TV & Film

Jim Caruk Goes Big With Renos On 'Builder Boss'

Jim Caruk doesn't sugarcoat the renovation process, and that's part of the reason why he's managed to attract such a loyal following of HGTV viewers over the years. Fans have been missing Caruk's honest, no-nonsense approach since he put his popular show, "Real Renos," on hiatus several years ago. They'll be happy to hear their favourite master contractor is back with a new show called "Builder Boss," which is now airing Thursday nights on HGTV .

This time around, his renos are bigger, pricier and a whole lot more stressful. That means more drama, and, of course, some pretty jaw-dropping reveals. Caruk and company don't shy away from unusual jobs; you can watch them build everything from an underground golf simulator to a rustic log home. We caught up with Caruk to find out what to expect from "Builder Boss." With plenty of drama, meltdowns and unique projects, it sounds like Caruk fans are in for a treat.

What are some of the biggest differences between "Builder Boss" and "Real Renos"?
The company is now much bigger, the projects are much bigger, and there are more projects than before. We've pretty much doubled. With "Builder Boss" we're doing 13 episodes and 13 builds, which is crazy. We would typically do six or seven. Some of the jobs have taken a year or more and they're going to be crammed into 22 minutes. Needless to say, it was fun, but it was also very punishing.

What can we expect to see this season? I heard that you build a bunker for a golf simulator in one episode?
Yeah, we call it the bunker. It's a golf simulator, so this thing's like 20 feet in the ground. It's about 900 square feet. When people saw what we were building they thought the world was coming to an end. [Laughs] But really, it's to house a golf simulator and the rest of it was for their kids' playroom. When you walk into their backyard you'd never know it was there, it's just a big stone patio on top. But below it's pretty crazy. There's definitely no shortage of money with these people when you can build a bunker in your backyard!

Wow. Cool. Any other unusual projects?
Yeah. We built a beautiful log home up in ski country. And we took on a fire build this year. I've never done a fire restoration before. That was very rewarding. It's a young couple's first house, and they didn't even get to move into it before fire had taken it from them. It's a pretty incredible story. We also had a huge 6,000 square foot plantation home that we added 2,000 square feet onto. That'll be probably one of the last episodes. It took us almost 18 months to do the job.

What were some of your favourite moments from the season?
When it ended. [Laughs] The favourite moment is always when you've gone through all the crap to get it finished and you see their face right at the end, you've got that sense of accomplishment that you've pulled it off again.

What were some of the biggest challenges? Do we see any meltdowns?
Our clients are bigger. Clients are more educated now with the internet, and definitely more demanding. It's been tough dealing with that. You've got people telling you how to do your job, which drives you nuts, needless to say. There's been weather conditions on the bunker alone that were killing us, as you'll see on the show. We had a machine stuck in there, water was two feet up, the ice was freezing, we had to get another machine to pull it out. It was chaos. But clients don't care about that stuff, they just want their job done.

And then there's just the indecision of people. They can't make their minds up, yet they'll never admit that. It comes down to the bottom line of 'You took forever to do the job' and 'Well, you took forever to make a decision' and it's that battle which as a contractor you never win anyway. You just have to suck it up and say OK, whatever and move on. That's enough! [Laughs] Those are the big ones. I really sum it up as three things: time, money and emotion. When you put those three things together it's not a good mix. It's funny the network always told me they want drama. Well, you mix those three you can have all the drama you want!

What do you think surprises people the most when they go through a renovation or even see a show like this?
I think what surprises people most is how indecisive they could be, but they'll never admit that. But also how costs can get out of hand very quickly. They typically come back and try to blame the contractor. I'm not the one making decisions about your finishes, you are. We've given you an allowance for X amount of dollars for something, and if you've chosen something that's far more expensive it's only common sense that it's going to cost you more, right?

What's the most common question you get from fans?
It's a whole wide range. Some ask about my family. Most of it is we miss your show, when are you coming back, your show is the most realistic on air. We had an email years ago from a couple that said' Jim, I love how you don't sugarcoat the process. My husband and I were thinking about renovating, but after watching your show we decided to buy a new house.' I laugh about it and then I think about it and say, my message got across! They are not the renovating type or the building type. They understood it and just decided to buy a new house. They were smart.

Builder Boss airs on HGTV Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. ET/ PT.