Sanford & Hawley's Extreme Makeover Adventure

Extreme Makeover Home Edition is one of network TV's most popular shows - both because of the joy of seeing a deserving family get a new home, and the spectacle of watching volunteers frantically construct a new house in 7 days. 

Recently, Frank Sanford of New England based Sanford & Hawley got an insider's look at the process as a supplier for an episode filmed in Suffield, Connecticut. “It's pretty interesting how it all works,“ he related. “They try to build these houses with all donated material, labor, food for the labor, and it's really amazing. The reality is, especially in this economy, that you can't get commodities like lumber and drywall donated. But pretty much all of the branded products were donated.”

Before Sanford was invited to help, the show contacted West Springfield, MA, builder Kent Pecoy. “He's actually a builder we had never done business with before. His regular lumber yard was not too enthusiastic about the project, so he asked the architect, who was a friend of mine; the architect called me; and the rest is history,” said Sanford. The one week project required about 6 weeks of Sanford's time. “I called suppliers looking for donations, and I may have talked with them about other stuff during the phone call, but pretty much every phone call was built around this project.

One company that responded was Fletcher Wood Solutions, which supplies clear boards, mouldings, and LIFESPAN treated wood… with FSC certified material as an option. Sanford & Hawley has had the product line for nearly 4 years. “We found them because we were having some problems with our existing primed trim board in terms of performance,” Sanford recalled. “We looked at maybe 8 to ten replacement possibilities, and found that Fletcher had a treated product with a clear organic treatment which is safe to use inside as well as outside, and basically at that time had the only product that had a warranty, and was priced competitive with what we already sold,” he said. “That made it a very good fit for us.”

Before the show aired, Sanford & Hawley picked up a little face time on the local news shows, “which is probably the really valuable stuff,” said Sanford. But he also gave the Extreme Makeover crew an irresistible photo op by delivering lumber to the site in a horse drawn carriage. It emphasized the company's 125th anniversary, and earned camera time with from the show producers and also some coverage on news broadcasts.

But in Sanford's mind, that's not what the show is really all about. “We went into this hoping to help the family, and we didn't even know who the family was until the Sunday before they started construction,” he told us. “We knew enough about the show to realize they always pick a deserving family, and in this case they were a very deserving family. Along the way, we found it was a tremendous team-building exercise, worked with a lot of builders – people we knew and people we didn't know – and it was a tremendous learning experience to be part of a planning process to see how you can build something this fast!” 

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