Friday, May 1, 2009

Degnan at Extreme Makeover Home Edition - Part 1

I spent about 3 days working at the Extreme Makeover Home Edition project in Richland Center in July 2008. Lisa and I also spent the first day there, known as the Braveheart March or the Blue Shirt March. The construction process was thrilling but challenging. We at Degnan Design Builders were there to help Twohig Construction, doing the trim carpentry for Veridian Homes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008
Lisa and I arrived early Saturday morning in Richland Center. There were hundreds of people waiting to be shuttled to the site about 7 miles outside town, tucked high on a beautiful farm hill. Our job that day was to be part of the cast, as the army of Blue Shirts arriving to help build the new home. It was demolition day!

The story of the demolition was a "Storybook Demo" because the owner, Shelly Anders, is an elementary school teacher. It was a little like "The Little Engine that Could" since there was a small excavator "learning" how to tear the house down with the help of a bigger excavator. As we were back from the center of the circle formed around the Design Team, we could hear little of the story until we actually saw the TV show several months later.

The Design Team members were all present, including Ty Pennington, Paige Hemmis, John Littlefield, Paul DiMeo and Eduardo Xol. There were lots of "takes", they shot and re-shot the march and the demo from lots of different angles, and of course Ty had to climb up on the pile of debris with his camera for some shots for the family.

Monday, July 28, 2008
On Monday morning, I got a call from Mike Twohig asking me to get out to the site sooner than we had planned. Our trim shift was supposed to be from 3am to 3 pm Tuesday July 29. Instead, Anthony Caracci and I packed up immediately and headed for Richland Center. The funny thing is, just before we arrived Gary Zaicek from Veridian also called with a similar request, but he had better news for me: He wanted Anthony and I to work in the production tents, helping build the special projects for the design team. Well, twist my arm! Work on the special projects and maybe meet a designer? We were thrilled. Little did we know, we'd do more than just meet them in passing.

By the time we arrived on site around noon, the house looked as you see it in the third photo. The framing was complete. In fact the exterior was half done! Anthony and I quickly got started in the production tent.

My assignment at that point was pretty simple: I had to cut a few dozen pieces and then grind the ends to prep them for welding. Paul DiMeo was working on the assembly of various things right in the same tent, so I got to chat with him on and off as we were working. I found out a few things about him. For one, he's a smoker! But, I asked him whether he was an actor or a craftsman first. Paul told me that he became a tradesman - a welder, I think he said - in order to pay for acting school. And, that is how it all started for him. (I found out Paige Hemmis's answer too but I'll talk about that later.)

Around 6 PM, we were thinking about dinner and winding down so we could rest for a few hours. To be back at the site and be set up by 3 am, we figured we'd have to be up and at it by 1 am again. Those plans quickly changed, as David Simon from Veridian approached me with a special assignment: to re-build the stairway!

Upcoming parts of the blog: Stay tuned for more!
  1. Good quality control - the stairway example
  2. The night of trimming.
  3. Home - for a while.
  4. Punch list - the most thrilling part, got to see it all!
  5. An hour in the bedroom with Paige Hemmis. Installing furniture.
  6. Homecoming
  7. Who else was there to help... Bob Degnan, Andy Schneider, Nick Hoehl, AnneMarie Dresen, her brother-in-law(?), Jon Benninger... more...
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