This Is What Homeowners Say Is Most Unrealistic About Home Improvement TV Shows

Julia Pelly
Written by Julia Pelly
Updated May 11, 2022
Illustration of a man and woman sitting on the couch watching TV.
Photo: Tetiana Lazunova / iStock / Getty Images

Home renovations aren't always what they seem on TV

There’s nothing quite like settling in with a bowl of popcorn and flipping on your favorite home improvement show to get you daydreaming about your next big project. Whether you’re hoping for a bathroom remodel, kitchen renovation, or an addition, home improvement shows can provide inspiration, ideas, and, as it turns out, some very unrealistic expectations. 

We were curious how top TV home renovation shows impact homeowners' perceptions and expectations around home improvement projects. To find out, we surveyed 1,000 homeowners about what they’ve learned and what they think about home renovations. Here is what we found out:

Key Takeaways 

  • Over 65% of respondents feel that home improvement TV shows set unrealistic expectations.

  • Homeowners feel that home improvement TV shows set the most unrealistic expectations about renovation costs, timelines, and the ease of hiring a contractor. 

  • Nearly 58% of respondents felt that, despite the unrealistic expectations, watching home improvement shows has made them a more educated homeowner, buyer, or renovator.

  • Of the nearly 50% of respondents who completed a DIY home project they saw on a home improvement TV show, 56.77% say it turned out just the way they had hoped, but 7.21% said they had to hire a contractor to come to fix what they messed up.

  • Home improvement shows inspire 46.51% of viewers to feel admiration when watching, but 26.64% feel jealousy. 

  • Homeowners have clear favorites when it comes to which TV professionals they’d choose to renovate their own homes. 

Unrealistic Expectations Abound

When viewers settle in to watch a home improvement show, they’re usually looking forward to the transformation, not tallying the budget or checking project timelines. It’s no secret, though, that home improvement shows sometimes gloss over the trickier parts of completing a renovation. 

Over 65% of respondents agree, noting that they feel that home improvement TV shows set unrealistic expectations. Homeowners feel that these shows, as fun as they are to watch, set the most unrealistic expectations of renovation costs and timelines. 

Based on the shows they watch, most homeowners think a full home renovation should take three to six months. In reality, renovating a whole home often takes up to or around a full year. 

Renovation costs are also often tough to estimate when watching a home improvement show. While budgets on TV range widely, the real cost of major projects tends to depend on the cost of materials, labor, and size. 

Big Feelings

Watching home improvement TV shows is a fun way to pass the time but it can bring out different emotions in viewers. While 46.51% of respondents reported feeling admiration while watching, 26.64% said they felt jealous. 

Infographic with statistics about the unrealistic expectations TV shows convey.
Photo: nickylarson974 / iStock / Getty Images / Peacefully7 / iStock / Getty Images / calvindexter / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

Learning Along the Way

Despite home renovation shows blurring the lines about how expensive renovations are and how long they take, the bulk of respondents feel like they’ve learned a lot from these shows. Nearly 58% of respondents say that watching home improvement TV shows has made them a more educated homeowner, buyer, or renovator. 

Infographic stating respondents think full renovations take 3-6 months to accomplish.
Photo: Peacefully7 / iStock / Getty Images

From TV Viewer to Successful DIY-Er

The inspiration and education viewers get from home improvement shows has naturally led many of them to take on a DIY project or two they might not have otherwise. Nearly half of all respondents took on a DIY project they saw on a home improvement show. 

Most respondents saw results they liked, with 56.77% reporting their project had turned out the way they’d hoped. For an unlucky few, things didn’t turn out as planned, 7.21% of respondents admitted they had to hire a pro to come to fix what they’d messed up.

A Dream Team

While our survey respondents had a lot of favorite TV home improvement teams, there were several standouts. The home improvement teams our respondents would most want to work with include the following:

  • Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” (23.78%)

  • Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” (20.19%)

  • Nora Abrams, Tom Silva, Richard Tretheway and Roger Cook of “This Old House” (16.70%)

Respondents seemed to feel these teams did a fantastic job from design to execution. When asked which they would choose if they had to pull all their home inspiration from a single show, respondents chose the same three as their top picks.

  • “Fixer Upper” (19.45%)

  • “This Old House” (15.57%)

  • “Property Brothers” (13.74%)

Infographic showing the top rated TV shows for inspiration, and teams respondents would use for their renovation.
Photo: Peacefully7 / iStock / Getty Images

A TV Renovation Experience 

Homeowners who recently completed a renovation might have the best idea of anyone about how realistic (or unrealistic) home renovation shows are. Of respondents who recently completed a home renovation, there were several elements of TV renovations they would have loved to have. 

Most notably, 34.04% would have liked their contractor to present them with multiple fully rendered designs and 30.44% would have loved to go on vacation and return to a completed renovation. 

Shockingly, only 10.36% of respondents said they wish they could have worn a construction hat and swung the big hammer to start their demolition. 

Next time you sit down to watch one of your favorite home improvement TV shows, we hope you learn a lot, get some fabulous DIY inspiration, and, like 53.07% of respondents, feel mostly happiness as you watch. 


Between April 20, 2022 and April 22, 2022,  we surveyed 1,000 homeowners about the home shows they watch and the expectations those shows set. All respondents were current homeowners. 49.90% of respondents identified as male, while 50.10% identified as female. 100% of respondents live within the United States.