Michael and Dawne Kirkwood and their five children were living in a house infested with black mold. Eventually, the family of seven was forced to live in the living room, the only mold-free room in the house at that time. However, the environment was so noxious that it became difficult to breathe in the house. When the mold affected the family’s health, they moved into a hotel and shared one room.
As the Kirkwood family dealt with the mold issue, Jael Kirkwood, then 9 years old, decided to take matters into her own hands. She filled out an application to be featured on an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode.
Months passed, and Jael did not hear from the show’s producers. She decided her next step was to track down Sweet Alice Harris, who was featured on a previous episode of the show. When Jael contacted Harris, she gave Jael the phone number of a contractor who built homes for previous editions of the show but advised not to call the contractor first. Instead, Harris suggested Jael contact the mayor of Port Orchard for help and to ask her to call the contractor.
Jael took the advice; she met with the Mayor of Port Orchard Kim Abel. Abel contacted the contractor and he contacted Extreme Makeover’s staff.
On Nov. 8, 2005, Jael’s persistence paid off. Ty Pennington and the Extreme Makeover design team knocked on the Kirkwood’s hotel room door to announce they and Howland Homes would build a home for them.
“When Extreme Makeover approached us about doing the show, we just couldn’t say no,” says Matt Howland, owner of Howland Homes. “Giving back is a core value of mine and Jael has so much passion and determination that I was glad to be able to help her family.”
The buildWhen the show’s team visited the Kirkwood’s home, they knew there was nothing that could be done to salvage the home because they determined it was an environmental hazard. The house was to be demolished the first day of the build but before the house was leveled, the Extreme Makeover team put on hazmat outfits to enter the house and salvage sentimental and irreplaceable family items.
As the old house came down, construction of a new house began. Building the house took place in only four-and-a-half days. Howland Homes had approximately 105 hours to construct a 5,000 square-foot house. Matt Howland was the project manager in charge of construction and Josh Gebhardt of Howland Homes was the logistics coordinator.
According to Gebhardt, staying on schedule was most important in order to hand over the house in time to the Extreme Makeover design team. Also, staying on the construction schedule turned out to be the most challenging aspect of the build because of bad weather conditions.
The project was already behind on day one. Rain and freezing temperatures delayed framing because the concrete foundation did not dry as fast as it usually does. On day two, the first walls went up. There were approximately 70 people working on the frame and trim. Normally, it would take 12 to 13 days to put up the frame and trim but it was done in two days
“The skilled labor is great,” says Gebhardt. “They volunteer all their time and money, and take away from their own projects to come together to do this good thing for this family and that is awesome.”
The roof was completed before day four and the drywall contractors were ready to work their magic. Jeff Walters, owner of JM Drywall & Texture, along with contractors and subcontractors from Arden Drywall, Omega Drywall, Lee’s Drywall, Stan’s Drywall and Antonio’s Drywall, volunteered to install the wallboard. All-Wall donated automatic taping tool sets and drywall tools. The hanging and taping of drywall was done in 12 hours. Forty-eight drywall hangers and 44 drywall tapers worked together; plus, 19 volunteers helped complete the walls throughout the house.
“It was great seeing people come together on this project,” says Walters. “Lee’s Drywall and Omega Drywall contributed a lot to this project. This was a huge effort on Howland Homes. All-Wall also helped out greatly by donating taping tools.”
USG supplied drywall materials, including primer, texture and mud. Nail-on corners, paper coated nail-on corners and bull-nose square corners were used in the home.
Move itOn day four, reality kicked in. The team realized how behind schedule the build was. With only 36 hours left to finish the house, the Extreme Makeover producers asked Howland if they needed an extra day to finish the house. If Howland Homes took the extra day, the Kirkwood family would arrive a day late to their new house. Howland decided to pass on the extra day and work straight through the next 36 hours to complete the build on time. A call for volunteers went out to the community and hundreds of people showed up to be a part of this project.
The construction of the house was almost complete on day five. Volunteers and skilled trades worked with maximum efficiency to complete the house on time to pass the house key to Pennington, so the design team could furnish the home. The build finished on schedule, and at 9 p.m., Howland gave the house key to Pennington.
“We didn’t have a construction job, we had a life adventure,” said Howland before handing over the house key to Pennington. “We started behind the gun and it got worse and worse. It rained, our concrete didn’t dry; our labor got tired but we hung in there-everyone hung in-and we pulled it off. A community came together. Subcontractors can work side by side with people that usually compete with one another but it doesn’t matter because we are part of something bigger-we are part of a community-and we support each other.”
After the design team put the finishing touches on the interior and exterior of the house it was complete. Usually, a 5,000 square-foot house takes six to eight months to construct but Howland Homes and Extreme Makeover did it in only seven days.
On day seven, the Kirkwood family arrived at their new home. When the Kirkwood family, Pennington and crowd yelled, “Move that bus!” the new home was revealed. The family reacted with shouts and tears of joy. Their emotional reaction was contagious and touched all the volunteers gathered around the family and their new home-it was party time. Not only did the Kirkwood family have a new home, they also received one last gift: Howland Homes and the building community of Seattle paid off the mortgage for the Kirkwood family.
“I am overwhelmed with joy that we are part of something that blessed other people,” says Howland. “Without the hundreds of companies and thousands of people involved, this would not have happened. This was a community that came together, that made this a possibility.”
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