Q&A With Carter Oosterhouse
America's handyman, Carter Oosterhouse talks about his favorite tools, TV shows and and his reasons for building green.
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Call him America's Handyman, and Carter Oosterhouse will half-chuckle, half-groan. From modest Midwest summer job beginnings, Carter is one of TV's hunkiest carpenters — and most down-to-earth and laid back personalities. He lives an eco-friendly life, split between his L.A. modern home and Michigan Victorian farm. HGTV.com caught up with him to find out his favorite tools and why he chooses to build green.
You studied nutrition and communication in college. When did being a handyman come in?
The town that I grew up in, which is Traverse City, Mich., is a big tourist town. So a lot of people are always remodeling and building. For me it was just a summertime job, just to make some money. Who would ever think that it would take me this far? But my brothers are both carpenters and have private businesses. I would probably be doing the same thing if I wasn't on TV. My sister is an interior designer. My dad is one of those old guys who just never stops working. He's the best motivator, even when he's not around. When we were younger he'd say, "You shouldn't watch TV — go outside and do something." They're really supportive and have all helped me in some aspect along the way. To this day they still help out — there's always Monday morning quarterbacking.
What do you most love about carpentry?
When you're able to see something through within such a short period of time — building furniture — it really gives you that payoff. It really makes you feel good about yourself. In what other business can you see such a dramatic change in something that's physical, and right in front of your face that you crafted and put together? That's the biggest reason that I do it. When you can sit back and say, "Wow, look what I did — that's amazing. Pat myself on the back for that."
Describe what you do on your show, Carter Can.
We help homeowners who don't know what to do. They're caught up in the everyday, "I want to do this, but we've lived in this house for four years and haven't changed it once." A lot of people get into the house and if they don't act right now, then they never do. They become too accustomed to what it is and it's hard for them to change. We get those people to shake a leg and try to get them to broaden their horizons. We take what they want to see in their home and continuously push them. We've had amazing results so far. We've done 22 episodes and it's just getting better.
What are some of the typical mistakes you see homeowners make?
Wrong sized furniture that you put into a house is a really common mistake. Bad placement of furniture is another one. A big problem is when people try to do it themselves – which isn't bad; I always tell people to try to do it themselves — they just don't take the time and the resources to really figure some stuff out. Some people have an eye for it so they can do it right away, but for others it's difficult and that's where the trouble ensues.
What's the most difficult home improvement project you've tackled on the show?
The first episode is pretty big. We tore out two load-bearing walls — basically changed three rooms into one. If you do that in a house that was built in the '20s — making sure it's not going to cave in — it was definitely a difficult project, along with finding asbestos.
You're working on a production schedule, you only have so much time and you want to please this family, but when you go in there you don't want to tear up their own house for the sake of doing a TV show and having a big before and after. You really want to get in the homeowner's head and think, "OK, if this were my house, would I want these people tearing up walls and floors?" You have to be aware of the homeowners' feelings and thoughts throughout every episode. That's the best part about it.
Learn more about Carter Oosterhouse, host of HGTV's Carter Can and Red Hot and Green.