Jim Caruk Interview: Builder Boss on HGTV Canada June 28

Jim Caruk is one of the original HGTV Canada renovation show personalities. 

His landmark series Real Renos was a hit and ran for seven years. Caruk took a couple of years off to get his booming private business under control, but he’s back again, with a new series Builder Boss, thirteen half-hour long episodes premiering June 28th. 

This time, Caruk looks at a different style of house in each hour – a coach house, a Victorian, a Georgian, which should have a broad appeal to homeowners and buyers. 

He tackles unique problems across Ontario in an effort to bring some reality into the sometimes “fairy-tale” type renos we see on television. 

On the problem of TV fame:

JC: Not a bad side, I don’t if I’m Brad Pitt or anything and can’t walk the streets, its good and flattering when people come up and talk to you. It’s kinda weird because they talk to you like they’ve known you forever, on TV.  

They pick out something from one of the shows and expect you to remember.   Did you see this thing that didn’t go well?   I’m flattered people watch ad take the time to say hello.  You can see others that recognise you but they’re afraid to approach, but all in all its good. 

It’s often crossed my mind that being in the public eye, the show and my business, you gotta be extra careful of what you do and say because everything’s just, no disrespect, but sometimes the media can blow something out of proportion.  Being on the show and having a show and business you’re constantly under surveillance and they’re just waiting for you to screw up and I do screw up.  I’m just a guy that was stupid enough to put it on TV.  

But saying that, something that people need to understand how construction works and how renovation works, that’s the biggest problem people getting into renos. 

On public perception of contractors:

JC: They don’t know the pitfalls, and it has to be explained.  They can badmouth the contractors but there are more good ones that bad   A lot of it is blown out of proportion, a lot of it has to do with the homeowners who need to pick the right person. 

Not someone from the newspaper, someone who charges $15 an hour and expect a $48 job from a professional.  But a lot don’t get that on a lot of the other shows which is good but they don’t explain the ups and downs of a construction job.  This sums it up – when you mix, time, money and emotion what do you think you’re going to get? 

It’s not like you’re not in the happy pot.  Anytime you mix those three you’re going to have a tough go.  That’s exactly what goes on.

On what makes Builder Boss different from all the other shows on HGTV:

JC: We did seven seasons of Real Renos which was a huge success; we had a great time, so with Builder Boss we take it to the next level.  We show the viewers in depth of how things work and what’s been going on in the past two years.  I started the BIY learning centres and we started a reno contracting magazine for the trade which was definitely needed in the industry. 

I think the show’s beyond anything we have done.  We’ve always taken it to the limit with what the network will let us and when I was asked 10 years ago, I wanted it to be real.  Sure people may be pissed off at me, you get the homeowners side the contractors; it has to be known from both sides.

On how tough it all was:

JC: This season on Builder Boss, there are thirteen episodes and thirteen builds.  Some took a year, and then they are jammed down into 22 minutes.   It was gruelling and punishing.  It nearly killed me.  I had my time off before we decided to come back.  We were constantly being asked when we were coming back, and getting emails from people who loved the show because it’s real.

On the rewards: 

JC: I got an email years ago which I loved.  What we’re trying to show is if you don’t have the appetite to do it, don’t do it.  You have to have a certain mindset, and not sugar coat it.  And they said they were thinking of renovating but they bought a new house instead.  I thought about it and laughed and said “This works!”  They knew they would not be able to handle a renovation. 

On being MC and not being hands on:

JC: It’s sad, but there is episode Coach House, where I lay the reclaimed wood floors and sanding them; it gives me time to clear my head and do what I want to do, and do what I like to do. 

With thirteen builder jobs and a magazine and schools, it’s not time to put the bells on, but it’s thrown me into a different light.  I don’t like being called the boss but some moments you have to be called the boss. 

On new drama on Builder Boss:

JC: I brought Jeff my nephew on as my partner.  He’s a brilliant marketing guy and he’s done very well with the marketing and the school and magazine, and the magazine was a big thing for us, it’s creating a voice in a community for the small trade, the hook and ladder group, there is a voice out there.  We started and it’s been really well received. 

And people get a kick out of Jeff and me.  We respect each other and we’re best friends and it’s a great mix and we’re going to do fine.

On his other work:

JC: It’s very important for me to be on the road in Canada and at the colleges volunteering my own time, one student to another, doing mentorship days when I got and talk to kids who are wavering wondering if they should get into the trades.  I was there I was in their position, I was a student and I can relate.  I was an apprentice in 1974 and getting my accreditation in HVAC. 

I am a true tradesman, and I talk to these kids.   I tell them they can make a great living and it opens the doors for numerous opportunities to have their own business and contacts.  The long and the short is at the end of day by the year 2025, we as a country are going to be short 500M skills trade.  The average age of a skilled tradesman is 57.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.