Renovation guru Bryan Baeumler shares handyman wisdom in Winnipeg

A famous Canadian handyman and television personality is in town this weekend to drop some renovation wisdom on homeowners at the annual Winnipeg Renovation Show.

Star of Leave it to Bryan, Disaster DIY on HGTV in town for Winnipeg Renovation Show

Bryan Baeumler, star of House of Bryan, Leave it to Bryan and Disaster DIY on HGTV, is in Winnipeg this weekend for the Winnipeg Renovation Show.

A famous Canadian handyman and television personality is in town this weekend to drop some renovation wisdom on homeowners at the annual Winnipeg Renovation Show.

Bryan Baeumler, star of House of BryanLeave it to Bryan and Disaster DIY on HGTV, is appearing at the RBC Convention Centre.

Baeumler stopped by the CBC Manitoba office ahead of the event to chat with CBC's Terry MacLeod.

You and your family lived at home during an ambitious renovation and addition, all of which was put on display. How anxious were you about exposing those relationships on television for the public to see?

CBC Weekend Morning Show host Terry MacLeod spoke with DIY Disaster star Bryan Baeumler Saturday in studo. (CBC)
I think we're a fairly typical married couple with a bunch of kids living through a major reno. The great thing when you own a production company is when your wife comes storming and yelling at you and the last thing she says is, 'I'm just kidding, it's fine,' you can edit that out."

We lived through a major, major reno, living in the house while we built an addition. We tore the kids out of the city and lived through a massive addition on an A-frame house. It was pretty interesting. We had a newborn, I was ripping siding off, I woke her up — it was chaos, constant chaos, but it was a lot of fun.

On the show Disaster DIY, you frequently find all sorts of surprising things hidden behind gutted-out walls, under ripped-up floors, above ceilings. What do you think of what you find?

Everybody's got it, that's the thing. There's not a single episode or a contractor that's gone into a job and ripped a wall open and not found something. A lot of people now value the shiny stuff and the granite counter tops. You walk in and see a house fully renovated, but that's only what you see.

if we're going over budget 80 per cent of the time, we're under-budgeting to begin with.- Bryan Baeumler

To me it's really like a book: the cover doesn't matter, that's all makeup and cosmetics. It's what is behind that that we really need to put value on. I would rather [have] laminate countertops and off the shelf cabinets and cheap flooring in a house that's built well and that's efficient and that's been upgraded and is affordable to operate long-term.

Why do so many home-renovators get into this spot where they're renovating houses that shouldn't be renovated in the first place, or getting them done in the wrong way or getting them done in a dangerous way? Why does that happen so often?

I think we're cheap and we're optimistic, that's what it comes down to. I always talk about budgets, and statistically, what I've put together over the years talking to people, is that 80 per cent of renos go 50 per cent or more over budget. When I mention this, people say, 'Yeah, that's sounds about right.' When I ask 'Why?' all the reasons are, 'Well, a crooked contractor, I changed my mind, or my wife changed her mind, or we upgraded, etcetera, etcetera.'

Before you rip a wall open, you need to have your budget set, you need to have your plans on paper and you need to have a strategy together.- Bryan Baeumler

But the real reason is if we're going over budget 80 per cent of the time, we're under-budgeting to begin with. So it doesn't matter what we create as a budget if we're not coming up with a realistic number.

We're investing in the biggest asset that we'll ever own in our lives, and we want to spend as little as possible to upgrade and make it look good, but we're not willing to put that money in the bones, the meat and potatoes of that.

If people "cheap out" or cut corners on renovating their homes, doesn't that eventually create problems down the line?

If you're putting your house on the market, to most people now, if you're in Winnipeg here and it's –40 in the winter and you're not insulated properly, you're spending big bucks every month to heat your home, and those costs are going to continue to rise.

If you insulate your home properly and you're only spending $50 a month to heat your home, compared to a $500-a-month bill, you're saving — you're being paid $450 every month and that can buy a lot of granite, it can buy a lot of upgrades over the years.

Back on the question of living in a home in the midst of a renovation: you've said in the past it's a journey you wouldn't recommend others embark on, despite the fact that your family survived such a reno.

Living through a major reno, I've always said 'Don't do it.' We're a special case. I own a construction company; we've got 60 employees, we've been through this before.

We're a little more adventurous and crazy than the average family, but generally I've kind of changed my view on it, because a lot of people have always talked about 'divorce dust.' You know, living through the reno, this dust will cause the end of the relationship.

What I've realized is you have to enjoy every step and every part of the journey, because the destination is in the future — you don't know if we're going to get there. You have to enjoy day to day what you're doing, and if a bit of dust is going to cause a divorce, so will a bad meal at a restaurant, so will a late flight somewhere — it's just a catalyst.

What are some of your top tips for people setting out to renovate homes?

You've got to plan, plan, plan. Anyone can build a plan within a budget that you set, but you know, we can't just make a plan and hope we can afford it for a certain amount. Before you rip a wall open, you need to have your budget set, you need to have your plans on paper and you need to have a strategy together.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


The Winnipeg Renovation Show runs at the convention centre from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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