How Real-Life Home Renovations Differ from TV Shows

Kaitlyn Pacheco
Written by Kaitlyn Pacheco
Updated December 16, 2021
Modern remodeled kitchen
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock


  • Real-life home renovations typically take longer and are more expensive than those shown in TV shows.

  • Some home renovation shows feature contractors working around the clock, but that’s an unrealistic expectation.

  • Home renovation shows often accurately depict the setbacks and emotional reactions experienced during the renovating process.

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There’s a common formula for home renovation shows: The episode starts with someone presenting their run-down home and its issues, then it transitions to scenes featuring hard hats and the show’s hosts tearing down walls. Then, 30 to 60 minutes later, the house looks like a picture-perfect model of a modern home. But how realistic is that process?

With more homeowners investing in home renovations, many people look to renovation TV shows for inspiration and direction. However, it may surprise you to learn that the actual remodeling process is often much different from how it  it looks on TV. So, what’s the truth? Read on to learn the differences between the TV and reality versions of renovating your home.

5 Things That TV Shows Get Wrong About Real-Life Renovations

Man working on renovating his home
Photo: Whyframeshot / Adobe Stock

Not sure whether to believe the too-good-to-be-true scenes on home renovation shows? Check out why these five expectations set by reality TV shows don’t match the true process.

1. Renovations Take Longer in Real Life

The power of time-lapse scenes in home renovation shows is that you can speed through a week’s worth of plastering, plumbing work, and drywalling within a few seconds. The timeline of home renovations on TV is significantly compressed, so while it may look like you can renovate your bathroom in a few days, that’s not usually the case. 

In reality, home renovations take considerably longer than the timetables set on TV shows due to scheduling constraints with your contractor, mandatory inspections throughout the project, and potential slowdowns along the way. To get a more accurate estimate of your renovation project’s timeline, talk with your general contractor and then plan accordingly.

2. TV Shows Don’t Show the Planning Process

While planning the home renovation isn’t the most exciting process for viewers to watch, it’s the most important part of the entire project. Most home renovation shows don’t feature the various stages of preparation required to complete a major home project, such as meetings with structural engineers, comparing price estimates from several contractors, and obtaining permits from local building departments.

When planning your renovation project, keep in mind that there may be a gap between when you hire your contractor and when their team begins work. Unlike on TV shows, your contractor likely has a full schedule of clients to service.

3. TV Renovation Budgets Aren’t Usually Realistic

On TV shows, families somehow always manage to get everything on their renovation wish list within their budget. Unfortunately, you should expect to pay more for your home remodeling projects than the numbers seen on TV. 

One of the major reasons that renovation prices on TV are different from real life is that TV networks partner with companies in exchange for exposure. Plus, contractors and other professionals will sometimes work for discounted rates in order to get their name out there. That’s not an option for the average homeowner, and it can impact your expectations for your project’s price tag.

4. Real-Life Home Renovations Are Messy

It’s easy to understand why the “after” shots of TV home renovations may inspire you to jump off the couch and head to the nearest hardware store. But in reality, the TV networks hire local cleaning crews and home stagers to make the renovated home look as aspirational as possible before the “final reveal.”

The process gets pretty messy for anyone who isn’t  renovating their house for an audience. You can expect to end the renovation project with some clean-up work, items shifted to other rooms, and furniture waiting in storage. Plus, once the work is complete, you’re responsible for moving your items back in and redecorating the renovated space. 

5. Contractors Don’t Work Around the Clock

A deceiving trend in home renovation shows is showing the construction team working all day and all night to complete the project. That doesn’t reflect the schedule of actual contractor crews, but it can create unrealistic expectations. 

When you hire a contractor for your renovation, that person and their team are often working on several jobs simultaneously. Plus, home renovation professionals don’t work overnight. However, you can speak with you local renovation company and work out a schedule that works for both of you.

3 Ways That Home Renovation TV Shows Reflect Reality

Although there are several ways that TV shows don’t match the reality of home renovation projects, some aspects are spot-on. Let’s look at three ways that home renovation shows get it right.

1. Setbacks Occur During Renovation Projects

In many renovation shows, there’s a point in the episode where the pro will discover an unexpected problem with part of the house that throws the project off track. Unfortunately, that’s accurate to many peoples’ renovation experiences.

From surprise wiring issues to outdated plumbing fixtures, it’s common to find hidden issues once the renovation team pulls out the walls and the floors of a house. However, you can plan for unforeseen (and often expensive) issues by setting aside part of your total budget for problems that occur during the renovation. 

2. Renovating Your Home Can Be an Emotional Project

While some emotional aspects of home renovation are dramatized for TV shows, they reflect the many highs and lows of undergoing major home projects. If you or your family has lived in the house for generations, it could feel upsetting to replace cherished parts of the home. 

But the excitement of the final renovation “reveal” moment? That’s real, too. After weeks of planning and hard work, there’s nothing quite like walking into your new-and-improved space for the first time. 

3. Major Renovations Can Increase the Value of Your Home

One of the most anticipated parts of each home renovation episode is finding out how much the homeowner’s renovations increased the house’s overall value. Since many people add modern upgrades to boost their home’s value, that aspect translates into off-screen renovation projects, too.

If you’re feeling inspired to grow your home’s resale value after watching homeowners on a TV show cash in on their renovations, consider taking on projects with a high return on investment (ROI). For example, remodeling your kitchen has an ROI of about 73%, and even smaller home improvement projects like upgrading your windows have a return of about 69%.

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