“I’m Just a Contractor” – Mike Holmes
To the millions of people around the world who watch Mike Holmes on TV every day, he is far more than just a contractor. Fueled by a larger-than-life personality, Holmes is the powerhouse behind a media empire that encompasses several award-winning television series, syndicated newspaper columns, bestselling books, DVDs, magazines, and his own line of personal protective equipment manufactured by 3M. Dubbed “Canada’s most trusted contractor,” his popularity stretches far beyond the northern borders of Canada. His reno-reality shows, Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection, and his latest endeavor Holmes Makes It Right, air in multiple countries around the world, built upon the premise integrity, honesty, and work ethic.
Michael James Holmes was born in Canada on August 3, 1963. He grew up in Toronto, Ontario with his mother Shirley, father Jim, and his several siblings, including an older sister and several younger brothers. Mike described his childhood family as poor, but happy, and one in which the value of “doing things right the first time” was fostered. From a very early age, Mike began to show great interest and a natural proficiency in the skilled trades. As a young boy, he began to follow in the footsteps of his father, a “jack of all trades, master of none.” At the age of six, the young prodigy helped to rewire the family home. At the age of 12, he finished his first basement under his father’s watchful supervision. As a child, Mike was the type to dismantle his toys to see how they worked, an activity that would often draw the ire of his father. As Mike grew older, however, his potential as a master craftsman became evident to his father and friends. He recalled once using all of his dad’s lumber and nails to build a multi-room tree fort in the yard and putting his building skills to good use crafting some of the most amazing go-carts the neighborhood kids had ever seen.
Leaning the skilled trades from his father was one of the greatest influencing factors in Mike’s life. To this day, he frequently credits his dad with instilling in him a love of craftsmanship and his “make it right” ethic. “In my eyes, he was Superman,” he recalled. “I talk about my dad all the time…sometimes I get the feeling I talk about him too much, but he is the inspiration behind what I do, for sure.” Mike’s dad not only passed down his knowledge of the trades, but also a heart for people. While growing up, he often observed his father going out of his way to help the neighbors with a variety of issues they had around their homes. Jim may not have received much of anything for his troubles, but in his eyes, helping others in need was just the right thing to do.
TEENAGE AND YOUNG ADULT YEARS
As a teenager, Mike found himself at odds with authority, and would often butt heads with his teachers. Unable or unwilling to deal with the pressure of school, he dropped out in grade 11. At the age of 17, he and his friends decided to get tattoos, and Mike chose an English bulldog wearing a hat, placed on the lower portion of his right bicep. A year later, after some peer pressure to get a second tattoo on the other arm (because it was the cool thing to do, to paraphrase Mike), he chose a small cobra on the lower portion of his left bicep. Years later at the age of 48, Mike would have his teenage souvenirs covered up with now, more appropriately placed ink.
At the age of 19, Mike got married and began a career as a contractor. Later that same year, he stared his own contracting company with 13 employees, quite a feat for such a young man. At the age of 21, Mike became the father of a daughter, Amanda. He also made large strides in his professional life, becoming the owner of his own renovation company. In only a few short years, Mike’s family would grow once and twice again, with the addition of two more children, middle daughter Sherry and youngest son Mike Jr. By the age of 25, Mike Holmes was a husband, father of three young children under the age of 5, and a business man. From the start, Mike began to make a living at fixing the mistakes of other contractors. His early business cards read “The F-up Fixer.”
The early 1990’s was a difficult time for world economically. The recession that followed hit Mike’s young family especially hard, nearly wiping out his entire company, as well as the entire construction industry as a whole, leaving only “bottom feeders,” who were willing to do poor work on the cheap. As a result, Mike was forced to sell his business and lay off all of his employees. The dire situation he found himself in became a ginormous strain on the young family, and Mike’s marriage crumbled. Mike sold his car and separated from his wife soon thereafter. Not more than a month later, his father Jim died at the age of 55 in a tragic accident. As he was walking down the narrow stairs into the basement, he missed the first step, fell, and broke his neck. Only a few years later, his mother Shirley passed away at the age of 56 from a heart condition.
A NEW START – TELEVISION
If you ask him, he’ll be happy to tell you – Mike Holmes never sought out a career on television. “It was an accident,” he has stated numerous times. In 2001, while working as a stagehand building sets for the HGTV show Just Ask Jon Eakes, Mike Holmes met Michael Quast, the director of studio programming for Alliance Alantis at the time. Quast was taken aback by the loud and outspoken Holmes, who “came in with veins popping out on his neck, and diarrhea of the mouth, talking about how he was sick and tired of seeing people get screwed by contractors. Quast thought Mike was on to something and wanted to turn his ideas for a new kind of TV show into a reality, with one small caveat – he wanted Mike to be the host. At first, Mike was opposed to being on camera (after all, he was just a contractor), but Quast saw star potential in Holmes, and after a little persuasion, Mike reluctantly agreed.
HOLMES ON HOMES
Getting Holmes on Homes off the ground turned out to be a greater challenge than anyone could have ever imagined. “Nobody wanted anything to do with Mike. We couldn’t get into anybody’s house to film,” said HOH director Peter Kettlewell. There were very few submissions to the show at first, and Mike was reduced to handing out fliers in Home Depot parking lots to drum up participants.
Holmes on Homes first aired HGTV Canada in 2003. The episodes in the first couple of seasons were 30 minutes in length and had much lower budgets than the hour long episodes in the later seasons. By the show’s fourth season, the show had exploded in popularity, and Mike was receiving hundreds of emails a week from desperate homeowners begging for his help. It became clear to Mike that there was something fundamentally wrong with the industry, and the “minimum code” as it stood had to change.
The shooting schedule for Mike and his crew was grueling. Early mornings and late nights were the norm, and shooting often took place seven days a week. In 2009, Holmes on Homes officially wrapped after seven enormously successful seasons, which aired to captive audiences all over the world.
HOLMES IN NEW ORLEANS
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the southern gulf, breaking levees in Louisiana, causing tremendous amounts of damage to cities build below sea level, such as New Orleans. In 2008, Brad Pitt and girlfriend Angelina Jolie started a foundation to render aid to those affected by Katrina in the poorest and most heavily devastated areas of New Orleans. They called their foundation the “Make It Right Foundation.” Although the A-List couple had only good intentions when they started their foundation, they failed to realize that the phrase “Make It Right” was already trademarked to Mike Holmes. Instead of starting a war over words, Mike decided to pack up his crew and head down south, where he worked to help build the foundation’s first house in the Lower 9th Ward. Their efforts were filmed for the special Holmes in New Orleans. The recipient of the first house was Gloria Guy, a woman who was doing her best to raise her deceased daughter’s gaggle of children.
The work was physically, mentally, and emotionally draining for the crew. “It was brutal. Unbelievably HOT AS HELL…Seriously – the heat was extreme. We were shocked every day how it got so hot and humid from early in the morning, and it never let up,” Mike stated in response to a fan’s question during a 2009 live chat on his website. The experience proved to be too much for one crew member, Corin “Pinky” Ames, who left the show during the filming in New Orleans and never came back.
In 2009, post Holmes on Homes and Brad Pitt, audiences eagerly awaited Mike’s new show Holmes Inspection. HI combined Mike’s expertise and know-how with entertaining and education computer graphics. “I call it Holmes on Homes meets CSI,” Mike said to fans in 2009. “I think it’s really great for teaching the viewers about what’s going on behind the walls of the house. I can’t show things like air quality or mould spores on camera, so the special effects lets me do that.” The concept of the show was similar to its predecessor, with one main exception. “I saw an opportunity to educate homeowners so they can hire the right inspectors – just like Holmes on Homes tried to teach people how to hire the right contractors.” Throughout the show, Mike would not just re-inspect people’s homes, but would do the equivalent of exploratory surgery, sometimes going so far as to punch holes in walls to find the source of leaks, creaks, mold, funny odors, and much more. Armed with sophisticated equipment such as the FLIR IR camera (cost: around $20,000) as well as the more standard fare of a flashlight, digital camera, and a ladder, Mike proceeded to document items and issues not caught by the original home inspector. Mike’s diagnosis was often grim as he pointed out the problems, education and explaining every step of the way.
Unlike Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection turned over the bulk of the on-site work to right hand man and construction supervisor Damon Bennett. Damon took on the role and persona of Mike as he supervised the crew, including Mike’s son-in-law, Adam Bellanger, and Mike’s two children, Sherry and Mike Jr. “M.J.” Mike’s real life uncle Billy “Uncle Billy” Bell rounded out the crew, making the show a family operation. Holmes Inspection was a great opportunity for Mike’s fans to get to know his protégé Damon; however, many were disappointed to see Mike taking a more off-camera role. “I don’t miss getting dirty so much,” he said. “I worked hard for years – and I tell you, overseeing as the white helmet is better… for the first time in years I feel like I have a life – I have a few days off in a week.”
HOLMES MAKES IT RIGHT
Holmes Inspection officially came to a close in 2012 after three successful, albeit controversial years. Mike received just about as much criticism as he did praise over Holmes Inspection. Critics pointed to Mike’s lack of a background in engineering and accused Mike of playing it up for the camera. Undeterred, the work-a-holic Holmes spent the better part of the year 2012 filming episodes for Holmes Makes It Right, which debuted on HGTV in October 2012.
THE HOLMES FOUNDATION
In 2006, Mike took on what was supposed to be just another project for Holmes on Homes. The homeowners had hired a contractor to renovate and add a second story addition to their home. However, as Mike inspected the structure, he soon came to the realization that the previous contractor had done such abysmal work, no amount of repairs could sufficiently save the home. Mike knew the homeowners were in a heap of trouble and that the entire house needed to come down. He approached the show’s producers with the details of the situation and expressed his desire to help the family. Although producers attempted to talk him out of it, Mike was adamant, and he threatened to leave the show if they wouldn’t let him do it. After two years of work, the infamous "Lien on Me" aired, documenting the build. The ordeal affected Mike in such a profound way, he was inspired to create his own charitable foundation, The Holmes Foundation. The Holmes Foundation seeks to aid victims of renovations gone wrong, and encourages young Canadians to choose careers in the skilled trades by providing financial aid and bursaries for the training of future tradespeople.
Being the handyman superstar that he is, Mike has served as the judge of Handyman Superstar Challenge in Canada and its American counterpart All American Handyman. Mike has also participated as the official spokesman and self-proclaimed mascot for Skills Canada, an Olympic-like world competition for the skilled trades.
A philanthropist to the core, Mike has lent his name, time, and resources to children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages, traveling to Africa to drum up support for children in the third world. Mike has also done humanitarian work in Haiti after the earthquake 2010.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
The Holmes Spot - Mike Holmes Complete Bio
This is something I've been compiling now for a couple of months. It's a full and extensive bio on Mike, covering his early years all the way down to his more current projects. I've proof read it and spell checked it numerous times, but silly me, there's always a ton of errors any time I write something like this. I'm sure they'll eventually be weeded out as I receive feedback from readers. I'll be adding a few more sections to the bio in the next couple of days as well before I add it to the "bio" section of the blog. I'm on vacation right now... and yet I still can't keep myself away from the computer. Enjoy!