Eye Diy

Canada’s Handyman Challenge, Episode 1 recap

By Matthew Pioro January 11th, 2012

Canada's Handyman Challenge

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Canada’s Handyman Challenge—it’s a search for the country’s handiest person. The judges for this contest are well known to anyone who’s ever lingered on HGTV: Mike Holmes, Bryan Baeumler and Scott McGillivray. Helping them out on the hosting side of things is former Bachelorette star, Jillian Harris. They will scour Vancouver, Halifax and Toronto for four contestants from each city. These 12 handymen will then go to Hamilton to vie for the title of Canada’s best handyman. That’s some serious bragging rights.

The first episode starts in Van City with a lineup of close to 200 people. Each person has a project made from one 4×8 sheet of plywood. These contestants had time to work on these projects at home so they should be polished. Harris says they are looking for things that are cool or useful. Some are even both. Of the 200, the judges see 40 that they have to narrow down to 10.

The first project in front of the judges is a triceratops skeleton by Challen, an artistic manufacturer wearing overalls. Baeumler launches with “That was a few billion years in the making.” (Zing!) That joke is just a sign of the groaners that are on the way. The judges want to know if Challen worked from a project plan. The contestant said he couldn’t find one so he hit the books. The judges are impressed.

“If you come back tomorrow, will you lose the overalls?” Baeumler asks. (Zang!)

Holmes encourages the contestant to wear the overalls again.

More amazing projects roll in: a laptop and electronic-keyboard stand, a brightly painted lawnmower, an art deco-inspired table and a wooden golf caddy. Kyle, an air-traffic controller, built the lawnmower. He admits that just meeting the three judges is awesome. And remember, everyone of these projects was made from only one 4×8 sheet.

“After the first 10,” Holmes says, “we’re in trouble.”

The are already having a hard time eliminating people.

Tannis, a house painter and the first handywoman, presents a chair. It looks solid…-ish. Tannis sits in the chair and waves about to prove that it’s strong. Baeumler wonders if the chair is a bit squirrely, which gets him volunteered for a test run. He sits and lifts his feet off the ground. The chairs creaks side to side a bit. He doesn’t get comfortable, but the chair holds up.

A gentleman looking quite dressed down in a drug rug shows off a cabinet he built for a bathroom.

“You married?” Baeumler asks.


“Because if you were, that wouldn’t be in your bathroom.”


McGillivray says later to the camera: “The further your project is away from a sheet of plywood, the better.”

No sooner does the judge finish with those words, than Mark, a graphic designer, brings in a chair that looks like it was twisted out of a giant piece of fusilli. His four kids had been sick so he could only work on his project in 15-minute spurts throughout a week and finished it the night before at around 2 a.m.

The final project is by Todd, a firefighter sporting a soul patch. His project is tool caddy that has a giant hammer silhouette on one side and large axe on the other. Holmes picks up the caddy. He seems to like it, as in, “I want one” like it. In fact, during the episode, Holmes posts the following on Twitter: “Ohh [sic] man. I loved that toolbox.”

So, who makes it into the group of 10? Well, no real surprises: Dinosaur-Skeleton Challen; Shaky-Chair Tannis; Lawnmower Kyle; Fusilli-Chair Mark and Mike-likes-My-Tool-Caddy Todd. They are joined by Paul (go kart), Chet (dog house), Frank (wine box), Rick (shelf) and Justin (art-deco table).

Next, there needs to be some way to whittle these 10 down. After all, only four are moving on at the end of the episode. The first of two challenges requires the handyfolks to build a gate. After the two-hour time limit for the challenge, three builders will be sent home. Holmes is looking for function. Good looks simply mean extra points.

At the start of the challenge, Chet confesses that he’s never built a gate. At the end of the challenge, he looks around and says “Yeah, I’m going home now.” The judges don’t cut him any slack. McGillivray says the gate is clean, but incomplete. It’s not braced properly and already starting to sag. Holmes mentions that it will twist. It’s not looking good for Chet.

His competitor, Todd, seems to have no problem with this challenge. The soul-patched firefighter seems the epitome of cool and confident…almost, almost cocky. He says that be builds things so that he doesn’t have to fix them again. He finishes his gate with time to spare and shares a sandwich with Jillian. When the judges say that Tool-Caddy Todd’s gate is the best work that they’ve seen that day, it seems he comes by his confidence honestly. McGillivray points out that Todd used the proper treated screws for the wood. Holmes figures Todd has a good chance at making it to the end.

Go-Kart Paul admits that he had built a gate 10 years ago and has to hearken back to that time. During judging, Baeumler calls Paul’s gate a diamond in the rough. Either the gate itself is rough and has parts that shine, or the project sparkles among some dull stuff. In light of Todd’s gate, Baeumler’s assessment is probably more the former.

“It will last forever,” Paul says. The judges are way skeptical.

Tannis concentrates on perfection; however, her circ-saw skills are anything but perfect. It’s quite scary to watch her try to plunge cut with her saw and see it kick back. She tells the camera she wishes she could have hand sawed everything. At one point, Jillian is by to offer support and Tannis shoos the host away. At judgement time, Tannis stands by her gate, both literally and metaphorically.

“I like my gate,” she says. “It’s a unique gate.”

Holmes says the project looks good, but it’s not. The mighty overalled one adjusts the project by reefing on the gate. There, it closes much better.

The judges were expecting amazing things from Dino-Skeleton Challen (who did wear his overalls). The contestant got creative and cut a hole near the bottom to act as a doggy peep hole. Bauemler says the project isn’t well and will sag.

Justin is unable to sell his own project. Instead, when the judges come around, he exposes all of its flaws.

Some get creative with their gates, and pull it off. Mark, who rightly figures everyone is going to build vertical pickets, makes horizontal ones. Frank builds a low gate. It uses no screws, but is strong.

Rick planned on making an arched top. Jillian tells him she’s seen a bunch of arches and encourages him to do something different. He panics and builds a two-humped top edge.

In the end, all 10 competitors find themselves standing in front of the three judges. The four weakest gates belong to Chet, Justin, Challen and Tannis. Chet is the first to get axed. Justin is next. Finally, Tannis. Challen squeaks by to the next challenge, which is a doozy.

The challenge that determines the final four contestants, who will head to Hamilton, involves crown moulding. Each handyman has to put up four pieces of moulding on a mock angled wall and celling. They only have 20 minutes to complete the mind bending exercise.

“Have you ever done crown moulding before,” McGillivray asks Mark.


“Then this will be a crowning achievement if you can figure it out.”


Rick has no idea what to do and is in a bit of a panic.

“You do whatever you want,” says Holmes with his little, unhelpful aphorism.

Rick just starts cutting.

Paul starts hacking away with a jigsaw and comes up with a line that taps into what all DIYers know is true: “When you are not doing it right, you don’t want anyone watching you.”

And the judges hover…

Even Confident Todd has a hard time.

In the end, no one really got it. Paul’s was spectacularly bad with gaping holes and globs of caulking dripping down. Frank seemed to do the best. He made small jigs from the moulding to help him figure things out. Holmes appreciates the thought Frank put into the challenge.

“If I could be frank,” McGillivray says to Frank (Zowee!), “what makes your crown moulding look good is just how bad everyone else’s is.”

Now to decide the final four…

Paul’s elimination is a bit of a given. When he got stumped, he gave up on the challenge. Challen, like the dinosaur that inspired his plywood project, is now extinct. (Zap!) Then it’s down to Rick and Mark: a tough decision.

Holmes, not to belabour things, says: “Rick.”

Closeup shot of Rick.


Closeup of Mark.

“Rick, unfortunately you didn’t make it, I’m sorry to say.”

So, that’s Todd, Mark, Frank and Kyle heading to the finals to represent the West Coast.

Next week, it’s on to Halifax.

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