Mike Howell, owner of Carpentry with Integrity, will appear on the DIY Network’s “DIY Dominator” Thursday. Howell and his employees remodel homes in the area including his own in Elgin. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

Mike Howell’s carpentry skills are typically judged by his customers and perhaps their nosy neighbors.

But this week the owner of Elgin-based Carpentry with Integrity will have people from across America weighing in from their living rooms as he competes on the DIY Network’s “DIY Dominator.”

Out of the blue, Howell was contacted by High Noon Entertainment last summer. The company had come across his website while searching for a carpenter from the Midwest and wanted to know if he’d like to be part of the DIY Network’s show.

After a series of interviews and a screen test, Howell, who had no prior TV experience, got the gig. The excitement and the nervousness both hit him at once.

“All of a sudden this was real, I was going to be on TV,” he said.

While he may not have any experience on screen, he has plenty with a hammer and saw. After high school Howell was studying at Elgin Community College, but didn’t have much direction until he got a summer job doing carpentry.

“I just fell in love with it, working outside, building stuff, doing something tangible and at the end of the day being able to see what you’ve done,” he said.

After working for several local carpenters he struck out on his own forming Carpentry with Integrity, which specializes in remodeling and renovation. Howell has owned the business for nearly 14 years.

“It’s nice to be able to control the design and the build and the decisions that go along that complete the final product,” he said. “When you have your hands around all that and you’ve got a customer that’s just absolutely ecstatic with what you’ve done there’s no better feeling than that.”

On “DIY Dominator,” it was a panel of judges he had to impress. The network flew him to Denver in October for three days of competition with the cameras rolling. The mission? Build the best gazebo. The challengers? Carpenters from San Diego and Orlando. The prize? $10,000.

With design ideas from Dan Marshall of Marshall Architects in St. Charles, Howell was ready to rock the gazebo. Except his assigned assistant wasn’t. The hired helper the network paired him with was a no-show, leaving him with a production crew member who felt more comfortable holding a video camera than a saw.

Luckily one of the show’s judges called a local carpenter who came to the rescue about two hours into the seven-hour build. While Howell can’t disclose how he fared in the competition, he did finish his project despite the setback.

The show, he said, was a good learning experience as he got to talk with his competitors about different techniques and materials they use. He also had a small world moment when chatting with show host Chris Grundy and realized they had played together on the sophomore football team at Naperville Central High School.

“Overall the experience was great,” he said. “I had a blast seeing how it all went together as far as shooting a TV program. I had a lot of fun.”

Howell’s episode of “DIY Dominator” airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on the DIY Network.

Source: http://triblocal.com/elgin/2011/05/24/elgin-carpenter-to-make-tv-debut/ 

Carpentry with Integrity, Inc. is a specialty remodeler based in Elgin, Illinois. Since 1998, we have developed hundreds of successful client relationships in the Fox Valley area and western suburbs of Chicago. Almost 95% of our new customers are generated by referrals.