March 13, 2020
During peak construction, Levitt & Sons cranked out 30 houses a day for its famed Levittown, N.Y., tract that welcomed returning World War II vets.
In an eight-hour workday, that’s about one house built every 16 minutes.
HGTV’s “100 Day Dream Home” can’t match that midcentury building blitz, but erecting a home in just over three months is still impressive for hosts Mika and Brian Kleinschmidt. The pair completes eight turbocharged builds during the Tampa, Fla.-based series, which premiered Feb. 16.
The show’s clock starts ticking on Day 1 as the team breaks ground, paired with ever-present time-lapse shots. It stops 100 days later — sometimes sooner — with the property’s reveal. That includes everything from furniture, accent pillows and landscaping, to the requisite potted fiddle-leaf fig placed in a sunny corner.
“Mika handles most of the design; I handle most of the dirt,” said Kleinschmidt, as succinct in conversation as he is in construction.
We grabbed spare minutes with the pair while they finessed a granite countertop delivery among other tasks — yes, the show’s beat-the-clock premise is just that relentless.
The night before a recent reveal, you hung a chandelier in a downtown Tampa home at midnight. Do homeowners ever doubt your prowess?
Brian: A lot of them don’t think we can get it done; they’re shocked that we hit the goal. That’s the only way we know how to do it — all in and juggling multiple things at a time. Mika always makes fun of me because I’m usually the one crying during the reveal along with the homeowners.
You must double down on labor, right?
Mika: We have to be really super-tight. Sometimes we’ll have three or four trades working at the same time so that we can knock things out quicker.
Brian: For drywall, rather than have three guys we’ll have eight. We’ll knock it out in a day, half a day. We’re doing these quick, but they’re also quality — built to last. We’re not just slapping these up for a TV show. These are people’s dream homes that they’re going to live in for the rest of their lives. We make sure they’re perfect.
Give us an idea of the range of homes you build on the show.
Brian: We’ve got houses ranging from $300,000 to almost a million: bungalows, ranch, Craftsman and a kind of coastal castle in St. Petersburg that’s elevated 14 feet. You have to be that high these days to get out of that floodplain. It’s the biggest house of the season [3,100 square feet].
You use Zip System walls on some homes — weatherized structural panels. PBS’ “This Old House” did a segment on them, noting that they eliminate pesky house wrap.
Brian: The energy efficiency on those things is incredible because they’re pre-insulated. They’re a bit more expensive to do, but it does save time. Sometimes speed costs money. Three guys can basically do the whole perimeter of a house in a day. You can still do block [construction] in a day, but you need three to five times the manpower to get it done.
Home inspections can be a major time suck — how do you deal?
Brian: We schedule the inspections early in the morning and just assume they’re going to pass. As soon as they’re inspected, our next [trade crew] is ready to come in. A lot of builders will wait three or four days after the inspections — with 11 inspections on a build, that’s 33 days you’re losing by waiting for inspectors and waiting to see if it passes and then lining up your teams. We’ve got everything lined up from the beginning.
Interior finishes — doors, trim, countertops, tile, floors — would seem the most nitpicky part of a build. How do you condense the endless decisions that homeowners face?
Mika: I work with the family, touring different properties that are lived in, shopping for design ideas. That process normally takes people months, and we’ve got to get all these decisions made on the front end. I present samples, narrowed down, based on what we get from the “inspiration tours.” When you build your own home, you get 100% of everything you want, but it can be overwhelming. You’re deciding every square inch of that house.
Florida is infamous for its hurricanes and tropical storms. Do you figure in a time contingency for weather interruptions?
Brian: We started filming Season 1 in the middle of hurricane season. We lost five days in a row when a tropical storm came through as we were about to start painting. We schedule about 10 days for weather contingency. In summertime, we use just about every single one of those, but this time of year it’s gorgeous.
In today’s culture of instant gratification, do you think homeowners might come to expect such speedy builds?
Brian: We’re showing that it can be done. If you’re talking about multimillion-dollar mansions, obviously that’s not attainable. But for normal families, 100 days or less should be doable for anybody.