BOARDMAN, Ohio – Extreme Makeover: Home Edition raised more than a house for Boardman resident Jeff Novak and his three daughters.
It built awe and amazement in those who swung by Arlene Avenue to watch about 2,000 subcontractors swarm on the home during construction.
The audience was overwhelmed when the TV show and community so quickly and willingly forged together to help Novak, 29, whose wife died of a pulmonary embolism on Mother’s Day. Novak’s daughters are 6, 2 and five months old.
The show surprises deserving families by sending them on vacation while crews revolutionize the recipients’ homes.
According to a news release issued by Prodigal Media Co., the Novaks’ basement annually filled with raw sewage and their shower leaked into the kitchen and family room below. The home was demolished Oct. 14.
Amazing. At the new structure, ladders climbed every side of the house. Lines of the show’s trademark royal blue T-shirts formed to carry neatly wound coils of wire and move drywall sheets from trucks to the home.
Scraps were piled near the street on one tiny remnant of grass from the old yard. From there, volunteers used wheelbarrows and even a plastic, children’s wagon to wheel the trash to a dumpster several houses down.
As spectators buzzed to the background of a chainsaw’s grind and the riddling of machine-gun-fast staple shots, there was a common theme:
“It’s like a beehive,” said one.
“All those people and nobody’s getting in the way of anybody else,” observed another.
“How in the world did they plan this?”
Time warp. Three weeks before the show’s crew knocked on Novak’s door Oct. 12, TC Quality Homes of Canfield received word that they would be constructing the home, said company co-owner and project planner Chris Abraham.
The company would have 106 hours from demolition to build a 2,500-square-foot home that would normally be completed in six to eight months.
“The producer said, ‘Here’s how you’ve got to think of this: Every day is a month and every hour is a week,’” said Tony Esposito, company co-owner and construction leader.
That day, Abraham said they spent three hours walking the lot and examining the foundation.
A week later, architect Joe Kiraly finished plans for the custom home.
The design process, which would normally take three to four weeks or longer, was done in one.
Teamwork. The company rushed to assemble a team of volunteer subcontractors and obtain all donated materials necessary for the build, said Esposito.
The core crew included those Abraham and Esposito have worked with for the past 12 years, they said, so they knew the workers were dependable.
Still, the subcontractors’ abilities were challenged when the show’s project manager rejected Esposito’s plans for framing the house.
Esposito had scheduled 50 men to get the house framed in eight hours, but the show’s project manager said the job was normally done with 250 workers in 12-16 hours.
Esposito said, “You don’t know the guys that I have.”
Working wager. When framer John Decerbo heard the show insisted Esposito beef up the force, Abraham said Decerbo proposed a challenge of his own:
Knowing 12 hours was the show’s framing record, he’d do it in eight. If he didn’t, he’d give the Novaks $25,000. If he did, ABC would give the family $25,000.
Esposito said the show continued pressuring him to adjust the schedule, telling him he would fall flat on his face. But, he said, the network still didn’t accept the bet.
The house was up in 5 1/2 hours.
Plan. Esposito tells of his favorite scene in the build, when Decerbo was walking along a 2-by-4, waiting for a crane to pass him a 55-foot long beam. When Decerbo realized he needed the other end of the beam, he struck it with his hand, it swung around and landed right at his side, where it was supposed to be.
But, shaving the framing time by hours didn’t just fall into place.
Esposito reaches into his back jeans pocket and yanks out two laminated sheets. Unrolling them, he reveals a detailed chart.
“This is the bible right here. This is my schedule,” he says.
Every house project – from blocks to paint to punch out – is listed with start and finish times, special instructions, and contact names and phone numbers.
Esposito said he and his office manager worked on the schedule for a week and a half.
It only allows 82 hours to complete the house, cutting the show’s deadline down by an entire day.
His plan had plumbers and electricians and heating technicians plugging along, side by side, in the house.
His plan had trucks lining up in sequence down the street an hour before parading to their assigned spots on-site.
His plan had union workers and nonunion workers – cooperating.
Esposito wasted no seconds during construction. As soon as the second floor was built, he sent in the drywall installers. An hour after the walls dried, the painters were ready to prime.
When a semi-load of Kraftmaid kitchen cabinets pulled up, he said 60 of the company’s employees scurried to install them in 12 hours instead of the usual three weeks.
Esposito said he could have finished the build Sunday, but began stretching projects instead.
Quality. A skeptical spectator might wonder if all the rush and extra hands ruined quality.
“Because of the system in place, the quality is – I don’t want to say it’s better – no, I’m going to really say it’s better,” said Abraham.
He said the reason is around-the-clock supervision, which does not usually exist.
Esposito averaged an hour of sleep a night, saying he couldn’t expect his subcontractors to work abnormal shifts and then not do the same.
Every night when dusk hit, the neighborhood lit up like a ballpark, motors continued to roar and, at 2 a.m. Saturday, Esposito said a crowd of 300 was cheering the construction workers on as if they were all-stars.
He said it was a real adrenaline rush for everyone.
“It’s the thrill of doing something no one else has done,” Esposito said.
“It was the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever seen in my life, seeing that house go up,” Abraham said. “It was like watching an orchestra. Tony was the conductor and everybody was hitting their notes perfectly.”
* * *
Oh my, I think I see Ty!
By Jamie Mash
BOARDMAN, Ohio – If you visited the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition site in Boardman, you’re likely to have heard – or, just maybe you asked – about team leader and carpenter Ty Pennington’s rather mysterious whereabouts.
What does the show’s design team do while the volunteers build?
If you think the stars rarely showed their faces when the cameras weren’t rolling, you’re wrong.
Tony Esposito, construction leader and co-owner of TC Quality Homes, said the designers were behind the scenes, literally. Some of them spent a lot of time in the backyard building special theme projects for the Novaks’ new home.
And, yes, they did have to shoot the show. In fact, Esposito said the designers were very busy with that.
But, Paul DiMeo – show carpenter – believes he and the design team have it easier than Esposito and TC Quality Homes co-owner Chris Abraham.
“The contractors have the tough job,” DiMeo said.
He said the designers might not know where they’re going until a month ahead of time – “We’re a bunch of vagabonds” – but, the contractors only get three weeks’ notice to pull an entire 106-hour build together.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition takes nominations for families who are worthy of a home makeover, then surprises finalists with an in-person wake-up call, vacation send-off and brand-new home. The show airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.