If you’re a fan of home renovation and construction, chances are you’re already familiar with Mike Holmes, star of the shows “Holmes on Homes” as well as “Home Free,” which just kicked off its second season on Fox last week. We chatted with the renowned contractor about his early beginnings in construction, how he landed in television and what makes a house a home.
Do you remember the first thing you ever built?
I did electrical when I was 6 years old. I rewired the whole second floor of the house under my dad’s supervision. By the time I was 12, I had completed my first basement — electrical, plumbing and complete finish, including stairs. He would tell everyone, “Hire my son, I’m too busy!”
What inspired you to go into construction professionally?
By the time I was 19, I was offered a lot of money to run a big construction company as well as a job with the TTC, which was the Toronto Transit at the time. I picked construction because it was where my heart was at, and clearly it was the smartest thing I ever did. I love what I do and have been building ever since.
How did you land in television?
That was an accident. I’m not a TV guy. I met someone at HGTV one day, maybe 17 years ago. I was fascinated by what they were doing. They hired me to do work within the tool room, which I designed a whole tool shop, and did it. Then he wanted me to make a custom straw bale home. I’m sitting in his office going over the plans, telling him what he needs to do and he wasn’t listening. He was hell bent on doing it his way and I got excited saying, “This reminds me about the shows on your channel and they’re all full of crap.” The veins were popping, I started giving him crap for 30 minutes straight about how every single show was stupid and this is the type of show they needed. Then as I was leaving he jumps up and says, “We want a pilot right away.” I laughed and said no. But you know how he convinced me?
He goes, “Mike, I notice you like to teach one family at a time. How would you like to teach everyone at once?” And I said, “You SOB.” He got me. Right then and there I said, “I own the show or I won’t do it.” I won’t be anyone’s puppet. He says that shouldn’t be a problem.
The new season of “Home Free” just kicked off. What’s different this time around?
This time, the cat’s out of the bag. You can’t win a home for yourself, you win it for your hero. Imagine coming to a job site, working your butt off 24/7 to win your hero a home? That excited them and it didn’t stop them. They were on a mission to do their best for their hero and never give up. These people pushed themselves beyond their limits and you see it on the show.
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What was the most challenging day of building?
Probably the first week because none of them knew anything. Many of them didn’t know how to swing a hammer! It was painful for me but, bit-by-bit, they listened and learned and got better and better. As the competition continued, they became, in a way, like my kids and I got to be so proud of them.
This is called “Home Free.” What makes a house a home?
It’s the people who live there. We gotta get back to understanding one thing: Never take advantage of your home. It is the roof over your head and the children who live in it. Make sure you know how to keep it sound, safe and healthy for your family.
“Home Free” airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m on Fox.
Follow Jennifer Logue on Twitter @jenniferlogue