HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler Solves Renovation Challenges

From budgeting to bylaws, top-rated HGTV host Bryan Baeumler offers advice on undertaking home renos that will stand the test of time

Credit: HGTV Canada

HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler shares his personal experience with home renovation

Everyone encounters challenges when they renovate; HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler’s got practical solutions for focusing on what matters most

In addition to being a top-rated host on HGTV for his series House of Bryan and Leave It to Bryan, plus a Gemini award winner for his series Disaster DIY, Bryan Baeumler is a confident, no-nonsense builder with a busy construction company.

Despite this, he finds it just as challenging as the rest of us to renovate his own home. This is particularly true when trying to balance the demands of his family and work schedule.

Here, Baeumler talks about facing reality when building a dream home.

Q: You lived in Vancouver. Why did you buy a house in Ontario?
A: I was travelling back and forth for work, so I found a house in Oakville and told my Vancouver-based girlfriend that I wanted to buy it and move. Sarah, now my wife, asked what it looked like. I told her that it “had a lot of potential,” meaning it needed a lot of work. I wasn’t looking at the old bungalow, but the neighbourhood and property. As a builder, I knew I would demolish it.

Q: Did you have problems when rebuilding?
A: To me, a problem isn’t really a problem; it’s just a challenge that you haven’t found the solution to yet. For example, we didn’t know that the city had changed bylaws stating that only underground electrical service was allowed, and we already had wiring and posts in the ground when the inspection was done. We used an electrician from a different municipality who wasn’t aware of it. Solution: we changed it.

There were issues when collaborating with my spouse. My first priority was to build something that would last forever; her first priority was to make it look pretty and be comfortable. We went about 30 per cent over budget, but I was prepared for that.

Q: How?
A: I always set initial targets low to stay focused on saving costs, but keep a contingency fund for a worst-case scenario. Most people don’t go “over budget” in a reno; they [underestimate] in the first place. There is no reason to go over budget if it has been properly established, and if you are willing to make compromises in decorative finishes.

If you discover that it will cost an additional $10,000 for unforeseen electrical, plumbing or structural issues in a kitchen, you simply reduce that amount in appliances and choice of countertop. Most homeowners won’t do that because it’s the finishes that people see.

Yet the real value is in the longevity and efficiency of the home, not in what it looks like. Since you’ll update it every 10 years, if you never have to renovate past the drywall over the lifespan of the home, this becomes far less expensive than building a cheap home, making it look nice, and having to gut it in 25 years and start again.

Q: How can you prepare for non-visible challenges?
A: Before buying a house, ask for building and inspection reports and contractors’ names that did renovations. If the homeowner says they did renos themselves, it’s a red flag. Everybody has watched that disaster scenario on TV.

Q: What is your style of living?
A: My clothing style is a cross between Hugo Boss and Mark’s Work Wearhouse, so that’s reflected in the home. I clean up well, and so does it. Our house on House of Bryan looks formal on TV, but in real life, with three kids, there are toys everywhere. There are formal elements in furniture and wainscoting, but it’s comfortable. When Sarah bought white ostrich-skin-look vinyl chairs, I thought, “You’re insane,” but they’re resilient and clean easily.

Q: You designed a luxurious master bedroom.
A: Trends focus on bigger master suites that have comfortable living space. We have a seating area beside a huge fireplace at the end of the bed. It’s for romance – private space without kids – and where I sit with a laptop while the fire is going for ambiance.

Q: Do you like Sarah’s choice of furniture?
A: When it first arrived, I had sticker shock. The one piece that I couldn’t understand why Sarah bought was a fuzzy, white chaise lounge, and it is now where you will find me most nights. I hated the home’s lighting when Sarah showed it to me – I was too focused on getting the house built to look at dangling crystal stuff – but love it now.

Q What is the best thing about coming home after a hard day?
A: Being in a place that needs nothing done to it! Being a builder is like being an artist – you can’t just create one painting and say you’re done.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.