What Extreme Makeover's Ty Pennington Has Said About His Rocky Relationship With His Dad

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Ty Pennington has had quite the journey on his way to becoming the television personality we know and love today. After appearing as a carpenter in TLC's "Trading Spaces," Pennington would become a household name upon landing a job as the host for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Ask any fan, and they'll tell you that Pennington was a big part of why the home improvement show was so enjoyable to watch. He easily found his way into the hearts of viewers due to his energetic personality, enthusiasm for each home project, and apparent genuine dedication to the families on the show.

While the "Trading Spaces" star was all about helping other families live happily ever after in their upgraded homes, the sad truth is that Pennington himself comes from a shaky family foundation. He is very candid about his turbulent childhood and his rocky relationship with his father, Gary Burton. 

In his memoir, "Life to the Extreme: How a Chaotic Kid Became America's Favorite Carpenter," the TV show host shared intimate details about his interactions with his absent father. Burton and Pennington's mother, Yvonne Vickery, separated when Pennington was just three years old. Since then, he's met with his dad on rare occasions. Unfortunately, those visits have left the home improv aficionado with feelings of disappointment toward his biological dad.

Ty Pennington didn't recognize his dad at one point in his life

When Ty Pennington ran into his dad at the age of five, he didn't realize who the man was. In "Life to the Extreme," Pennington wrote that his first memory of meeting his father happened while he was in kindergarten. He and his older brother Wynn were having the time of their lives playing at an arcade center. A man approached them without giving an introduction. To their delight and surprise, he offered the boys more quarters so they could continue playing the pinball machine. 

Pennington wrote that the man returned "several times" to check on the boys and give them more quarters. That's when their mother returned from the next-door jazz club to get the boys. When she asked her young son if he knew who the kind, quarter-wielding stranger was, Pennington said he drew a blank. "Is he someone on the news?" he remembered asking her.

The answer hit much closer to home. "That's your father," his mother stated. As any five-year-old might be, Pennington was more concerned about getting back to playing his game than his chance encounter with his father. "'Cool,'" he recalls himself replying. "Can I have more quarters?" 

His dad was not 'a great financier'

Over the years, Ty Pennington continued to meet up with his dad, albeit sporadically. Most of those meetings failed to leave a good impression on him, he admitted in his book. Pennington recalls one such visit that made him realize his dad was not "a great parent or a great financier."

When he was 15 years old, Pennington jetted off to Florida to visit his father and meet his father's new wife and children. During the trip, the father and son made a stop at a gas station. Suddenly, his dad looked over at him and casually asked for "five bucks" (via House Beautiful). "I'm thinking, Are you kidding? I'm fifteen," Pennington wrote. "I mow lawns. But I just nod and tell him sure and give him the $5. When he climbs back in the car a few minutes later, he's holding a can of beer."

Even though his relationship with his biological father remains on shaky grounds, Pennington has found joy in the healthier aspects of his life, including his relationship with his stepfather, Nick Pennington. He considers Nick his "real father," so much so that Ty changed his real name and took his stepdad's last name.