The reality of renovating for TV

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I’ve been renovating homes for TV for many years now, and my team and I work hard to fix the issues and make the houses beautiful and functional for the families. Avid fans and viewers of home renovation shows know that things happen quickly and there’s only so much time to squeeze all the content into an episode. In reality, only the main highlights and some fun moments can be revealed. Unfortunately, this creates a false sense of timelines and expectations for the average homeowner looking to do a renovation. 

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Squeezing an entire renovation into 45 minutes comes down to good storytelling, education, and editing. You might see a few seconds of slow motion hammering or walls being knocked down in time-lapse for effect. However, in reality, demolitions can take several hours or a few days, depending on the scale of the project and the resources. Demolitions need to be well-planned, and done safely. 

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After the demo, our construction team evaluates the project, sources the new materials and manages the delivery, so everything arrives when needed. On TV, it all just magically appears when you need it. But even after all the planning, some things still are a surprise and beyond our control — a hidden leak or an electrical disaster behind a wall — it happens. That is why you should always add contingency to your budget and timeline.

Projects cost more than you think. My entire TV career has been dedicated to educating homeowners, and to help Make It Right. My goal has always been to help more than just the homeowner in that particular episode but rather to help as many people as possible through education — as many of the issues we discover in our shows are relatable to our viewers. We investigate the home and look out for potential problems, like old plaster and tiles that could have asbestos or old electrical or signs of mould — all of which are “red flags” that could mean more money and more time 

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Highlighting these issues is a cautionary tale for homeowners to stay on top of the maintenance of their homes. Ignoring that musty smell can spell trouble; just like trying to save a buck or two by doing it yourself, which typically never turns out well. 

Always do your homework and get several estimates to understand the costs and what is involved in the renovation. Then, add about 10 — 15 per cent more to your budget — this is a safety net for any surprises that arise. I’d always recommend you get a home inspection before you start any renovation project.

Not everything ends up in the dumpster. For dramatic effect, we will toss large pieces of debris into dumpsters. Still, we try to reuse and donate as much of the waste as possible, but the balance of the waste is garbage and must be disposed of properly. Dumpsters or waste bins need to be ordered and often dumped, with the empty dumpster being returned for another load the same day. This all has to be managed and co-ordinated. It’s essential to maintain a tidy and debris-free work site. 

This gets more complicated if we discover asbestos or mould, as the work must stop and a qualified asbestos or mould-removal specialist must be hired. Plus, this waste can’t go in the regular dumpster, it must be safely removed and disposed of correctly.

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So, when you think it’s all going to the landfill, much of our construction waste is reused or recycled, we just don’t have the time to show it in the final cut.

Doing what we do means we have access to excellent resources, contacts in the industry, and support, and this means that we have the resources to handle any issues that may arise on the job. You might not have that support when taking on a renovation project alone. However, products, suppliers and resources can often be found on show websites. 

Even professional contractors on TV still need to get permits before starting the renovation. Getting permits from the local building authority doesn’t happen overnight and, depending on the complexity of the renovation, can take days, sometimes weeks. My team has often been ready to start a project, but is delayed due to waiting on permits. It’s just part of the process, but you need to know this will affect your timeline.

Renovation shows are fun to watch and we have fun making them, and they can be a great resource, however, remember, not everything is revealed nor is it always what it seems, due to programming constraints. So, be smart, do your research — and always have a plan.

Residents of the GTA can apply for Holmes on Homes: Building A Legacy at makeitright.ca.

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