Reuben Saltzman

Holmes Inspections: Any Reality?

There’s a show on HGTV called Holmes Inspection, which exposes problems with houses that were allegedly missed by other home inspectors.  Here’s the basic formula: John and Jane buy a house, have it inspected, no major problems.  Time passes, problems show up, Mike Holmes gets called in.  Mike inspects the house, agrees there’s a problem, tears everything open to show what was done wrong or could have been done better, and then says he’ll “make it right”.  In the end, the original home inspector gets blamed for missing defects with the house.

I’ve had countless clients ask me about the show, and I’ve heard a lot of discussion about the show from other home inspectors, so I finally took the time to watch an episode to see what all the talk was about.

exploratory hole in kitchen floor

Holmes Inspection makes for great TV.  I watched an episode titled Frigid Floor, wherein the homeowners complained about a cold floor at the addition of their house.  There were a couple of other miscellaneous issues, but the big one was the cold floor.  Mike Holmes doesn’t know exactly what the problem is, so he has his crew come in and cut out a huge section of the kitchen floor to get at the crawl space below.  There is no final diagnosis of what the problem is, but his crew spares no expense in making it right.

They tear out all of the cabinets, countertops, flooring, and subfloor to get at the crawl space.  They spend three days hand digging the crawl space to make it several feet deeper, install rigid foam on the floor, pour self-leveling concrete on the floor, then have the walls insulated with spray foam (I loved that part).  While they’re at it, they also beef up the floor structure.  They add access to the crawl space from inside the basement by cutting an opening through the foundation wall, and they add a heat register and a light.   They definitely ‘make it right’.

The original contractor who did the addition gets thrown under the bus; Mike says that this is how the job should have been done to start with.  While Mike’s work was far superior to that of the original contractor, I think it’s unfair to put down the original contractor.  The work was done for the previous owner, permits were pulled, and the work was inspected and approved.  We have no idea of what was agreed upon between the original contractor and the previous owners.  Maybe the original contractor gave the previous owners a bid to do exactly what Mike Holmes did, and the owners opted to save $10k by only doing the bare minimum.

If the previous owners got three different bids for the job, there’s a slim chance that the contractor who gave them a bid on a beautiful crawl space would actually get the job.

The original home inspector gets thrown under the bus as well.  Mike concludes the show by saying that if the original home inspector actually knew something about construction,  he would have warned the buyers that there was no crawl space.   That comment really bugged me.  The home did have a crawl space, it just didn’t have any access, and it was too small for most people to actually crawl in to; that doesn’t mean it’s not a crawl space.  I’d love to know what Mike would have said to the buyers if he had done the original home inspection.   Here are a few potential warnings:

  • This home has no accessible crawl space.  So what?
  • This home has no accessible crawl space, but it should.  I can’t inspect what I can’t see.  Before you buy this house, you should have the sellers make the crawl space accessible and have it inspected.  The home inspection was performed in warm weather, and there were no signs of any problems.  The work was done with permits and inspected, so what would actually happen if the buyers demanded the crawl space be made accessible for the inspection?  Do you think the sellers would agree to that?  My experience tells me absolutely not.
  • This home has no accessible crawl space.  I know that permits were pulled for the addition and inspected by the city, but I don’t care.  If I can’t see it, it’s probably not right.  Don’t buy this house.  Ha!  Now I’m just being silly… I think.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say the inspection was done during the winter, the floor was cold, and the crawl space was barely accessible.  What would the recommendation have been?  Gut the kitchen and make it right?  That suggestion would go over like a lead balloon.  Personally, I would have told the buyers that the floor was cold, and to fix it would probably be cost prohibitive.  This is what you’re getting, take it or leave it.

My conclusion

I’m not trying to be too critical of the show, but the repairs performed on this house were completely over-the-top and unrealistic.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cool concept for a show – take a problem with a house that is cost prohibitive to repair and fix it any way you want with time and money being no object.   It would have been nice to do it this way from the start, sure… but I can’t imagine any sane person spending their own money gutting a kitchen just to make the floor warmer.  This is a fun show to watch as long as you remember that it’s just TV.  I think the main messages are good: hire an excellent home inspector and don’t skimp out on your remodel project.  You’ll save money in the long run by spending a little more up front.

I think I’ll start watching this show.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspector


19 responses to “Holmes Inspections: Any Reality?”

  1. Wayne Johnson
    March 13, 2012, 6:06 am

    Great article. I have watched Holmes on Homes but have not watched his new inspection show. He is entertaining and they do go way over the top.

    Cost is often the reason that jobs are not done to the extreme. Many contractors including us will offer choices like Good Better Best. It is up to the home owner to decide what they want based on want and need.

    It is easy for contractors to follow and say I would do it this way without knowing what was proposed and what the home owner decided to do.

  2. Christopher Cole
    March 13, 2012, 7:37 am

    My favorite Holmes “I can do it better” moment was when he complained that neither sink in a bathroom had a clean out plug in the trap, making it “nearly impossible” for a plumber to snake the line. Excuse me? The traps were plastic – just unscrew two nuts and the whole trap easily comes off, making it easy to clean the trap or snake the drain. But them Holmes wouldn’t have been able to open the walls and replace all the waste lines. (If he wanted a clean out plug, why didn’t he just buy a trap with one instead of ripping open the walls?)

  3. Todd Allen
    March 13, 2012, 11:38 am

    I watch that show all the time, and in that episode they gut the entire floor of the addition for exploration, and mention in about 2 seconds that there WAS an access panel to the crawl space, under the built in dishwasher. Of course this is after they destroyed the kitchen.

  4. Mike
    March 13, 2012, 8:31 pm

    I also watch this show all the time. I will admit they go way over the top. I did some research and found out the home owner has to pay 10 to 20 percent of what they have done on the show, That being said i think you need to watch a few more episodes. Ive seen a few episodes were he finds some major stuff missed by a few bad Canadian home inspectors, if its true that they even had it inspected. He also admits anytime he cuts a wall or moves something, that it would be outside the scope of a normal Inspection. he calls his inspection a Holmes inspection.

  5. Reuben Saltzman
    March 15, 2012, 4:14 am

    Wayne – I’m sure your work would look quite different if cost weren’t an issue 🙂

    Christopher – great question!

    Todd – yeah, I chuckled at that part. You do gotta wonder what someone was thinking when they put the crawl space access under the dishwasher.

    Mike – I just watched another episode last night where a couple bought a flipped house and had a bunch of problems, including a leaking shower and a kitchen hood fan that was completely messed up. You’re right – there were a lot of obvious defects in that house that the home inspector should have caught.

  6. BigguyZ
    May 22, 2012, 1:30 pm

    As people have noted, there’s no doubt that Holmes over-builds things. But I think that’s not necessarily bad.

    There’s too much that’s done that professionals do wrong, or that get’s inspected and missed. We’re rebuilding my brother’s house, which was badly damaged by the Minneapolis tornado (a year ago today). Some of the contractors he’s had have been terrible. Especially when it comes to structure. It’s scary how much is done incorrectly.

    But overall, even though Holmes blows some stuff out of proportion (anything with asbestos or mold) and overbuilds everything, I think the good thing about the show is it raises awareness of what to look for, sets expectations on cost for projects, and educates people on what are better practices/ products/ solutions for their home.

  7. Lyle
    July 2, 2012, 2:51 am

    Great show but at some point the cost of fixing is more than could ever be recovered when selling. In some cases it would be better to put it on the market and hope the buyers make the same mistake I did and skip the prehome inspection.

  8. Nick B.
    July 2, 2012, 7:32 am

    Great article and comments concerning this show, I also watch this show every week in disbelief. I am in no way a home inspector, but I do have common sense and have purchased a home and knew like a used car it will have issues. However time and time again on this show it’s the contractor and inspector getting thrown under the bus, what about the seller of the house? what did they disclose in the Seller’s Property Information Statement? This is never talked about on the show. this past week a family bought a house that had serious mold issues, was the buyers noses congested when they viewed this house, and did the seller disclose this issue??? From what I have read if it was not disclosed, this issue is a law suit was just minutes from being filed, as with many other episodes of this show.

  9. John H
    July 8, 2012, 10:30 am

    One of the problems with the show is that companies with products to sell get exposure by subsidizing the show, whether the product is really appropriate, necessary or best. One example is the whole house surge protectors. If lightning hits close to a house, there will be a surge induced in the wiring in the house, bypassing the whole house protection. While I’m sure it has some value, whether it is worth more than what it protects likely depends on the neighborhood and it’s frequency of surges. He has also recommended several gutter systems as best, so I’m guessing it all depends on who is providing him with free stuff. As long as you recognize things like this, it’s still a very informative show.

  10. Sharon Fitzgerald
    July 16, 2012, 4:57 pm

    My Sisters house desperately needs fixed. Their house is all messed up. Constant water problems, septic destroyed their basement, mold in the walls. They found out the pipes were routed wrong. My brother in law got very I’ll a year ago. They ended up with tons of medical bills. After that, their basement was destroyed, their washed broke, their garage door broke. After all thus happened, my brother in law had an accident, and dislocated his shoulder. He was off work for several weeks. This gave them even more medical bills piled up. They are so stressed, and don’t know where to turn to. I seen your show, and felt lead to submit their story. If anyone deserves good things to happen in their lives, it is them. Sharon Fitzgerald

  11. Steve A
    July 25, 2012, 7:15 am

    He always makes a big deal out of fumes from the car getting into the house from the garage. How many people run their car(s) for any significant time in the garage? Even if one does, I’m sure the door would be open. He also is hung up on hidden electrical junctions. While I don’t doubt this is against code, how could an inspector catch this if it is hidden? A lot of the stuff he finds on his inspecions could be boild down to “I wouldn’t have done it this way”. He also uses a LOT of expensive stuff after his demos–slate, marble, etc. I’d like to win the lottery of having him redo my house!

  12. Ford
    July 29, 2012, 7:41 pm

    I watch Holmes Inspection every Sunday. Not only is it entertaining, but it hits close to home, as I bought a home with flooding issues, for which my home inspector missed all the signs. $20k later all is fixed, but I learned two lessons. One, get references and two, don’t use the inspector suggested by the broker.

  13. Norm
    November 16, 2012, 2:48 pm

    I thought I would point out – Mike holds no accreditations with any home inspection association.

    Further he holds no accreditations to be called or referred to as a mould expert, abestos, home inspector or iR trained.

    That iR camera he like to wave around was given to him by Flir as a promotional item, gratis for the exposure Mike gives it.

  14. Tony Scott
    December 20, 2012, 5:04 am

    The amount of importance that people give to their homes could be gauged by the fact that a television show named Holmes inspection is based on home improvement.  As far as the repairs performed on the show being unrealistic are concerned, I would say that television shows are meant for entertainment and they don’t claim that what ever they show is real. 

  15. Ed
    December 27, 2012, 2:54 am

    Get over yourself Norm.

    I have worked in all these industries including remediation. I was also a general contractor for a very long time.

    I can confirm Mike does do it right and exceeds code. He does have high expectations, but I expect that from any of my guys. And many home inspectors and lazy contractors need to take heed. They always have a choice.

    If you are complaining that an under qualified home inspector is able to successfully identify and resolve this many issues and identify hundreds of qualified but inept people – then the problem is the broken accreditation systems LOL because it just shows you those certificates a horribly insignificant and out of date. Grow up and find an appropriate argument.

    And for the record, I found he has several accreditations however he always brings in recent, experienced experts to make those calls — you just dont always see those details on a 1hr television show.

  16. Norm
    December 27, 2012, 4:54 am


    I suggest you read my statement. Mike holds no accreditations, I don’t care whether you worked as a mediator it has nothing to do with qualifications of Mike.

    Further I never mentioned code, which again he is not code qualified and that is one reason he is unable to quote a specific code!

    Now about your growing up comment, it has nothing to do with my specific concerns expressed above.

    As to Mikes supposed qualifications I suggest you research your poor ability to debate facts which show Mike is not qualified.

    BTW Mike only has a business licence in the City of Toronto. PERIOD.. That is not the same as a trade certification or an association accreditation.

    The accreditation maybe broken but then again its not a guarantee, and certainly doesn’t qualify you to make unsubstantiated juvenile statements either.

  17. Ron
    April 15, 2013, 5:05 pm

    Liberal regulations are to expensive and confusing to comply with resulting in contractors and home owners just giving up and going around them altogether. Get rid of the standards and the market will automatically weed out the bad guys. You don’t wear braces and casts all your life, just long enough to get better. With construction regulations, the old days are gone. It’s time to take the cast off and walk.

  18. Critter
    August 4, 2013, 8:48 pm

    Here my problem with this article your saying they pull the right stuff? Many times inspectors dont have simple things. Yes mike goes over the top but he know for doing it.

    I am having hard time believing you know they had the right stuff or not.

  19. Reuben Saltzman
    August 5, 2013, 4:08 am

    @Critter – I don’t understand what you’re asking. Where did I say “they pull the right stuff”? What does that mean? Also, what do you mean by “Many times inspectors don’t have simple things”?

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