[FONT=arial]The Holmes effect[/FONT]
[FONT=arial]Renovations: Celebrity contractor has done a lot, but says he’s still trying to improve builders’ performance
[FONT=arial][FONT=arial][FONT=arial]He’s just turned 50 and has built an entire brand around his name, thanks to popular and multiple reality TV series, newspaper columns, books and his visibility on the speakers’ circuit.[/FONT]
[FONT=arial]So how does Mike Holmes, the contractor who never brooks second best, view his effect on the building industry? Holmes, who broke into Canadian reality TV in 2001 with Holmes on Homes - a Gemini-award-winning show that tracked him and his crew as they re-did renovations badly done by others - is back in the media spotlight with the launch of the second season of Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV.
Watching people tear into drywall to expose hidden construction flaws sounds like a cure for insomnia. But as always on Holmes’s shows, rapid-action camera work, our natural sympathy for the ripped off, and the host’s plain-talking blend of fury at shoddy work and his get-the-job-done attitude to repairing it make for engaging television fare.
Has such fare, broadcast in several countries, helped discourage bad building practices? “There’s no question,” says Holmes.
“Contractors either say, ‘Oh, I love that guy’ or ‘I hate that S.O.B.’ I’ve even met contractors who hand out copies of my books to clients before signing a contract so the clients know what to look for.”
Holmes, who’s twice been voted the second-most-trusted Canadian in Reader’s Digest polls since 2010, says educating the public about construction quality has been the biggest reward of his TV career over the past dozen years.
To foster improved trades training, he launched the Holmes Foundation. Its work includes scholarships and bursaries for those studying the trades. Saying that 50 per cent of existing tradespeople are due to retire in the next few years, Holmes is optimistic about job prospects. “We need to fix all the crap (a favourite Holmes word when referencing the building industry) that’s been built in the last 50 years.”
That’s “nonsense,” says John Herbert, executive director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, referring to the “crap” comment. “Building construction has become much more scientific, especially since the early 1970s and the first energy crisis. Materials used, trades training: it’s all gotten a lot better.”
Holmes, who says he gets a lot less blowback from the industry than he thought he would, was criticized for his show Holmes Inspection. The show, which played on HGTV in Canada and the United States, ran for three seasons, ending last year. It tackled homes with major problems - overloaded electrical circuits, for example - that had not been identified during home inspections.
The show, according to Holmes’s website (makeitright.ca), was criticized in part because its host, who trained as a carpenter, lacks a background in engineering. Still, the show has spun off both a book (The Holmes Inspection) and an inspection service, Mike Holmes Inspections. Holmes Makes It Right airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV.