I'll admit that I have a little bit of an addiction to renovation reality shows. After endlessly watching reveal after reveal, I've come to realize that there are quite a lot of real-life lessons to be learned from the TV version of home renovating. Here's some of the wisdom I've gleaned from those hours in front of the tube.
1. Everything Costs More Than You Planned.
There is an unwritten rule of renovation that any budget or estimate can be seen as merely a starting point. While some shows, like Property Brothers, always seem to "come in on budget," others, such as Love It or List It, will specifically highlight what has to come out of the original plan due to unexpected surprises and cost overruns.
2. Expect The Unexpected.
Speaking of unexpected surprises — something will inevitably come up that will destroy any planned budget. It could be mold, mildew, or asbestos, or perhaps it's old knob and tube wiring or improperly installed electrical wiring. Maybe that roof has a leak in it, or the basement has water coming in and needs a French drain added around the perimeter. Something will come up that requires changing the plan and stretching the budget.
3. Designs & Tastes Will Change.
Sometimes you love the idea or sound of some fancy design, and but when it's implemented you find yourself thinking "how could I possibly have wanted this?" And the budget takes a hit as you fill out change orders for contractors to fix things. Oftentimes it's not by choice — say a wall that was supposed to come down for an open concept living room is now deemed to be structural. No matter the reason, the finished product sometimes doesn't look exactly like the original dream, especially when budget is an issue.
4. Nobody Likes To Take Out The Old Toilet, But Smashing It Sure Is Fun
Home renovation shows always involve the homeowners when it comes time for the initial demolition phase. There is just some sort of thrill in breaking stuff without consequence, and tossing an old toilet out the window two flights down into a dumpster seems to have a universal appeal. But all these happy-go-lucky whacks at countertops and walls are really only the tip of the iceberg. An hour into ripping out insulation, tile, drywall, and other messy and tiring labor, and the homeowner has generally stepped aside for the pros to take care of it.
5. Everything Takes Longer Than Expected - And It's Probably Your Fault
When is 6 weeks more like 12 weeks? When engaging in a home renovation, of course. While the TV shows often come in "on time", they are quick to point out that any delays are usually the customer's fault. Don't like the paint colors? Can't make up your mind on the tile or countertops? Changing your minds halfway through construction? All of these decisions end up screwing up all the schedules for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other trades — and it will suddenly take a lot longer than planned for to finish that renovation.
6. Staging Makes A World Of Difference
When I'm watching Income Property (my own personal favorite) I can't help but think that the reveal is a sham, with the fabulously staged furniture and accessories that will disappear that moment the show finishes taping. Shows such as House Hunters Renovation always show a buyer's home after they're done with renovation, and without a new furniture budget the interiors don't look quite as beautiful as the renovation implied. When shows like Property Brothers include furniture and accessories in the budget, the finished project is always much nicer.
7. Tears Will Be Shed.
If there's one thing that's certain about renovating a home, it's that any relationship will be tested. Whether it's a difficult budget decision or a supposedly simple paint color choice, getting along with a significant other during a renovation will be a test of the relationship. While we can imagine most popular renovation television shows have a certain amount of staged drama, have no doubt that tears will be shed during any lengthy renovation. So be strong, make a choice, and know that this too shall pass — and there will be a beautiful renovation for your efforts.