Mike Holmes Makes it Right with Home Renos

Contractor, author and TV personality, Mike Holmes doesn’t pull any punches when talking about renovating right ?

Credit: Courtesy HGTV

Mike Holmes says it’s better to make it right the first time when doing a home reno

BC Home writer Rachel Humenny quizzes Mike Holmes, tough-as-nails contractor, author and TV personality, on his new book, Make It Right: Kitchens and Bathrooms, his latest green initiatives, and the must-have item in his dream kitchen

Mike Holmes, best known for his two TV shows, Holmes On Homes and Holmes Inspection, and only a little lesser known for his trademark canvas 
coveralls and rolled-up work shirt, is exactly as he seems on TV.

He is honest, charming, knowledgeable and direct: Holmes doesn’t pull any punches when talking about renovating right. 

Mike Holmes on Renovating Right

1. What are the biggest mistakes homeowners make when deciding to renovate a kitchen?

I think the mistakes most people make is that they say, “Let’s do a new kitchen,” and they get all excited and they start too premature and hire the first guy rather than doing their homework. 

2. What does that homework entail?

That’s the three rules. Slow down. Take your time. Don’t be in a hurry, because I may not be able to come and fix your house. Educate yourself. Read every book, [do your research] on the web. Find out why you need certain products. If you think about it, shouldn’t you be using nothing but mould-resistant products, fire-resistant products, zero VOCs and all that?

And by educating yourself, [this] brings you to the third rule, that you have a language to talk to the contractor. And check out your contractor. Don’t hire a roofer to do the plumbing. 

3. How important is researching your reno?

On anything you do, do your research. You know, don’t expect your contractor to always tell you the truth. So, phone the government yourself. Do I need a permit? Should you gut the kitchen? Think about it, if the kitchen needs to be replaced, shouldn’t you gut it?

What’s in behind all that wonderful paint, which is called drywall? Does your plumbing need to be replaced? Does your electrical? Do you need a permit? The answer is probably yes. Should you insulate it better? The answer is probably yes.

4. How should homeowners allocate their time and budget for a kitchen renovation?

Create that wish list. This is the time to say, “Can we make our kitchen bigger? What should we make it look like? What type of lighting do you want?” Never mind concentrating on the cabinets and the flooring; there is so much more we can look into. “How can we insulate it better? How can we save our money? How can we spend it right the first time?” It’s going to take you longer to set up the job than it is to do it. Pay attention to that. And be part of it; don’t go to Jamaica.

5. What are some of the best new innovations for kitchen renos?

I’m really tired of the fads because what you are doing is buying or doing something that everyone else does. Make the place represent who you are. Think about washing your counter with a piece of chicken. If it can absorb it, you are in bad shape. You want non-porous products.

6. What are some of the best product innovations out right now for kitchen renovations?

If you’re going to use wood, it should be BluWood. It’s environmentally friendly, recognized by Bill McDonough from Cradle to Cradle [a book calling for ecologically intelligent industry practices]. It is mould-resistant, water-resistant (for up to six months outside), bug-resistant (think of termites, carpenter ants: they’re not there to build your house, they’re there to take it down), and it’s fire-resistant in most areas. 

7. Speaking of kitchens, do you cook?

Do I cook? I love to cook!

8. What would your dream kitchen include?

My dream kitchen has a big-ass stove, a gas-burning stove. I love that commercial on TV, where the girls are upstairs in the walk-in closet screaming and they hear the guys downstairs screaming in the walk-in beer fridge. Mine would have a walk-in beer fridge. And a pantry. Everyone should have a pantry. Think about these things. Can you incorporate one? The answer is yes; you can do anything you want. How much you are going to spend is the question. 

9. Do you have any of those things in your home right now?

I have the counter grilltop, the big fridge. I have the double-oven, which I put in myself. I love the way my kitchen is. It’s 25 years old, but it looks really good. I just added a little bit of flavour to it. If I build my own? That’s going to be a different story: it will have that screaming beer fridge.

10. What does the phrase “make it right” mean to you?

It’s real simple: if you’ve done something wrong, make it right. If you’re going to do something, make it right the first time. I don’t care what you do in life: make it right. Love what you do. If you don’t love what you do, you’re going to do it bad. Two cooks cooking a cheeseburger: one loves to cook, one hates to cook. What burger do you want to eat? 

11. So, if you weren’t “making it right,” what would you be doing?

I think this is what I was meant to do. I don’t know what else I would do. I mean, I love building, I love hanging out in my shop and tinkering.

12. You are outspoken in your belief that people shouldn’t DIY (do it yourself). In your book, you mention that when you were 
12 years old, you renovated your uncle’s entire basement on your own. How does that fit into the whole DIY phenomenon, where people think they can and should do every renovation themselves?

This is really simple. If you think you can do what I do, then do your own brain operations. You can’t. I’m against DIY. But, it doesn’t hurt if you want to attempt it, you want to play, you may have the natural ability – then do it on your own house. And be prepared to learn, to make mistakes. It’s not a bad thing. I just think it’s probably wiser to do what you do best and hire someone [to do] what they do best.

13. Are there any specific renovation problems that you’ve noticed in B.C.?

No. Same crap; different pile. The truth is that we should be building better, so we don’t have to take it down, put it to the dump and do it again. Minimum code, your house will mould: 100-per-cent guarantee. It’s a thermal barrier, not a thermal break. In other words, it allows hot to meet cold, the first food group of mould. Second food group of mould is organic: that’s the paper on the drywall and the sapwood, the young wood that we’re using. You give [mould] the formula; you’re going to have it. 

14. BCIT has awarded you an honorary doctorate in engineering. How do you feel about that?

I’m really proud about that. I was blown away. I thought it was one of the most wonderful things that could happen in my life. We joke about it at my company because they all say they won’t call me “doctor,” but I say, “Oh, yes, you are.” But, no one does.

Breaking Down Your Kitchen Reno

“When you think about the design of your kitchen, you have to consider both looks and function – how it looks on the outside, and how it functions on the inside.”

Holmes says you can predict fairly accurately what proportion each part of the renovation should cost. Here’s his guide: 

Cabinets: 48%

  • Labour/installations: 16%

  • Countertops: 13%

  • Appliances: 8%

  • Flooring: 4%

  • Sinks and faucets: 4%

  • Miscellaneous: 7%

Make It Right: Kitchens & Bathrooms (HarperCollins Canada Ltd., 2011)

Get More Mike

Ink: Holmes got his signature slogan as a tattoo years ago, but since his company, Make It Right, is only six years old, he says people assume the ink is new or it’s a decal. The tattoo is actually airbrushed out of most of Holmes’ photos so that his Make It Right brand doesn’t appear as a conflict of interest with other merchandise.

Diamonds: There’s a story behind each of the diamond earrings Holmes wears – another signature part of his look. The first one (in his left ear) was given to him from his younger brother as a 30th-birthday marker. The second was a commemorative piercing in memory of his charity work building hurricane-proof homes in New Orleans, Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina’s horrific damage to that area.

Make It Right App:
To help you manage your kitchen and home renovations, you can now purchase Holmes’ smart-phone application ($3.99, iTunes).

Originally published in BC Home Magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.