Can a three-storey house be renovated in 14 weeks? According to The Block, it can. But in reality, it can’t.
There are many ways a renovation can be stopped in its tracks, and The Block has managed to overcome many of these hurdles to keep the project to a tight schedule.
Michael Kirwan of Professional Residential was the builder for the winning contestants Hayden and Sara from the Gatwick apartments last year.
According to Kirwan, these are the top five surprises that slow down a renovation.
1. Unforeseen problems
In reality, it’s not until walls are removed and carpet ripped up that the true extent of the renovation job is revealed. Hidden asbestos, termite damage and rotting timber can hold up a renovation for weeks, even months, while repairs are made.
The Block is very different. “There are no surprises,” said Kirwan. “You can’t have room three finding out they have asbestos and the others don’t. That makes it very unfair to the contestants.”
Due to the nature of the competition, the site has been checked structurally beforehand, and also for any defect that might slow down one contestant more so than the others.
Home renovators need a buffer in both their timeline and their finances to account for issues that aren’t visible until after work starts.
2. Not enough tradespeople
A renovation can occur faster with more people, but that means more wages and overtime to pay. And if the tiler, painter and joiner are all working in the bathroom at the same time, they can’t work productively as they’re in each other’s way. This means the client ends up paying more money for their time.
“On The Block everyone just has to go for it,” said Kirwan. Usually, Kirwan would work eight hours a day, but in order to meet the deadlines of the show he worked 12 or 13-hour days.
Jack Avison made the TV unit for Sara and Hayden and also worked long days to finish on time.
“In general, four to six weeks is pretty realistic for a TV unit – I did it in four days!” he said. “I don’t know how I did it. The first couple of nights I didn’t really sleep.”
3. The weather
In reality, the sun doesn’t shine 365 days a year. On those days that it rains, outside jobs like laying foundations and painting the exterior need to wait.
Rain caused delays for one of Kirwan’s recent projects that involved excavating a basement. “We couldn’t go there because it was raining,” he said. “I spent two hours there with pumps trying to get the water out. We lost a week because of bad weather.”
On The Block, the foundations and drains are done before the show starts. Also, the competition is more focused on interiors, meaning the weather doesn’t have as much of an effect.
4. Material availability
Fixtures and fittings can’t be installed if they aren’t on site, and the sequence of events means a renovation can be halted if materials aren’t available.
Often trades will solve the problem of material availability by making sure the resources are all on-site before work starts. This may put back the start of the renovation, but tradies would prefer this than having to stop mid-renovation.
The Block renovates a room at a time, so they don’t have all of their materials ready from the start of the show. “Trades are bending over backwards to bring you a tap from interstate – that doesn’t happen,” Kirwan said. “You try to get a light from interstate, and it’ll take seven days at best. So there’s a lot of that that goes on behind the scenes.”
5. Not keeping to the timeline
In reality, tradies can be working on more than one job at a time. Often this leads to a change of plans and a phone call to say, “I can’t make it on Monday, I’ll see you on Tuesday”.
The other trades are then called and told to come a day later too. However, they have their own jobs to work around and might be unavailable for a fortnight.
If timelines aren’t managed carefully, this flow-on effect can derail a renovation by weeks.
The nation watching you work can solve this problem. “We’re expected to be there at 7am on The Block,” Kirwan said. “So they will make sure they’re there, it’s a priority. They don’t want to be made to look silly.”