Canadian Contractor

And now, Mike Holmes reconsidered…

"I think the point that most of you are missing is the reason he started doing his show."

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October 28, 2012 by Robert Koci

Editor Stephen Payne was having a bit of fun with a post he called, The Mike Holmes Nausea Meter: This Week’s Winner,” where he published what HGTV is using as its promotional image and text for Mike’s new show. Readers responded with a few very funny comments, but Glen (don’t know his last name) responded to another Holmes post more thoughtfully on some of the good Mike Holmes has done for us. We decided it deserved a post of its own.  

I would really like Holmes to illustrate what his reno/repairs actually cost the homeowner as well (but I assume the show pays for most of it). But I think the point that most of you are missing is the reason he started doing his show. It wasn’t to get down on contractors, it was to educate homeowners on how to select and find good qualified contractors.

We could easily have the used car salesman version of his show. Some are great and stand behind their vehicles and once you find him you’ll never buy a used car from anyone else. But there are a lot of these used car guys who will rip you off and send you driving off the lot laughing at how gullible and stupid you are. To avoid that we try to educate ourselves on what a car of that make/model/year and km is worth. We usually have a good idea what we want and are willing to pay before we hit the lot.

When it comes to our homes, people have a tendency not to shop around, to not educate themselves about what they want and what it’s worth, and how it should be done. If they did our jobs as contractors would be so much easier. Homeowners would be wary of the low-ball price guys, they would be able to talk intelligently about their upcoming reno and not have the contractor confuse them with talk of things they can or can’t do because he’s too lazy or doesn’t know how.

So I think Holmes is good for the industry from that standpoint. I love going into a homeowners house who is willing to waterproof their shower and floor because they want it done right and I don’t have to educate them on that and have them feel I’m up-selling them.

Can Holmes do a better job showing costs? Absolutely, as long as they are accurate costs, not costs without labour. Can he speak more about good contractors? Of course… too much time is spent on the bad guys, but the bad guys are the reason he is at that house.

Unfortunately, homeowners have a tendency to learn the hard way. They need to be burned before they realize they have to pay a fair price to receive quality work. I just had a guy who wanted his entire main floor renovated. I gave him my price and a 2 week turnaround. He went with a “retired guy who was a third of your price.” Fine. I’m not lowering the cost of what I do. Well this guy called me up 9 months later asking me to come back and fix half of what the retired guy had done, and finish what he hadn’t got to yet. 9 months later and a kitchen, living room and bathroom are still not done! Crazy. This guy had to learn the hard way that you get what you pay for.

I agree that casting Holmes as a superhero is ridiculous. But I think it is too easy to blame him for contractors having a bad reputation and being viewed with suspicion. It is our responsibility as contractors, General or otherwise, to uphold the quality and integrity of the industry. Be a better contractor and you will get better clients. Produce only quality work at a decent price and more work will automatically come your way. If you aren’t willing to be that type of contractor then get out! Find something that you are better suited for like used car sales or something.

Robert Koci

Robert Koci

Rob Koci is the publisher of Canadian Contractor magazine. Tel. 647-407-0754
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28 Comments » for And now, Mike Holmes reconsidered…
  1. I think the biggest issue we as legitimate professional Builders have with a show like Mike Holmes is that we all know that behind the show is a huge business that is paying for him to use specific products that he claims are the only way to do a project.

    I have seen numerous instances where he has claimed a product is not adequate purely because his sponsors are paying for their product to be installed.

    I have talked to numerous other professional builders who are award wining ,top of their field, and alot of use see thru the facade that is Mike Holmes. I do see alot of what he does is correct and there are alot of unprofessional out there in our field.

    What we really dont like is that it has not helped in the area of trust. If anything it has made our whole industry look bad.

  2. David Boyle says:

    I agree with this post…very well written…I also feel that there is great value in what Mike Holmes has shown homeowners and contractors over the past decade.Everyone has to learn the value of quality work. Unfortunately too many learn the hard way!

    (I also agree that the superhero idea is a bit much, however that’s show biz!)


  3. Doug L says:

    I am always amazed at these two issues with HonH.
    1) The guilt, greed and consequential stupidity of the customer (a responsible? adult) picking a contractor driving an 85 VW Rabbit with a 4′ AL stepladder bungy corded to the roof to do his ‘full renovation of the Xth floor’ for $50,000 cheaper than the bona fide contractor. Then after the dogpile mess is left, Holmes is there heaping sympathy on the poor,, poor innocent homeowner…..
    2) Yes, let’s look a the real cost of the job the HonH’s repairing. Most people spend $40-50,000 on a car that sits collecting rust in their front yard for 23 3/4 hours a day for an annual expense cost of $10,000 and over 5 years a 50% depreciation cost for a a total of $75,000 but think NOTHING of spending/wasting this money…….yet no %#@amn way am I spending that much on a contractor/tradesmen to begin with …….and now with Holmes the public STILL does not know what a fair, safe and legal job costs….

    Most small contractors/self employed tradesmen loathe his show now because of the way he vilifies the tradesmen to the point they are all lumped into one pool of SOBs……while of course patting the moron that picked the $50,000 lower price to begin with that is TOTALLY without culpability in this whole mess and holds them up to be such a poor, poor innocent victim……..your reap what you sow!

  4. Winterburn says:

    Agreed– there needs to be more professionalism in the trade.

    Mike has done some good in educating folks as to how things should be done, (if budget is unlimited), and what can go wrong when you choose the wrong builder to do the work.

    However… by exposing these non-legitimate and sub standard builders, without naming names, (as a UK show actually does– “Cowboy Builders”, they do a disservice to the industry in general, while pumping up demand for his own company.

    I would bet dollars to donuts that they are following a few shoddy builders around for the show, and that a typical season exposes the work of only 3 or 4 hacks. Lets face it, what these bad builders are doing is illegal and actionable and the law of Karma dictates that they should be brought to account for their sins against the building trade.

    The other issue is that by pointing out the shortcomings of others you open yourself for criticism–and that may be the downfall of our denim clad demigod.


  5. Don Bell says:

    Mike Homes Nausea Monitor:
    This is one fan of Mikes’ that can’t get enough if him. The shows are great in that he hammers it home all the time… “Educate yourself, get a permit so the work can be inspected, check references, have a contract that spells out what is wanted and expected and the terms of payment.” I have been in business for over 30 years as a heating and air conditioning contractor and never had a problem getting “my price” to do the job properly. Sure, mistakes can be made and somethings can be overlooked, but if the job is properly supervised and inspected any mistakes can be corrected before it is too late or too costly. Attention to detail is top of the list. The only thing I would change about the show is the appearance of some of his trades people. My staff have always been in uniforms (supplied by the Company) and they better show up to work well groomed (hair cut and clean shaven as well as clean smelling) or they won’t be working. I don’t care if it is a commercial construction site or a customers home, image is important, and frankly, some of Mikes’ staff would not be allowed in my home. When I see a tradesman that is unshaven or sporting a pony tail, I think to myself ” If he can’t look his best, chances are his work will be the same”. As a contractor, I do wonder how many job bids Mike would win if he was on the same playing field as all others, but kudos to him for what he does and his bottom line is probably more cause for the back stabbers and jealous ones than his criticism of other contractors.
    I really enjoy his handyman series and wish he could use his fame to push for certification courses and licensing in being a Handyman or a General Contractor. Mike appears to have earned his stripes over the years and only wish he could track down some of the rip off artists that he finds and administer some serious pain on them.

    • Robert Koci says:

      Now this is one serious reply, and I appreciate your comments. We like to stir the pot a bit here, but you have made a great case for supporting Mike and his efforts. I don’t know about earning his stripes, however. Though I can’t substantiate it, my understanding is Mike has never actually run a renovation business. He was a set builder when he was discovered and before that, I believe he worked with his dad. I am not saying he doesn’t know a thing or two about construction. I know that when I was a guest judge on the Handyman Challenge a few years ago, he showed he knew his stuff when evaluating the work being done by the contenders.
      When he was a columnist for us, he was a great addition to our editorial lineup and I always thought he was doing something important within the renovation industry. If I have a problem with him now, it has more to do with how his message has evolved over the years. He could have moved closer to a positive message about contractors, but he didn’t and that’s a shame.

  6. Rob says:

    Years ago I watched an episode where Mike wired in a new garage door opener outlet, and a light in a garage that he was repairing. I was shocked!
    What he showed viewers was that if you need any wiring done, your carpenter can do it for you.
    There was no mention of an Electrician, No mention of a permit. No mention of how unsafe it would be to have Carpenters doing wiring in your house.
    I was so appalled that I wrote the show.
    I actually received an email from the producer that stated, “It is only a half hour show and we do not have time to bring up those issues”
    Well they should not have showed Mike up on a ladder doing wiring on the ceiling of the garage, they should have just mentioned that if you need any wiring done call a professional!
    I have not watched that show since.
    Rob, Certified Electrician, & Electrical Contractor

  7. jay says:


  8. Robert Koci says:

    Make me an offer!!

  9. chris says:

    I appreciate Glen’s views and well thought out comments. I’ll likely continue to disagree with most of it but Glen had a good point about it educating consumers on WHAT they need to ask for, look for, in a reno. The problem is, it does nothing to educate them on the fact that these things they should ask for, look for cost money, far more then they ever imagine. I have seen some episodes where the homeowner is bemoaning the horrible mess the cheap contractor made. How the contractor didn’t finish the job, how his own men did the plumbing and how there was an “electrician” but no esa inspection (so on the side, no Elec Contractor). At the end of the show she thanks Mike and his crew but adds that her contractor should have done this same fantastic job. She didn’t learn a thing and neither did the layperson watching the show. If she had, she would have learned that a good contractor costs a good amount, that they bring in all the licensed trades and that costs far more money then they wanted to spend and her cheap guy could never have pulled off what she ended up with.

    Rob, totally agree with you, completely the wrong message to send about Electrical contractors needed on a job and all the other licensed trades involved in making a good Contractor a great one, and the homeowner a safe one!

    Don, you mention physical appearance and cleanliness…Honestly, if our guys are spotless, then I know they aren’t working! They might show up on the first job of the day relatively clean but they had better not be by the time they get to the next one:) If I find a great Electrician I don’t care if he/she has 2 ponytails, a piercing, whatever . I only care that he/she is polite to the customer, they are honest and that they know what they are doing:)
    Not surprisingly, that seems to be all our customers care about as well.

  10. jay says:

    im broke lol

    • Robert Koci says:

      That’s no good. You need to step back, then, and figure out how you can invest in yourself. Really. When you read some of these other posts, you can see there are some pretty successful guys out there and the one thing I’ll bet they all do is invest in themselves to learn how to run their business better. Start with our profit series in Contractor U and then look for a mentor that can get involved in the business. Really, man, there is no point in busting your ass 14 hours a day if you can’t make a living.

  11. Steve Payne says:

    “Mike Holmes Reconsidered”? LOL. The “Mike Holmes Nausea Monitor” will be back next week. I’m still taking Gravol from the “he is a superhero to the people whose lives he’s touched” from the Shaw Media suit last week.

    • Robert Koci says:

      Maybe we should do a pro/con editorial in the issue on him. I am starting to like what some of the “pro” guys are saying and at the other post.
      Here’s their points:
      – He has educated consumers
      – He has raised the level of awareness of bad contractors so the good contractors can shine.
      – He’s a handsome dude, and the ladies love him, and we are all just jealous.

  12. Steve Payne says:

    Rob… I just checked the posts, and the only person to mention him being “a handsome dude… love him,” is you.

    Totally non-judgmental. This is 2012. I will continue to show you respect around the office.

  13. Lew Bannerman says:

    Mike Holmes, is great, for our industry. He has made home owners aware, to be cautious, of low ball pricing. I have been in the Plumbing and Heating industry for over 40 years. Ran my own business, and now am in sales. I was running nine licensed plumbers and had to compete every day, with guys working out of the back of their trunks in their cars. Got to the point ,that I could not compete.
    Mike Holmes, has done more for the contracting firms that pay taxes, gst, etc,etc, Home owners, now, will at least listen to contractors, that drive up to their homes in these trucks that have a PH license clearly marked on the side of the truck..
    Never met the man, but I thank him.
    Lew Bannerman

  14. Robert Koci says:

    May favourite comment is still: “Mike Holmes freed the slaves.”

  15. Larry T says:

    The guts of it is, Mike does a great job bringing to light the substantially better quality goods that are out here in the industry, but does NOT show these items being above and beyond meeting code compliance, which is exactly what most contractors are using as their base to estimate the job, unless the client already has some knowledge of what they want to use.

    Now, if he promoted all those amazing products AS the add-ons to what passes code to the client, he’d be respecting every good contractor out there, AND letting clients know there are WAY better designs available BEYOND the advent of wanting that “best price” first off. THEN they’d be able to really compare and get the job done right, depending on how much further they want to take their budget, which almost always does NOT cover those additional products and items.

    As for Mike, he’s getting exactly what he wants. Here’s MY opion, and it is simply that. He’s not out there to have everyone like him. If he was, he’d be trying to help all those hack contractors and handimen as well. He’s out there mainly for one thing… Make LOTS of money. He doesn’t care how we feel about him, and actually enjoys the backlash. Why? Same as the other outspoken, crass and in your face radio and TV perosnalities, such as our friend Mr. Stern who lavishes in the shock and Awe world. That’s what sells shows for Mike. NOT making people happy. That doesn’t sell. When he pisses someone off, they will undoubtedly want to find out what he’s doing about it in the near future, bringing them back to listen more, along with all the others who think they’re learning something constructive.

    He could go a long way for the industry to help out, but that’s not making him money. He isn’t a contractor. He’s an actor. Nothing wrong with it, but he’s not doing the contracting industry justice at all.


  16. Paul Jackson says:

    Good morning to all,
    The Mike Holmes issue! It could go on forever. First off , Im not a fan, not of the man-but of the shows and how they are produced. I have met him and he seems like a nice guy.
    Taking a client whos not done their research and now has been screwed over by a bad contractor, pointing out the defects , rebuilding their home reno with a lot more “add ons ” and not showing the real #s for all this is very mis leading to the general viewer. More realistic cost factors and time lines shown at the end of the show would help people understand you get what you pay for.
    Educated consumers are our best clients in this industry, it makes it easier to for us to give the client what they want as well as getting a fair price for our services. I do give credit to the show to some degree for educating more people, but it is not a complete education.
    I do believe the show and his image would be better served if there was more episodes where the good contract work was hi-lighted as well.
    As for customers, the show should do a few episodes on them. I never offer to people cash jobs or discounts, and yet I would estimate that 50 % of my actual jobs and quotes combined, the client asks me for a discount for cash or to do the whole job in cash to save the tax. And its probably those people who choose the lowest quote and end up submitting applications for shows such as HonH.
    My experience has been to give a client your best possible service at a realistic agreed upon price. Those who are intelligent will pay for quality. Those who are cheap will suffer either from shoddy workmanship or inflated bills at the end of the project.
    And some final food for thought-Mike Holmes, his crew and all their suppliers must be perfect. I am not aware of any episodes showing how he or the crews ever made a mistake and had to go back and fix it. Or if the required permits were not obtained and there was a work stoppage.


    • Robert Koci says:

      Hey Paul: Nice to see you online. I wonder how often other contractors are asked to do work for cash. Maybe we’ll do a short survey to get the answer.

  17. Peter says:

    Just to show you how conflicted I am on Mike Holmes:

    Early in the year I get a call from my casting agent.

    “Mike Holmes is doing a new show, Make it right, you would be perfect for the role of …”

    Sure I’ll do it, after all…this is Mike Holmes!!!
    Fast forward 2 weeks, I’m sitting in the office at MH headquarters across the table from the big collective “cheese” that is their most senior minds. When asked why I want to work with Holmes I of course hold Mike up as a noble savior of the cause, perhaps “the” most noble of them all. And to be just, I did feel that way at the time.

    My agent told me that I was almost guaranteed the role.

    Come to find out an article I wrote 4 years ago comes to surface. In it, I explain the correct way of finding the right contractor. However, there are 5 crucial paragraphs in this missive, in which I completely lambast Mike Holmes, his staff and his handlers. On and on, I went on, oh however sadly did I go on. I will not reiterate my points and arguments, but lets just say that I wrote it just after watching an episode of HOH, I might have had a few in me and I wasn’t kind.

    Needless to say they never called me back and my agent will no longer call me or return my phone calls.

    I was conflicted. What can I say. Mike Holmes just brings that out of you. He MAKES you conflicted. Is it an accident that the premise of his show arises and is shaped BY conflict? Is that not what a successful show does? Does a “Superhero” not need a “Villain”?

    I love him. I hate him. I think that’s the way that it will always be.
    It’s been good to read other fellow contractor’s opinions on this as well.

    BTW, Robert & Steve, great job with the magazine and content. I have been enjoying all of it and sharing with fellow contractors, even in the US.

    • Robert Koci says:

      Great comment, Peter.
      I had a similar experience. I was doing the Handyman Challenge show and wrote a column afterwards about the experience for Canadian Contractor. Up till then, I had been ghost writing columns for him. In the story, I wrote something like, “Though he gets a lot of criticism from contractors (some of it justified) he does a lot of good for apprentices. It was the “some of it justified” that caught me. He canned me from the writing, stopped the column he was doing for us in Canadian Contractor and we have been strangers, to say the least, since.

  18. chris says:

    Peter, wow, that’s an amazing story. Your likely better off. You’d have ended up drinking more, to heal your feeling lack of self worth, after being cast as “the guy in the basement who’s stands by a pipe” and your only line every week was, “That’s right Mike”!:)

    Rob, Mike’s reaction to a well balanced comment was like that of a child taking his ball and going home. Ridiculous! But, the magazine has not suffered by hissy fit one bit. It’s MH’s loss, not yours/ours!

    We run up against “sticker shock” from both individual clients and “occasionally” (I say occasionally guys, don’t throw stuff at me, it’s true) , from Contractors as well.
    It’s all about being open, honest and not comparing apples to oranges when it comes to price. Still, it just sometimes can not be drilled home and people will continue to go with the cheapest price, feeling if they watch the tradesman close enough, push him hard enough, he will do the same great job that the “properly priced” company would have. Yeah… Good luck with that!!!