Last year, Ty Pennington signed on to be spokesperson for Marketplace Events, which puts on a series of home shows, including the Des Moines Home and Garden Show. While Pennington, 43, the high-energy host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," was not able to make it to Des Moines' 2009 show, he talked to Juice over the phone about home remodeling, green building and why you should not always DIY.
Q: Do your friends always ask you to fix things when you come over to their houses?
A: I get a lot of 'Hey listen, I'm trying to do this. Could I get your opinion?' I think I'm pretty good at looking at a space and saying, 'What are you using it for? If it holds kids stuff maybe it would be better if it had doors on it ...' Figuring out a useful solution, it's what I do.
Q: Do you think people are intimidated by home improvement projects?
A: Here's the honest truth. Homeowners and first timers can definitely take a shot at things like painting a wall because you can get the drop cloths and painters tape and you can always go back and fix a mistake. Other things, like electrical and plumbing - a lot of times people end up spending more because they have to hire someone to fix what they did. I feel for them. We empower them on shows.
I come from "Trading Spaces." We had a lot of good ideas, but I once saw a designer using liquid nails on tiles and I was like, 'This is national TV, you can't show them that.' I think you can get some great ideas for wall treatments, things you can do to a lamp - more craft ideas. When it comes to renovating you can paint, drywall, put down hardwood flooring, especially the kind that clicks together. You kind of gotta know your limits. If you do hire somebody ask as many questions as possible. Get a bid. Sign a contract with the date it has to be finished. If they go over start taking money off. It's almost like getting married with these guys. They're gonna be in your house for three months.
Q: Do you think the economy is affecting people's remodeling projects?
A: One thing is for sure, everyone is looking at homes completely differently. How do you personalize it, make it yours? You're gonna see a lot more nesting. You will see things that have a history. We'll go back to a simpler time. It's such a contrast that we're very much high tech with design that's a little more old world with warmth and history. Houses will have new features like charging docks for iPods. We may want to live in a simpler time but the truth is we live in a high tech time. People will decorate with a lot more salvaged looking things, photos of vacation trips, ties to better times in their lives.
Q: Are you seeing more interest in green building?
A: That's one of the reasons I got involved with home shows. I realize there is so much new technology and you can save money on your utilities. Now we have more choices that are environmentally friendly: water heaters, HVAC hybrids that run on gas until it gets below a certain temperature and it kicks into electric, picking flooring that's renewable like bamboo, double insulation and windows that keep an airtight house. The question is what could I do that looks good and makes me feel like I've done something good for the environment at the same time? It's on people's minds. They want to make their house a better place but also want to make the world a better place to live.
Q: Did you ever guess Extreme Makeover: Home Edition would be so popular?
A: We're halfway through the sixth season and I never would have guessed we'd be able to keep going. It's been the most incredible journey. What better job than to use your creativity to make someone's life better? We will continue as long as they let us do it. Who knows in this economy. Builders (who donate their time to the show), they're the real heroes. It's getting harder to find people that can afford to do that.
Q: Why do you think people connect to the show so much?
A: Everyone wants to know that if something horrible happens to them, someone will rally. The community comes together and makes incredible things happen. It proves sometimes all we have is each other. It takes the human spirit to get it done. That's the only way it does get done.
Author: Cara Hall