The historic project honors two major birthdays — the local Habitat affiliate is 20 years old this year and Whirlpool Corporation is observing its 100th.
“We are way ahead of schedule,” said Jerry Franitza, construction director for Habitat Cleveland. “Right now, we’re a good half-day ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point.”
As will be the construction itinerary for the next three weeks, Whirlpool employee volunteers anchored the on-site work last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Monday through Wednesday of this week are dedicated to paid subcontractors such as electricians, plumbers, roofers (shingles only; Whirlpool completed the decking) and HVAC. Whirlpool workers return to the site Thursday for another three days of labor.
How did the project get so far ahead?
Franitza credits it to two reasons: the weather and the work ethic of the Whirlpool volunteers.
“We’ve had great weather so far,” the longtime construction leader explained. “Last weekend’s weather was perfect for this kind of work. And even more importantly, we’ve had some good volunteers. Whirlpool has provided a lot of good people and hard workers.”
Franitza said employee volunteers during the first weekend of work needed very little oversight because many came equipped with certain construction skills that enabled the project to move forward. It also enhanced the group’s ability to work as a team, he added.
On the project’s opening weekend, which started last Thursday morning following a community ceremony honoring the historic birthdays, corporate partners and local government leaders, Whirlpool volunteers erected exterior and interior walls on the first day and wrapped up the phase Friday morning. By mid-morning Friday, they were already placing trusses and they finished them Saturday morning. The rest of the day was spent putting down the roof decking and applying the exterior wall insulation wrap.
By day’s end Saturday, which also signaled the end of the first shift for Whirlpool volunteers, the new house was completely roofed in which meant weather is no longer as much a factor in the project.
The Whirlpool team also got a start on the front porch and back deck — which was not a part of the original schedule for the opening weekend.
Whirlpool is furnishing about 15 to 20 employee volunteers each Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The company’s workers represent three Cleveland-based functions — Whirlpool Cleveland Division (the manufacturing plant), Whirlpool Cleveland Customer eXperience Center (the call center) and Whirlpool Cleveland Cooking Technology Center (the engineering and research center located on campus with the plant).
Matt Carlson, executive director of the local Habitat affiliate, praised the work of the Whirlpool employee volunteers and Franitza’s veteran leadership.
“The first weekend with the Whirlpool Blitz Build went wonderfully,” Carlson said. “We had a lot of participation from Whirlpool employees who got the house ‘under roof.’ That’s always important because it means the trusses went up and the roof materials went on.”
Carlson lauded Franitza’s expertise in home construction and his ability to work with volunteer builders — most of whom on this project are do-it-yourselfers, although some have construction skills. With a chuckle, Carlson said of Franitza, “He’s doing a lot more sweating than I am and he has done a great job leading this house build.”
When Whirlpool volunteers return to the site Thursday, they will concentrate on completing the front porch and deck, and will also begin vinyl siding. The group will be scheduled to complete the siding Friday and Saturday, and will also concentrate on site cleanup Saturday.
The blitz build is scheduled to be wrapped up after the third weekend which is Oct. 28-30.
Home dedication is scheduled Nov. 11 which is the first official day of the yearlong celebration of the Whirlpool centennial.
The house is being built in partnership with Vickie Ledford, a disabled Cleveland grandmother who is raising her 12- and 16-year-old granddaughters. The 1,160-square-foot house has three bedrooms and two baths.
The Ledford home is located in Century Village, a 20th Street subdivision dedicated exclusively to Habitat for Humanity housing. The subdivision is adjacent to Blythe-Bower Elementary School.