Bryan Baeumler knows best

By Matthew Pioro

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On Bryan Baeumler’s show, Leave It to Bryan, the star contractor spent a season not giving homeowners the renovations they wanted but the renos they needed.

“Most homeowners know what they need, but they are focused on what they want,” Baeumler says. “For example, Dad wants a man cave, but the kitchen is from the ’40s, he has six kids that need to eat and Mom spends hours a day in that room.”

The reno psychiatrist is back for a second season of Leave It to Bryan. I caught up with Baeumler at a house he was renovating on DeGrassi Street in Toronto to ask him a few questions.

Matthew Pioro: What is the worst job you had to fix this season?

Bryan Baeumler: We had to rebrick the entire back of a house so it wouldn’t collapse. A “handyman” cut out a doorway in a brick wall without putting up the proper support. At some point, the wall would have buckled. But you couldn’t see the damage because it was covered with board and batten.

MP: Other than big fixes, what is the average cost of the renos you do on the show?

BB: Between $20,000 and $40,000.

MP: Have you ever had to undo work? Or had one of your renovation decisions overturned?

BB: No. Because the people we’re building for usually have multiple projects to do. I think getting one project off of that list is a relief. We get a little pushback, but homeowners know in the back of their minds what’s needed.

MP: What can homeowners do to help a contractor?

BB: They should get out of the way: clear out belongings and make it easy for the contractor to work. I’ve been asked to finish half a basement, then move everything over and then finish the last half. And, they shouldn’t micromanage the work. Check in, for sure. There’s monitoring progress, but then there’s sitting on someone’s shoulder. It’s about finding a healthy balance and about communication.

MP: OK. Time to fill in the blanks. As a client, you can be cheap, but don’t be…

BB: …cheap with me.

MP: You can be demanding, but don’t be…

BB: …rude.

MP: What trade or skill do you wish you could do better?

BB: Hanging wallpaper. I make creases in the paper and I get glue all over me. It’s one thing I’m not very graceful at, no matter how much editing we do.

MP: What was your alternative career choice?

BB: There was a time I wanted to be a marine biologist because of Flipper. But, really, I could have have been a heavy-equipment operator. Right now, I have an excavator and a bucket loader in my backyard, so I’m in heaven. I dug a trench last night after dinner. Every scoop, you never know what you’re going to find. It’s like having a giant sandbox. [He pulls up a picture of the excavator and bucket loader on his smartphone.]

MP: OK. That’s very cool. Now, we’re on DeGrassi Street, so I have to ask: what was your favourite character from the DeGrassi series?

BB: Snake. That’s the only one I can remember.

MP: This issue marks CHW’s 35th anniversary. In 1977, you were three years old. What handy work were you doing at the time?

BB: Learning demolition skills. I spent the next 10 or 12 years honing those skills.

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