Interview: Mike Holmes, host, Holmes Inspection

HGTV personality and host of Holmes on Homes, Mike Holmes (Photo: Nathan Denette/CP)

Canadian Business: What do you make of the mild weather?
Mike Holmes: I have two brand new Ski-Doos and I have never been on them. I might throw them in a trailer and head north just to try them, not that I mind. Winter is typically the biggest hindrance to my industry. If it snows, you have to shovel and salt walkways. Workers get cold and your tools, compressors and generators freeze. We have to heat materials like cement to keep things at the right temperature. And there is less daylight. So even without much snow on the ground we have more to do, higher costs and less time to work in winter months.

CB: Do many people do outdoor reno jobs in the winter?
MH: A lot of people will do it and I don’t blame them. I don’t think it is a seasonal thing. But when it comes to concrete, or other temperature-sensitive work, it is not what I recommend unless you really have pros to make sure things cure properly.

CB: How does current demand for home renovation stack up to previous years?
MH: Demand is still really strong because more people means more work and we have an increase in the buying population.

CB: Do you see demand for renos holding up in 2012 and beyond?
MH: I do. A lot of the houses on the market are old. They need new bathrooms and new kitchens, not to mention commercial work, so I don’t see an end in sight.

CB: So even if the average value of homes dips, there will still be demand for renos?
MH: Yes. Worst-case scenario is like what we saw in the ’80s. People might slow down projects or wait a little longer to start, but the truth is work needs to be done. But I don’t see a repeat of the ’80s happening. Canada is very good when it comes to issuing home loans. People are not being loaned more than the value of a house and that’s the thing that really made things drop in the States. Obviously, if there is another global recession, or depression, there will be a negative impact. But to what degree is anyone’s guess.

CB: Are people taking on more reno jobs themselves or is contracting on the rise?
MH: I have to say that since our show started airing about 10 years ago we are seeing more people hire pros than trying to attempt renos themselves. People I have watched trying to do it themselves have a full life. They have other work to do, so home renos take forever and family members complain. It is not advisable, especially if you don’t know what you are doing.

CB: How goes the battle against bad renovations?
MH: I am seeing change and I think part of it is because the public is becoming more educated. On the professional side, things are improving because reno contracting is now seen as sort of a cool job for life, rather than like a garbage man, which I hate to say because collecting garbage is not a terrible job. But what I am not seeing is something out there to protect homeowners from being taken. That’s still really needed.

CB: What’s the one thing you’d really like to see change?
MH: I’d like to wave a wand and make people slow down. A husband and wife who decide they want a new kitchen tend to hire a cabinet company before checking out if they have asbestos in the plaster—anything before 1980 has a 50% chance of this—or lead in the paint or need new plumbing or electrical work. That’s just not logical. People also tend to spend more money on the inside of their home than the outside. And I have to tell you, when you do a $30,000-plus kitchen and haven’t even looked at your roof in the last 10 years, it doesn’t make sense to me. You need to address the outside first.

CB: Is the green market on the rise?
MH: Definitely rising, but not really in the direction I’d like to see it go. People who want to be green tend to focus on recyclable products. But they don’t know enough, so if a tile says it is recyclable blah, blah, blah, it will often be bought over another product even if the claims of the manufacturer have not been proven or even tested. You need to do your research to see if something is really environmentally friendly. The greenest thing to do to your home is simple: insulate it properly with a thermal break, not a thermal barrier. And you should also use nothing but mold resistant products. I’d like to see more attention paid to those two things.

CB: What’s the emerging trend these days?
MH: Open concept seems to be big and I support that because it makes living more comfortable. But I generally don’t like trends. There is too much following the Joneses in this industry. I can remember when concrete counter tops were the trend. Everybody was diving into it. And it was the worst thing for your kitchen. If you want a porous counter that can absorb germs you have a problem. Just think about wiping down your kitchen with a piece of raw chicken.