HAM­MER­ING AWAY

Cou­ple hopes to build in­ter­net pro­file with mil­lion-dol­lar-home-reno show on YouTube

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - VA­LERIE FORT­NEY

She’s a for­mer TV re­porter and news an­chor while he’s the ul­ti­mate handy­man.

It should come as no sur­prise, then, that a charm­ing, pho­to­genic Cal­gary cou­ple is among the lat­est en­trants into the world of home reno pro­grams, their Mil­lion Dol­lar Reno show de­but­ing this past sum­mer. You won’t see Tiffany Burns and Brad McMeekin, though, by scrolling through the hun­dreds of chan­nels on tele­vi­sion.

No, the lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tion of Burns and McMeekin, to­gether for seven years and en­gaged for the past one, can only be seen on YouTube. Their new chan­nel, aptly named Ham­mer and Home, has cho­sen as its first filmed project a mil­lion-dol­lar-plus ren­o­va­tion of a lux­ury home in Spring­bank, a stone’s throw west of the city.

The down­side to go­ing to the in­ter­net, they ac­knowl­edge, means this is more a labour of love than, at least so far, a money-maker. “But we don’t have to have fake crises, we present ev­ery­thing the way it is,” says Burns, who has al­ready lined up a few cor­po­rate spon­sors, in­clud­ing the re­tailer Mark’s. “We have to­tal con­trol over our show.”

A ma­jor up­side? Well, the fact the bulk of McMeekin’s 50 or so trades and sub­trades work­ing on the project will ac­tu­ally watch the show. “A lot of the younger guys don’t even know who Bryan Baeum­ler is,” says McMeekin of one of his in­spi­ra­tions, the HGTV su­per­star con­trac­tor. “They just don’t watch tele­vi­sion.”

Those who do tune into the YouTube chan­nel will see, over the com­ing months, a 12-plus episode se­ries chron­i­cling the am­bi­tious ren­o­va­tion, which be­gan two years ago but af­ter some stops and starts, is now in full swing.

On a re­cent day, McMeekin and Burns give a tour of the home, which is framed with in­su­lated con­crete forms used to build its in­te­rior walls. “This stuff is great, it’s so easy to work with,” says McMeekin.

Some of what re­ally ex­cites McMeekin, a build­ing vet­eran who be­gan his com­pany, Sky­line Con­struc­tion, eight years ago, is the stuff of con­struc­tion geek­dom. Much of the wow fac­tor, though, is un­der­stand­able even to those with no in­ter­est in how things are built.

For in­stance, the new, 10,000-square-foot house boasts a golf sim­u­la­tion room, along with a hot tub with a “cur­rent” you can swim in, five bath­rooms, an el­e­va­tor and a master bed­room with panoramic views of rolling foothills and the Rock­ies in the dis­tance.

While the diplo­matic con­trac­tor wouldn’t use the word “night­mare” to de­scribe some of the ob­sta­cles en­coun­tered, he does ad­mit there have been chal­lenges. Ear­lier in the process, for in­stance, the house and sur­round­ing land were hit by a small flood. “There’s a big hill nearby and the wa­ter ran down right to here,” he says, point­ing to part of the 1.6 hectares of land sur­round­ing the home. “We were told this area used to be a pond in the 1960s, be­fore they built the first house on it.”

When one sees the gi­gan­tic house, it seems un­usual that the clients wouldn’t have just de­mol­ished it to make way for a new build. “I guess that’s be­cause we started with a plan that just grew and grew,” says McMeekin, who says his clients be­come like a part of his fam­ily. “If this was a new home, we would have been done a long time ago.”

Still McMeekin faces it all calmly. “You have to be pre­pared for any­thing,” says the Cal­gary na­tive, who chose to be­come a builder and con­trac­tor be­cause “I like to work with my hands, and couldn’t imag­ine an of­fice life for me.” Burns, who hails from Van­cou­ver, knew he would be per­fect in front of the cam­era. “Brad is so skilled and tal­ented and show­ing how a home like this is built, from start to fin­ish, seemed like such a fun idea,” she says.

In turn, her fi­ancé cred­its her with be­ing the “driv­ing force” be­hind their YouTube chan­nel. “Tiffany is re­ally good at this and we’re re­ally en­joy­ing the whole process. I think we’ll keep go­ing with this on our next project.”

For the near fu­ture, though, the goal is to get the project wrapped up and see their clients move in by Fe­bru­ary. That would be a good thing, since that’s around the same time that McMeekin and Burns plan to be ex­chang­ing wed­ding vows on a beach in Mex­ico.

“It had bet­ter be fin­ished by then,” says Burns with a play­ful laugh.

Ham­mer and Home can be found on YouTube.

Brad is so skilled and tal­ented, and show­ing how a home like this is built, from start to fin­ish, seemed like such a fun idea.

Tiffany Burns and Brad McMeekin sur­vey the 1.6 hectares of land sur­round­ing the home they are ren­o­vat­ing.

“You have to be pre­pared for any­thing,” says builder Brad McMeekin.

Tiffany Burns, a for­mer TV re­porter, and Brad McMeekin, owner of Sky­line Con­struc­tion, in front of a house they are ren­o­vat­ing in Spring­bank. The cou­ple has made a 12-episode se­ries on YouTube called Mil­lion Dol­lar Reno, which fea­tures the ren­o­va­tion of the 10,000-square-foot lux­ury cus­tom home. PHO­TOS: AZIN GHAFFARI

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