Busting Renovation Reality Show Myths

Busting Renovation Reality Show Myths

There is nothing like binge-watching home renovation shows on a rainy afternoon. What is more entertaining than watching contractors rip and tear through rotting walls and see a home owner’s emotions boil over after an hour of renovation-evoked anticipation?!

While many of us enjoy watching the demolition and resurrection of a reality show home, these shows are highly produced forms of entertainment. Most reality TV is not reality. While there are some shows that accurately represent renovations, many shows are scripted, edited, and pared down to fit into their television slot.


There’s nothing wrong with this form of entertainment. But trouble creeps in when we treat screen-time stories like gospel truth.


In the genre of home renovation reality TV, there are 4 Reality Show Myths that come up again and again.


  1. Reality Show Myth #1:


Budget Talks Are Short & Sweet.


This is especially true for the “Super Contractor” genre.


These are the shows where a contractor comes into someone’s home, starts ripping down the walls, and exposes all of the shoddy work done by the original builders or previous contractors.


But there are important details they never disclose: What was the original budget? Was a contingency added to deal with “surprises”? Did the network match or contribute to the client’s budget?


A contractor would always prefer to install the highest quality materials in a client’s home, but most homeowners either don’t have the budget for these products, or they choose to spend their money on cabinets and carpet (the materials you can see) instead of on high quality insulation and top-of-the-line waterproofing (the materials you can’t). It’s the latter that will help your home stand the test of time. What good are painted maple cabinets if they’re warped by water damage? How much time will you spend in your perfect living room if the roof is so decayed that you can tell if it’s snowing?


When renovations begin, “Super Contractors” sometimes foot the entire bill for the participants’ products and materials, through the use of sponsorship or product placement. And good thing, because the high-quality materials they install typically skirt the homeowner’s price range!


There are some shows where budget is discussed, but even in these cases it’s rare that the cost of labour is included. Instead, base material costs are provided and that’s it. This gives viewers the false perception that they should be able to redo their bathroom for $5K-$6K. But unless you’re doing all the work yourself, this simply isn’t true. Price also varies by location. The US tends to have much cheaper renovation costs than Canada.


Renovation reality shows also don’t factor in that budget talks can take time. If your contractor presents you with a design that you want to scale back, you’ll have a second, and sometimes even a third budget meeting.


2.             Reality Show Myth #2:


If you put a rental space in your home, you’ll immediately get out what you put in.


Reality shows tell you if you spend 110k on a rental unit, for example a basement or garage suite, you will get that money back when you sell. You won’t. Ever. (in the short term). You may get this money back in the form of rentals, which is a long term investment in your home, but expecting your house value to increase by 100k immediately after adding a rental space is unrealistic. A more realistic number would sit around the 50k to 60k range. Even worse, reality shows never factor financing costs in the calculations.


If you’re not planning on staying in the home you’d be better off taking 110k in equity out of your home and investing it in a separate property. This is true Canada-wide.


3.             Reality Show Myth #3:


Mildews and molds are the result of poor workmanship.


It’s true that poor workmanship can lead to mildew, mold, and cracked grout in your kitchen or bathroom. But this isn’t always the culprit. Before you chase after your last contractor with a (moldy) pitchfork, remember that there are other factors that can cause these issues!


For a bathroom, or any other area that’s exposed to water and humidity, it is natural to see the development of mildew and mold in especially wet areas. Grout naturally breaks down after several years, but with proper maintenance and cleaning, you can keep it looking fresh. Consider bringing your contractor back in to do “touch-ups” as problems appear. Investing in a good waterproofing system with sealed seams (such as Wedi) will help combat moisture. That means putting your money inside your walls and not just into the paint, tiles, and fixtures that you can see.


While the insulation and waterproofing in your bathroom might not seem as glamorous as the shiny new tiles for your shower, they’ll help your bathroom last longer and stay cleaner.


Unfortunately, clients often don’t want to spend the money on these foundational expenses.


Reality Show Myth #4:


Finishes are the most important part of a renovation.


It’s the things you can’t see that end up being the most important.


Building a house with a strong foundation, proper insulation, waterproofing, vapour barriers, electrical that is up to code, etc. will last longer and be a better investment for you and your family. Do your research and educate yourself on your contractor. If there are any issues you’ve noticed in your home, let your contractor know so they can fix them!


If you put all of your money into only renovating the things you can see and touch then chances are a “Super Renovator” will be disappointed when they kick in your walls and look at what’s below the surface. The horror!


So next time you flip to your favourite home reno show, try to keep a critical eye and remember: it may be fun, but it’s not real life!