By Jennifer Stahn
What would you do if you had a husband who quietly goes about his business building your dream house in addition to helping friends and family remodel rooms and entire homes, but is humble enough to think he is not capable of anything extraordinary?
If you are Debbie Ulinder you sign your husband up for Canada's Handyman Challenge, and then spring it on him with barely enough time to create a project and get down to Vancouver for the auditions.
Mark Ulinder, who grew up in Merritt and now lives in Kamloops, tried out for last season's show and while judges were impressed with his project – a bar cart he built in six hours – his short answers didn't reveal enough of his personality and he was cut before competing in challenges. He admits he foolishly thought his work would speak loud enough and he didn't need a “game plan” as some friends suggested.
Understanding the realm of television a bit more, Ulinder decided that he couldn't let it end like that and made arrangements to attend auditions again for this year's season, which took place June 2012. He planned out a project with details and intricacies to hopefully wow the judges. After several last minute missteps due to wrong size hardware, Ulinder produced a foosball table complete with height-adjustable legs and the TV show's logo at centre field.
This time Ulinder also brought his personality to the judges; HGTV celebrities Scott McGillivray, Brian Baeumler and Paul Lafrance. He impressed the judges and was able to make it to the next round where he faced a door challenge and then had to build a hammock stand – a challenge that revealed his dyslexia to the judges but also saw him completing one of the sturdiest projects in the fastest time.
Persistence paid off and Ulinder is one of 15 finalists on the HGTV Canada show. He's vying for $25,000 as well as the title of Canada's top handyman. He'll appear on the show completing challenges and facing elimination on a weekly basis.
Taping took place last summer, but as HGTV ramps up advertising for the popular reality show Ulinder is finding himself answering a lot of questions – most importantly how far he got. He's not able to provide that information, but that hasn't stopped friends and family from trying to figure it out anyway.
Ulinder, who works at Moly-Cop, keeps his fate under wraps and only says the process was difficult at times, with 21 hour days filled with a lot of taping, retakes and drama. He notes the one project he faced that was completely new to him was the wallpaper challenge - featured on today's show (Feb. 12) – and that he did come out on the other end successfully and is quite proud of how well he did on that challenge.
Ulinder refused to name a favourite judge, instead citing what he liked about each one and how he respected them each, saying they “are all just real people” with different backgrounds and different reasons for being in the trade.
His wife said she has enjoyed watching his confidence grow – all the while joking they need bigger doorways for his ego. She said it was hard knowing his self esteem was sometimes challenged in part because he has dyslexia and has difficulty with numbers. Seeing him go through the process and come out the other end a stronger, more confident person has been the best part of the experience, though Debbie also enjoys the fun everyone on “Team Ulinder” has had with the show – including the competition friends and family are now taking part in to try and win “help on a one day DIY project” from Mark. Their two kids have also been excited to see their dad do well.
While the winner of the title Canada's Top Handyman has already been decided, voting is now open for fan favourite and the Ulinders are hoping to get Kamloops rallying for Mark by voting at HGTV Canada. Meanwhile, the rest of us will just have to watch and wait to see how our Kamloops handyman fares at the challenges and if he makes it to the finals or is named fan favourite.
The show airs Tuesdays on HGTV Canada, with the finale set to air March 19. Fan favourite will be announced the following day.
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