Handyman show inspires Burnaby builder's passion

Ken Ross, who grew up in Burnaby, is one of the 15 finalists in the HGTV reality show Canada
Ken Ross, who grew up in Burnaby, is one of the 15 finalists in the HGTV reality show Canada's Handyman Challenge. Ross says his experience on the show inspired him to start his own business.

Even if Ken Ross doesn't win Canada's Handyman Challenge, he still feels like a winner.

Ross, who grew up in Burnaby near Deer Lake, is one of 15 finalists on the HGTV reality show to find the country's best handyman. But the experience of auditioning for the show and testing his skills with a saw, drill, hammer and nails inspired him to start his own business designing and building decorative driveways, walkways and patios.

Ross, 39, had just been laid off from his job repairing power tools when he and his wife saw an ad for applicants for the second season of Canada's Handyman Challenge, which pits do-it-yourselfers against each other and the clock testing their ingenuity, creativity and screwdriver savvy.

With nothing else on his plate, Ross submitted the online form.

Ross was no stranger to handyman projects. Aside from his former job with power tools, he'd worked at lumber stores and he'd done all the renovation work in his condo and another home in White Rock.

To be cast for the show, all the potential contestants had to design and build something from a single sheet of plywood.

Ross, an avid mountain biker, constructed a fully functional fixed-gear track bike.

"It was rideable, but not very smooth," says Ross, who spent four or five days designing and assembling his project.

The judges, HGTV personalities Scott McGillivray, Paul Lafrance and Bryan Baeumler, were impressed enough to pass Ross through to the next round. Each week of the series, which was taped last fall, the competing handymen are confronted with a different design or construction problem like building a hammock stand from a pile of lumber, or hanging mismatched doors. They have less than two hours.

With the clock ticking, and the unblinking eyes of the TV cameras recording their every move, every bead of sweat, Ross says the pressure was intense.

"It's nerve-wracking," says Ross. "You have to try to stay calm, gather your thoughts and reassure yourself that you've done this before. You can't panic."

Every piece of wood he cut, every design challenge he met, Ross says his confidence grew. Talking between segments with his fellow contestants and the judges, accomplished handymen and builders themselves, fortified his resolve to take control of his own career by going into business for himself.

"They inspired me," says Ross. "They all told me if you feel a passion about something, just go for it."

When his commitment to the show ended, Ross traveled to Kentucky to earn his certification as an interlocking concrete paver installer, then started Canadian Hardscape. While building patios and walkways may not involve joining pieces of wood in imaginative ways, it does allow him to indulge his love for being outdoors with his knack for design and construction.

"I can express myself by working with my hands outside," says Ross. "I'd always dreamed of creating my own business."

Being on a TV show helped make it happen.

Canada's Handyman Challenge airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on HGTV. To learn more about the show go to www.hgtv.ca.


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