The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Each episode of HGTV’s Rico To The Rescue starts the same way. Footage of crushed concrete piles, half-demolished walls, and exposed plumbing plays while a dejected Denver-area homeowner explains that the chaos is due to a dodgy contractor. Enter the reality show’s protagonist, local home restoration expert Rico León, who, alongside interior designer Poonam Moore, saves the botched renovation.
Securing a spot on the small screen was the result of León’s own disaster turned blessing. A Pittsburgh native, León landed in Denver in 2018 when his car broke down en route to Los Angeles. He decided to stay and began working in emergency restoration and construction. It didn’t take long for him to spot a new business endeavor. “There were a lot of contractors who meant well and were good people, but they didn’t know their finances or have the right processes and systems in place. A lot of people were selling jobs that they couldn’t complete,” León says. He began consulting to help contractors with their operations and procedures, client contracts, and marketing strategies. Then, in 2021, a real estate agent friend introduced him to a television producer who loved León and his unique skill set.
Season one of Rico premiered two years later, in January 2023.
On the show, León’s superpower is being able to speak both contractor and homeowner fluently, and his first step is always to try to facilitate a conversation between the two. Sometimes the interaction is productive and, with the homeowner’s permission, León works with the contractor to finish the project under his guidance. Other times it’s explosive, and León and his team have to complete the renovation themselves. This approach, which spotlights the onerous side of home renovations often overlooked by HGTV’s more aspirational shows, is resonating with audiences: Season one attracted 11.8 million total viewers, making it one of the most-watched cable programs in its time slot. Rico’s second season premieres on January 10. “I thought I saw it all, until this season,” León says. “It’s definitely spicier than season one.”
León’s 3 Top Renovation Rules
Tips for avoiding a construction nightmare.
1. Mind Murphy’s Law
“Have a conversation with your contractor about the good, bad, and ugly,” León says, “and ask about the ‘what if’ scenarios up front. ‘What if the plumber makes a mistake—who’s going to cover that?’”
“You have to assume you’re going to go over your budget,” León says. Many home improvement pros suggest adding 10 to 15 percent to the final estimate, and if that feels like a financial feat, consider scaling back or dividing the renovation into phases.
3. Set Milestones
Create a step-by-step payment plan in your contract. “For example, ‘You will show proof that you put money down for your subcontractors. Once you prove that, I will issue you a check,’” León says. “It makes everyone accountable.”