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Reconstructing Herbert

Sandpoint man gets new home thanks to reality television

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When 37-year-old Eric Herbert returns to Sandpoint from vacation this week, he will discover that a force more powerful than Mother Nature has demolished his house.

A whirlwind of about 4,000 volunteers working with the television reality program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition razed his single-level, partially underground house and in its place, built a multiple level three-bedroom residence for Herbert and the 8-year-old twins in his care.

From nearly 15,000 applicants the program receives each week, Herbert was selected because he stepped up to take care of the kids after his sister, Francine, died of a heart attack in April last year. To prevent twins Kyler and Keeley from being moved into the state's foster care system, Herbert moved to Idaho to care for them. But the small trailer house the kids lived in with their mother was falling apart, so Herbert saved enough money to buy a berm home in Sandpoint. The house was musky, and often infested with insects, and the show's producers decided Herbert and the children should have a better house.

ABC television executives chose Sullivan Homes, a northern Idaho construction company, to spearhead the renovations.

"They came into town, prepped us and we went to another site the show was doing in Ohio to get an idea of how the whole process worked," said company spokesman Mark Montgomery. He added that Herbert's house is the show's 53rd, and the amount of help is "astounding." According to the Sullivan Homes' Web site, more than 100 sponsors have donated labor and materials.

"This is totally volunteer. National and local companies are donating, and there are about 10 contractors on the site with the cast [of five]," said Montgomery.

If you've never seen Extreme Makeover, the show's stars surprise an unsuspecting family by telling them they've been selected to have their home remodeled, and then the family is shipped off on a weeklong vacation. The Herberts were sent to the Bahamas. While the family is sunning it up, the cast, crew, volunteers and professionals race against the clock to build a new home.

In the 106 hours allotted for the project, contractors took shifts, pouring the cement foundation in the wee hours of the morning, and "really hammering it out to finish," Montgomery said.

He said the workers built an entirely new structure, and meticulously designed and furnished the inside as well as landscaped the outside. For an example of the extensive work put into the project, a 65-ton crane hoisted the upper garage and roof onto the structure, and roughly 6,800 square feet of roofing materials was put on the home.

The house was finished Saturday, November 19, though not without glitches. While the contractors had monitored progress on spreadsheets to make sure everything was on schedule, according to Montgomery, the show would not go on unless a road was built to provide access to the remote home. So local companies got together to build the 1,000-foot gravel road, a temporary driveway and 80-square-foot staging area at a cost of $40,000.

Still basking in the Caribbean sun as of press time, Herbert was unavailable for comment. However, according to a press spokesman, the Herbert show will air sometime in 2006.