7 Reasons Home Renovation Shows Aren’t Reality

Home renovation shows are hugely popular for a reason: Kiwi’s love anything to do with property and they’re entertaining and inspirational.

renovation showsBut we can’t believe everything we see on TV, and home renovation shows are no different.  There are many reasons why these shows don’t quite match up with real-life renovations. They’re designed to fit into a short time slot and finish up after 15 or 20 episodes. They focus on the fun, camera-ready parts of a renovation – not all the waiting for building and resource consents or the boring fixing up of foundations or drainage.

We’re not saying you should stop watching your favourite renovation shows, just be aware of the inaccuracies so when it comes to renovating your own home, you won’t be disappointed:


1: No prep, no planning

Planning and preparation are rarely shown in reality shows, but they’re the most important parts of a renovation project. It makes sense that renovation shows don’t depict this part properly – it’s not exactly exciting to watch – but it’s important to be aware of the importance of this step before embarking on a project.

In real life, building can’t start until you’ve had professional designs drawn up, researched and engaged a builder, signed a contract, and made it through the time-consuming consenting process.

2: Lack of lead time

By ignoring the reality of lead times, renovation shows make the building process look much faster than it really is. For example, you can’t simply sketch up a kitchen and have it made the next week – most manufacturers have lead times of up to six weeks. Things get even more complicated if you need something like a custom stone benchtop, as these can only be cut once cabinetry is installed.

Lead times apply to materials as well – in most cases, you need to choose and order tiles, flooring, light fittings, and tapware well in advance, rather than rushing out and buying them on the day of the build.

3: Freebies and finances

Although some reality shows break down budgets for their builds, these don’t necessarily reflect prices or projects in the real world. These shows provide publicity for the subcontractors and suppliers involved, so free or heavily discounted products and services is not unusual. If you’re an average home owner working on an average renovation project, you’re very unlikely to be offered the same deals.

The cost of council consents or reworking the design tend to be omitted too – and these can add up to thousands over the course of a build.

4: Fake time frames

Conveniently, the work on reality shows is always finished by the end of the hour, day or week. In reality however, many parts of a renovation project will take weeks to complete. The filming doesn’t show the builders and contractors in the background working around the clock, or the inevitable shortcuts taken when working on a tight filming timeframe.

One simple example is plastering walls. This is often shown as a quick job that’s done one day and ready to paint the next morning. But in reality, three coats of plaster need to be applied, dried, and sanded before painting can start. And with each coat of plaster needing 12-24 hours drying time, this can mean the entire process takes at least 3-5 days. Watching plaster dry obviously wouldn’t be exciting to show on TV, but it’s a reality if you’re renovating yourself.

5: Room-by-room renos

Renovating a different room each week makes sense for a TV show, but it’s very impractical in real life. Builders and subcontractors plan builds so they can minimise the number of times they need to visit a site to reduce travel expenses and disruption to their schedules – getting them to visit site for each individual room could end up being incredibly expensive.

The same goes for building inspectors. The council charges for every site visit or inspection they make, so it’s always better to ensure all the work being inspected is completed and ready at the one time.

6: Race to the finish line

The time pressures of reality shows mean that contestants are always rushing to get the job finished.  It’s how the show creates drama. This can mean short cuts are taken, steps are missed out and the quality of the finish is compromised.

But just as the boring design and consenting parts aren’t shown, neither are the days and weeks of fix-ups at the end.  Getting things up to an acceptable standard often requires a lot of rework and multiple touch ups by the builders and contractors after the cameras stop rolling.  Only then is the house finished.

7: Amateur hour

Although some have previous experience with renovations, contestants on reality shows are almost always amateurs. And although the builders and contractors are sometimes shown, at times the contestants themselves are doing the building work. However, what you don’t see is in the background somewhere, their work is likely being closely supervised and checked by experts.

In reality, it’s almost always better to leave building work to a qualified, licensed builder. Not only do experts have the building skills and knowledge needed to complete work to a high standard, but they understand the intricacies of the NZ Building Code. All building and renovation work in NZ must meet the standards of this code, so it’s a hugely important part of a project.

Back to reality

Renovation shows, like all reality programming, are cleverly edited and filmed for maximum entertainment value. They often involve interesting and inspiring projects, which can help people make the decision to take on a renovation project of their own.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching them for entertainment and inspiration – in fact, we do it ourselves – just don’t forget that they won’t necessarily reflect the reality of your own home renovation.

Keen to start your own renovation project? Get in touch with the team at MyHome for expert advice.

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