Wood Talk: Kayleen McCabe – TV Host, Trades Advocate, Licensed Contractor

Kayleen McCabeKayleen McCabe is a television host, advocate for skilled trades, and licensed contractor. She won the DIY Network’s “Stud Finder” contest in 2009, and went on to host the network’s “Rescue Renovation” for five seasons. She also is the co-founder of the McCabe Foundation, which encourages veterans and students to consider careers in the trades. Her goal is to be the voice of education in the trades globally.

McCabe recently was featured on the NWFA Wood Talk podcast, so Hardwood Floors magazine caught up with her to ask a few more questions.

How did you get started in the industry? I was introduced to it early on by my father and grandfather. I think I was four when I used a band saw for the first time to make little wooden hearts for my parents, and I still have all of my fingers. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, and I started working behind the scenes in television, that it clicked that I could do construction for a career.

Who has influenced your career the most and why? I’m lucky to have a big tribe of cheerleaders and influencers. One of my earliest mentors was Frank Belcastro, the master carpenter on “Trading Spaces.” That was the first place where I could fail safely, and a lot of learning in construction is by failing. He was really encouraging and a gifted woodworker. Also, my father was a welder/machinist by trade and worked on the Hubble Telescope. He always has encouraged me to follow my folly.

Do you have a favorite on-the-job story? A lot of them revolve around working with a wonderful crew. When I had the TV show, we would do something called “RAD,” which stood for “random acts of dancing.” At any time, anyone on the crew could scream out “RAD” as loud as they could, and everybody had to put down their tools and start dancing. You would think someone goofy like me would be the one to yell it the most, but it was the contractors who were in their sixties who loved it!

What energizes you to stay involved in the trades? I was that kid in school who should have been told, “You’re very smart, and you’re going to be successful. Have you thought about construction?” So, now I am energized when I connect with students or even parents and show them the opportunity and the love for this. For me, it’s genuine. I am an artist with two-by-fours and concrete, and I love what I get to do. If I don’t make sawdust every few days, I’m sad. It’s the balance of getting to spread that love to folks who need to hear it and will genuinely benefit from it.

Kayleen McCabe NWFA Expo

What are you listening to right now? I found this Mariachi band that covers Queen, Los Mariachis, so I am all about that. Also, I’m listening to “The Endurance,” a book about a
voyage in the Antarctic.

Do you have a morning routine that sets you up for success? I’m blessed to be a natural morning person. I am excited to see the sun coming over the horizon. I’m a huge tea drinker. My days are different all the time, so I have a wonderful balance of some mornings teaching students in Georgia via Zoom and other mornings, still working on
a jobsite. My schedule is perfect, and I don’t know how I got here besides a
lot of hard work.

What keeps you busy outside of work? With the COVID-19 lockdown, I learned how to cook. I’m having so much fun. I love researching recipes, and I usually have a really good vegetable garden that I pull a lot of ingredients out of. I’m getting creative with marinades and brines, and I just got a sous vide. Additionally, I recently took up oil painting. I’m an awful painter, I will never show anyone this stuff, but I find it very relaxing and enjoyable.

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