Not all television is created equal.
There are reality shows centered around human degradation where people lie, cheat, steal and eat disgusting things for the honor of being the last one standing. There are other reality shows where people perform for the amusement-for better or for worse-of a crowd and circle of judges. There are questionable winners and definite losers.
On the ABC-TV reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” deserving people are given new homes built by teams of volunteers made from donated materials. There are only winners.
Yves Cote, owner of Yves Cote Drywall of Pensacola Fla., gets to lay claim to that last category of reality TV participants as he and his workers lent their drywall finishing expertise to provide a Florida family with a new home in the wake of terrible personal tragedy.
Do Right by the Customer, Do Right by YourselfCote has been in the drywall business for 30 years, 20 of those as his own boss. A full-service drywall contractor (they hang, finish and texture), he said he prides himself as being an old-school, hawk and trowel drywaller.
He learned the trade at his father’s knee and an old maxim-take care of the customer and he’ll take care of you-was borne out when his company’s name got mentioned in connection with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
“I got contacted by Heritage Homes, the general contractor on the job,” Cote says. “They got my name from L&W Seacoast Supply Co., who supplied the drywall, and they asked me if I was interested.”
He was, but he needed to approach his workers before he could give the project an unrestricted green light. As they say on the show, all of the work and materials Extreme Makeover are donated-nobody gets paid for the work they do-and he didn’t want to order his workers to give up their time. His workers said “yes” and they lit out for the house. He said he was amazed by what he saw there.
“There were an overwhelming number of people there. An army of people there,” Cote said. They had already hung all of the sheetrock when we got there. There were sometimes 40 or 60 people all trying to work at the same time in a 2,500 square-foot house. It was amazing that people were able to get anything done, it was worthwhile just to see the logistics of it.”
Marching on FloridaThe house was so covered in people, contractors of every trade, stripe and description (plus the film crew) that getting around the floor to do the work was a challenge unto itself. On the plus side, he said a piece of trash or stray chunk of 2x4 barely had time to bounce once on the floor before someone came along to pick it up.
“There was an army of labor there and they made things happen. If you needed the floor swept, someone swept it. If you asked for water, someone was there to hand you water,” Cote says. “I enjoyed the experience, it was second to none, but I don’t necessarily know if I want to work like that again.”
It was all for a good cause. The owner of the house, Finis Gaston, was a student in his last year at Alabama A&M when his mother passed away. He walked away from his full-ride scholarship to take care of his niece and nephews and took a job with the local school system in the lunchroom.
The house was built, and the show was shot, over a single week in October 2010. USG donated the materials used in the home. Cote said he and his workers used Sheetrock UltraLight, Durock cement board, Sheetrock paper-faced metal cornerbead, Sheetrock Mold Tough gypsum panels, joint compound and tape. USG has agreed to donate building materials for a dozen episodes of the Emmy award-winning reality show this season.
Lights, Camera, DrywallThis is the second season USG has been involved with the reality show. The company approached the producers of “Extreme” last season to ask to be a part of the phenomenon. The partnership went so well that the show tapped USG to be a preferred vendor. Since then, they’ve provided wallboard and the like for a dozen projects. USG subsidiary L&W Seacoast Supply’s Branch Manager Don Pickren says taking part in these kinds of projects is near and dear to the company’s heart.
“One of our core values is local commitment, so a project like this helps us demonstrate that community involvement and partnership,” he says. “Participating in a project that impacts the community like this is a true win-win for everybody.”
Pickren says the producers originally wanted them to take their lightweight wallboard to the site where their workers would take it on to the house itself. Eventually they decided to cut out the middlemen, and their pickup trucks, by delivering the wallboard to the house itself via boom truck. This helped out the entire operation by cutting delivery time down to 45 minutes. A real advantage, considering the entire project was on an inflexible one-week timeline.
“The delivery went smoothly and everything was well-organized,” he said. “In fact, they started hanging the drywall as soon as we started unloading it into the house. As we were laying it down, they were picking it up.”
Small Numbers, Punctuality HelpsThe recession and resultant housing slump did Cote’s business some harm (not completely, he says the custom home market-people with money-has always been good) but he’s seeing an upturn and is starting to expand. He’s got some new customers and he thinks he’s getting them from his larger competitors.
“I think some of these companies grew to be so bit that now there isn’t the volume of work there used to be, they’ve had to raise their prices,” Cote says. “There’s remodeling work out there and even some new construction on the rise and now I’m able to beat them on price.”
That bit about customer service, he said, is always in style and he said he brings a different perspective and approach to the trade than some of his competitors. He learned his trade in New Hampshire and says there’s a different ethic in Florida.
“I don’t know if it’s a state to state thing or a city as opposed to the country thing but people do different things in different places,” Cote says. “Drywall is drywall, that hasn’t changed but in New Hampshire you’ve got to be on the ball and be on time or the next company will. In Florida, people sometimes show up late.”
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