Episode 8

John DeSilvia star of Rescue My Renovation

Published on: 10th March, 2022

John DeSilvia, the star in the iconic show 'Rescue My Renovation.' The show had a helluva 10-year run on HGTV.

In The Official Seenagers, in this episode, John DeSilvia tells us the hysterical story about how he was fired from a construction company and ended up with his own TV show.

And the funny story on how he ended up with his new nickname... Johnny TV,

Oh, there's more! As a special treat, Johnny offers some sage advice, sharing preventive measures when working with a contractor and not to get conned by a Con...Tractor, yet HE is the one who got conned by a homeowner!!!

Don't miss this one!

Transcript

Rescue My Renovation with John DeSilvia

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SUMMARY KEYWORDS

homeowner, johnny, renovation, people, contractor, architect, brooklyn, job, called, construction, work, tv, rescue, conned, contract, money, gave, walls, business, cabinets

SPEAKERS

Charlie Ponger, John DeSilvia, Debbie Charlie

Debbie Charlie:

Deb, Charlie. Here we are again at the studios, which is aka your house. My house shoes.

Charlie Ponger:

You did thank you very much teenagers.

Debbie Charlie:

I'm freezing. Yeah, I am dressed in so many layers that you would think we were doing the show outside in the Northwest

Charlie Ponger:

Alaska. You're dressed like you're in Alaska. Anyway, I interviewed a guy named Johnny to Sylvia. Really cool, dude. So Johnny was the star of a reality TV show. Yep. It was called rescue my renovation. Oh, very

Debbie Charlie:

cool. We talking about renovating today. renovating homes? Yeah. People need home contractor. advices is from

Charlie Ponger:

Brooklyn. Yeah. Great guy. Yeah, you're gonna hear all about it.

Debbie Charlie:

I love his name Johnny TV. Well, we

Charlie Ponger:

gave him the nickname Johnny TV.

Debbie Charlie:

He wasn't born that right? No, it wasn't named

Charlie Ponger:

John. But we ended up calling you know, when my buddies met Him because He lives in town now. It was like this is Johnny TV. I'm like, and we just burst out laughing.

John DeSilvia:

This Johnny TV thing? Yeah, the way Yeah, I moved to Greenwich, Connecticut five years ago. Yeah, you guys. Before? Are you Johnny D. John, John., I was called souci for a while. Yeah, but never Johnny,

Charlie Ponger:

who ended up named in new Johnny TV, John Sanna. I'm gonna have to give that the to Griff Harris . Yeah, no kidding. r. Griffy Yeah, he gave you Johnny TV. That's

John DeSilvia:

great. kind of stuck in this town. Yeah,

Charlie Ponger:

everybody calls you Johnny TV now. Or TV? You know? Does it Are you okay with it?

John DeSilvia:

It doesn't bother me because I love you guys. Just call me I you know, I just want to hang out. Johnny TV is not a bad name. It's a great name. Great name because it keeps my my TV career out there. I haven't done it for like five, six years.

Charlie Ponger:

Yeah. Sort of bizarre how all of us Italian guys have nicknames right?

Debbie Charlie:

Image right. You think you think Italians name baby out of the womb like oh, there's there's Gina the jar Gina jaw?

Charlie Ponger:

Yeah. And no, and no one's just named John or Charles. We're always like with an eye a y at the end of our names. Now, Johnny, some guys get your last name wrong. They say DE SILVA instead of de Sylvia.

John DeSilvia:

I know they leave the Yeah,

Charlie Ponger:

I know. Right. You notice that? Right?

John DeSilvia:

You know what my real name is? Not even the what is it? Silvio. But when my father went in the service, yeah, he made a mistake. When they gave him his credentials, and they change the Oh to an A and he never cared to change it. So

Charlie Ponger:

he didn't care. Whatever. No kidding. Yeah. That happened to my family. Oh, yeah. I'm sure it happens to a lot of fun. Yeah. And my family. My real last name is Pangoro.

John DeSilvia:

Yeah, ponger doesn't sound very Italian. No.

Charlie Ponger:

sound sounds like a board game. Right, Charlie? ponger. Yeah, Ping Pong.

John DeSilvia:

Ponger.

Charlie Ponger:

It's Pangaro Yes. And they changed it on Ellis Island. And I guess those relatives didn't really care. They were like, We don't care. Just get us to Cos Cob. You know, it's so crazy. The last name thing. And then how about people from Brooklyn? I mean, they're kind of like they're special people, man. I mean, they always seem to be like a half a step ahead of everybody else. You know, I don't know what the hell it is a ton believable is in the water in Brooklyn? I don't know. But that's what I asked him. I've always been curious to know why the people from Brooklyn are so special. Like what makes? Is it the competition is being in the spring in the street and having to survive? Is it looking at New York City every single day and saying that we're didn't intimidate you or anything like that?

John DeSilvia:

I think you answered the question. Really? All of the above?

Charlie Ponger:

No kidding.

John DeSilvia:

You know, when you grow up in a neighborhood where I mean Brooklyn has 3 million people.

Charlie Ponger:

It's incredible. It's a sorry size of if Colorado if it was

04:15

a city, it would be the fourth largest city. Okay. And the country was only a borough. Right? 3 million people. You grew up around a lot of people. Yeah, you get a lot of street smarts. Yeah, from that experience, did

Charlie Ponger:

you? Yeah, yeah. Like kid you grow

04:30

up on the streets. And you know, you get bullied from the day you're able to walk

Charlie Ponger:

outside your house. Oh, no kidding. Yeah. And it's just

John DeSilvia:

part of growing up you know, the older guys are giving you a nuggies that punch in the arm 20 times. And through that experience, you just you just learned about life. I mean, it sounds silly from nuggies you learn about life, but there is gain in pain there is gain in pain

Charlie Ponger:

right and the

John DeSilvia:

street smarts Knowledge street smart knowledge is really prevalent in Brooklyn.

Charlie Ponger:

So the more nuggies the more street smarts is that the deal

Debbie Charlie:

everybody from Brooklyn must they got nuggies looking at New York City, and they got all they got all whipped up, like to succeed. You

Charlie Ponger:

know, I don't care what age you are the first time you go to New York. It's overwhelming. It's intimidating, right? I mean, there's a lot going on. But if you lived in Brooklyn, like Johnny did, and you're staring him and Hatton every single day, eventually it just doesn't really matter. You I remember being out in Brooklyn once and staring at the staring at Manhattan and thinking, Well, I guess if I grew up here, and I was looking at these massive buildings every single day would be second nature to me, right. So anyway, I went on to ask Johnny TV, about how he went, how he got into the construction business.

John DeSilvia:

Oh, you know, from the time I was probably 11 years old, my father would wake me up on Saturdays and go like this. Alright, seven o'clock in the morning. We got a lot of work to do today. Oh, and he was trying to make ends meet. And he would work on the weekends, stripping furniture, or stripping balusters of old paint and bringing back restoring those to bring back the old wood. Wow. And I would be there with him at 11 years old. working my ass off. Yeah, from eight in the morning, till five at night on Saturday and Sunday. You know, he paint home his homes as well. So I was working on weekends from the time I was probably 11 to 1617. You know, yeah, he didn't wake me up. I'd be the happiest kid.

Charlie Ponger:

Right? Was he a construction guy himself? Or?

John DeSilvia:

Yeah, yeah, he started. I think he had a Shoe, shoe store sneaker place. And then he got a job with a construction company. And Hardings I'll never forget it. Right. And he, he went up the ladder. He went from labor to Foreman to super, he did really well. Oh, he became a super Yeah. And then when I got older, like 17, he got me a job as a laborer. Right. Then I started doing some carpentry. And that's how I got into the construction.

Charlie Ponger:

I say, right. Did you go to college,

John DeSilvia:

went to college, got a degree from Pratt Institute. Wow. And from there, I worked with a large construction company, Olympia and York. Oh, you did? Wow. helped build the World Financial Center. You did?

Charlie Ponger:

Yeah. Wow. I

John DeSilvia:

did that for a couple of years. And then we went to a Christmas party. And my boss told me I needed to wear a tie. And I wouldn't wear a tie. Yeah, I ran into him on the elevator. He goes, John, I told you to wear a tie to this party. Why don't you have a tie on? Yeah, I was like, I'm sorry. I didn't want to wear him when he says, I gotta fire you. So yeah, hired me. And that was the best thing that ever happened to me because I didn't want to work for the man. Yeah, 12 hours a day making them money. I always wanted to do my own thing. So from there, I started my own construction business.

Charlie Ponger:

Imagine that he got fired for not wearing a tie.

Debbie Charlie:

What is it with guys that refuse to wear a tie that they get fired for it? What is the what is the problem with some guys? They just don't don't don't want to wear a tie. Who wants to wear tie? really that bad? That bad? Really? Okay. Yeah, you would you would be firing saying I'm not doing I would never wear a tie. Are you kidding? There's a whole group of guys who will not wear ties. That's right. And I'm one of them. But that's okay. But you know, ties are hazardous. Yeah, yeah. I can see how that would be. Yeah.

Charlie Ponger:

Hang on, hang on. Let me just say this. I've had to wear ties. Couldn't stand them. haven't worn a tie in probably 20 years. So then I asked Johnny, how he transitioned from the construction business. To the TV business. It's quite a jump. Right. It's quite a leap. And here's what he had to say.

John DeSilvia:

My business started to grow. Mm hmm. I used to build blimp ease. Wow. Oh, the store the sub shop. Yeah. So I started building blimp ease and from there grew to doing houses. And then I met this guy, John Palanca. And we became partners and we were we had a great partnership. And we were in Park Slope Brooklyn, and we started renovating brownstones. We hooked up with a couple of architects, designers, so our business was flourishing. Right doing really well. And a friend of ours, Mike Morrissey. Morrissey brothers are kind of famous themselves. They had nightclubs in Manhattan, right for many, many years. And to know them was like a free pass into every cool nightclub in the city. Oh, cool. That was great as well. So anyway, Mike walks into my office. John, listen, I want to do a show based on your construction business. I was like what? Yeah, because yeah, I want to do a reality show based on your construction businesses. I said, Mike, listen, you want to fill me? Whatever you want to do? Yeah, I'm here. I'm gonna do my job. You could follow me. So he put together what they call a sizzle reel. Yeah, sizzle reel. filmed us for maybe, you know, a week or two. Put together. What is it? Five minutes sizzle reel and presented it to cable networks, right? And DIY and HGTV picked it up. No kidding. Yeah. So we did a show. My first show was called under construction that followed me and my partner around Brooklyn, doing odd jobs. It's the best show I ever did. No kids real a shit. Yeah, it's just really Yeah. And the trials and tribulations of having a partner and dealing with clients. Doing a couple of million dollars worth of work every year with 3040 employees. Whoa, it was it was challenging. Yeah, I bet. So he got the essence of the show on for DIY, and HGTV called under construction. So

Charlie Ponger:

they get you gave them full access to everything in the office. The arguments, all of it. That's the only way to go all of it. And it was good. Yeah, I bet it was. And that ran for how many years again?

John DeSilvia:

That was three seasons. Yeah. Then they decided that they wanted to do something with me. Only only, and I sold my end of the business to my partner. Uh huh. And I did TV full time for 10 years. Wow. Unbelievable. worst mistake ever made.

Charlie Ponger:

So now Johnny's doing his own show called rescue my renovation. And I asked him if he enjoyed it. And here's what he had to say.

John DeSilvia:

TV was fun for probably two or three years. Oh, no, what happened? It got monotonous. Oh, it did? Yeah. You know, I mean, alright, let's do it again. Let's do it again. Walk in the room again. Say hello again. Oh, it's a fake Hello, the fake meat all the takes all the takes just you know, the waiting around. You know, they make it look like I do the whole room. Yeah, I installed all the floorboard, if 2000 square feet, I put down all square foot in the beginning, and one square foot in the end. And I waited around until the rest was done. Because they can't wait for me to do it. They got to get a crew in there, of course specializes in flooring that gets it done immediately, right.

Charlie Ponger:

So if you've never seen or heard the trailer, from my rescue renovation, it's pretty old now. But I thought this would be a great time for you to listen to it.

John DeSilvia:

What separates a good contractor from a bad contractor is having pride in what you do for a living. What pisses me off is incompetent contractors that don't care. You can't have blind trust, you have to protect yourself. I know you want to trust you can't do it. When you're hiring a contractor. You got to look out for the con men, not contractors, you're hiring somebody that's going to become a part of the family. It's a very intimate transaction. You hope he's going to become a part of the family because if he does, you hired the right guy, your nightmare is about to come to an end. Come on, man. I mean, I got the best job in the world. I'm saving people that are at a dead end. And not only do we rescue their house, but in essence, we're rescuing their lives. Open your eyes. It's a dream. You look happy. Love to hug people that comes from the Italian in me, they squeeze him so tight, they can't let go. It's definitely not a term that I deserve being called hero. But if I get it makes me feel pretty good. The number one thing I would want homeowners to know is to not be scared as long as you're not taking down a load bearing wall. Have you put down the floorboard crooked, then you fall is gonna look like crap. But you know why? You probably do it the right way. And you'll wind up saving yourself a bunch of dumb. There's the Bogart bogey over we'll always have Paris. We'll always have Paris. Paris

Charlie Ponger:

I don't know man. We'll always have parrots. Oh, Johnny, I never even spoke to you about that. We're gonna have to have to talk about that one over a beer. So I asked Johnny what it was like to work with these homeowners on the TV show rescue renovation and here's what he had to

John DeSilvia:

say any rescue renovation we took the job over from the contract you had to he was off the job. Yeah. And we just took everything over. Everything for them. They didn't pay for anything.

Charlie Ponger:

There were nervous wrecks by that time. Oh my god. Yeah, I

John DeSilvia:

bet yeah, it was a really good feeling to help these people out. I gotta tell you

Charlie Ponger:

Yeah, I saw one the one woman in your trailer there the woman started crying you know? When you redid her kitchen that's gonna make you feel really good to write you know,

John DeSilvia:

stuff was real. Yeah, someone else that was real. Was that one real? That one was real? Yeah, somebody tears a fake. Yeah. Depends Showing that sometimes you do all that work for a homeowner, yeah, and they're ungrateful. No, we did a job for a homeowner that sued.

Charlie Ponger:

And you did a ton of work for them and they sued. Can you imagine that?

John DeSilvia:

People are ungrateful man.

Charlie Ponger:

Yeah, well, that's too bad, right?

John DeSilvia:

We got conned.

Charlie Ponger:

You got conned. You were trying to help them? Yeah Johnny TV got conned. That's just crazy, isn't it? Um, so here's the part where Johnny explains how you the homeowner can avoid getting conned. So Johnny, what is the key thing for the consumer, the homeowner to think about? When they want to do a renovation and they're now they're looking at three different contractors. What do you think the process should be? Well,

John DeSilvia:

starting off, Charlie, that's a really good point. Three different contractors is really important. You want to get three different bids, okay, you know, you're going to get something high, something low, something in the middle, right? You want to check references, right, you want to call people they've worked for you want to call the Better Business Bureau. Those are important things. If you don't do your due diligence, then you get what you get, and you don't get upset. But this is probably the assumption that you're going to probably spend more money on this project than you've ever spent in your life at your home. Your most important asset. So you have to have a plan is really important. Hire good architect. Don't make mistakes. Do it once. Don't do it twice. Because my show rescue my renovation. Leave me I saw it all realist is falling down. Dodge Jack is taking out load bearing walls and not putting in a beam to support the load. I mean, I've seen it all. So if people think you could just get into it like that hire the first guy and trusted because it's the low bid. That's a big mistake.

Charlie Ponger:

Oh, my God. Yeah. Wow. And what about price? Um, should people be looking at price when they're doing a renovation? Or should they be looking at first, the details of the quality and whatever they're being presented? Should that be done in detail as well?

John DeSilvia:

Yeah, the price is really important. I mean, let's start with a contract. Okay. You want an itemized contract?

Charlie Ponger:

Itemized contract? Yeah. Cuz you want to know what you're paying for. Right?

John DeSilvia:

You know, if somebody's putting in kitchen cabinets, the cabinets cost 5000. The installation cost 5000. So you don't want to pay them in full for that. That's another thing. That's another whole thing. People pay too much upfront. Itemized contract. I like the AIA Contract. That's the American Institute of Architects contract. Okay, itemizes everything on the job, and you pay according to what they complete. So if they complete 10% of a job, they get a 10% payment. It's a bulletproof way to protect yourself. A lot of people don't use it, right. But if you're doing a big job, you want to make sure you have that type

Charlie Ponger:

of Howdy, how the consumer or the homeowner, how do they know that they've completed 10% of the job? Because the contractor could say, that's 10%? Or do they outline that within the contract to say, phase one equals 10%? And this is what will be accomplished? Do they do it that way?

John DeSilvia:

No, no, no, that's a good question. How do you know it's 10%? You don't really know it's 10%. But let's say they're putting down 2000 square feet of tile. Right? Okay. And they put down 200 square feet. It's

Charlie Ponger:

9%. It's 10%. So you could call it that something's

John DeSilvia:

easy to quantify. Yeah, you know, if you're painting a house and the job is 50,000, and this 10 rooms and they painted five, then they're 50%. Complete, let's okay. You're not gonna be exactly on the number. But the point is, you're gonna protect yourself.

Charlie Ponger:

Right? What about what's called when the homeowner has to pick out all of the specialties right? So, um, that's a big responsibility for the homeowner to make those decisions. Right? Yep. And is the contractor sort of supposed to push those the homeowners to say, Look, you got to make a decision on this? Or we're not going to meet your deadline? Do they do

John DeSilvia:

Yeah, I mean, that's why deadlines are very hard to meet. I samonas will screw that up a lot of the time. But that is another important thing to have in your contract. Right? In essence, time is of the essence clause, right? Oh, so they have to complete the job. Let's say they put a six month timeframe on that right and every week they complete the job later than that they get fined a certain amount of money, you know, and if they complete it sooner Maybe they, they, you know, they make more money. But there's always reasons why that timeline could get extended. Right, if it's a legitimate reason, that's the Get back to your selections selections. You know, as a contractor, I didn't mind getting involved in the selections, because if I'm helping you pick out your cabinets, and you're buying them through me, Mm hmm. And the cabinets cost $10,000. I'm marking it up 10% For general conditions, general conditions and percent overhead and profit that comes so 21% I'm making on those 10,000 Tell

Charlie Ponger:

everyone with general conditions means because I don't think a lot of listeners will understand Understand what general conditions mean, overhead and profit.

John DeSilvia:

General Conditions are, most importantly, the cleaning up of the job site every single day. Okay, that's general conditions, you want to keep the conditions of the job site pristine, because if you don't, it could get out of hand. Accidents happen, people get hurt. And you waste time, overhead and profit is some you know, insurance office,

Charlie Ponger:

just running your overheads. So general conditions are part of the dumpster and all that sort of stuff. Okay, yep. And you just factor in a percentage, because you know, you're going to be kind of close to that. Exactly. See, you know, I'm

John DeSilvia:

making, I'm making money on everything, right, you're having me, pay, you're gonna pay me so that I could pay the cabinet,

Charlie Ponger:

right? So you got to make making money on that you should make money on that. Right?

John DeSilvia:

If you as the homeowner, I would recommend, go buy the cabinets yourself and save yourself. The 21%, right, or the 20%. Right, or whatever it is, whatever it is, yeah, buy your own fixtures, because you're going to save yourself money. And there's a great website called Build calm, they're not give me any money for this, right. But as a homeowner, you go on that website, you could save yourself a bunch of money by buying your fixtures there. It's all at your disposal right there. You look at the pictures, you deal with somebody on the phone. It's a great resource.

Charlie Ponger:

But if you're a neophyte, and you know nothing about construction at all, and you don't even know how to buy anything, it is it that simple that people like that could do that still, like they have to be considered about the dimensions, right?

John DeSilvia:

Well, hopefully they have an architect that could guide them and that the architect is not going to make money on buying fixes unless the architect has that in their contract, right. But the architect could guide them, or an interior designer can guide them. Now, people sometimes don't like to hire architects, right? I gotta tell you, man, there's, they'll save you a lot of money, save you a lot of money. How many mistakes are made, because dimensions are not correct. The sink, the cabinet's ordered in the wrong way? Right? The sink doesn't fit where it's supposed to. The faucet is a three hole faucet, not a one hole. I mean, there's 1000 reasons why you want to have an architect,

Charlie Ponger:

I say. And then they after the the roughing is done, or whatever, right? That's before the sheet rocks on the walls, or any of that sort of stuff. When do they come out and field measure for like cabinets and bathroom fixtures and all that sort of stuff?

John DeSilvia:

Yeah, I mean, nothing has to be done. Right? Walls have to be framed. sheetrock has to be in and then they can they come in, they measure. And then if you're really good, yeah. You know, if you're a great builder, you could build to what the plan say. And you could order the cabinet's based on the plans. Oh, that could save you time and money.

Charlie Ponger:

Wow. That's gotta be hard to do. Like, what if the walls are off or something like that? When you're doing a renovation

John DeSilvia:

walls can't be off, man. The wall should be plumb and level. And yeah, if the Arca set architect says it's 15 feet between these two walls, yeah. Why should it be 15 feet? Why should it be? 15? Five?

Charlie Ponger:

Right? It should be 15 feet what could be off by an eighth?

John DeSilvia:

Could be off by an eighth. I mean, you use a filler if you have to. But yeah, you don't want to

Charlie Ponger:

be off by five inches no matter what. Right? Right. Unless there's a rock somewhere yeah, it's always something right was a surprise was renovations no matter what must be really hard to estimate? You know, give him a price. And it's always got to be sort of an estimate, right? I mean, within a range these

John DeSilvia:

unknowns you never know what you're going to find when you start opening up walls and opening floors and seeing wood beams look like and they could be rotted, they could be beaten by termites. You never know what you're going to deal with. That's why there's always change orders. That's why the the length of the contract typically increases but it's good to keep your your contractor you know his nose to the flame because he needs to know that you care and that you know what's going on and you're on top of it. You On top of it, and I understand that homeowners don't know construction. So how could they be on top of it? The contractor could talk circles around them, right? If it's a big project, right, your architect will protect you. And if it's a really big project, hire a construction

Charlie Ponger:

manager. Yeah, right. Yeah. Owners rep. Right.

John DeSilvia:

And he'll he'll watch your back. And people think it's gonna cost them too much money to have that it could save them more money by having somebody that's representing them that knows about construction,

Charlie Ponger:

and not and a lot less headaches and a lot less time. And a lot less time might

John DeSilvia:

not be, you know, a year it could get done in eight months instead of a year. Right? Because there's somebody representing you that knows construction.

Charlie Ponger:

Wow, this is really insightful, right? Yeah, I think so.

John DeSilvia:

I mean, that's what my show is about, right? teaching people how to empower themselves. Right?

Charlie Ponger:

Well, how was that? That was something else, wasn't it? rescue my renovation? Johnny TV, how Johnny TV got into the business. Deb, what'd you think of that? That was pretty cool. Wasn't it rescue my renovation to

Debbie Charlie:

be an ongoing hotline? I mean, right. I believe this guy had this name of the show, and he doesn't do it anymore because he's so successful. I loved about him. Well, he didn't want to be a TV star. Somebody said, Hey, John, why don't you be on TV? He's like, Alright, fine. Just follow me around. And there was a huge success. And he had a friend right you were telling me yeah, really wanted to be on TV and was like went to all the lengths to promote and Johnny didn't do any of that. Yeah. I always interesting when it's more authentic. Well, I hope so. Right? But his whole thing was helping people who had been conned by other people. Crazy happen where he got what the heck happened?

Charlie Ponger:

He got conned, so wrong.

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Hey Everyone, and thank you so much for listening to our show, The Official Seenagers, never too late. Our show is all about relatable self-deprecation, observational and situational improv comedy. I can't wait to share with you!