The Block Australia: Simple tips to renovate your home in a cost of living crisis from host Scotty Cam

There is no doubt Kiwi audiences have a place in their heart for The Block

While it may be famed for its personality clashes as deadlines bite, the show, which returns to Three and ThreeNow from Sunday, November 19, is also a hit with viewers looking for inspiration for their own homes. 

But with a cost of living crisis and rising prices of building materials, many of us are looking to keep the tradies out of the equation and embrace a bit of good-old-fashion DIY. 

However, The Block Australia host Scotty Cam warned Newshub that is not always the smartest way to do things - and ultimately could end up costing you much more in the long run. 

"Know your limitations, know what you can and can't do," he said. 

"Know when it's time to get a tradie in too. I think a lot of people have these grand plans of knocking a wall out, and they just go bull at a gate and it stays like that for two years because they don't know how to reinstate it or make good." 

Cam knows what he's talking about - he's been a tradie for over 40 years in his native Australia and has seen all the mistakes one can make while renovating. His advice is to keep it super simple in the planning stages - but told Newshub most people don't pay attention to the details. 

"Know your budget too, don't change things; once you decide on something, stick to it. Know how much things cost. Another thing that happens is that people start playing around with cost, and they can run out of coin if they're doing it themselves, and then it stays like that for years because they haven't got the money to fix it up again." 

The Block Australia is back.
The Block Australia is back. Photo credit: Channel Nine

If it all sounds like sensible advice from the man who's been fronting The Block Australia on our screens for the best part of two decades now, then it is. But Cam told Newshub it's advice worth driving home as shows like The Block continue to inspire homeowners to pick up tools. 

"Be safe. Don't use a nine-inch grinder, don't use a chainsaw. Don't use the tools that even tradesmen are frightened of," he laughed. 

"One of my neighbours years ago, he came out to me with a nine-inch grinder - it's a very powerful and very dangerous tool - and he said, 'Can you show me how to put the blade on?' And I said: 'No, I will not show you how to put the blade on'." 

Cam reckoned the key to home reno is to "start with a bit of cordless stuff, start with the basics" before asking tradesmen to share their knowledge. 

"I just get advice from getting tradesmen in, get mates who know what they're doing and get them to show you a few things. And every day you learn something new and then you can do something new." 

It's this easy-going practical approach that has made Cam such a household name, with TV appearances dating back to the start of the century.

Things get heated on The Block Australia this year.
Things get heated on The Block Australia this year. Photo credit: Channel Nine

He scored his first TV job in 2000 after a show producer spotted him at a bar, having a beer and yarning with some mates after a day working on the tools. 

"I went to the same pub every night on the way home with a bunch of tradie mates for years. We were there every afternoon like clockwork really, for years and years. A producer happened to be in the pub and we were just in our corner and he said to me at the bar: 'Look, do you want to do a screen test? We're doing a pilot for a TV show, and I need a carpenter'. And I said, 'Nah not really, thank you, good luck to you'," he laughed.  

"My ute was parked out the front, and he got my phone number off there and he rang me later and said: 'I'm in your area. Can we do that screen test?' and I said, 'Oh, alright, let's do it'. Anyway, I got the job - that was on a show called Backyard Blitz. I was a carpenter on that and that went onto great success in Australia, which led me to do a bunch of other shows, all to do with building." 

Newshub's time with the 60-year-old Cam is short but you can see the appeal of the Logie-winning presenter, who bursts with easy charm and is clearly the kind of guy you can imagine going for a beer with. 

It is that kind of avuncular charisma that makes him such a hit with the contestants on The Block Australia and has seen him fronting the show for 17 years out of the 20 it has been on air.  

This year, the show sees teams renovating five homes in Melbourne that were built in the 1950s. But it has also been one of the most controversial of its runs, with some contestants claiming the show was biased - and one team donning "Make The Block Great Again" Donald Trump-style red caps during production. 

"We don't create that drama. We don't really particularly need the drama, whether we want it or not. But it just happens organically and we can't stop it because it's 10 personalities getting into close quarters and working hard for 12 weeks, three months. So, it does happen. 

"There's an alliance put forward this year that's at times ugly and it's great Lord of the Flies-style TV, but it was tough to watch. Literally we were standing back watching, going like, 'What is happening here?' It was pretty petty. I mean, alliances change as time goes on, but it was just really interesting human behaviour." 

Scotty Cam is synonymous with The Block Australia.
Scotty Cam is synonymous with The Block Australia. Photo credit: Channel Nine

So, what's Cam's key to success? After all, he's been on air for over two decades and has no plans to give up The Block Australia presenting job anytime soon, even though his contract ran out last year. 

"I treated it as a job from day one. I treated it as I was an employee. You know, I wasn't the TV personality yet. I turned up on time. I've never been late - I always turn up prepared. I always had the right gear and I do my job every day and I did it until I was finished," he said. 

"They were long days - about 15 hours, and I was there - and without complaint. 

"And I never ask for anything. That's a big thing. I know where the water is. People get on telly and they say, 'Can you get me a water?' Young people coming through to TV, I say, 'Don't ask people to get you a water until maybe you're my age'. 'Cos I don't know where the water is these days! 

"People come up to me all day and say, 'Would you like a water, Scott?' and I'm like 'Okay. Yeah, thanks very much'. But when you kick it off, get your own bloody water!" 

The Block Australia is available to watch  first on ThreeNow from November 19th and airing at Sunday – Wednesday on Three.