Newlywed Ty Pennington Is 'So Happy' After Years of Bachelorhood: 'I've Been a Carny, Let's Face It'

The handyman, who appears in the premiere of Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE, opens up about married life and renovating his dream home with wife Kellee Merrell

Ty Pennington is strapping on his tool belt on TV and at home.

The famous handyman and host is teaming up with Erin and Ben Napier and a slew of other HGTV stars to help makeover six struggling small towns around the U.S. on the new series Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE (premiering April 24). But the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition alum has his hands full off-camera, too.

Pennington, 57, and his new wife, Canada-born social media manager Kellee Merrell, 33, are in the middle of renovating their historic home in Savannah, Georgia, where they also tied the knot in a tiny backyard ceremony in November.

Ty Pennington
Ty Pennington Instagram

"It's been a wonderful thing. Just refurb-ing and redoing this incredibly old house. But it's fun because we're taking it really slow, one project at a time," Pennington tells PEOPLE. "We installed decking on the rooftop patio and it looks fantastic! Kellee's bathroom should be finished soon and we are making progress on the living room."

Tyler Pennington Instagram
Tyler Pennington/Instagram; Inset: Robin Marchant/Getty.

Like so many renovations, the couple's new-old home has been plagued by Covid-related hold-ups. "The biggest challenge is definitely shipping delays, supply shortages and also just a lack of workers. This has doubled, possibly tripled the time of our renovation," he says. "It's not always fun living in a construction zone, but we are very fortunate so we can't complain."

ty pennington
Ty Pennington/Instagram

The couple, who first met on the set of a show filming in Toronto 10 years ago and reconnected in 2020 before deciding to quarantine together, hope to have their dream home complete and ready to welcome long-awaited visitors soon.

"I think the thing I'm looking forward to the most is finishing the living room and feeling like the bottom floor of our house is done-ish and ready for guests," says Pennington. "We're installing grasscloth on the walls and found this amazing light fixture from England. It's going to be a really warm and inviting space."

ty pennington
Ty Pennington/Instagram

The HGTV star says he's keeping his plate full with projects, but he credits finally being at home for a long stretch in the last two years with his finally settling down.

"I've been a carny, let's face it," he jokes of his long bachelorhood. "I started working on Trading Spaces in 2000, and I really never stopped. When you're never home for more than seven or 10 days at a time, it's really hard to stay in any kind of a positive relationship. I'm sort of happy for me that I've been able to really find it."

Of newlywed life, he says, "It's amazing. I'm so happy. It was a long time coming, I would say, but I'm glad it finally happened."

Ty Pennington
Three Lines Creative

The couple's backyard wedding was very intimate — something that was caused by Covid, but suited them just fine.

"I'm a Libra. Are you kidding me? I love to be the life of the party," Pennington admits. "But I think what was really great is just having that small thing, it's a little more special. And honestly it really is just about reminding yourself how lucky you are that you found someone that a lot of people probably thought you never would."

Ty Pennington Wedding
Three Lines Creative

The pair said "I do" in front of just eight guests at the 19th-century property.

"My wife's from Canada as well," Pennington explains. So because of the restrictions of travel, there wasn't any way to really get a huge amount of her people here, so it would be really horrible for me to just stack the deck with all my friends and family. It was just more intimate, and I think, to be honest with you, vows are supposed to be intimate."

WATCH THIS: Get a First Look at Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE Starring Ben and Erin Napier

They initially wanted to have their wedding in Italy, but due to the pandemic, they opted to bring some touches of Tuscany to their small celebration instead. Guests snacked on caviar and sipped champagne before later enjoying a five-course meal featuring duck breast and lobster ravioli.

Pennington told PEOPLE shortly after the ceremony, "I never thought I would get married. It wasn't a priority. But this incredible person came into my life and I just knew I couldn't let her go."

Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE premieres on HGTV April 24.

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