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House 1 the Block 2023

The father/daughter team helping build The Block

Each year, The Block manages to bring with it all sorts of impressive firsts on many different levels. Adding to the list this year is the unique COLORBOND® steel installation team on Kyle and Leslie’s eye-catching monochromatic masterpiece - House 1. Grahame and Kirra Hunter are a father and daughter team of COLORBOND® steel installers whose combination of skill and experience made them perfect for the high pressure demands of The Block.

Working Together

Grahame has more than 35 years of roofing experience, starting as a roofer straight out of his plumbing apprenticeship and then quickly beginning to specialise in the more architectural aspects of roofing and cladding. For daughter Kirra, it was an exciting career pathway that she discovered back in her school days as she occasionally helped dad during weekends and school holidays. Kirra says it's a combination that works well: “Because he's taught me from the start, we sort of both do things the same and understand how we work out a job and everything, so that's good”. Grahame agrees: “We have worked together long enough that we understand each other, which is an important part of it. Most roofing or cladding jobs are a two-person job. Generally, pairing up makes it better than trying to do it all on your own. And, yeah, you've got to sort of be on the same wavelength to make it work”. As you’d expect, working with your dad isn’t always perfect, however. “We get along usually. It's been a lot better since I don't live with him anymore. That was too much of each other” laughs Kirra.

Very First Block

This is their first year on The Block, but they’re definitely putting their hands up for another go next year – just maybe with a bit more notice. “The original company that was going to do the house pulled out at the last minute” explains Grahame. “I was recommended and met up with Aiden from The Block’s long-time building company, Nine in Six. We worked out a price and Aiden said, ‘You start tomorrow’. That was it.”

For someone that hadn’t even seen any previous series of The Block, it was a quick learning experience. “The biggest difference to our normal building activity was the compressed time frame to actually get it all done. And, just having to have a reasonable attitude that if at times you are held up, you can't let it upset you because it's the same for everybody. But I reckon for how condensed the building time frame is and how little the areas that you've got and how people have to work on top of each other, it went amazingly well.” The other big challenge they encountered and quickly learned to cope with was finding their stuff moved from where they left it the day before, thanks to the demanding needs of what is basically a 7 days-a-week film set.

Change Happens

Last minute changes by contestants are par for the course on The Block, and Grahame and Kirra had some interesting ones to cope with. Right at the beginning, their contestants suddenly decided they wanted skylights in their backyard studio, after the roof was already completed. As we all know, anything is possible on The Block – it just takes time. And money. Kirra explained to Kyle and Leslie that the roof would have to come off. It actually went back to the builders, Nine and Six, who ended up saying no because of the cost of the exercise. However, the contestants definitely learnt from that experience, successfully adding extra skylights in the main house in the ensuing weeks, but this time doing it before the roof was completed.

Big Impact

Obviously, the big external feature of House 1 is the magnificent COLORBOND® steel cladding in one of COLORBOND® steel’s newest colours, Dover White™. The decision was made to lay it in a brick pattern of smaller architectural cladding panels, the perfectly symmetrical layout making a big visual impact in the completed home. For Grahame and Kirra, it was one of the trickier aspects of the installation, but one that produced a great outcome. “The brick pattern meant that we had to spend a fair bit of time trying to work out where we initially started” says Grahame. “Once you started the brick pattern, then it had to travel around the building. Because we started halfway up, you had to work it all out where it was going to end up when you were down at ground level...places like the front garage door which wasn't even built”.

High Speed Mistakes

Speaking of the garage door, it was a good example of what can go wrong with so many different teams of tradies working to incredibly short deadlines. Having meticulously finished the brick pattern work cladding on the door, it was opened prematurely by another building team before the installation was complete, damaging and bending several panels – and this was a Friday night before a Saturday finish and photography. Fortunately, the suppliers, Metal Cladding Systems, were able to make up some replacement panels overnight. Another minor disaster happened when the enthusiastic contestants did some late-night spray painting with white paint in one of the upstairs rooms. Unfortunately, the room didn’t yet have windows, so the white paint ended up on the cladding and the COLORBOND® steel roof featuring the deep charcoal grey Monument® colour in a Matt finish - the panels then had to be taken off and replaced once filming had been completed.

Small Advantages

The other interesting thing about this particular build was the relative freedom that using smaller panels in a brick pattern gave them. They could roughly calculate how many panels they would need, meaning they could pre-order a heap of panels rather than having specific lengths created for actual positions on the house. If any damage occurred to a panel during construction, there was another one onsite ready to go.

Do it with COLORBOND® steel

We finished by asking Grahame and Kirra to share their thoughts on why people should consider using COLORBOND® steel on their own build (apart, of course, from its much-admired good looks). “We have this conversation with people all the time” says Grahame. “It won’t burn and it’s low maintenance . . . you know how easy it is to keep clean and the fact you don't have to do anything with it. I've always recommended COLORBOND® steel to people.” He’s also a big fan of being able to do all the flashing in the same COLORBOND® steel: “You can get it in coil form and just make exactly what you want.”

Kirra sees COLORBOND® steel cladding as an ideal feature for a two-storey house: “I would recommend it all the time on a double storey or above, because you don't have to touch it again.”

The Block Experience

After being thrown into the crazy building cauldron of The Block with only 24 hours’ notice, Grahame and Kirra are rightly proud of what they managed to achieve. Even with the occasional film-related annoying hiccup, this talented father and daughter team loved the experience and are keen to give it a go again next year.

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