An interview with contractor and home improvement radio show host Frank CohnCanadian Contractor Business Professional
"(TV) shows that are truly educational aren't on the air any more," Frank says
Frank Cohn has been talking home renovations and repairs on the radio for 15 years, with an estimated weekly audience between 150,000 and 400,000 on his Saturday morning Home Improvement Show on Newstalk 1010, Toronto.
As a professional renovation contractor, Frank knows of what he speaks. He’s been at it the better part of four decades – with no signs of slowing down. I recently caught up with Frank at the Midland Home Show, where I asked his opinions on TV contractors and their effect on the industry.
CC: How have TV Renovation Shows impacted the home owning public?
FC: They’ve got people thinking about renovating their homes big time. When the shows started, say back with Extreme Makeover Home Edition, I noticed not only an increase in activity but a big change in what people were actually doing, particularly the “open concept” idea of removing all the walls.
CC: But it hasn’t all been positive.
FC: Some shows, and obviously Mike Homes comes to mind, give people the idea that only they [the star renovators] know how to do things the right way. They can also give a false idea of what renovations and repairs are supposed to cost. Viewers don’t realise that the homeowners are only putting up some of the money; the show producers are putting up a lot, plus a lot of materials are donated. Therefore people see numbers that might represent only half or a third of what he job is really worth. Then there’s the time factor: the shows are unrealistic in terms of how long it takes to complete a job.
CC: So the show producers themselves are a big part of the problem?
FC: They set up unrealistic expectations. They don’t want to hear the reality, and they don’t care. A truly realistic show on renovations simply doesn’t offer the drama they want to put on the air.
CC: Can our industry do anything to resolve these unrealistic expectations of time and cost, plus the distrust that a Mike Holmes character plants between the industry and the customer?
FC: For my business, through my involvement in the Home Builders’ Association, I give a lot of educational seminars, currently doing two each month, year-round, on electrical safety and aluminum wiring. In my renovation business, I have to go in and explain the reality. It’s tough. I do get some push-back. But educating the client is vitally important.
CC: What else needs to be done?
FC: The public has to step up to the plate themselves. They can’t rely on what they see on TV. The shows that used to be truly educational aren’t on the air any more. But with the internet, clients have the ability to do their own research. I would encourage customers to investigate what they are spending these huge amounts on; what materials will and will not work, for example. If they do that, they won’t end up on the Mike Holmes show.