Having dusted the Bahamas beach sand off his feet, Bryan Baeumler is set to share home-improvement advice—and life lessons—at home shows across Canada as he meets fans of his TV shows who are eager to find out more about the right way to do renos and get the inside scoop on Island of Bryan.
Baeumler, who has spent the better part of the last 18 months leading the renovation of a run-down resort on South Andros Island in the beautiful Bahamas, will have new insights to share when he appears on the HGTV Main Stage at the Vancouver Fall Home Show.
While Baeumler always recounts his history when appearing at home shows—how he came to be a contractor and a celebrity—he also takes time to talk about “real value” in homes.
“I like to emphasize efficiency and longevity versus the cosmetics and shiny things,” he says. “It’s important to prioritize capital and expenditures on items that will decrease the operating and maintenance costs and put real value into the home [in the] long term.”
Choosing upgrades such as insulation spray foam over conventional insulation and air sealing the attic will all contribute to making a home more energy efficient and moving it closer to net-zero status, says Baeumler.
“This means you’re not only saving money every month, it’s a feature you can sell when you sell your home,” he says.
Homeowners tend to focus on indoor projects in fall, and kitchens and bathrooms often top the to-do list. While DIY-ers can tackle basic tasks like painting or adding a tile backsplash, Baeumler says it’s important to know your own skill level and interest.
“If people are willing to take the time to learn when it comes to things like installing hardwood or floor tiles, and have the interest, anyone can learn it,” he says, but cautions, “If you lose interest early in a project or aren’t interested in spending hours bent over on your knees installing tile or hardwood, then those are good jobs to bring in the professionals.”
For plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning and structural work it’s essential to hire licensed trades, he adds.
Baeumler’s own favourite reno projects are older homes with structural issues. “I like playing detective and digging through the layers to find out what’s wrong and then come up with a solution,” he says.
On the island, when the material you ordered doesn’t show up or something is broken, you have no choice but to accept it, change your plan and move on.
Fans of his TV shows know that Baeumler is a stickler for a clean job site.
“It doesn’t matter the size of the project: a clean site is safer and looks professional. It’s more organized and you can find your tools and materials. Put the tools back where you got them from and pick up the garbage. It’s the easiest part of the job, but it seems most difficult for some people. If you don’t maintain a clean site a reno is going to be more stressful than if you are organized,” he says.
As a regular speaker at home shows, Baeumler has learned over the years that a question-and-answer session quickly indicates the direction the audience wants to go.
“I take their lead. It’s the best way to connect with people,” he says.
At the Vancouver Fall Home Show, he anticipates many questions about the Island of Bryan, the series that drew in so many viewers the first four episodes were rated as the most-watched individual episodes of any program on HGTV in more than 10 years.
With a second series now confirmed to premiere in early 2020, the show will continue to chronicle the adventures of Bryan and Sarah Baeumler and their four children as they rebuild, restore and open Caerula Mar for business—a renovation the Baeumlers initially thought would take about six months.
“You have to go in with optimism. It was an aggressive target. But we found there was a lot more work than initially anticipated—which is the case with a lot of jobs,” he says.
Renovations aside, the resort’s opening date also had to sync with the hurricane season.
“If that date is missed, then there’s no option but to wait for the next season. The only thing worse than not opening when you wanted to is opening when you’re not ready,” says the self-confessed perfectionist.
Bryan and Sarah Baeumler fell in love with South Andros Island and the Bahamian people when they bought the beachfront resort. Now, Baeumler says the project has taught him life lessons including reminding him to enjoy every step of the project.
“It’s a question of perspective and the difference between what you want and what you need,” he says. He notes that, on the island, the people are positive, everyone knows one another and they take care of people who need help.
He is also reminded that while planning for a renovation is important, getting so focused one is afraid to make changes or step outside the plan can be limiting.
“On the island, when the material you ordered doesn’t show up or something is broken, you have no choice but to accept it, change your plan and move on,” he says.
Bryan Baeumler will appear live on the HGTV Canada Main Stage Friday, October 25, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 26, at 1 p.m.
Q&A with our readers
Q: How involved or complex should the renovations be to make your home “age out” efficient without compromising the value?
Bryan Baeumler: Depending on the original design of the home, there are so many options available that it may be best to meet with an architect or interior designer that specializes in accessible design to get an opinion. That being said, I feel the best thing you can do to prepare your home for accessibility is focus on creating open-concept space as much as possible. This could include removing walls that restrict movement or access throughout the home, opening up doorways and archways to at least 36 inches to allow wheelchairs and walkers to easily pass through, expanding a bathroom to allow for a barrier-free shower, installing plywood or blocking behind bathroom walls to allow for easy installation of grab bars, and looking at options to install stairlifts or an elevator if the space allows. Ramps and other modifications can be created to allow easy access while still being functional, or removable for a potential buyer who might not want them. With an ever growing population of seniors, I believe there will always be a strong market for homes that suit their needs.
Q: How much damage did Dorian do to your resort? Can you recover from this disaster?
BB: Dorian missed our Island and passed about 100 miles to the north. While we weren’t directly affected by the storm, unfortunately many of our local employees have family on Abaco and Grand Bahama that were affected, injured and/or lost. We’ve been providing relief flights into those hard hit areas with Makers Air out of Fort Lauderdale, sending much needed supplies. We have also secured housing for up to 20 families on South Andros Island for people who have lost everything and need to relocate, and we have been supporting relief agencies on the ground financially through the Baeumler Family Foundation, at gofundme.com/f/caerula-mar-hurricane-dorian-relief.
Q: We have a summer cottage on an island in the Laurentian Mountains, just one hour north of Montreal. Due to the fact that we have no electricity, this home is only used for the summer season. The only means of heating is a wood stove, so throughout the cold months the house tends to shift (constrict and expand). What would you recommend for flooring and for a tub surround that would allow for movement of the house?
BB: Without keeping the heat on throughout the winter, there’s really no way to stop the expansion and contraction. As the humidity drops and things get colder, they shrink—which means gaps in hardwood and trim, and shrinking walls and subfloor, which leads to cracked tiles (if there is no uncoupling surface below them). Different materials will expand and contract at different rates, hence the problem. Your best bet for flooring might be a floating floor—vinyl, laminate or an engineered hardwood (although even engineered hardwood may shift in such extremes). For a tub surround, you may want to look into full veneer wall panels, or a prefab tub surround.