The Cast Of Rock The Block On Taking On The Show's Biggest Projects Ever - Exclusive Interview

If home renovation were a sport, "Rock the Block" would be its answer to March Madness. In the long-running HGTV series, four teams of the network's top stars strive to out-design and out-decorate each other by transforming an empty shell of a new home into a show-stopping masterpiece. Each week, the teams are charged with taking on the completion of a specific room in the house, and the show's judges — fellow HGTV stars — decide which design is best.

This year promises even higher stakes and bigger challenges, with each team receiving a $250,000 budget to transform one of four identical 5000-square-foot homes in Colorado into a showcase for their unique style and vision. To add to the intrigue, the four teams are as different as can be: Page Turner and Mitch Glew of "Fix My Flip" are experts at targeting their designs to the current demands of the real estate market; Michel Smith Boyd and Anthony Elle of "Luxe for Less" love sensuous, luxurious touches; Bryan and Sarah Baeumler of "Renovation Island" are experts at creating livable, welcoming spaces; and Jonathan Knight and Kristina Crestin of "Farmhouse Fixer" are known for bringing out the best in older, rustic homes. Rounding out the cast is host Ty Pennington, a renovation show veteran and experienced builder and designer who understands exactly how difficult each week's challenges are. In an exclusive interview with House Digest, they shared their experiences on the show and what viewers can expect.

The teams put in seriously long hours on their renovations

Can you describe a typical day on the set? How long did you film? How long were you taping? How many hours were you working, and how much downtime did you have?

Jonathan Knight: We would start in the morning when it was still dark out, and we'd watch the sun come up. It depended on where we were in the project. There were a couple days that we were there till 10:00 at night, 2:00 in the morning for some teams ... It was really, really long days.

Bryan Baeumler: Those are the days I would get the guilt trip. "We can't go home yet. Jon and Kristina are still here. Look, Anthony is ... We can't go yet."

Did you guys know anything about the homes that you were going to be working on before you first visited them?

Page Turner: We received plans of the home.

Mitch Glew: We had floor plans. We didn't have any 3D images or anything like that — at least, Page and I didn't.

Turner: No, we didn't have that. We didn't have any visuals on the lot or anything. 

Glew: Lots of it is a guessing game.

Page Turner successfully guessed who her fellow competitors would be

Michel Smith Boyd: It was scary walking into those houses for the first time after looking at the plans. It was very different than what we thought.

Kristina Crestin: Things were different than what we thought on paper.

Ty Pennington: Then things became very different right after you saw them.

Turner: Walls that we asked for that weren't there when we got there ...

It sounds like a lot of surprises. Did you have any idea what the other teams were planning while you guys were there?

Boyd: Absolutely not.

Anthony Elle: Not at all.

Boyd: That's the fun for the viewer.

Turner: We didn't get to find out who the teams were until ... a couple of weeks before we got there.

Bryan Baeumler: It wasn't long before.

Turner: We didn't even know who we were competing against for a long time. I held it down. I got everybody except for the Baeumlers — no, I knew that the Bauemlers were coming. Except maybe for Jon and Kristina, I almost got everybody. I was trying to play a guessing game.

Each team brought special expertise to the table

For all the teams, what do you think gives you a special edge in this competition? 

Boyd: I thought that our edge would be that Anthony had competed in a couple of competition shows before. I'm not naturally competitive. He might disagree, but I thought that he was definitely our secret weapon and going to be our edge for sure.

Elle: Michel has a quietness to hit his competition — don't piss him off, and you won't have to face it. But it's ready to be awakened on the inside.

Turner: For Mitch and I, our strength is our experience. As a broker and a contractor with 40 years of experience and with designing and selling to a market that is like this ... We had to go through two gates to get to our houses. It's a beautiful gated community on a golf course, and that's how we've built our businesses. That's who we deal with every day, so we felt —

Glew: Page had been a judge twice. That was definitely a little leg up.

Turner: There was a little inside there too.

What about the rest of you? Bryan and Sarah, what do you think gives you an edge here?

Bryan Baeumler: Similar to Page and Mitch, this is our business; it's our bread and butter. Building and selling this sort of home is right in our wheelhouse. But it didn't take long — once we met everybody and got a peek at who we were up against — to realize that we didn't have the edge we thought we would have. I've done a lot of these competition shows or judged them or watched them where you get in and realize, "This is a bunch of amateurs playing contractor on TV." That's not what we were dealing with in Colorado, unfortunately.

Crestin: I like that. On our end, one of the things was when they were saying, "How are the other people going to judge you? What are other people expecting of you?" ... Because of our show being old houses, I have a ton of new ... I do more new construction than renovation. In my mind, my secret weapon was the skillset with new construction. I was like, "Who cares if this is in Colorado? I'm used to doing this [from the] ground up." I wasn't used to doing this without two years of planning at this scale.

Rock the Block was much harder than their own shows – but having trailers was a treat

How was being on "Rock the Block" different from doing your own shows? Was it easier, harder, different?

Glew: It was harder.

Turner: Much harder. But we did have trailers, which I love. I loved my trailer.

Crestin: Let's make it happen on all our shows.

Boyd: One thing I take away from "Rock the Block" is I'd like that trailer. Wouldn't you, Anthony?

Elle: I would love to have that trailer.

Sarah Baeumler: "Rock the Block" was definitely pretty demanding, the [number] of hours that we had to be there per day and being away from the family, all that. It was intense.

Turner: There wasn't a choice in that, because we had some days where we were having two reveals in one day, so we had to get these spaces done within a five-day period. Even though I never left Colorado — so I was still there on the weekends — it didn't end.

Sarah Baeumler: You'd be at the house on your days off.

Turner: Exactly. It doesn't end because you have to get it done. If you're working smart, you're like, "Let's put more time in now so we can have a day off, perhaps."

Taping on location was a personal challenge for the teams

Pennington: That's the point that a lot of people don't realize about what goes into "Rock the Block." Yes, these guys are designers and this is their business, but they also have families. They have all other kinds of clients that are also demanding of them that they have to put on hold for almost two months of their life and then be stuck in this one town. While all this chaos is happening off in another state, they have to focus on this one job. Whether the kids are being needy or all the above, they have to put everything else aside and focus on these rooms and these houses. It pays off at the end, but it takes a toll on you, without a doubt.

One of my favorite things is seeing Page, because she was also staying the whole time in Colorado ... I told her about the elk rut, which is the mating season. I was like, "You have to go see it." I saw in [her social media] post she's like, "Oh my God, they're mating and there's a huge buck and he's surrounded by all these ..." I was like, "Now that's Colorado. You had a moment to go soak in the mating season."

Turner: I saw it with my own eyes.

Crestin: Nice takeaway, Ty.

Turner: Mitch [and I] were still filming "Rock the Block" while we were filming "Fix My Flip," and I didn't go back, so my whole crew at home was stressed. I was like, "Listen, if I come back, I'm going to die because I can't breathe. I'm too stressed." I had to choose mental health and my physical health, unfortunately, over "Fix My Flip." Mitch would go back and film some days, and I'm like, "FaceTime me."

The contestants were grateful to the teams of tradespeople supporting them

Sarah Baeumler: It's interesting when you look at the trades that you work with every day on your own projects and your own shows, and here, we're meeting all new trades, and that's relationship building. [For] this show, when you're condensed to six weeks, you have to build and nurture those relationships, because the tile setter isn't the same guy or girl that you've known for two decades. You can't say, "Oh, do what I normally like" or anything like that. You need to be invested in every part of your project, so you can't just step away at any moment. You have to be there to make sure that you're expressing what you want and nurturing that relationship.

To do all of that in six weeks is a feat. That's what we value the most ... those relationships with the builders and with all of the trades. Those were pretty incredible people that also hustled seven days a week, 24 hours a day for us. We thank them for everything.

Were you responsible for finding all those people — your subcontractors — yourself, or were they referred to you?

Bryan Baeumler: They were there.

Sarah Baeumler: One of them is here.

Bryan Baeumler: One of them is here on vacation.

Turner: Another one's here too.

The teams had only days to finish their renovations

Watching the show, it all looks like everything's done in like 45 minutes. In reality, how many hours does that actually take to do something like a kitchen?

Crestin: A week and a half, that the kitchen was done in.

Bryan Baeumler: Didn't we only have a week for the kitchen? It wasn't much.

Pennington: It was like 10 days.

Crestin: I'm still reeling that it actually was pull-off-able. I know things had to get back — there's some things that went wrong and had to get fixed on many of the homes, but they still looked done. I'm still, in hindsight, like, "How in the hell?" The morning of the reveal, we were the first team to be judged, and I came in and stuff wasn't done that I thought was going to be done the night before. Camera people were steaming drapes, and everybody was pitching in. There was such an interesting piece of this realizing [that] everybody mobilizes to help. That piece was fascinating and also pretty awesome ...

An hour before we were being judged, there were still two-by-fours holding up some stones so they wouldn't fall. There was grit everywhere. There were drop cloths. I'm like, "Don't panic, don't panic. The judges are going to be here in an hour. Don't panic."

Boyd: You would've been in trouble if everybody wasn't as invested as they were. I really appreciate that too. We had a great team helping us.

Glew: You don't want to look silly on TV.

Elle: For as much work that goes in, it's scary to see what they reduce in editing. What is this hour-long show? What do they show?

Boyd: It's essentially four different television shows condensed into one hour.

Despite the rush, the teams paid attention to details and quality

Any special things you think the audience should look out for the season?

Crestin: Buzzwords? ...

Boyd: If they count how many times we say "pivot" in one episode, they're done.

Turner: How many times we pivoted? How many times we had to high-five?

Bryan Baeumler: I thought that was just Lamont for a while ... Lamont's favorite word was "pivot."

Sarah Baeumler: And "added value."

Bryan Baeumler: Turns out everybody was getting it.

Boyd: It was all of us.

Pennington: I would say this about this season: Make sure that when you're watching it, you can hit pause and slow it down. When they do the reveals of the rooms, look at the details that went into every single surface, the floors, the walls, the cabinetry, because then you get an understanding of what these guys went through to pick every single detail. Sometimes a camera pans, and you're like, "Oh, that was nice." You should pause it, back it up, and slow down and see that again, because this season is a stunner. Every single space is a 10, and it takes going to 11 to win this. Not every amp goes to 11, as you know.

Bryan Baeumler: It's almost a shame that viewers won't watch the same ... They'll watch the show, but only we had the experience. They can't experience the emotion of that six weeks in the compressed time, or they'd all be crying by the end too.

The next season of "Rock the Block" premieres Monday, March 6, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV and is available to stream the same day on discovery+.

This interview has been edited for clarity.