Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hurricane Holmes

On June 28, 2008, Holmes on Homes made its debut on the US cable channel TLC (The Learning Channel). It didn't take long for TV execs to realize that Mike Holmes was not your typical contractor, and Holmes on Homes was not your run of the mill home improvement program. This 2008 article from describes Mike's "coming out" to the TLC audience. In typical Mike fashion, he laid into the media when questioned about how the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis might effect contractor's work habits. With plenty of "crap" and "shit" and all the other colorful language Mike likes to use when he's not filtering himself, he blindsided reporters with his candor. It's that same rugged, raw, unfiltered honesty that we've come to expect from Mike for all these years.

Hurricane Holmes

Hurricane Holmes tore through the immaculately manicured lawns of Beverly Hills the other day, and by the time it was over, no one -- not the reporters, nor the paparazzi, nor programming executives at the U.S.-based TLC cable channel -- knew what had hit them.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Hurricane Holmes tore through the immaculately manicured lawns of Beverly Hills the other day, and by the time it was over, no one -- not the reporters, nor the paparazzi, nor programming executives at the U.S.-based TLC cable channel -- knew what had hit them.
Mike Holmes, the outspoken Halton Hills, Ont.-born professional contractor and larger-than-life host of HGTV Canada's home-reno program Holmes on Homes, was asked a simple question -- what impact will the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis have on contractors' work habits? -- and he gave an earful of an answer.
"In my world of Holmes on Homes, we fix crap after crap because house-flippers who don't know how to do it right have created this huge financial gain for contractors," Holmes roared to his startled audience. "I call it the good, the bad and the ugly."
But there's hope, right? Ordinary, everyday homeowners are hurting in the housing crisis, so contractors, even the unscrupulous ones, will be forced to buck up their standards, right?
"It's going to become worse," Holmes shouted, pumping up the volume. "And the reason it's going to become worse is because people are going to try to find cheaper contractors to get the work done. And they're going to end up phoning Holmes on Homes, going, 'Holy s--t, we're in a lot of trouble here; we've got to fix this, we've got a leak that turned into mould.' This is only going to make it worse."
Holmes' appearance was unscripted, unrehearsed and unannounced. Attendees at TLC's fall-season coming out party were expecting a sedate, garden-variety presentation about home-ownership TV programs.
Instead, they got Hurricane Holmes.
With his bulging pecs, working man's tattoos -- his motto, "Make it Right," is prominently tattooed on his right bicep -- and his booming, hear-me-now voice, the salt-of-the-earth Holmes tore a page from the Gen. George Patton playbook: When you want something to stick, you lay it on thick and hard.
Holmes didn't just look ready for his Hollywood close-up -- he looked ready to take over the whole damn show.
"The idea is: Buy a house, make it better, make some money, and live there at the same time," Holmes said, warming to his subject. "The financial experts said, 'Fix it up for yourself. You're going to make money on real estate eventually, so just flip it when the time is right.' I think the mistake was in pretending how simple it can be. ... You might as well do your own brain operation."
You wouldn't allow a fool to operate on your brain, so why would you allow a fool to fix up your house?
There's a right way and a wrong way to hire a contractor, Holmes says.
The right way follows three rules: "Slow down. Why are you in a hurry? All of a sudden, the wife and husband said, 'Let's do a new kitchen,' boom, boom, boom. And then they hire the first guy off the street, like, anyone with a pulse. It's actually going to take you longer to find the right contractor than complete the job.
"No. 2: Educate yourself. I can't say this enough. If you're going to do a bathroom or an addition, you need to know the products on the market and why you should be using them. The more you know, the better chance you have of having good communication with your contractor.
"No. 3: Check out your contractor. Don't just ask the questions, double check. 'Are you licensed? If so, may I see it? Are you insured? If so, may I see it?' Then get a list -- and I mean a major list -- of references. 'I've done thousands of jobs. How many do you want?' Get 25, and then phone them up. Go see the work. Follow the process, you can't lose. Don't follow the process, odds are you're playing craps at the casino, and you are going to lose."
And, Holmes adds, get the proper permits. For your own legal protection. "If you're dealing with a contractor who says, 'Oh, we can do this without a permit, we can do it with cash,' get rid of them," he said. "Kick them the hell out of your house. You don't want to be dealing with that."
"Same crap, different pile. Everything is built to minimum code with condos. They don't care about you. Do you buy a car to minimum code? No."
Next up for Holmes: The green trend and its implications for "forensic remediation," as some call emergency repair jobs.
"That's my next book, What Shade of Green Is It?" Holmes said. "Green is the future: OK, we get it. I like to see people go green, don't get me wrong. But what I'm seeing is it's becoming more about marketing. 'Buy this,' 'Use that,' 'Do it this way.' Cradle-to-cradle understanding is knowing how the product was made, how it's used, its longevity, its sustainability and how long it's going to be good for this house. Green is understanding how your home will not grow mould, how the products you are using are friendly, not only to the Earth but to you personally, what you're breathing in your own home. The toxic caulkings, the toxic coatings we're using on our houses that no one talks about. Let's get talking about this crap, and get rid of it."
Holmes admitted he's been tempted on occasion to take a contractor out back and, as Don Cherry might say, "straighten him out."
"I always said I'd love to take them into the back alley and smack 'em a couple of times, but that's not what the show's about. I'm more bothered that they don't care about the family than anything else.
"You know, I have kids. My kids are all grown up, and I really don't like seeing that no one cares anymore and they get taken for their money. And even when the builders know they've done something wrong, they won't give up.
"Have I gotten into a fight? No. I've only been approached twice by two of the builders in the 96 shows that I've done. I just talk to them. I tell them straight up, 'Look, you did this wrong. Did you learn anything from it?' And whether they listen or not, I really don't care. But again, that's not what this show is about. For me, it's about educating you about how not to get caught in that trap."
Holmes on Homes airs weekdays on HGTV at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m., and on TLC on Saturdays at 6 and 9 p.m.

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