BRAMPTON, Ont. — It’s not often I get to walk from my house to the set of a TV show. It helps when Mike Holmes brings his TV show right to my neighbourhood.
The man who bills himself as “Canada’s Most Trusted Contractor” was just down the street ripping apart a home that will be featured on “Holmes Inspection,” returning to HGTV with a special two-part premiere Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
The Brampton, Ont., house is a two storey residence with a barn-shaped roof. Like most of the homes in the area, it was built in the mid-1970s. Standing on the upward slope of a quiet, residential street, it backs onto a pathway that leads to a large wooded area. A private, fenced-in backyard surrounds a kidney-shaped swimming pool. It had all the appearances of a nice suburban house on a nice suburban street.
Locals had been aware that the house was renovated not that long before, when an overgrowth of trees was removed revealing a pleasant-looking front entrance.
Looks, however — as Holmes points out throughout the two episodes — can be deceiving.
Despite a two-and-a-half hour home inspection that uncovered only minor issues — such as trees that still needed trimming and insulation which needed topping — the young home buyers quickly realized that there were major problems hidden within their walls.
“Mistakes were made in the ’70s and whoever did the renovations kept piling on the mistakes,” says Holmes, whose trademarked motto is, “Make it right.”
The TV contractor wound up bringing a large team in to tackle the house, leading to a quarter million dollars in fixes.
At first, an insurance call placed by the homeowners raised issues about the age of the water tank. By the time Holmes inspected the residence, he found gaping holes in insulation, sloppy patchwork on the roof, leaks in the garage and a bouncy upstairs hallway due to a lack of structural support.
The fixes meant gutting the kitchen, finished basement and garage.
“This came after I knew I had to fix the entire outside of the house,” says Holmes.
Among the problems on the roof was “Charlie.”
“They named the squirrel who used to come down the fireplace and ravage the house and take out all the screens and curtains because they couldn’t get it out,” says Holmes.
Then there was the raccoon who ate through the roof in order to get to her babies in the attic.
Another big problem: lack of heat. The upstairs bedroom where the couple had intended to build a nursery became known as “the meat locker.” An infra-red camera showed little warm air being carried to the room from the leaky duct work in the basement.
Holmes gives it to the homeowners straight in the first episode.
“I think I’m going to surprise the living hell out of you,” he says.
Holmes points out that everything looked okay but drywall was covering up a lot of mistakes.
“Not a lot of permits were pulled,” he suggests.
The 48-year-old contractor takes an eco-friendly approach to all his renovations, using blue wood beams throughout the basement renovation.
“It’s mould, rot and termite resistant,” he says. “It costs just a little more money but it’s a bonus, especially if you document it when you go to sell your house.”
Stay away from such ’80s fixes like aluminium studs, he advises.
“Don’t ever think of it, don’t buy it, you don’t want it.”
His home repair philosophy is simple.
“I watched ’The Three Little Pigs’ when I was a kid. Build it so the wind can’t hurt it, the rain can’t hurt it and fire can’t hurt it — and the big bad wolf can’t blow it down.”
Holmes has his own animated spin-off series is in production. It features a cartoon version of himself as a youngster named “Mighty Mike.”
Two of his own grown children — Mike Jr. and Sherry — are part of his work crew.
Asked at the end of the interview if he’d like to walk a few blocks and check out my residence (a service he provides through his “Holmes Approved” inspection business), Holmes didn’t look too eager. He surveyed the gutted house we were standing in, filled inside and out with workers, sized me up and said, “You don’t want me looking at your place.”
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.