His family’s house didn’t go up in flames, so little Mike Holmes must’ve got it right when he tackled an electrical job at the tender age of six.
It helped, of course, that he did the work under the watchful eye of his father, a “jack of all trades,” according to the celebrity contractor.
Start ’em young was the philosophy in the Holmes household.
“Holy cow! I’ve been playing with tools since I was six,” declares Holmes, who continued the family tradition with his own kids.
Michael Jr. and Sherry, both in their 30s, are chips off the old building block, following their father into the homebuilding and renovation industry and his popular TV shows.
“I still don’t touch electrical,” laughs Sherry during a three-for-one Zoom interview with the Star.
As tool belts are dusted off and power tools cranked up for spring home improvement projects, these experts encourage everyone, even children, to hone their hands-on skills.
“It’s super important to do skilled trades as young as five or six,” notes Michael Jr., who joined the crew at age 14, and later took a three-year carpentry program at George Brown College.
Whether you’re fixing, making or building something, DIY skills will help you nail it, they say. Moreover, the trades are calling out for new recruits, notes Michael, who points to the “massive shortage” of tradespeople for building homes.
“Get it into kids’ heads” that there’s a viable and pride-worthy career waiting for them,” he urges.
“Educate yourself!” adds his dad, with a shout-out to his own 335 TV shows, from a 20-year catalogue of award-winning series and specials. They’re available on the free streaming channel, Homeful. (Programing focuses on real estate, renovations and DIY.)
Mike, who built his “make-it-right” brand on a no-nonsense approach, thinks back to erecting his first abode as an industrious youngster. Borrowing his dad’s tools and every scrap of wood, he constructed a backyard tree house where he planned to live. His father, meanwhile, kept trying to sell the handy lad’s services to neighbours, recalls Mike, laughing.
Back in those days, students learned woodworking and welding in shop class in Grades 6, 7 and 8, he says. “That doesn’t exist any more.”
The builder, who turns 60 this year, started his career leading a construction crew at age 19, and started his own contracting company two years later.
His three offspring — an older daughter stays out of the spotlight — were “raised around construction,” says Sherry. They visited job sites and helped their divorced dad around the house on weekends with him, she recalls.
In one father-daughter “bonding experience,” they built their version of Barbie’s Dream House together. Although structurally sound and able to withstand hurricanes, “it was terrible looking … not the prettiest thing,” jokes Sherry, who expanded her skill set on the job after joining the Holmes crew at age 21.
She remarks that, while she’s “worked with some wonderful men,” there’s still sexism in the industry, often in the form of “enraging comments” about how “women can’t do math” and worry “they’ll break a nail.”
There’s a lingering stigma that skilled trades are a “fallback career that just men do,” says Sherry, who points out that it’s a “lucrative and great career” for anyone.
Sherry says she’s been taking her own daughters, aged 18 months and almost four years, to jobs since they were born. In addition to working as a contractor and TV host, she’s a part-time designer. She’ll talk about her journey as a woman in construction at Toronto’s National Home Show on March 18. Her brother will appear the same day to share info on doing renovations right.
“Slow down! It doesn’t happen quickly,” he advises. “Take it very seriously!”
That means doing a careful search to pick and vet a reputable contractor, and allowing time to get permits and choose materials and finishes, he says over Zoom from his truck.
The contractors have a special project of their own in the works as preparations start for a new GTA-based, home-and-renovation series that will stream on Homeful.
All about “helping people,” the show will feature “a lot of family-oriented stuff” about Michael, Sherry and him, Mike explains.
“Their lives and my life will be in focus.”
And, perhaps, more electrifying tales of adventures at the end of a wire cutter ….
does not endorse these opinions.