Adam Carolla Talks Bad Contractors, Getting Referrals, and the Importance of Cleaning Up the Job Site

Adam CarollaAdam Carolla is best-known as the co-host of Loveline, the co-host of The Man Show, and the host of his record-breaking podcast, The Adam Carolla Show-– but he’s a seasoned builder, too.

Before he entered show business, Adam worked in the construction industry for a decade. Adam is a skilled carpenter, and along with his lifelong friend Ray Oldhafer (who is an expert mason himself,) they host a home improvement podcast called Ace on the House. During the show, they chat with guests and tackle difficult listener questions that require deep knowledge and extreme detail.

Adam also hosts Spike TV’s Catch a Contractor, which airs Sundays at 10/9c and has entered its third season on June 21st. In Catch a Contractor, Adam and his co-hosts Skip Bedell, a licensed contractor, and Allison Bedell, a licensed private investigator, help troubled homeowners deal with contractors who either don’t finish the job or use shoddy craftsmanship.

CCN spoke with Adam about his home improvement podcast, Catch a Contractor, some of his remodeling pet peeves, and his advice for good contractors.

Certified Contractors Network: How do you select listener questions for your podcast, Ace on the House? You definitely don’t shy away from questions that demand complicated answers.

Adam Carolla: You know, we have our producers do that. Ray [Oldhafer, co-host] and I don’t look at them. I’ve never selected any questions for any show I’ve ever done that’s involved questions. I just leave it up to the person who’s working on it. I just ask them to find one that’s about right and that’ll be good.

Ace on the House, Adam Carolla’s home improvement podcast

CCN: So, do the questions ever surprise you? Do you ever struggle with an answer? It doesn’t seem like you do.

AC: Well, the problem is we do get a fair amount of questions from all over the country. We get a lot of questions about basements and waterproofing. Ray and I are from LA. There’s not too many basements and there isn’t much weatherproofing that goes along with that. But Ray knows enough about masonry and I know enough, and have done enough, retaining walls and stuff like that where we can figure it out.

Usually when you do everything, you can feel your way through just about any question and that’s what we do. Ray’s not a carpentry expert and I’m not a masonry expert. His strength is masonry and tile and design. Mine is probably more building and engineering and finish. But between the two of us, we can feel our way through just about anything.

It’s fun. I’ve known Ray since the fourth grade and he’s been doing this for… it’s so weird, how fast time flies, you blink your eyes and then realize how old you get, but he’s been at it for 30 years plus. I never really got out of it, either. I’ve always been building my houses, my studios, my party house… I got into show business and I never stopped building. I just kept building my own stuff.

CCN: That leads me to ask: in your experience in construction and carpentry and in working on Catch a Contractor, do you still view day-to-day life through carpenter’s eyes?

AC: (chuckles) I do look to see how everything is built. Yeah, I enjoy that world. I don’t know what it’s like exactly to look at things through the eyes of a carpenter at all times. It’s not like The Terminator, exactly– seeing through walls and seeing a 4×8 header or something like that. But I do kind of go through life with an eye on design, and how things are built, and choices that are made with houses.

I’ve always been building my houses, my studios, my party house… I got into show business and I never stopped building. I just kept building my own stuff.

I’ve never bought a house that didn’t need to be redone, in my mind at least. Almost immediately (chuckles). So yeah, I am kind of that way. How could you not be? Like a plastic surgeon, I guess.

CCN: So, Catch a Contractor Season 3 just started. What can we expect from this season? What are some of the craziest projects you and Skip had to do?

AC: This year we get a little more behind-the-scenes. We get a little deeper into it. We give you a little more of a peek behind the curtain, as they say. We shot it in such a way where if we’re going to go talk to the producers and figure out what we’re going to do next, we started filming that part of it. So it made it a little more in-depth.

Projects… bathrooms, kitchens, backyards, you know. The usual fare. We did one kind of swimming pool thing, I don’t want to give too much away, but we did one first-timer with a kind of crazy outdoor swimming pool that’s actually a lot more than a swimming pool.

In general, same kind of deadbeat guys. Go in there and kick their butt a little bit and put the house back together. We didn’t reinvent anything, we just tried to do a little bit better.

CCN: From working on Catch a Contractor, and building, and rebuilding so many of your own homes and studios, what are the common traits bad contractors have in common and what are the warning signs?

AC: Little things mean a lot. It’s like you meet somebody and their car is a mess. Junk all over the dashboard and all that kind of stuff. There’s a good chance their house or apartment’s a mess, too. There’s a good chance their life is a mess.

And you’re kind of saying, “Why are you judging? All you’ve seen so far is their car.”

But they’re indicators. You either do work that’s considerate and professional or you don’t.

I don’t know too many guys that have really high levels of craftsmanship, and then leave at the end of the day with the air compressor still plugged in so it kicks on at two in the morning, you know?

“Well, the guy’s a good carpenter but he never cleans up after himself at the end of the day.” It’s not really the same guy. The good carpenter cleans up at the end of the day. I don’t know too many guys that have really high levels of craftsmanship, and then leave at the end of the day with the air compressor still plugged in so it kicks on at two in the morning, you know?

There’s one brain. So when you see a guy who doesn’t clean up up very well, but you think he does something else related to his job very well, it’s like… well, no. Bad is bad and good is good. They’re indicators. It doesn’t take much.

CCN: In that same vein, what’s one thing you wish contractors would do more of?

AC: The ones we encounter in the show, I wish they’d just finish the damn job. In my life experience, honestly, it’s just clean up.

The electricians when they’re putting in the receptacles, you’ll just see the little box with the cellophane in it sitting on the floor underneath the receptacle. And then, ironically, there’s always just two or three little clips of wire where they clipped it. So they’ll just clip clip, pull the thing out of the cellophane, and put it in, drop everything on the floor, and then go to the next receptacle.

And I’m always like, “Hey! Clean this up, asshole!”

This wasn’t there before you showed up. Clean it up. My pet peeve, I don’t know why, whenever the AV guys or whoever come in and snip those zip ties? Whenever they snip them off? They snip them, they pop off, and they land on the ground. They’re just all over the ground at any given time, all the time. Around any job site.

Pick it up, idiot! Throw it away. Whose job is this?

I hate that. I hate the guys using the chop saw without the catch-sack on there, so there’s just a fountain of sawdust that goes spraying into the air. It drives me nuts!

And when you say to them, “Hey, man. You should put a sack on there.”

They go, “Yeah, they make ‘em!”

(laughs) Which always pisses me off more. I know they make them! They come with the damn saw. Where is it?

Then they say, “I don’t know. I can put a sock over it.”

Then put a sock over it! Do something. You’re making a rooster tail of sawdust inside the house when you’re cutting baseboard (groans).

Yeah, that kind of stuff drives me nuts and it’s not because they love woodworking. That’s the kind of thing I try to explain to people, over and over again.

CCN: So, a lot of these guys you see don’t do it because they’re invested in the craft? They do it because it might be a kind of resistance-free way to make money?

AC: Many of these guys are unemployable in any other environment. They do it, yes, because it’s not a great barrier-of-entry way to make a living.

CCN: So, for the contractors who strive to do a good job, every day… what’s a bit of advice you can give them? You see life from both a contractor’s perspective and a homeowner’s perspective on a regular basis. What’s a bit of advice you’d give someone who’s actually trying to do a good job?

AC: Do a good job, but also remember you’re entering peoples’ houses. They have kids and pets they love a lot more than you. You’re the big strangers walking into the house. So, do a good job, but also put them at ease by being prompt, and courteous, and clean, and not weird around the kids.

Do a good job, but also remember you’re entering peoples’ houses. They have kids and pets they love a lot more than you. You’re the big strangers walking into the house. So, do a good job, but also put them at ease by being prompt, and courteous, and clean, and not weird around the kids.

And then you won’t need to advertise. They’ll refer you like crazy. People are dying to find someone, not who’s free, but who they can trust. They leave the house, they leave you alone in the house, sometimes the kids are around when they’re gone, and they need trust. When you give that estimate, put on a little deodorant, hose your truck off, and look like you know what you’re doing.

Through the course of the job, when you’re wrapping up on Friday and it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, let the homeowner watch you clean that place up so it’s nice and tidy for their weekend. That kind of stuff goes a long way. And, believe you me, you’ll start getting referrals from that person and their homeowner buddies.

CCN: Thanks so much for your time, Adam.

AC: Thank you!

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