Saturday, February 02, 2008
My Evening with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
The Master Bedroom and the Great Room covered in plastic in preparation for acid dying their concrete floors
I’m my own general contractor for about ten days. R, the real gc, is in Viro Beach, FL with his wife setting up the memorial service for her recently deceased mother and taking care of all the legalities, possessions, etc. I’m coordinating the schedules of all the sub contractors, rearranging with Fritz all the supplies and equipment in the house to clear rooms as necessary for the work that’s going on in each at any particular time, and trying not to get in the way of progress.
Way, way back I was asked by M who did the architectural drawings on the house, whether or not I wanted to be my own general contractor and I said no, not under any circumstances. I had no contact sheet for subs with whom I had previous experience because, of course, I didn’t have that kind of experience. The scheduling part might have worked but I hadn’t yet realized how fluid, to use a kind word, the promises and schedules of various subcontractors can be. I’ve become a lot more philosophical about delays--the only ones I get upset about now are the really stupid ones that are caused by subcontractors deliberately creating conflicts in their schedules.
Case in point: you may remember that our framing crew got picked to work on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition last October. Their supposedly one weekend involvement ballooned into two weeks. The house that needed attention is in Manchester, NH, about half an hour from here, and had been wrecked in the violent spring floods of the spring of 2007. Very little could be salvaged—clothing, furniture, appliances—all gone.
The owner and his wife were told that the place was uninhabitable and had to be demolished. They were told they’d be given a grant to rebuild by FEMA—and if you see it coming, you’re right on the mark. The grant to rebuild barely covered the demolition—which left them with the remainder of the mortgage to pay every month while renting substitute lodgings and trying to reclothe their children. Their situation was bad but, as the husband kept on saying, no worse than many, many others who suffered equal losses.
However, this family didn’t live just in Manchester, but in ManchesTAIRE, ie the old, well established French Canadian section of the city. Neighbors rallied en masse, nominated the family for a makeover, and they got it. The original plan was to bring in a pre-fab ranch house in two sections, assemble it on a new foundation, and give it to the family. But an extra flood of testimonials about the quality of their family life, involvement in the community, etc. led to the plan to give the pre-fab to another family and build a brand new dream house for the original winners. This is how our framing crew got involved.
The show aired last Sunday and we tuned in. We don’t usually watch Extreme Makeover but as people we knew were involved—including Fritz’s Office Manager who’s in training as a licensed theraputic masseuse and did chair massages for tired or stressed workers at the building site—we did on this occasion. She and our framing crew had brought back tales of how chaotic the site was, with hundreds and hundreds of totally unskilled volunteers milling about with nothing to do and little or no supervision. Everyone on site had been given a white hard hat--the head of our framing crew finally had to run around with a can of orange spray paint and spray the hard hats of his own guys just to be able to find them in the milling crowds.
On air, of course, it was all made to look like a well-oiled machine, perfectly coordinated to a triumphant conclusion. Ty Pennington did his shtick, the neighbors and volunteers hooted and hollered and the house was revealed. Personally, I think it looks awful--a disjointed jumble of elements grafted onto each other that towers over the rest of the neighborhood, with which it has nothing in common in terms of style or scale.
But the family was sweet and very grateful, constantly mentioning their unease with having been given so much when others were equally devastated, concerned about others at least as much as for themselves. They were also told that the community had raised funds to pay off the mortgage on the house that was destroyed. That’s the kind of place ManchesTAIRE is.
PS--we never did catch sight of any members of our framing crew in the midst of the hordes working on the house.