Monday, June 1, 2009

Drew Lachey's ready for 'Challenge'

photoDrew Lachey painting a door on "HGTV's $250,000 Challenge." He will host the four-week reality series starting Sunday on HGTV.
By John Kiesewetter • • May 29, 2009

Somewhere on Ritchie Avenue in Wyoming is the home where singer/actor Drew Lachey auditioned his home improvement talents.


“Most of my skills come from trial and error on that house. I’m not scared to take something apart,” says Lachey, 32, who demonstrates his handyman skill hosting “HGTV’s $250,000 Challenge” premiering today (10 p.m., HGTV).

On the four-week reality competition show, five suburban Los Angeles neighbors compete for the cash prize by remodeling rooms of their home. Lachey stops by to help each couple.

HGTV executives asked Lachey to host the show after he taped an “HGTV Showdown” program (to air later this year), and they realized how handy he was around his California house.

It all started in a 1960s split-level he bought with future wife Lea Dellecave on Ritchie Avenue in 1999. With the help of Aaron Garrett and his father, Ron, they tore out a kitchen and master bath, jacked up a sagging addition, and built a deck.

“I’m lucky I’ve got friends who could help me,” says Lachey, who grew up in College Hill. His first experience with power tools came at the School for Creative & Performing Arts, where he built sets as a technical theater major his senior year (1993-94).

In Los Angeles, Lachey has installed new wood and tile floors; remodeled kitchens and bathrooms; put in a wet bar; and built an 8-foot-by-8-foot playhouse with enclosed front porch for his 3-year-old daughter, Claire.

“I’m pretty proud of that one,” he says of the backyard play house.

On “HGTV’s $250,000 Challenge” premiere, all he does is some painting, his least favorite chore. Most of the advice for the contestants comes from the HGTV carpenters mentors provided by the show to help remodel family rooms.

The contestants include a divorced mother facing foreclosure; a couple in which the husband just lost his job; and a husband-wife with student loan debts in addition to a mortgage. One family is eliminated each week by HGTV judges, leaving two in the June 21 finale.

“We’re giving one family $250,000. This is life-changing money. It can help them get back on their feet after losing a job, or give them money for their kids to go to college,” Lachey says.

Even those eliminated from the show end up as winners, he says.

“This gives each of them equity in their home, with the improvements they’ve made. They have knowledge and (home remodeling) skills, and the confidence they can do things on their own. Nobody walks away empty-handed,” he says.