How does the media portray home improvement?


Featured Question by CoMar Products: Every time you turn on the TV, it seems like you can find a popular new home improvement show on air. And other kinds of media, like magazines and the blogosphere, seem to be following suit.

What does this mean for businesses that work in the home improvement industry? Is there a difference between the media’s portrayal of the house makeover process and reality? We’re turning to our Blog-Off experts for the final word on the issue…

Why We’re Asking:

Debbie Cannon of CoMar Products, Inc. suggested our 13th Blog-Off question. Since 1965, CoMar has been manufacturing, fabricating and installing recycled glass, cultured marble and solid surface materials for bathrooms, kitchens, and more. CoMar is a certified woman-owned business, and a two-time winner of the International Cast Polymer Alliance (ICPA) Manufacturer of the Year award.

With the popularity of home improvement television and magazines on the rise, sometimes it seems like everyone is turning to the media for advice about their homes. But is this a good or bad development for our local businesses? While shows, shelter blogs, and magazine articles can inspire and motivate homeowners to make more changes, do they also mislead people as to how difficult it can be to get the results they want?

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

Does the media’s portrayal of home improvement help or hurt your business?

With the prevalence of celebrity designers/contractors/etc. and their popular television shows and writing, do you think homeowners are getting an accurate picture of what the remodeling business is like?
If not, what do you think are some of the misconceptions? How does this affect your business and the homeowner’s experience?
Any advice for homeowners in regards to popular television shows, articles, or blogs?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. I think the TV fixit shows generally cause home owners people to do a lot of random impulse upgrades that later hurt the resale value of the home. Especially in older homes, there is an order of operation that must be obeyed and followed if the home is to one day be presented as a cohesive visual experience with a purposeful intention evident in the design.

    In a home last month I counted 10 different flooring types in a 2800 sqft home (5 different wood floor products, 3 different hard tiles, and 2 differently carpeted bedrooms). The granite in the kitchen was different than the newer marble in the master bath which was different that the original 1980s marble in the hall bath.

    In short, the home was a disjointed schizophrenic patch-quilt of 25 years of small updates. The listing comments boasted “upgraded throughout”. Uhh, yeah, really badly upgraded throughout. For my buyer, virtually the entire house would have need to be redone.

    So, even though budgets don’t always allow owners to do everything at once, there are in fact phases of a master planned eventual upgrade that can be completed over several years with the final outcome a consistent nicely done home. And home owners need to decide the level of finish.

    Homes are either Basic, Standard, Designer or Custom in finishout. You don’t put level 8 granite in a kitchen with Pergo floors for crying out loud. You don’t put sheet vinyl in a neighborhood or hard tile and wood floors. There are rules for resale that the impulse updater and her contractor constantly ignore. And, thus, the investment in those upgrades is often wasted money.

    • I completely agree that the one thing that most homeowners miss is the overall design “master plan.” Sometimes the home improvement shows show how to do a neat project that looks like it would really improve the home. Unfortunately that “cool” project may render the home an inconsistent patchwork that may devalue the home.

  2. I think the worst home improvement shows are the ones where they fix a room over a weekend or in a weeks time do an entire home renovation. This fills the need of the typical American consumer of I need it right now. Then your clients unrealistically think they can come back a few days and everything will be totally complete. This really hurts business when you realistically inform a client of how long something will take, how disruptive this process will be to them and their families. The general public now has no idea of how many building inspectors, code and zoning reviews, architectural review board reviews, selecting all of the finishes, ordering materials, etc, etc. I sit down with the client and help temper their expectations. By not setting the bar too high on what and when they expect everything to be completed we usually end up with more informed and more satisfied clients. The bait and switch does not work well in renovations. That is the horror stories of people getting into over their heads and not be handled professionally. Having a good creative design team with a very competent builder is the best combination for a successful renovation.

  3. Television shows that feature home improvement projects and renovation are great for giving people ideas, and fueling inspiration about what’s possible for their homes. While this can be great for remodelers, it also gives homeowners a false sense of their ability to truly tackle a project. Most shows typically don’t show all that goes into a project – the planning, the extensive design and selections process, and all the details of execution. Homeowners really need to be honest with themselves about not only their abilities to physically take on a project, but also with the time commitment. A homeowner not only has to invest the time into the project to get it done, but also has to be willing to live with a more extended period of disruption during construction, as “weekend warriors” are only working a day or two at a time.

    Today, in addition to shows that help people dream and get inspiration, there is a new crop of home improvement programs that focus on fixing others’ mistakes (projects that weren’t properly done the first time), or bailing homeowners out when they get in over their heads. These shows really do a good job of highlighting what can go wrong if you’re not properly trained to perform certain work, and how every piece of the home’s systems work together and affect each other. If you don’t take all of this into consideration in the planning phase, you can cause great harm in places of the home you may not have even considered to be part of the project. At Riggs, we’ve been involved in many projects where we’ve had to come in behind an inexperienced homeowner or contractor to fix a project that’s gone awry, so we’re glad to see programs today that are showing the realities of what can happen if someone isn’t equipped to plan, manage and execute a project properly. This gives good balance between shows that show the pretty pictures and end results, and shows that really demonstrate the whole picture of the remodeling process.

  4. Design shows, albeit inspiring for homeowners, create unrealistic expectations for timelines and budgets. The viewer doesn’t really think about the fact that some of the products are donated for these shows in exchange for advertising, and there is usually a team of designers and design assistants there to assist in every last detail. The viewer sees an entire room remodeled from nuts to bolts in a half hour with all the perfect finishes magically pulled out of a storage drawer, the fixtures and appliances all there on time, and the chipper contractors always showed up when they are supposed to. This is FAR from the reality of the real design world. These projects take MONTHS to pull together, and sometimes selecting something as simple as a drawer pull can take weeks. Real homeowners have to live through the process, chaos, and dust for weeks at a time, and often remark that they “had no idea” it would be this difficult. The beautiful and rewarding results are always waiting at the end, but by that time, the “romance” of a remodel is gone for many folks, so the elation that you see on the day of the “big reveal” on TV is more like “It’s lovely, now please get out of my house!” in reality.

  5. I love me some home improvement television and they help my business for the most part because it inspires the average person to improve their home.
    HOWEVER, there are:

    *specific shows that depict designers giving free advice, free hand-painted drawings/full-scale presentations and free help to those in need and there are “clients” who think that this can exist in real life, not realizing that the TV designers (other than the host of the show) can do this for the free advertising and clout they gain by appearing on the show.

    *other shows that do divulge their budgets only let you know how much the materials cost and through the magic of television, the labor is either gratis or not even mentioned. This is very misleading to most viewers and should be addressed.

    *and still more that depict a remodeling project taking a day, a few days or even a week when in reality, most furniture (alone) takes 4-12 weeks to come in.

  6. The media helps by creating awareness of the many different products and services available. It also helps because it shows the completion of a job is not as bad as homeowners may have thought.

    However, I think that the shows oversimplify the construction process. One of the biggest misconceptions is the illusion of timeframe. Most projects can hit snags that cause a drag on completion date.

    I also think it has overall helped the contractor because it pushes customers to demand tighter scheduling and higher quality. My advice to homeowners is to demand a tight construction schedule like the shows do and hold your contractor to it.

    Overall, I think the positive vision of a project being brought to completion as shown in the media helps to create a positive outcome for homeowners. Basically the pain is worth it, like having a newborn child.

  7. When we watch some of these shows we cringe. Especially the green shows. No one out therein TV land has done a proper green show yet. As licensed, accredited professionals we find it very hard to watch someone give advice who was an ‘actor’ that auditioned for a part, got it, and now calls themselves a ‘designer’ w/o any real education, licenses and accreditations. Giving “professional” advice without that is usually a cause for a law suit in the real world.

    As a licensed home improvement professional, architect and realtor we are required to carry Errors and Omission insurance in case something goes wrong….We are surprised none of these TV people have been sued yet.

    If you knew how many jobs we had to come in and fix because some one did something they saw on TV…WOW…you have no idea….

  8. Our biggest complaint is the makeover shows, where the “designers” make things out of popsicle sticks and glue (and lots of MDF) that will immediately begin to disintegrate under daily use. Curtains are unlined and unfinished, materials are inappropriate; bargain fabrics that look “meh” are foisted on the unsuspecting homeowner under the guise of “design”. When they add up the final cost, no mention is ever made of the army of carpenters in the background – their cost is often three or four times what is quoted on the show.

    The sad thing is that consumers are led to believe these projects are well executed; standards have become so low that shoppers seek bargain prices above quality, looks or function. People are willing to settle for much less just to save money, even though they will have to redo the project in short order when it falls apart.

    Construction of furnishings is never mentioned – often they’ll “obtain” a house full of furniture from a sponsor for some nonexistent price like $1200, which would never be available. It is sad to see family heirlooms replaced with junk that will fall apart, but it happens all the time for the sake of the look and the sponsor exposure.

    It is so misleading to show expensive materials such as mosaic tile (that was luckily found for the show at a convenient bargain price); consumers come into our showroom thinking they can have the same for hundreds, not thousands of dollars. The end result is that shoppers think every material is way too expensive, they don’t move forward with their project as a result, and they live on in disappointed squalor.

  9. As a sales person for a cabinet refacing company, the one thing that has always driven me crazy with home renovation shows is how they portray kitchens.

    * how quickly it can be done. A full kitchen requires several weeks to complete – not including the 6-8 week lead time to order the product. Most shows completely ignore the lead time and miraculously build the kitchen in a day – including the countertop which technically can’t be ordered until the cabinets are in and then have their own lead time.
    * how cheaply it can be done. A fully installed small kitchen generally runs 10,000+ installed. Somehow they manage to do a full kitchen with granite countertops for $5000. Wholesale cost – maybe – certainly not retail with installation.
    * There is no reference to levels of quality of product. Like anything, there is lower end and high end. High end is, of course, going to cost considerably more.

    These main misconceptions lead to completely unrealistic expectations from customers. As a refacing company, we don’t rip the kitchen out so we can actually do the job in a day or two (with the standard lead time of course). However, this isn’t always a compelling selling point because people believe they can get a full kitchen in that time due to watching these shows.

    They also think “well, they did the entire project for $5000 on such and such show for a full kitchen so obviously this refacing thing is way overpriced.”

    Advice – always do your research. Find out why this one type of cabinet door (the frames are pretty much the same from company to company) costs more than another. Know what the industry standard is for what you’re doing as far as pricing and timeline so you don’t get taken for a ride with erroneous information. Ask a lot of questions about the company, the product and the extras. Make sure you always get a price including installation and everything you asked for so you don’t have any surprises down the line.

  10. I own and operate a firm that has done design and I’ve seen homeowners that:

    Believe that they know more than they do and often get themselves into trouble or make our jobs harder by playing backseat drivers.

    Believe that they know how to design or decorate and have no knowledge of the principals and or basics of either.

    Become so involved and dedicated to celebrities that do licensing that they cannot or will not see issues in their work and products -“anything with Candice Olsens name on it is going to be good – I love her work.”

    Believe that the time it takes to do a project is much shorter that it actually is.

    Do not understand the steps in construction/production.

    Feel entitled to get design for free.

    Have unrealistic expectation of cost due to shows that do not include all cost – either design, labor or materials.

    Reduced their taste to the bland – commercial and unimaginative.

    The effects on our business are profound. Issues include strife over cost, time, work flow, their involvement, who is in charge – etc. These shows and networks have ruined the design business – decorating business. We have trouble collecting payment sometimes and having clients understand what we have to do and what they have to pay for. Suffice to say these shows and networks have made our jobs harder and less profitable.

  11. The media’s portrayal of home improvement has sparked inspiration and excitement around design and remodeling, which has been great for our business. The more people that want their home to be fabulous, the better it is for us! But for all the tips, ideas, how-to’s, color palettes, costs, etc. that they give on television, homeowners may not necessarily know how to translate all the advice into their own home. Every project is different and TV shows will never give you personalized advice for all the intricacies of your home, your style, and your budget.

    When getting inspired from shows on TV, here are some things you can do to help your designer or contractor:
    1) Research! That state-of-the-art wall mounted fireplace may have looked super-fab in Candace Olsen’s latest design, but do a quick google search and see how much it costs. If it’s really something you can afford, then bring it up with your contractor. Your contractor will be able to look at your home to see if it’s really feasible and how much it would cost to get it installed, including labor and any other additions needed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

    2) Set priorities. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all. But the process of home improvement is like an all you can eat buffet – it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. Make a list of your most important projects and don’t start the second one until you’ve finished the first.

    3) Be realistic with your expectations. Ever go to the salon and love how your hair looks that day, but you can never get it to look the same? Well, with a design project, things can look amazing on television where there is proper lighting, brand new items, and the perfect accessories. But realistically, you need a livable space where everything functions well and you can let your hair down.

  12. The first stage of any home improvement project is what I term “discovery” where homeowners gather inspiration and ideas, testing their likes and dislikes. In the age of print media, this meant homeowners gathered their favorite magazine images, colorations and materials. The television media age has definitely shifted this focus real time to home improvement shows, but I believe it is still serving the homeowner and our businesses well.

    Perhaps seeing a bathroom or kitchen remodeled in a couple of days is not always an accurate portrayal, I believe it allows the consumer to gain confidence in the remodeling process and the steps they will need to undertake. Hopefully by participating in home improvement projects, this expands the market opportunity for all of us.

    I find that this new informed consumer has a better understanding of budget and product options. Frequently they are more comfortable with color and new technologies. The opportunity is to offer our project support and create value through design solutions, space planning, material combinations, technology, and technical expertise.

  13. In my opinion, anytime there’s an outlet to educate the general public on home improvement, it’s a plus for the homeowner and the contractors. I’ve dealt with my customers in the plumbing and general homebuilding business for decades, and my best clients were the ones that were well-informed and up to date on the latest trends.

    As a “media” home improvement expert myself, I can tell you that what I’ve contributed to on TV shows and in print media, was never designed to bypass the contractor. My main goal was to educate the homeowner to the point where they could have better communications with their plumber, contractors, and designers.

    Also, there’s a point where a homeowner needs to know that a project may not be as simple as they think, and calling in a pro right away would be the best bet. So, the bottom line answer in my book would be: If it’s done in a responsible way to educate homeowners on simple things they can do, and when they should hire a professional contractor, I believe the media does help our business.

  14. I think that these shows have done a lot to educate and people are much more aware of some of the options that are available to them. The challenge for me is that the time line that they present on their shows ( especially for large renovations)is very unrealistic and it makes it difficult for people to understand that things can take longer in the “real world” than they do on a half hour television show. My other challenge comes from the costs that they quote on the shows. I know after being in this business for a number of years that it is just not possible for them to do things at the prices that they quote, but clients who watch these shows do not know that and often have very unrealistic expectations on the cost for a project. My final comment on one of the drawbacks of the DIY shows is that some of them show solutions that will only last / look acceptable for a short time. Lots of these low cost ideas probably fall apart before the TV cameras are gone!

  15. Like most things, I think the answer to this is in shades of grey where the whole industry is concerned. The TV shows in question have to play to their most important goal, and that is to make good television. As such, a lot of the important stuff – like how long it takes to ship a product to site, or product availability – is cut out. It doesn’t make good television to talk about that. Also, for the professional remodeler, it makes better TV to portray them as a miracle worker, and for slip ups or unforseen circumstances to merely be a part of the ‘drama’.

    Sometimes in real life (and unlike on a TV show), things don’t work out the way you want them to with a home improvement project, and it’s unavoidable. But, that’s kind of a downer where TV is concerned. So I imagine many issues are resolved offscreen in the editing room. You can’t do that in a real life situation.

    So, I think the perceptions of the viewer can be skewed by many home improvement TV shows. But, to me, the most important thing that home improvement shows bring out is the underlying goal and fascination that lies behind nearly any major home renovation, and that is the idea of transformation.

    People want to transform their spaces to match what their ideas of a dream home are. I think that’s the type of ‘story’ that people want to involve themselves in, and see in their real lives, which is why people watch these kinds of shows. I think this part of things is very helpful to our industry, especially when building materials vendors like us, installers, home stagers, whichever, position themselves as being players in that drama, and collaborators with their clients to help them to see that story through.

    To me, this makes for a more enriched relationship with customers, and it is more of an impetus for homeowners to return to those vendors and home improvement professionals who have played a part in their drama, in their customer’s personal story of transformation, rather than simply as the company who dropped a pallet of flooring on their driveways, installed a new toilet, or put up their siding. I think stories are pretty powerful things. That’s why we blog, and leave comments; that’s really an act of storytelling that welcomes people into it. When stories and business come together, I think there is tons of potential.

  16. As a consultant and trainer who has helped 1,000’s of professionals craft and articulate relevant talking points and dominate reporter interviews, the media most definitely has an agenda already prepared in advance of covering, interviewing or researching a story. For businesses that work in the home improvement industry, it is up to you to craft your agenda. There is a saying in the business of media that reads, “if it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead.” To them, for example, a story about unscrupulous home improvement companies is a “winner.” For you, why not submit a “top 10” list of how to avoid scams, shoddy work or uninsured workers/firms. If you choose not to respond at all, you are telling your customers and clients that you “agree” with what has been said, or reported. You have your hands on “the street,” that’s the reality. The media’s reality is quite simple: they are a business and they need to “sell” to stay profitable. In most cases, the “sell” is based on fear, inaccuracies or outrageousness. If you see a media report that is inaccurate, correct it. Get out and tell your story; a story that should always be based on truthfulness and honesty.

  17. Although the media sometimes oversimplifies certain remodeling projects in terms of scope and timetables, most home improvement shows and stories seem to be very helpful to viewers and readers which is why I am a big proponent of providing the public with DIY home improvement advice.

    When I founded Use What You Have Interiors in 1981 there were no home improvement reality shows; trade showrooms had strict closed-door policies; there were no remodeling chains in every major American city and sales-oriented interior designers kept professional secrets to themselves.

    At the time, average people were hungry for professional home improvement advice yet they had only 3 choices: 1) Do it themselves and likely make expensive aggravating mistakes 2) Go to a local store and try to get a salesperson’s advice without having to buy a lot of new things they neither wanted or needed 3) Live with what they already had because they could not afford the high priced services of a design professional.

    I believed, and still do, that everyone deserves a beautiful, comfortable home so I decided to become an advocate for folks who wanted affordable design help. I would show people how to use what they already had and teach them how to correct their existing mistakes in order to transform their houses and apartments in hours. I’d also give each of my clients a plan for home improvement projects that they could accomplish themselves as time and money allowed.

    Word spread fast and within 6 months the media started calling and featuring my firm’s unique philosophy and before and after makeovers. National and local newspapers, magazines, radio and television shows seemed to be fascinated with Use What You Have’s open-minded, budget-minded, educational approach. In the mid 1990s, with the advent of the Internet (and then, later on, blogs), started receiving more international attention and I began training design professionals from all over who want to learn the Use What You Have system and offer it in their cities and countries.

    From appearances on Oprah to regular spots on HGTV and other shows, to writing books, I am so grateful for all the media exposure my firm has received over the last 30 years. It has made it possible for me to share, teach and help empower millions of people about how they can improve their homes and their lives quickly, without spending a lot of money.

  18. I must say that as a homeowner and someone who teaches consumers around the subject of avoiding a home remodeling disaster and choosing their contractor wisely, education is much needed even if it comes in a more sensationalized version from the media. At the very least it opens their minds to the possibilities as well as the potential for problems.

    Consumers are creating the demand for these shows to satisfy their curiosity and entertainment needs. And I’m seeing more of these shows becoming created through the various media query outlets seeking experts to cast for these shows. They’re here to stay so rather than resist it, why not take the opportunity to educate your customer based on this very subject and inject some reality behind it all?

    Both my husband and myself are big do-it-yourselfers, but we know our limits. He has a construction background and I took it upon myself to take classes in order to execute certain finishes. We’ve both been inspired in the past as a result of something we saw on these shows and always farm it out if it’s beyond our abilities. So a professional tradesperson gets some work as a result of our exposure to an idea from a show. That’s a win-win.

    Sure, there are those who get in over their heads but then that becomes a lesson learned – especially if it costs them more to correct. Finally, having been in the media myself, yes they are looking to create a big impression upon their audience and entertain them at the same time, which is after all, what people want when they sit down in front of their TV sets. And if there is an educational aspect around it, all the better.

  19. As part of the media, and someone who writes a lot about home decor and renovation television, I feel like this coverage helps inspire and educate homeowners, rather than detracting from the industry. While some programs may inspire (occasionally wayward) DIY attempts, I feel like many of them demonstrate the importance of leaving a job to the professionals while also showcasing the way a designer and trained contractor can turn any project into a showpiece. Also, series such as Disaster DIY helps teach homeowners how to recognize when a project is over their head – and the fallout when they blindly go forward with it anyway!

    Finally, I also think the increasing focus on home decor and renovation projects is leading to more people being aware of the potential of their homes – and hopefully inspiring them to nest even more and do what it takes to create a stylish, and functional space, including calling in the pros.

  20. In my experience the greatest advantage to the HGTV and other media opportunities that consumers have access to is the education value. They get to see the latest and greatest in materials, trends, and ideas.

    The single biggest drawback is that I’ve yet to see any show actually done with real and true compensation for the creative talent. For example while Curb Appeal shows you great ways to stage, the budget is limited to materials, no labor cost is included. In Designer Challenge while an investment is provided, it doesn’t include design fees because the designer wants the exposure and is working either for free or a seriously reduced rate.

    In many cases manufacturers are providing materials for free or at a discounted rate to gain exposure. This is entirely unrealistic and gives the consumer a very false impression of what can be done and for how much.

    I’ve fielded calls asking for a full room transformation for $1K, I refer them to my decorative painter and that’s a stretch for him, unless it’s a small powder bath and a simple finish.

    Education in materials is valuable, but most media leaves out the real details of the talent and services provided, allowing the consumer to have a very inaccurate idea of what a project entails.

  21. Well I think we have hit a nerve!, I should just say ditto to the others, but I will say that the Media also causes the Consumer to go out and buy his/her designer stuff to have the Pro. install when they know the project is over their head. This is also a problem due to they stuff they buy may or may not co-exist with the existing building situation cost effectively. Additionally warranty issues will exist (who is responsible). The Media is entertainment, that is it. TV Land, Fantasy, etc.

  22. I would have to say it helps. I think that when people watch a home improvement show it motivates them to do something and by doing something it helps the businesses in the home improvement industry add to their bottom line. I think most people understand that they will need some professional help with their remodel. What my clients tell me is that they get ideas from the televisions shows but, they need help in executing the actual remodel. As an Interior Designer, Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer I say THANK YOU to all of the home improvement shows and keep up the good work!

  23. I’ll start by saying that I’m a huge fan of home improvement and home design shows. I’m an avid watcher myself, and record certain ones that resonate with me if I know that I’ll miss them.

    That being said, last year I got a whole different perspective as to what actually goes on behind the scenes when these shows are being filmed. I participated on a volunteer design team for an episode of a home makeover show. This particular project was completed over 5 days; yet it was cut down to 30 minutes for T.V. – well, actually 20 minutes if you take out the commercials.

    When I watched the edited version on T.V., I tried to look at it from the point of view of an audience member; putting aside all of the “blood, sweat and tears” that everyone involved with this project actually went through. I truly couldn’t appreciate on T.V. the amount of hard work that went into it. It was captured in such a way that made it look quite easy and all fun and games. Some of these shows glorify the whole process and also occasionally add unnecessary drama to make it more interesting to viewers. After all, it’s all about T.V. ratings. In my opinion, sometimes this can diminish in the public’s eyes what it is that we as professional designers, contractors, etc. do and that can therefore, undervalue our services.

    The bulk of my business is home staging. For me, I see some of the shows on T.V. that centre around preparing a home for sale as a doubled-edged sword. Yes, these shows have helped draw attention to the concept of home staing and its benefits, but not all of them are realistic. For instance, many times at the end of a show when they share with the audience the cost of the transformation, they neglect to include the cost of labour which really concerns me as it’s a bit misleading. Unfortunately, you’ll also see the occasional episode where a home stager is downright rude with a homeowner (again in the name of T.V. ratings). Numerous times when I’ve arrived at a home to do a staging consultation, the homeowner has been quite nervous. The odd one has shared with me afterwards that they wondered if I would be rude and insulting about their home like they’ve seen the odd time on T.V.

    Having said that, I’m still glad that these shows are on the air. They bring attention to our industry, and as they say, no publicity is bad publicity. This is a topic that I’m very passionate about. I’m off to read all of my peers’ comments to this question now. I didn’t want to read them before adding my own 2 cents worth first :-).

  24. If there is anything that can be said well about the DIY “unscripted” dramas, the media and the internet, it would be how they portray the home makeover process when things go wrong. There always is the possibility that a craftsman may make a mistake, forget something or, unfortunately, injure himself. It is typically the nature of the media to cover up such unpleasant events and create a happy ending. However, DIY programs more closely mirror reality. I’ve often seen episodes that didn’t end with the homeowner being so happy to see what was done while they were out.

    I think that including the good, the bad and the ugly has created an understanding for the industry that when things don’t come out quite like you planned the project isn’t over. We can’t leave the gypsum board half installed or the kitchen cabinets extending out into the doorway. I remember in one show I watched, it was discovered that the electrician lied about his qualifications on his job application. Right in the middle of the project he “came clean” and walked off the project leaving the contractor, the homeowner and the show’s producer hanging. Now that’s reality! What do you do now?

    You all just carry on. The project is completed and at least for the purpose of the show, the homeowner is pleased. As it’s been said, “Smooth seas don’t make skillful sailors.” In times of adversity our true skill, character and creativity are revealed. These types of situations that survive the edit room show the world that experienced professionals think well on their feet, improvise and see opportunities were others just see problems. As a Certified Professional Home Designer, I appreciate when the media discloses the full portrayal in a way that the homeowner becomes aware. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” so to speak.

  25. As far as I can tell “reality” is not synonymous with “television”. And “reality TV” is really an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp”. I suppose home improvement shows can help you learn how to do something or maybe hire someone to do something for you, but what I find missing is the good thinking behind it all. What is really important in a place we call Home?

    Not to downplay the importance of aesthetics in our lives, but most of the home improvement I see on TV or in magazines is focused on some form of eye candy. The nitty-gritty world of fixing a home is not often discussed. And even though President Obama declared insulation sexy a few years back, not too many seem to agree. And that’s only half of it, insulation isn’t the only thing we might need to put on a good show.

    In Home Performance Contracting GreenHomes America Partners focus on aspects of home improvement that many contractors don’t, such as heating systems and insulation and ventilation and how they interact. Do windows really make you more comfortable or are there greater gains for less money to be had elsewhere? That’s the nut to crack: What makes us comfortable and how can we afford it.

    With that, improving our homes needs to include health and safety as well as energy efficiency considerations. Too often we remodel, saving all our money for the frosting and unwittingly made a horrible cake in the process. The result is a home that is uncomfortable, expensive to live in and potentially dangerous but hey it looks good!

    Buildings are complicated and remodeling by nature is too, maybe we could change the way home improvement is portrayed on TV with a little flash and sex appeal? I’m thinking trained building scientists talking shop in revealing fiberglass apparel… on second thought, maybe not. Media may not focus on what is really important in a remodeling a home, but I’m happy to be stay in the ugly duckling category. Comfortably!

  26. I enjoy some of the well done programming and print work regarding remodeling and decorating since this is my profession. A well done media piece about remodeling for me personally is something either informative about a new product or technology, or design and materials that I like very much. I don’t like information that isn’t correct regarding the budget, number of trades required or time frame.
    Too often projects are portrayed as weekend jobs and couldn’t possibly be done correctly in two days. Or the extensive prep work needed for what is being depicted is never discussed. Most of the time permits and the time it takes for inspections are not described either. I’m not sure the misleading information available from the media is much different than the misleading information from advertisements at big box stores. In fact I believe the big box stores and the like suggest a level of quality that they don’t even sell. The pictures look great but the products may not be what a client expects. A $400.00 stainless steel hood fan is not the same as a $2,400.00 stainless hood fan even if the pictures look similar. It all comes back to working with a professional that you trust and that can help educate you about design, materials, the process and the budget. It’s never a one size fits all, even if you have a lower budget.
    Even with poor programs and articles available it is still a great for homeowners to have an abundant choice of materials to sift through. They can see what might be possible in their home. They get motivated to make improvements and when they contact professionals like us, we can explain the steps and costs associated with a project. This is good for our industry.
    Homeowners are more educated now about remodeling and construction and are suspicious about how a sophisticated project could be completed so quickly or inexpensively. They will tell me that as they show me a picture and say, “That had to have cost more than they are saying”.

  27. As a homeowner, I LOVE these DIY/HGTV type of shows. I watch them several hours a week and get all sorts of great ideas. As a contractor, it is another story. Some clients see something on TV and expect me to have it in stock and ready to put in the same day, even if they don’t know what finish they want.

    Other clients will question the price of the work saying “it only takes a couple of hours to do that” when what they are talking about is the finishing work. When we explain the amount of re-piping that needs to be done to make that fancy vessel sink and wall mount faucet work, they change their mind about the whole project and ask for a basic sink and faucet instead. It is frustrating for them and for us to dash their dreams with a realistic project scope of work and pricing.

    Worst of all is the client who tries to do the work alone and ends up damaging his materials but somehow thinks we can finish the install and make the broken items like new again in 15 minutes because “after all, I’ve already done most of the work.” It is hard not to say, “No, you’ve already done all of the damage” but somehow my plumbers smile on through it.

    Still, as Bill Riggs said in his post, the newer shows that educate consumers on what can go wrong without the proper planning and professional contractors are starting to help set the record straight. In the meantime, there is nothing like the guilty pleasure of watching a room come together in 2 days while knowing the impossibility of it in real life.

  28. I think the media portrays staging to be very simple, easy and glamorous (no stager in their right mind dresses up in heels to stage a house, okay?). The media also often mis-represents how much staging really costs since most of the shows only show costs of materials and do not take labor costs into account. It makes my job a bit interesting when I have to explain to homeowners that we cannot work on their home for a week with custom furniture, all for less than $500!

    But in general, the media does help to educate the public the importance of home staging and the value it provides to both agents and home sellers.

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