post this, it is September 9th. The roofing company we settled on when this all started going south is currently up fixing the roof, and Mark from Iron River JUST emailed to ask me if we still want them to do the roof.

Going more than 4 years with repair permits taped to our kitchen door- that could not be closed out without the windows being brought up to code – really wears on a person. The first 6 months-1 year after the tornado was incredibly hard. We got almost everything done in that time, just a few cosmetic things yet to do. We just wanted to move on from the tornado, and not have that reminder there every day, telling us that it STILL wasn’t over. 4 YEARS! For just stickers and film on the front windows.

I guess they had bigger jobs to focus on… but I’m really unhappy to have been left hanging like that, for so long. Tracy knew the toll the tornado had been taking on us. They did SO much work, so well, and had been so good through most of the process (with the glaring exception of Rick). It really sucks to be left with such a negative final review on them, over 4 stinking windows.

Window

The window, the day after film installation. The photo doesn’t do justice to how awful it looked – the neighbour across the street stopped me to ask if we’d been vandalized!

*****

At this point, I thought things were done. We had the windows, I had left a very fair review. Over a month later, I was shocked to receive a notification that my review had a reply from Tracy, the owner of Iron River – she had not emailed me about ANY of this, the whole time.

IronRiver1

*****

October 20, 2015 : My Third (Updated) Review of Iron River Construction.

Addressing Tracy’s response:

That’s an interesting interpretation. Where to start?

Maybe with the personal attack, as I was nothing but fair to you in this review. I’m blown away that you would blantantly lie about me in response.

For one, we decided not to contract with the first person who we signed with, as the owner of the company decided that his son had under quoted, and wanted to jack the price way up AFTER we paid the deposit on our agreed pricing. He was rude, so we did not hire him. That’s it – no one was “thrown off” anyone’s property. I’m not sure where a second contractor came in?

I’ll address the “very high maintenance, difficult and demanding person” in a minute..

You guys went the extra mile at first (aside from the kitchen problems), while there was still a lot of work to be done. That is why I recomended you guys to friends 4 years ago, and why I gave positive reviews back then.

When it came to the very last bit – bringing your window install up to code – I could not even get a returned call from you, for several years.

It took 4 years of nagging you for your window guy to bring the stickers to get ANY response on that. How difficult would it have been to have him bring the stickers for the back window, and schedule the film to be installed on the front windows? That was 4 years of us not being able to clear out our permits. I don’t think it’s “demanding and difficult” to expect you to bring that up to code faster than *four years*!

The only reason we called you about the roof was because you HAD done a good job with that, and we were hoping you’d see it as incentive to *finally* bring the windows up to code. Even that took a ton of nagging, with a lot of dropped communication. We’re thankful it was finally done.

Calling for that one new project after 4 years is not “called again and again for multiple projects over the years”, by the way. You did the tornado repairs. We didn’t call to hire for anything over 4 years . We called for the hail damage this year.

I have, however, called many times in the past four years to ask you to bring your window job up to code.

Very disappointed in this response.

*****

November 15, 2015 : My Fourth (Updated) Review of Iron River Construction.

And we have another update in this ongoing saga of the not-up-to-code window.

On November 4th, I was sitting at my desk when I heard a noise up front. Went to investigate, found that the entire sheet of film on the lower front window sash (the indoor one) had just fallen off, right onto the floor.

I emailed Mark at Iron River immediately, letting him know what happened, and asked if there was something wrong something wrong with that batch of film, for the outdoor one to bubble and peel up, and this one to just fall off. They had tried to blame tree sap (despite no trees around) for the failure of the outdoor film installation, I had NO idea what would explain the indoor one just falling off.

… it’s now November 15, a full week and a half later, and Iron River has yet to reply to my email. This is *beyond* ridiculous.

*****

Window2

Window film doesn’t do a lot of good when it’s sitting on the ground

*****

November 22, 2015 : My Fifth (Updated) Review of Iron River Construction.

Two and a half weeks after letting Iron River know that their interior window film installation (which was their way of “fixing” the fact that they didn’t order tempered glass windows in the first place) FELL OFF, Mark from Iron River finally replied with

“Marie, obviously nothing Iron River does seems to please you, we have gone out of our way to try and make things right and have received nothing other than negative reviews and grief for it. At this point, we are done trying to help as there are no open permits for the windows and they have passed inspection. Mark.”

So there you go. As long as their fix works long enough to pass an inspection that’s good enough for them. Never mind that the window is no longer up to code.

I have no words for how disgusted I am with this whole ordeal. It’s a freaking window. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to get it up to code.

Expecting a job that you paid for in full to be up to code and finished sooner than 4.5 years after the fact isn’t being overly picky.

To have the “guarantee” held hostage over a bad review – that only came after several YEARS of nagging them to bring it up to code – is extortion at best.

*****

… and that’s where we are now.

Personally, I’m amused at the fact that I’m the bad guy in all this, for giving a fair (but leaning negative) review after 4 YEARS of having to nag over a job that never had been done to code.

I love that I’m “high maintenance” or whatever, because I bothered them with it when their quick fix (film, rather than installing the tempered glass they were supposed to!) failed immediately.

So now, I get to deal with going after them through the legal system, like I haven’t invested enough time in chasing after this as it is. I’d always heard the stories of how contractors would screw the tornado victims over in our area, and we ALMOST ended up with such a con artist off the bat. I just never saw this coming with Iron River Construction. “Disappointed” doesn’t even come close to describing it.

I think back to the day of the tornado, when people hadn’t even begun to process what happened, as the “vultures” descended on the area. We were SO mad to see pickup trucks full of people with lawn signs advertising construction companies pull up into the extremely narrow intersections – trees and roofs just laying in the road as it was! – blocking all traffic just so they could get there and advertise first. That our tragedy was such a OPPORTUNITY to them, that they were mobilized immediately on that Sunday afternoon.

IMG_6388

I couldn’t wrap my head around how anyone could work to take advantage of natural disaster victims in that way, at the time… and I still can’t.

On the afternoon of May 22, 2011, North Minneapolis was devastated by a tornado. Twisted recounts the Porters’ first 11 months, post disaster. Rebuilding their house, working around the challenges presented by inadequate insurance coverage. Frustration at repeated bouts of incompetence and greed from their city officials. Dealing with issues such as loss of control, logistics, change, and over-stimulation, as an Aspergian woman.

Subjects covered include: Opportunistic “Vultures”, gawkers, new friendships, a bizarre gingerbread house, unique decisions made with the rebuild – including an internet-famous kitchen backsplash, “Tornado Claus”, contractor drama, water balloons, DIY design and work, music, sensory overload, and details on how to cook jambalaya for almost 300 people, in the parking lot of a funeral home… should you ever find yourself in the position to do so. Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

Author:Marie Porter

Marie is an award winning cake artist based in Minnesota's Twin Cities. Known as much for her delicious and diverse flavor menu as for her sugar artistry, Marie's work has graced magazines and blogs around the world. Having baked and designed for brides, celebrities, and even Klingons, Marie was proud to share her wealth of baking knowledge in her two cookbooks: "The Spirited Baker" and “Evil Cake Overlord”. Marie has also authored a book about her experiences surrounding the 2011 Minneapolis tornado: "Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir"

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge