Honourary Apprenticeship with a new home builder
This was for my series Healthy Homes Australia which I co-host with the beautiful Dani Wales. Producers wanted to show what happened behind the scenes when you build a new home through a builder. Makes sense right? The new home market is FARRRR bigger than the renovation market. In fact, 120,000 Aussies buy a new home from the plans each year.
As you'd know, 'Walt Collins the TV presenter' is handy around the house when it comes to DIY, design, gadgets and all that kind of stuff, but I'm NOT in any fit state to start building a house. So the producers thought it would be a great idea to get me to work in every area of construction to learn how its done and how hard it can actually be!
It was a long, hot and exhausting process. Everything for TV has to be done quicker than usual, rushed, done again and then some more for the crew who are capturing everything. We built the thing about an hour south west of Sydney- which meant me traveling back and forth from Melbourne to keep working on the thing. Most days were above 37c and if the construction unions were in charge we would have been heated off! But no... the build continued!
We started off looking at the plans and choosing the layout of the house and these guys are all about light flow, energy, space and movement. Sounds lovely.. and was lovely... lots of Japanese principals through the design. Then we got to work on the slab which required cutting out the earth to shape. What I found really amazing was learning how to drive the tractors and earth movers. Totally addictive. In fact I think I'm going to go do a course of some kind to learn that stuff properly. Any ideas?
The slab pour was one of the hardest things I've done to be honest- having no idea what I'm doing and not getting a great deal of help, I just had to wing it and pretend I knew what was going on- despite having two cameras and a drone pointing at me waiting for ground breaking TV to happen!
We got the slab done and then next came framing- my favourite.
I've worked as an apprentice chippy quite a few times so was a dab hand with a nail gun. This was a great day- a solid day of shooting. Only to be told on review of the footage that I forgot to wear eye protection and that all of the shots with me in had to be redone the next day to comply with health and safety. FFS> So back we went the next day to pick up close ups of my face pretending to shoot.
Anyway, back and forth to Sydney we go with the team and I joining the build at various stages, in fact a little cheat was undertaken (but don't tell anybody)... we had 3 houses at different stages, each being the exact same design so that the filming was completed much quicker than a full build.
We worked hard in high humidity and I got to put in a good few hours laying the roof tiles with an awesome bunch of lads. It was SO hot on the roof and the tiles were a bit delicate, easily breaking if you stood on the wrong part. I loved it and couldnt believe how the tiles just sit there with only a nail banged in to secure it. The Boral roof tiles really looked fantastic.
Then we went through the fit out and fix off stages and I got to learn the basics of essential services like plumbing, wiring and AC. All things you can't do without having your trade licence, but still, was great to get stuck in. The plasterboard and insulation was pretty straight forward- that's one thing nobody really likes doing. Itchy insulation can drive you nuts, although they use Bradford Gold Insulation which is ranked really well so we suited up in our paper suits and did the job.
By the 'almost complete' stage of the build, we were at lock up and had shot a LOT of footage but the build was coming together nicely. The guys at Sekisui House were really kind to me but did work me very hard. By the next visit there was just the kitchen units, doors, architraves and finishing items to work on. With my on-site experience as a chippy I could get stuck in helping with door frames and skirting boards.
Once complete, the painters came in and the floors were laid and the job was pretty much complete. It was a huge undertaking to coordinate everything and everyone but the team did a stellar job on the build. For the last episode, Dani and I went back to the house a few months later and shot the big reveal and decked the place out with furniture and accessories ready for shooting.