‘Magicians Revealing Our Secrets’: Q&A w/ Refresh Home Improvements
In August 2022, two of the three brothers behind Refresh Home Improvements — Dan and Steve Tuer, the Toronto-based contractors and up-and-coming social media figures — visited Trim-Tex HQ in Lincolnwood, Ill. Aside from being successful rehabbers in their area, the brothers have become known for their funny, personable how-to videos. With hundreds of thousands of followers between their Instagram, TikTok and YouTube pages, RHI takes their fans behind the drywall to explain how to solve common problems — with a juvenile joke never far from their lips.
During their stay at Trim-Tex, Dan and Steve sat down with us and opened up about corner bead, social media, making the trades “look sexier” and more.
Trim-Tex: Why do you use vinyl corner bead over other materials in your work?
Dan: We haven't been in the industry for 40 years, so we can't stand on that, but we can stand on is tests and how much easier it is for us to install it, and how much cleaner it looks when we install it.
Steve: That's the short answer, because we've done both. However many they are — I feel like we've done the paper, the metal, the vinyl. We've tried all of them, and we learned all of them. It wasn't like we were established in one method or another. They all started from a fairly equal standpoint.
We've learned them all at the same time, and we almost immediately were like, this one is better for a few reasons. It was totally organic. It was like, here's three things, no bias, no influence one way or another. Tried them all. That was the one that we ended up liking.
Dan: In fact, [Trim-Tex] was even — it was harder to get than some of the other stuff. We still found ourselves using it.
Steve: Yes, true.
Dan: For us, that's a big deal. We still ended up using all sorts of paper-faced metals and stuff like that, just because you could go to the box store and pick it up. But, ultimately, Trim-Tex is the one we'd rather work with … What's great about our solving our drywall problems is we found a company that has solutions to all these things.
Steve: We pride ourselves on having creativity. Yes, it's a corner. You put two pieces of drywall, and you put a corner bead on it. What we like doing is to be like, "Yes, you can do that, but there's a really cool product that where — how about instead of just a corner, maybe it's a beveled corner or there's a notch corner or there's some design?"
Trim-Tex: For many homeowners, they won’t be aware of what’s possible to do with drywall. How do you go about educating clients about these possibilities?
Steve: My first thought is it's a double-edged sword, because if you are educating clients on things that can go wrong, they're going to scrutinize your work more. There's always an element of — partly, you're trying to explain why it's so difficult, why it takes so long and why it's so expensive to do good work, because a lot of people, if you don't know, it seems very simple.
In order to explain why it's not, you have to show the things that can go wrong, and almost always do. That's partly why we're brought in a lot of the times, is because something, somewhere is not as it was, or it looked good in the beginning, and then a month later, there's cracks, there's screw pops. There's things like that.
There's an interesting thing that we see people do too, though, is when we bring trades in and we watch them interact with a client, when we're there, you can really pick up on when they're overselling the difficulty of their task. It really reads as if you're just trying to justify some ludicrous cost. It's a matter of finding the balancing line between good explanation like teaching, but not overdoing it. Not making it into rocket science, because it's not.
Trim-Tex: That's interesting to me because you are tradesmen, but in your videos, explaining how to do your work, you are perhaps making yourself obsolete in your first job if you do your second job very well.
Steve: We're magicians revealing our secrets.
Trim-Tex: Yes. Why?
Steve: In my opinion, it's because I don't think that the trick has never been how it's done. It's, do you want to do it? Are you willing to do it? We always say that the skill comes with time. The skill is acquired to practice and repetition. There shouldn't be a secret in how you do this stuff. This should be accessible to everyone. If you are worried that someone is going to step on your territory, or learn your tricks, and do it better than you, then you're thinking about it wrong, in my opinion. No one has a stranglehold on being the best drywaller. It shouldn't matter because there's infinite—
Dan: There's room for everyone.
Steve: There's plenty of room. I think there has been, in this industry, enough of making it seem difficult and making it seem like only I can do it, only skilled people. I think we want to be pushing more towards the other way, where it's like, let's make it seem accessible, approachable, and doable, because ultimately, most of the stuff is … I think also there's a level of where, if we broaden the understanding, it justifies what we do as well. If more people understand what goes into it, and how difficult it is or how — just as long as you see that there's a lot that goes into this stuff, I think, if that becomes more well-known then it makes what we do — it justifies the price and the and the time, all that stuff.
Dan: Sure. Everyone should be getting paid. It should get rid of the stigma on it too. It's cool stuff. It takes an engineering mind to be able to figure these things out. It's not just some uneducated person who dropped out of high school that can go swing a hammer. The vast majority of tradespeople are very intelligent, especially through mathematics, or through engineering, or they're in good shape. I think a lot of these people are super happy. A lot of these people feel great working with their hands, working with their body, and building something.
It's almost like an artist meets an athlete. You're working with your body, but at the same time, you come home feeling great that you've built something that you're proud of. You've made your masterpiece. I think there's so much room for happiness in the modern youth in the trades.
I think it's a really good place for young people to be. I know that it doesn't look that sexy the way people make it look, but I think our hope is to make it look sexier. Just doing all that satisfying stuff, that actually happens every day where you do a task where it's like drywall's not always satisfying, but there's a lot of part of a drywall that is super satisfying.
When you're done and you paint it, and you see a room that was just like bare bones, and then you turned it into this? It could be anything. Just like a white room with nice new floors. You leave it and you're like, "That's pretty crazy that I just built that." You know what I mean?
We feel it too when we see PRC Taping, or we see some of those tile videos on Instagram. It's still like, these people are artists! They're just doing art all day long, and it's pretty cool!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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