To television host, professional contractor, and carpenter Mike Holmes Jr., working with Canadian wood is second nature. In his line of work, sustainability is an increasingly important consideration.
Which Canadian woods or wood products would you most recommend to Canadians who want to build or renovate sustainably?
Wood is used for both structure and aesthetic purposes, and is a wonderful building material. However, it’s important to renovate with consciousness and sustainability in mind, especially now that the impact we have on the environment is undeniable. My first suggestion when using SPF (spruce-pine-fir) to frame a home is to ensure that the wood you’re buying has an FSC certification. This stamp signifies that the wood has come from a responsibly-managed forest with environmental, social, and economic well-being in mind. Another suggestion is to “URR” — upcycle, reuse, or recycle. Getting creative with previously-used wood products is another way to build or renovate sustainably and can make your space very unique.
What other advice do you have for Canadians who are looking to build or renovate sustainably?
Canadians who are looking to renovate sustainably can keep a few things in mind. First, think about longevity. Make sure you renovate from the outside in. Consider using a steel shingle, which has a shelf life of 50+ years; insulating from the outside of your home by using, for example, a rigid insulation like the one made by Amvic; and using an uncoupling membrane like the one from Schluter/Ditra underneath your tile to make sure it’s not bonded directly to your wooden sheathing, which will help give your tiles a longer lifeline.
Second, a coat of paint can go a long way and is a great way to transform a piece or a space to keep up with changing styles and trends. Using a non-toxic paint such as the one from my wife’s collection, the Lisa Marie Holmes Signature Collection, is a great and affordable option as it releases zero VOCs and is healthier for you, your family, and the environment.
My last suggestion is to choose quality. Whether you’re taking on a big build or looking to do minor upgrades, in this industry, you’ll get what you pay for. Choose products that are functional, efficient, and durable. By doing so, you’ll create a home that can be confidently enjoyed by future generations.
As a building material, what makes wood special compared to alternatives?
One of the things that makes wood so special is that it’s a natural resource. Mother Nature designs it best and it’s a product that can be used for a variety of purposes and functions that are natural, non-toxic, and very transformable. As opposed to synthetic and man-made products, wood is breathable, malleable, and sustainable when harvested appropriately.
Why is sustainability important to you as a carpenter and renovator?
As a carpenter and general contractor, sustainability is extremely important to me. It’s a privilege to work with many different woods that are ethically-sourced so that future generations of carpenters can carry on the art and tradition of woodworking. For this to happen, we have to support companies that practise renewable forestry, not deforestation. Furthermore, when we build sustainably, there’s less waste in the landfill and more access to resources for the builds required by our growing population. There are no excuses — we have the knowledge and technology to build homes that should last much longer than just one generation.
What would you say are the biggest misconceptions Canadians hold about forestry and carpentry in Canada?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions Canadians hold about carpentry is assuming that a general contractor and a carpenter are one in the same. Although contractors and carpenters may occasionally do similar jobs, a carpenter requires specialized education in the craft and skilled trades (framing, structural framing, form work, cabinetry, and so on), whereas a contractor oversees the general scope of work on a job site, renovation, or new build.