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Are HGTV Remodeling Shows Realistic?

We Discuss Whether or Not HGTV Remodeling Shows Are Realistic

If you ask almost any kitchen design professional, they will immediately shout NO! In fact, on Linkedin kitchen forums and at industry events nearly all kitchen designers and remodelers routinely complain about how misleading HGTV remodeling shows are.  Professionals believe that these shows make our lives harder.

Removing a load bearing wall. Remodeling shows give terrible advice on this.

PBS remodeling shows like This Old House or Hometime are factual and try to give accurate and interesting glimpses into renovations.

Conversely, HGTV cares very little if anything about accuracy. Their renovation shows are reality television created to garner ratings. It frustrates real professionals when our customers bring up things they have seen on HGTV. For example, customers will often believe they know the correct way to do something, what a realistic timeline might be, the cost of a project, and the possible calamities that might befall a project all from the over dramatic and fact free shows they have enjoyed on HGTV.


Demolition. Removing flooring, HGTV Remodeling shows never show the details!

Nearly every HGTV remodeling show will have a “construction surprise” during the remodeling project.

The TV personality (show hosts are not real renovation professionals who remodel homes when not on TV) will tell the homeowners something like “I’m so sorry Bob and Jean, but this turns out to be a load bearing wall and it will cost $10,000 extra to remove it.” Real professionals must determine what is load bearing and what is not before even giving an estimate. When contractors and design professionals know what they are doing surprises almost never happen and if they do, they are small ones and inexpensive.

Man on stilts sands ceiling. This is how professionals do it. Most HGTV shows don't show this

Unfortunately, seeing these unprofessional surprises routinely on HGTV frightens homeowners into believing that their projects might have similar surprises.

Unscrupulous contractors can use this misconception to overcharge homeowners and under bid honest professionals. This is especially frustrating to the knowledgeable pros that bid jobs accurately and stand behind their bids.

Celebrity renovators like Alison Victoria from HGTV’s show Kitchen Crashers are not real. You cannot become an expert designer and renovator 2 years after leaving The University of Nevada Las Vegas with a degree in psychology. Professionals know that it takes at least a decade of experience along with talent to become a competent kitchen designer and to direct remodeling projects. The information obtained from HGTV is less real than its hosts.

Photo of kitchen from 211 second kitchen renovation

Watch an entire Kitchen Renovation in 211 seconds


If you enjoy HGTV reality remodels think of them as simply entertainment. Your kitchen designer and general contractor will breathe a sigh of relief. If you hire competent professionals for your kitchen renovation you can expect no HGTV remodeling show type surprises.

Profession kitchen designers discus the topic below:

How Accurate Are Those HGTV Shows About Kitchen Remodeling Anyway?

As my favorite TV chef would say at the end of her show …

Bon Appetit!


8 Replies to “Are HGTV Remodeling Shows Realistic?”

  1. DiscoverNet | Bad Home Advice Dished Out On Property Brothers

    […] according to Main Line Kitchen Design, this is one of the least realistic parts of the genre. In real life, most professional contractors […]

  2. Joel

    This Article is written well and true to what really happens. I can say this because, I have actually participated as a General Contractor on three different shows. I was involved in the pre-planning, design and implementation of each project. Only one of the three hosts I worked with actually had legitimate skills and knew what they were doing. My construction team and I would pre-construct everything and then step out of the way for the cameras to roll while the host and homeowner would install. At the end of the day the producers would walk all over the general contractor and pay peanuts in return. After my third show, I was pretty much done:)

  3. Debra Rigby Design

    Great article!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Thanks Debra

  4. Bruce Johnson

    Surprises are part of any remodeling project since we can’t see through closed wall or floor/ceiling assemblies, but a good, experienced professional will minimize the nature of any surprises by doing thorough investigative work during the design process, for example, identifying ductwork or piping going through a wall to be opened or removed, or sometimes recommending minor exploratory demolition to confirm experienced expectations and thereby avoiding, as you stated, any real surprises, but as much as that frustrates an experienced pro, it apparently makes for better TV drama.

    The other point the shows don’t stress is the costs often don’t reflect discounts or donations by vendors getting “free exposure” by their products being prominently used, displayed or installed during the shows. Some are more realistic than others, but most present challenging and unrealistic expectations which I found were quite easily overcome by more sophisticated viewers or clients.

  5. Judi Murphy

    Thanks so much for posting this!

  6. Ron Klassen

    Yes, yes, and more YES! As a professional remodeler, I can only agree with everything said here. Thus “load-bearing wall” gimmick is so old. But of course, to those who have drunk the HGTV Kool-Aid, the remodeler who identifies this upfront and includes dealing with it from the start gets labelled as “too high-priced.” Thanks for such a splendid article.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Thanks Ron,
      After I wrote this blog I Googled the topic and it turns out many others have made similar complaints. And there were some insights from people who have worked on these shows or have had their homes featured.

      From what I googled I found that the only time the hosts seem to be on the job sites are when the cameras are rolling. Story lines are all fabricated to have similar dramatic dilemmas each week. The houses that will be renovated are pre-selected so there is actually no picking done buy customers or hosts.

      Timelines and costs are pulled out of thin air to make the shows more entertaining. And the shows producers and staff may not even be aware of how designs are arrived at or how the construction is done. Often outside companies are doing all the real work.

      I think that part of the problem is that these shows make it seem like any one with a gift in this area can instantly be good at design and renovation. They just need the vision. In reality it takes decades become even competent. Pablo Picasso had some funny observations on the subject. See the stories below:

      Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed and swiftly handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a lot of money. The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”

      Picasso was also known for saying ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’

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