Ty Pennington on Bringing a ‘Little Realness’ to HGTV With ‘Ty Breaker’

Ty Breaker Pennington

To move or to improve — that is the question in this clever twist on the Love It or List It concept headlined by veteran handyman Ty Pennington (above). But even though his name is in the title, he’s not going it alone. “I wanted a show where it wasn’t just the designer making all the choices and then me doing all the grunt work,” he says of Ty Breaker.

In each episode, the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition alum competes with one of three HGTV designers — Alison Victoria (Windy City Rehab), Grace Mitchell (Oneof a Kind), or Sabrina Soto (The High Low Project) — to help unhappy homeowners. While Pennington works up renovation plans that would update the current space, the designer scouts out a new place that addresses specific needs, anything from more storage to better flow.

To give his vision the edge, “I climbed into their lives,” Pennington admits. “I have camped in their backyard. I have used their private shower to understand what shampoos and conditioners they like. I’ve done therapy sessions with them.”

Once the homeowners choose which option they prefer, the built-in battle turns into teamwork. No matter whose pitch is picked, Pennington and his rival tackle the project together. “As talented as we all are, another person’s vision and opinion can make your design even better,” he says. (Or, as he phrased it to Victoria in last week’s premiere: “I’m the beer, you’re the champagne. We make it work.”)

Still, he admits that pulling rank and busting the other’s chops are part of the prize. “I just love that we have verbal, spicy banter you don’t get on every HGTV show. I wanted to bring a little realness.”

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Pennington, who hosted the original series for 9 seasons on ABC, is back in the HGTV reboot's March 8 episode. Get a sneak peek!

He’s also bringing some heart. In tonight’s emotional episode, Pennington and Mitchell help a family of six that has outgrown their three-bedroom house. “The kids are no longer able to share rooms, and you start to feel for them, especially if you grew up sharing a room with a brother,” he notes. “There’s also couples that are in love [on Ty Breaker], and you see this is not about just a room or a house to them — this is their first home together. So, yeah, [this show is] really all the things that I love.”

Ty Breaker, Mondays, 9/8c, HGTV