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 heís 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 Ė 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 ďfairy-taleĒ type renos we see on television. 

On the problem of TV fame:

JC: Not a bad side, I donít if Iím Brad Pitt or anything and canít walk the streets, its good and flattering when people come up and talk to you. Itís kinda weird because they talk to you like theyíve 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 didnít go well?   Iím flattered people watch ad take the time to say hello.  You can see others that recognise you but theyíre afraid to approach, but all in all its good. 

Itís 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 everythingís just, no disrespect, but sometimes the media can blow something out of proportion.  Being on the show and having a show and business youíre constantly under surveillance and theyíre just waiting for you to screw up and I do screw up.  Iím 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, thatís the biggest problem people getting into renos. 

On public perception of contractors:

JC: They donít 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 donít get that on a lot of the other shows which is good but they donít explain the ups and downs of a construction job.  This sums it up Ė when you mix, time, money and emotion what do you think youíre going to get? 

Itís not like youíre not in the happy pot.  Anytime you mix those three youíre going to have a tough go.  Thatís 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 whatís 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 showís beyond anything we have done.  Weíve 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 itís real.

On the rewards: 

JC: I got an email years ago which I loved.  What weíre trying to show is if you donít have the appetite to do it, donít 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 ďThis works!Ē  They knew they would not be able to handle a renovation. 

On being MC and not being hands on:

JC: Itís 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, itís not time to put the bells on, but itís thrown me into a different light.  I donít 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.  Heís a brilliant marketing guy and heís done very well with the marketing and the school and magazine, and the magazine was a big thing for us, itís creating a voice in a community for the small trade, the hook and ladder group, there is a voice out there.  We started and itís been really well received. 

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

On his other work:

JC: Itís 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.

Further Reading on M&C