Extreme Makeover Home Edition
Hebert Family Story
The Call from ABC
One day in early fall, 2005, I walked back into my office and the staff were all buzzing around. I asked what was going on and our receptionist said that we were selected by ABC for “Extreme Makeover”. I had no idea what she was talking about. Our designer thought we were going to all receive “makeovers” on TV…
After I called the ABC contact, they explained that Sullivan Homes was selected to build the ABC Extreme Makeover Home Edition for the Hebert family in Sandpoint, Idaho. I still had little idea what the show was or what it meant for my future.
The Hebert Family
Eric Hebert was a bachelor living in Sandpoint, working on a framing crew. His sister had just passed away, leaving her son and daughter with no family. When they called Eric, he told them that he would take the kids and raise them. He would not let them go to foster homes and be separated.
An instant Dad with no training.
Someone nominated Eric for an Extreme Makeover Home, and he won.
With help from ABC and the staff at Extreme Makeover Home Edition, we started preparing for the build.
The rules were extremely challenging. “You have 7 Days to build a beautiful home on live television”. That was not true. The truth is that we had 5 days to demolish the old house, and build, landscape, clean and complete a custom home. The other 2 days were for furniture placement, camera shots, and the big reveal ceremony. Except for some donated items, the homebuilder pays for all the cost of the build.
I thought it was impossible. A typical custom home takes 9, plus, months to build!
However, I do love a challenge.
We started talking to our subcontractors and suppliers. Called the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. Everyone became so excited to help Eric Hebert that we decided to do it. We had two months to raise over 1,000 volunteers, suppliers, house plans that I designed, and rally a town 100 miles away to help.
When the big day came, we were ready. We had 120 hours to demo the existing home and build a brand-new custom home complete with landscaping. But, it would be tight. Very tight.
Crews cut down the trees for access, heavy equipment came in and demolished the existing structure. By nightfall, we were setting footings and pouring concrete.
It was so cold that night and the concrete had a chemical exciter to cure faster that the foundation appeared to catch fire with the evaporation process. I’ve never seen anything like that.
We started framing the next morning and by nightfall, trusses were being boomed in.
Traffic control and security were incredible. Staging that many workers and material inbound was handled by a full-time team just to manage the off-loading and material storage.
I made it 42 hours straight before collapsing in an RV. A 4 hour rest.
That evening of day 3 the house was sheet rocked. By 4 am the next day, the sheet rock tapers were nearing completion when we ran out of propane for the portable heaters.
I jumped in a truck and roared thru the Sandpoint area praying for a gas station with propane. Everything was closed. The job was going to stop. The temperatures were inching down to the low teens by then and the sheetrock mud was going to crack and freeze.
Coming around a corner, I saw a light come on in a farm coop store. Banging on the door, I told the clerk our emergency. He wasn’t going to open for another hour, but he fired up the power and we filled a dozen large propane tanks.
When I returned to the job site, the sun had not risen yet. It was the darkest night, but the home was lit up with all the portable lights and several hundred people still working.
I will never forget looking up at a second floor window and watching billowing smoke pour out. I was so tired I thought “it’s on fire now, perhaps I should tell someone”. I almost didn’t care if it burned to the ground I was so exhausted.
It wasn’t a fire.
It was condensation from all the crews inside the house hitting the freezing air outside of the open window.
I handed over the keys at hour 99.5 from start of the excavation. With the incredible help of the Sandpoint community, over a thousand volunteers, vendors and suppliers, we built the Heber Home in under 100 hours.
It was beautiful.
What Happened Afterwards?
It was so sad. Eric was truly a nice guy. He changed his life to help those children without knowing what that meant. However, Eric was a simple man.
Prior to accepting the challenge, we expressed our concern on what happens after the cameras turn off. The staff at Extreme Makeover Home Edition assured us that they had counselors who worked with the families to help them succeed and on-going counseling.
There was no help. Only the next build, the next show.
The minute they left, the wolves descended on Eric. He refinanced his home to purchase a business selling credit card machines. That failed. He tried other work, but slowly the cost of the home, power, insurance, and life overwhelmed him. He started to sell off items in the house to keep his family together. Then, he lost the home to foreclosure.
He’s somewhere in Montana. The kids have grown up, and life moves on.
It was so sad.