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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Making it right, and bigger Mike Holmes expands focus to include entire communities

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Of course, it's about the hammers and nails, the concrete and lumber, the wiring and plumbing and flooring and shingles and spray-foam insulation.

But Mike Holmes says his new HGTV series, Holmes Makes It Right, is also about much more than building materials and homes in desperate need of repair.

"One thing I love is that we've really brought in even more of a reason to 'Make It Right'," he says. "We've always had story arcs in the show, and there's always a happy ending; I didn't want to change those, but (this series) is very driven by the stories, by the homeowners and what's happened to them -- whether it's someone who's been harmed by the house blowing up or falling down or burning down, or someone coming back from the war in Afghanistan, or whatever."

Holmes Makes It Right, which premieres tonight at 8 on HGTV, the contractor-turned-TV-personality also expands the horizons of his reno/rescue efforts beyond the residential repairs that have been the staple of his earlier shows. In the new series, Holmes and his crew tackle some larger projects that affect entire communities.

The series opener focuses on a family-home roof repair, but next week's instalment finds the Holmes team working to rebuild a massive playground structure in Toronto's High Park neighbourhood after the beloved castle-shaped apparatus was destroyed by arson.

"Somebody, drunk and stupid, goes in and burns the place down," Holmes explains, "and the community is in an uproar. The government calls me in and, working with the fire department, the police department and the community, we build a castle that's even bigger and safer for the kids.

"It's a very story-driven episode, and it's driven by the children."

Since launching his first series, Holmes on Homes, on HGTV in 2001, Holmes has steadily gained popularity, evolving from a beloved specialty-TV character into a trusted and highly marketable global brand. A champion of proper procedures, permits and inspections, Holmes says he's gratified that his TV shows have helped homeowners become more educated while at the same time inspiring young people to consider careers in the skilled trades.

"Something that I'm very proud of is seeing the number of young people getting into the trades," he says. "I'd like to think that it's partly because of the (Holmes) shows -- though the only thing that really matters is that it's happening -- that it's becoming a cool thing to get into the trades.

"We're seeing a six per cent increase in women getting into the trades, and the opportunities are growing for both men and women. This is a really good change ... and I'm really proud of that."

Holmes admits he has heard the criticism leveled by some in the contracting industry that his shows create unrealistic expectations for homeowners looking to have work done properly on limited budgets.

"Yes, I'm hearing that a bit too often," he says. "I really want to stress that it's not about building a Taj Mahal, or going overboard for television purposes. The reason I do what I do is to teach people that if you spend your money properly, it comes back to you. I'm not going to go into a house and turn a blind eye to all structural and plumbing and electrical problems I see just because I'm there to fix the HVAC or the roofline. If I see a problem, I will take it apart, because I see it as an opportunity to educate everyone out there.

"For those (contractors) who say it's not realistic because I'm using more expensive products -- spray foam (insulation), mould-resistant drywall, Parallam beams -- well, that's what we should be doing, and I want people to learn that if you don't spend your money right, you will be fixing it down the road."

He adds that it's up to contractors to help their customers make the best decisions about home-renovation priorities.

"That's where the contractor has to educate the homeowner," he explains, "by saying, 'Look, you don't have enough money to fix all your problems, but if you look at it in stages of what we can do, then we can help you spend your money wisely.' It's our job to let them know the order they should be doing things in."

Holmes says the sheer number of requests he receives from homeowners in crisis -- he gets more than 100,000 emails from viewers every year -- suggests that there's still a lot of sub-par contracting work being done out there in the home-reno world.

"The hardest part for me is that I can't help all of them," he says. "I'd love to help everyone; I wish there was a 1-800-IVEBEENSCREWED number that people could call. But it's impossible; I can't do it. All I can do is continue doing what I'm doing and hope that people pay attention so they don't get screwed."

Holmes laughs when asked his opinion of the marketing materials for Holmes Makes It Right, which feature the contractor pulling open his jacket to reveal a Superman-style "H" logo on his chest.

"It was HGTV's idea to do that, but I think it's really cute," he offers. "I think what they're trying to say is that he -- meaning me -- is hero to the people out there who he goes out to help. And with so many kids out there watching the show, I think it's a great idea to let the kids know that there's an opportunity for them to become a hero, too. I think that's fabulous."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

TV PREVIEW

Holmes Makes It Right

Featuring Mike Holmes

Tonight at 8

HGTV

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 16, 2012 D1

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