Ty Pennington has become a household name working as a hunky carpenter on TLC’s “Trading Spaces” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (which won him two Emmy Awards before the show ended in 2012).
But since then, Pennington’s been somewhat MIA—which is why fans were likely thrilled to hear that HGTV has announced his return on a new show, “Ty Breaker.”
Set to premiere on Jan. 11, “Ty Breaker” will follow Pennington as he helps homeowners decide whether to buy a new home or renovate the house they already have. He’s joined by HGTV stars Alison Victoria (“Windy City Rehab”), Grace Mitchell (“One of a Kind”), and Sabrina Soto (“The High Low Project”), who rotate as the show’s guest designers.
Yet even though Pennington has a devoted following of fans who are sure to tune in, there’s a lot about this reality TV star that many might not know. To whet your appetite, here are a few surprising facts about Pennington that could make you see him in a whole new light.
1. Ty’s full name is so odd, we get why he shortened it
As it turns out, Ty isn’t short for Tyler or Tyrone. Nope. His full name is actually Tygert! In 1964 he was born Gary Tygert Burton Jr. in Atlanta.
So how’d his last name change to what it is today? In his book “Life to the Extreme,” Pennington says that, growing up, he barely saw his biological dad, but was lucky to have a stepfather to fill that role, Nick Pennington.
2. Landscaping and construction paid his way through college
Long before “Trading Spaces,” Pennington grew up in Georgia and paid his way through college, taking night classes while working landscaping and later construction jobs. He majored in graphic design, and had originally wanted to be an artist.
After graduating, he worked as a model, then as a set designer before transitioning to TV.
Watch: Exclusive: HGTV’s Orlando Soria Gives Us a Tour of His Home
3. He’s been in way more reality TV shows than you realize
While both “Trading Spaces” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” were massive hits, not all shows Pennington graced with his presence were so lucky. In 2012, he hosted a talk show called “The Revolution,” which was canceled after a few episodes. Those were followed by “On the Menu” in 2014 and “American Diner Revival” in 2015.
4. Ty Pennington is quite the cook
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pennington explained that his culinary interests started when his mother was taking night classes and he and his brother were left to make themselves dinner.
Even though he sticks to carpentry on screen today, he’s never shy to share his cooking skills on social media.
5. He built his own home
In 2014, Pennington designed and built his own house in The Hammock, an area of Flagler County, FL, famed for its pristine beaches.
“Over the years I’ve built hundreds of homes for other people and decided that finally, now is the time to build one for my family,” Pennington told local news outlets.
While Pennington hasn’t widely shared photos of his home, plans on file with the Flagler County Building Department indicate it was worth $680,000 when built. It includes a pool, cabana, and two-story atrium, and has, in his words, “a combination of open plan modern with some craftsman motifs. This is going to be a NextGen home, which is a home of the future, including green products, energy efficient technology and the latest innovations in building products and technology.”
Pennington has also been known to try out new home improvement ideas on his space. In one Instagram post he explained how he updated his deck railings to better handle the Florida humidity. (The secret apparently has to do with using cypress wood.)
6. He has many amazing women in his life
Sorry, ladies, Pennington has been in a relationship with Andrea Bock for around 20 years. They also say they have little interest in walking down the aisle—after two decades together, what do they have to prove?
The couple are also intensely private, with Pennington posting no photos of Bock on his social media pages. Although two women do occasionally appear in his posts, including his niece and his mom, Yvonne Burton (with whom he quarantined).
7. Pennington is crafty as well as handy
This carpenter has been known to show off a crafty streak, too. Some recent favorites? Making custom stamps and repurposing thrift-store frames.
8. He struggles with ADHD
Anyone who’s ever watched Pennington on TV knows he has a ton of energy, but in 2012 he said publicly that this is due to his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“Hyperactivity is just one aspect of ADHD,” he told HuffPost. “There’s distractibility and there’s impulsivity.”
He’s also said that his difficulties when it comes to paying attention have caused challenges in his personal relationships. Still, he added that seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication have helped over the years.
9. He got dinged with a DUI
In May 2007, Pennington was charged with driving under the influence in Los Angeles. He was fined $1,500, received 36 months probation, and was ordered to undergo a 90-day alcohol education program.
In a statement Pennington said, “I hope this experience can help others as much as it has helped me.”
10. He’s fine not hosting the new ‘Extreme Makeover’
Fans were thrilled to see “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” return to TV in February 2020—but they may have also been surprised to see that the reboot featured Jesse Tyler Ferguson from “Modern Family” as the host. Some fans were so disappointed, they vowed to boycott the show entirely.
So what happened to Pennington? It turns out, the carpenter wasn’t even asked to host the show, but he’s not hurt by the change.
“I’m too old for it now,” the 54-year-old said in one interview. “I shouldn’t hog all the good vibes.”
Pennington does make appearances on the show as a guest designer, so he’s still part of the makeover magic—and will soon get more airtime once “Ty Breaker” premieres this year.