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Reno-Reality TV Shows

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Several times a week, I see customers, suppliers and other contractors that like to bring up the subject of the different renovation shows they’ve seen recently on television. Everyone watches these shows for different reasons. I like to see new products, interesting solutions for strange problems and of course, crazy characters.

Some shows are more serious and technical while others are mostly for entertainment purposes. Some have little basis in reality and others show exactly what happens every day in the renovation world.

Let’s divide the shows into 3 categories:

The “fluff shows” that are more for entertainment, the short and sweet “DIY shows” and educational “renovation shows”.

The” fluff” shows aren’t without value. Aside from entertainment they usually focus on quick repairs and decorating tips. Some people enjoy learning how to cover a chair seat or make your own drapes. The painting and gardening tips can be good. However, like all shows, they struggle to stay fresh, so you find that they often have over-the-top hosts and guests.

The fashions you see can push the boundaries of good and bad taste, but who am I to say? A contractor should give the customer exactly what they want. If they don’t know what they want then we consult a designer.

The short and sweet “DIY” shows are very entertaining. These are the ones that have the rookie house flippers (I used to be one of those years ago!) and the reno pro’s that help the home owner to some extent. The rookie house flippers are so fun to watch. Their unrealistic budgets for costs are often out by a large margin, but their time line expectations are often the real entertainment. You just can’t renovate a whole house in 4 weeks for $10,000, and sell it the same day it is listed!

The good thing about these shows is that they give the average home owner a glimpse into the time and cost of a major renovation. They show all of the different trades necessary for a good finished product. With the exception of some shows filmed in the southern United States where there actually are $5.00/hour, semi-skilled labourers, most of them are quite realistic. They show scheduling delays, rain delays, cost overruns and unforeseen structural problems. The more experience you have, the better prepared you will be with these kinds of speed bumps.

The serious “renovation” shows might seem boring to someone not wanting to learn how to properly re-wire their old house or insulate the attic; so again, the producers try to add some drama. The characters must have some colourful personalities to appeal to the viewers, but still be professional. I find that most of these shows still gloss over the nitty-gritty details, but they only have 30 to 60 minutes to cover a four week or four month job.

It’s interesting to hear the conversation at the lumber yard about these shows from other contractors. For example, one show that fixes entire houses for the owners gets a lot of response. The sub-trades on the show are very good at what they do. The mistakes that they have to fix are scary and the finished result is always well done.

The reality is most home owners could not afford the extensive repairs done on these shows each week. Sometimes we are told what the job would have cost in the real world. Luckily these home owners only have to pay a portion of it in return for being on TV.

Most serious contractors would not have the time to be on TV, but “Real Renos” is the closest I have seen to the real thing. While it doesn’t have the flash, Jim Caruk shares all of the highs and lows and the good, the bad, and ugly of the business. He shows crazy customers and unreliable sub-trades and during it all he stays calm, cool and collected. Just the way all contractors should strive to be.


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