‘Make it Right’ Mike Holmes talks with Mark & Theresa about finishing a basement at age 12, telling TV producers they should make a different kind of show, and taking his first vacation in 10 years.
Mark: And you’re inside MyFixitUpLife and special remote inside secret location called the Peabody Hotel. I’m joined by my wife Theresa, and one workwear-clad Mike Holmes.
Theresa: You’re going to have to check his badge.
Mark: Mike do you have any press credentials? Oh that’s you in a magazine I’ve seen 4,000 times on the way to the hotel. Mike thanks for joining us, how are you?
Mike: I’m doing really good Mark. I’m having fun here; it’s a little cold for Florida. I’m in my coat and that kind of sucks, but it is what it is.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. Well we noticed that when we walked across the street rushing to get here, icicles were coming out of our noses.
Theresa: I don’t think there were icicles coming out of our noses, but it’s so much warmer here than it is back home. We’re from Philadelphia.
Mark: It is. We have about a foot of snow on the ground. What’s going on where you are in Canada?
Mike: I think last night we got about eight inches on the ground. We haven’t had snow for a while. As a matter of fact, New York got way more snow than us all year so far. Eight inches; that’s not so bad. I’ll pull out my snow machines.
Mark: Do you ride one?
Mike: I do every chance I can, which is not too often. Put it this way, I bought two brand new ones last year, and they are still brand new. But I intend to get on them this year.
Mark: Yeah just like we intend to take a vacation sometime in our lives.
Theresa: Oh that’s one of my favorite questions. So do you take vacation? Do you take vacation at all?
Mike: Truthfully I don’t usually get time off until around Christmas, that’s just because that’s the way my life is. I guess I own the company so I’m the boss so I can fool myself and say ‘Mike I’m good at getting tired and I want a break’ because I probably won’t listen. Last year was the first year in ten years since I started the television that I took two weeks off in the summer, I had never done that before, and I went up on my boat and I sort of melted on the dock and I went out on the water and I realized how beautiful life was and now I’ve got this really big itch to buy a bigger boat and try and do more time on the boat. So I think in a way it was a good thing and it’s starting to show me that I better start taking time off.
Mark: Well you’ve got a bunch of kids too right? You’ve got a bunch of kids and we have two kids so we kind of know what it’s like to have your time consumed by parenting. I was going to ask a bad question right there but I’m gonna hand it to my wife to ask another question.
Theresa: Oh really, that’s so nice. When you get into trouble you always have to point to your wife.
Mark: Yeah I was going to completely throw him under the bus.
Theresa: You don’t throw him under the bus. No, no. Well we’re sitting here and I’m looking at the new Holmes magazine and you’re holding a tiny little tree in your hand on the cover of the magazine and I’m wondering who came up with that? I mean you have tree huggers, but you’re a tree holder in this.
Mike: Ha ha, the idea is that okay green is a color, it looks green, it’s environmental — you know I’m big on environmental, if we’re gonna do it let’s do it for all the right reasons such as building communities and homes. Everything about it should be cleaner. Should be good for the planet, should be good for the people, and let’s start building better. How come we’re not doing that? This is really starting to get on my nerves. I’m putting out a magazine now and everything that I say and everything that I do is in that magazine and the idea is that hopefully it can educate you. Have you read it yet?
Mark: If by read you mean subscribe to, the answer is yes. It is a birthday present for me, Christmas present.
Theresa: Well yeah, last year at the International Builders’ Show we met with Mike Dumphy, the publisher of the magazine and as soon as he started talking about Holmes magazine I went out and I ordered a subscription.
Mark: Yeah, we got the Canadian version.
Theresa: We do.
Mark: Early, early adopters.
Theresa: Early adopters.
Mark: So what is the editorial initiative you’re working on at the magazine now?
Mike: For me, it’s making sure that the stories are in there that I want in there, again proofreading it to make sure that I’m happy with it. And it’s actually gotten harder, and the reason I can say that is because it was bimonthly, and now it’s almost every single month. Ten a year plus a special, that’s pretty well every month. So if I thought I was busy every two months doing this, with Holmes Communities, Holmes Homes, a television show — oh wait a minute, three television shows — it sort of just sped it up a little bit.
Mark: You know, watching Mike go through that list, I took a closer look, and he’s actually two dimensional now. Because they’ve had to slice him in threes and the other back parts are doing something else.
Theresa: Now I think we’re busy with our lives, but that just makes it seem like — do you sleep at all? I mean do you rest ever?
Mike: I do. I try to make sure I go to bed at a half decent time. It’s usually around 12. I get up at about 5 or 6 in the morning but ironically, I wake up with the answers. So I go to sleep thinking about everything and it’s like I dream about it. So do I work all the time? I mean come on, yes and no. So how bad is it. Work is work and I love what I do — it’s just like you guys. You must love your job, you work together, you’re still smiling at each other that’s a really good sign. And you’re playing with each other that’s great. That means you love what you do. I think as long as you love it you’re going to keep doing it. It’s when it gets to you that I’m not happy any more with what we’re doing I think that’s when I’d make a change. It is what I do.
Mark: Well I have a question for you. We all know you from being in our living rooms and being on TV.
Theresa: You’re in our living room a lot.
Mark: And having sort of the hero narrative on Holmes on Homes, but what was Holmes the remodeler like before TV happened?
Mike: Same, same guy. You know when the TV thing happened, I told them what type of show I thought they should have and I went off about it and they said well we want a pilot right away, and I laughed and I said I’m a contractor I’m not a TV guy. I’m giving you an idea run with it. They kept pushing me to the point about what I do, what I say — in other wards let’s make a change. I’m sick and tired of this, I’m sick and tired of that, and their words were ‘Why don’t you educate everyone at once?’ And I though okay you caught me. Am I the same? I’m the same guy. I don’t act, I don’t read a script. It’s really simple, follow me through we’re gonna film like crazy, we’re gonna edit it and put together a television show that really is as simple as I’m going to help you and hopefully help the viewers by watching. So I’m going to help a homeowner in trouble, and hopefully help you by watching. And I think it’s just a simple formula.
Mark: You know that kind of dovetails with, and now I’m just jumping on your coattails, one of the things that we’ve talked about — here’s why I’m like Mike Holmes. No, one of the things that I’ve thought about in my contracting life, and I built before I got into this for twenty years give or take.
Theresa: Don’t age yourself dear.
Mark: Fifteen, five. So I worked for somebody for six months, but here’s what I thought — we always try to leave it better than we found it. You know if I was working on someone’s house and I built a deck, I would rake up the yard after the deck was built. And it sounds like you bring that same kind of thing, it’s all about leaving it better than you found it.
Mike: I would like to think that everyone has that attitude, but unfortunately they don’t. A bad sign of a bad contractor is yeah they don’t clean up after themselves and well they don’t even clean up your house. If you have that integrity it’s the same theory that when you’re working on your own home, you’re going to keep it clean, you’re going to make it look good, you’re bringing that thought pattern into the job site so that means you’re a good guy and I like you more.
Theresa: I like you too.
Mark: Oh thanks baby. This is awesome. We’re doing great.
Theresa: You feel pretty good now that everyone likes you?
Mark: This is a first where the whole room is…
Theresa: It will change.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. So we’ve got two of three and I’m married to one, so yeah that’s good. Now one question I have is it’s clear that you’re a master of many trades — so plumbing, electrical, framing, rafters, trim, whatever it is — is there one particular element of building a house that throws you or challenges you more than any other?
Mark: Give me the microphone back.
Mike: Ha ha, no honestly who could know everything? It’s not that I know everything but the truth was from being young, I mean doing electrical at six, finishing my first basement at 12 — plumbing, stairs, rails, electrical, bar — I mean that was the first basement I ever did. Sure I made mistakes, but hopefully you learn from your mistakes as you go. If anything became a challenge for me it was just I gotta find out how to do that better. And when things didn’t look like they were working right I had to know why. Because one thing I’ve learned, probably from my father many years ago, it isn’t about how, it’s about why. Why becomes a very simple pattern when you say how. So if I said it this way ‘Here’s how you install a toilet,’ well that sucks because if I teach you why to install it a certain way, you’re never going to forget how easy it was to install that toilet.
Mark: And you just — the amount of times I’ve tried to explain that to people, because we do demonstrations at the Remodeling Show and things like that and one of the things that we do is we talk about bathrooms and first thing I say is ‘There’s no one thing in here I need to tell a professional contractor how to do.’ If you can’t lay out a plate if you can’t screw up drywall to a wall correctly, this clinic’s not for you. It’s all about the why. Here’s why you do it this way, so I’ll show you this one thing, you can solve the other problems that I can’t create here for you at a trade show. So once again, we kind of find ourselves in lock step and I guess I’m just fired up to not be alone anymore.
Theresa: It is so true.
Mike: Ha ha.
Theresa: I know you’re totally fired up right now.
Mark: It is, and Mike said, and I don’t want to steal thunder at all, but what he said is so important for anybody professional or DIYer working on their house, it’s about learning how to solve the problem, not tab A slot B — that will take care of itself. Is that kind of the path you’re going down?
Mike: Absolutely yes. You know, alright we talked about drywall how easy it is, but do people know why they should use maybe just a mold free drywall. Like is green drywall good enough for your bathroom which was first designed many, many, many years ago. And right now it’s still minimum code in any tile area. Now should you use a green drywall? The answer is no. As a matter of fact, get rid of it. It shouldn’t be sold in stores, it should be a blue drywall, and when I say blue it’s only a brand color to a company that makes it, but why I like the blue is it’s water resistant — which is the green — but it’s mold resistant. So it’s not going to mold. And better yet why should I use a concrete board when it comes to tile and not a drywall. So no matter how you look at this, every product should be mold resistant, but then you start to operate as why should it be a concrete board rather than a mold resistant dry wall. Because the concrete board is stronger and its going to last many, many years. So we can keep doing this, we can talk for a while. You and I especially about using better products and why, and I think once the homeowners start to realize everything about their bathroom for why, they are going to spend their money right and they are never going to have to fix it again. That I like.
Mark: And we’re going to have to leave it there. Mike’s gotta go, we’ve got to go — of course if you want to stay — but we’re going to take a break and that’s next on MyFixitUpLife.