Friday, June 8, 2012

Mike Holmes: Canada's Avenging Angel

This article, posted on talks about the popularity and influence of Mike Holmes in Canada, and how his quest for better building is taking his "make it right" credo across the border. Bad builders and the "minimum code" make Mike angry, and he's one angel who's not afraid to use a little profanity and coarse language.  When it comes to educating home owners about using better, non-toxic, sustainable products to build their homes, Mike is full of piss and vinegar. He urges big box stores to "stop selling crap" and start selling better, safer products. It's an uphill fight, but Mike is boldly leading the resistance, hammer in hand. To Mike's American fans (like me) Mike Holmes already is a rockstar of rockstars, and we would certainly love to see the "reno revolution" Mike is leading arise in our country as well.

ProWatch: Canada's Avenging Angel

Bad Builders: Cable TV star Mike Holmes relentlessly exposes builders' shoddy practices.


Photo: The Holmes Group /
TATTOO U.: Mike Holmes shows his true colors with the "Make It Right" tattoo on his arm. That's no mere bit of whimsy. Rather, it's the brawny builder's personal mission statement as he exposes the work of bad contractors on his cable TV show.
Source: PROSALES Magazine
Publication date: October 4, 2010
As usual, Mike Holmes is angry. "What is the percentage of contractors who give a shit?" he demands. "If you're lucky, 15 out of 100 contractors are good. And developers? I'm sorry, they really don't care. If they did, they would be building better and bragging about it. How many times are we going to keep banging our heads before we start doing things better?"
That's more than a rhetorical question to Holmes, the most outsized Canadian to cross the border since William Shatner. This bluff, plain-talking contractor with cropped baby-chick blond hair and "Make It Right" tattooed on one of his mighty arms aims to use his status as a cable TV and magazine personality to encourage homeowners to educate themselves and demand that builders create better living spaces. And he wants LBM dealers to join his crusade.
If you keep your TV tuned to the sports programs, you might not have heard of Holmes or his weekly show, Holmes on Homes, on the HGTV cable channel. But there's a good chance your wife or your female customers have. HGTV declines to release viewership numbers for the show, which began airing on the U.S. cable channel in late April 2009, but it's already one of HGTV's top 10 programs and has been dubbed the channel's "breakout hit of the year" by HGTV executive Kenneth Lowe. "We expect his popularity to grow in the U.S. as viewers get to know him," network publicist Emily Yarborough says.
His American fans hope Holmes will reach the rock star status he already has achieved in Canada, where Holmes' show has aired since 2001. There, a May 2010 Reader's Digest poll of the 10 most trusted Canadians placed Holmes second, above the Queen, the prime minister, and even Michael J. Fox.
Holmes on Homes is a 30-minute drama built on a recurring theme. First, Holmes visits a property (usually near Toronto, his home) where hapless homeowners have been the victim of work by contractors whose misdeeds run the gamut from simply incompetent to criminally negligible. Marching from room to room, Holmes calls out contractors who've done shoddy work. "This is not acceptable" is one of his favorite, less salty comments; other remarks not so suitable for the viewing public are drowned out in a sudden revving of power tools.
White Knight
Then Holmes not only fixes the listing decks, buckling foundations, and leaking bathrooms, but keeps up a steady stream of explanations, demonstrating the right way to handle the issue. Never have thermal breaks, Ditra, and mold-resistant drywall been such compelling viewing. Through it all, Holmes seeks not just to fix problems but to do the work the way it should have been done from the start. Most episodes he will find the camera, dismiss the contractor's lousy work, and then ask: "Why didn't they just make it right?"
Why indeed. It's a question most homeowners have asked during the course of building a new home or renovating an older one. And Holmes' rescue tactics make him a white knight that many a customer in distress would love to have come her way.

Photo: The Holmes Group /
SHOW AND TELL: Along with his popular cable TV program, Mike Holmes also has a namesake magazine devoted to quality construction, a website, a newspaper column, and a housing development in Canada where each of the 457 homes planned will be certified LEED platinum. He aims to expand the home brand into the United States.
But Holmes doesn't see himself as an avenging angel so much as a teacher and proselytizer. He wants people to get smarter about what they look for in a home, and he believes the recession has opened a massive opportunity for suppliers to start helping builders amp up their knowledge base. The contractor spoke with ProSales recently during a break from filming on location in Canada with his new show, Holmes Inspection, and in classic Holmes fashion he did not mince words:
"We are looking at this bass ackwards, building from the inside out," he says. "Forget the pretty cabinets and the granite countertops and think about what goes on the outside." Unfortunately, he says, "we act on vision, not knowledge. We do it on illusion. 'Oh that's beautiful; I want that.' We act on the visual." To avert future building system failures ("There is not a '1-800 Help-I'm-Screwed' number for homeowners to call," he says), pro dealers can stock better products and help educate builders on their merits and how best to use them.
"Everyone is sick and tired of replacing a roof after 10 years when it's guaranteed for 15 to 20," he says.
Knowledge Is Power
Trying to get contractors to build better than the minimum required by code–and don't get him started on the inadequacy of minimum code requirements–is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks. "Not gonna happen," he says. He urges homeowners to educate themselves about their home's building envelope because he believes that the only way to change building practices is for them to demand better products. "We need to be absolutely more educated about how things work."
Holmes wants homeowners to start finding the beauty not just in interior finishes, but in products like low VOC paints, BluWood (lumber treated with a non-toxic finish that prevents mold and rot and repels termites) and closed cell spray foam insulation. "We need to look at products that off-gas"–and that's just about everything, he says–"and try not to use those in our homes.
"I was the type of guy who always did my homework," he says. "When I was three, I used to take my toys apart to see how they worked." Now Holmes want to imbue homeowners, and LBM dealers, with that spirit of inquiry.
That's the message Holmes is trying to get across through his television shows, books, magazine (Holmes, The Magazine To Make It Right), website (, syndicated column, and building projects (including a Holmes Homes development called Wind Walk in Okotoks, Alberta, where each of the 457 houses planned will be certified LEED Platinum).
Living the Toxic Life
"The average person is living in an incompetently built home," Holmes says. "We are all living in a toxic atmosphere. We don't build totally sustainable homes because we're used to what we have, and we are resistant to change.
"Almost no one is looking at building better. We have to teach the new technology in schools and in the trades, and this demand has to come from the public.
"Look, I talk to many big-box stores and I tell them, 'You have to stop selling crap, start selling BluWood and green drywall and mold resistant caulk.' They don't want to, because it's driven by demand."
But Holmes is not a man to be deterred by obstacles. "The bad guys don't like me; [they say] 'He's causing us problems and he's costing us money,'" he says.
"I am the boss. I'm a Leo, and I'm a pretty confident guy; been confident all my life." And the boss is confident that he is heading in the right direction, and determined to take us with him.
–Kate Tyndall is a contributing editor to ProSales.

1 comment:

  1. Mike Holmes is Canada' White Knight. Bravo.