An Uncomplicated Life Blog: The Lies HGTV Tell Us

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Lies HGTV Tell Us

HGTV would have you believe you can renovate an entire home for a penny and do it in just a few weeks. But can you?

We've all watched HGTV and marveled at the work done on shows like Fixer Upper, Property Brothers and Income Property, just to name a few. We watch as someone buys a dump of a home, the beautiful host(s) tell them what it will cost to make it as beautiful as them, and tells them it will take a whopping 4-7 weeks to turn that ugly duckling home into a swan. It makes for great TV, but it's all a big fat lie.

Usually these shows do an ENORMOUS amount of work on the home. They gut it to the studs! They're also typically tackling the two most expensive rooms in a home - the kitchen and the bath (especially the master bath). Well friends, if you remember, we recently remodeled our master bath. And I'm here to call HGTV out on their crap. No; you cannot renovate that ugly house for $45,000 and have it done in 6 weeks. It's not possible. Why? Because my master bath came out "HGTV pretty" and we blew those stats out of the water!

And it's not just me. It's everyone I know who's ever done work to their home.

Here's the REAL deal with a home renovation: It's going to take three times as long as your contractor promises you and cost 25-100% more than what they quote you. I'll use myself as the example. We were quoted $18,000 and two months to take our bathroom down to the studs. We weren't changing the foot print at all. No jack-hammering into our foundation for new plumbing or anything drastic! Just opening the shower up, new drywall, new fixtures and new paint.

Quick and easy, right? Nope.

I remember hubs balked at the quote we were given. See, he believed the load of crap he saw on HGTV. He thought our master could be done for about $10,000. I grew up with home renovations so I was well aware this was more like a $20,000 job. What I DID believe was that it would take about two months to get it done. Silly me.

Custom his and hers vanities that threw off our timeline... By MONTHS
 Here's how things really went down. From the day they demo'd to the day we had our hardware installed on our vanities, it took four months and two weeks. Our initial quote went from $16,000 to $20,000 and we came out of the renovation $23,500 more broke than we were going in. For ONE room. I also didn't buy the most expensive tile, or tub, or vanities, and we even re-used some things from the old bathroom.

In fact, even with a $20,000 budget I constantly had to adjust what I was picking out because what I wanted would have cost so much, hubs would have kicked me out of the house! I could have easily, EASILY spent $50,000 on that bathroom. Now I do have expensive taste, but c'mon! Who are these schmucks on HGTV getting beautiful fixtures for a measly few thousand bucks?

The tub you've seen on Instagram was a huge let down for me. Crazy, I know, because it turned out beautiful! But I wanted a free standing soaking tub. It's in the center of the bathroom and would function as the focal point, so I wanted something really beautiful. These kinds of tubs are all over Joanna Gaines fantastic renovations, so I thought it would be easy to find one in budget. I actually found the exact tub for my vision, buuuuuuut it was $10,000. Just the tub. No delivery, no installation, just the tub.

The "compromise" tub turned out lovely anyway!

So that was ruled out immediately. In fact, I couldn't find a free standing tub with my measurements (for tall people - I wanted to be able to stretch my legs out in that tub!) and with quality construction (not made of cheap plastic/acrylic) for less than $5,000. You can't spend 25% of your budget on one fixture, so we opted for a less expensive drop-in tub instead. I'm so glad I didn't compromise on the dimensions of the tub because I take a bath 4-5 times a week and I smile every time I stretch my 38 in inseam legs out in that thing. It's not as pretty as a free standing tub, but now that I'm older I'll take function over fashion any day of the week.

I know my mom is smiling as she reads that, and thinking, "Finally, Paige!"

Anyway, back to the lies.

Our two month timeline? Well, that got extended because our cabinets took longer than expected to be made. And the counter tops couldn't be measured and installed without the vanities in place. So we sat with a busted up bathroom for about three weeks just waiting on cabinets and being frustrated with the mandatory order of operations of construction. Order of operations messed me up in high school math classes and low and behold! It was messing me up in real life, too. Suck it, order of operations. Suck it.

The hardware that blew our budget; his and hers walk in closets

If you're facing a renovation sometime soon and are feverishly watching HGVT to "get ideas" I'd stop if I were you. Real life construction is nothing like you see on that network. It's far more expensive and takes far longer to get the work done. The sheer cost of materials will blow your budget out of the water, not to mention labor! Let's bring expectations back down to reality and stop living in an HGTV dreamland. And no; Chip and JoJo don't want to hang out with you.


  1. Well, it really did turn out beautifully, so at least you got your monies worth! HGTV is a lot like Pinterest to me. I'll enjoy it every now and then but I have to remind myself after a little while that it is not real life AND that I am not a DIYer. Both convince you that you can do all of this yourself and on the cheap! #no

  2. Your bathroom is BEAUTIFUL, and like I've said before, I'm moving in. So I'm not sure why you didn't get his, hers, and hers sinks. Regardless, I do love this post. I'm happy in my house for now, but we'll definitely be moving before Ginny starts school into, hopefully, our forever home. I realize I'll need to factor in our budget REAL numbers, not HGTV numbers, whenever we start looking at homes. Also, I have friends who were on the show House Hunters, and that show is a complete lie. They were approached for the show AFTER they bought their home, so the whole show is 10000% staged.

  3. Your bathroom turned out beautifully! I just read another post from one of my favorite bloggers, Erin of Elements of Style and it was along the same lines--she is a designer and is so tired of people believing what they see on HGTV. She basically said that HGTV's Fixer Upper is making her life so much harder b/c people have unrealistic expectations! I love the tub and I hear ya on a long enough one! It is beautiful!

    xo Annie

  4. Yeah, HGTV numbers are always askew. Except I always feel like the Property Brothers are expensive/ more realistic with their budget. Maybe it's bc Chip and Joanna are in Waco and it's cheap there? I gutted and remodeled my entire first home myself (with Mom and Dad's help). It's definitely an eye opener to see the cost of things, but we did most of the work ourselves so the final cost wasn't too bad.

  5. Ugh, I totally agree with this. I think watching HGTV really screwed Dave and I over for house hunting because I had very different expectations of what our money should be able to buy. "What do you mean I can't get everything on my wish list within our budget?" Your master bath is beautiful though!!

  6. My bathroom renovation was $8,000, down to the studs with absolutely everything new. However, my bathroom is TINY. Put it this way - I needed 20 square feet of tile for the floor. That's one box. So 20 square feet plus the size of the bathtub. Also, my friends and I did the demolition ourselves. Magically, because the previous renovators used entirely too much plaster and drywall, the final bathroom was several inches bigger than it used to be. Also, I saved money because I couldn't actually fit a vanity in the bathroom and had to buy a wall sink (which left room on the floor, unlike the previous pedestal sink). But all the fixtures (tub, sink, toilet, faucets) were high-quality. I refused to skimp out. And there is no wood - everything is composite so I wouldn't have to worry about mold/rot. Also, I did all the painting. It can be done for less than $10,000, but only if you are willing to do some of the work yourself.

  7. It really did turn out great. You have some great quality furnishings and work. The first pic hides that beautiful shower with custom glass. The floor tile is fantastic. The two ginormous closets provide lots of space. When you fill them up, it is time for a major trip to Goodwill!

  8. That's because they are always trying to do like 10 jobs at once and then you are at their mercy when they take you down to the studs. Ughhhhh I'm so sorry what a nightmare it was for you but the end result is beautiful! I keep on looking at houses and going, well we could do the kitchen then I'm way maybe new construction. I don't know what the answer is but renovations are so stressful!

  9. Oh Lord! Yeah. HGTV is such a load of crap -- beautiful crap, but crap. I especially loved your opening sentence. I can't believe you don't think an entire home can be renovated for a penny and two weeks Who do you think you are, Paige?!

  10. It did turn out lovely! But yes, that show is all fakes and lies and things that look good on TV. The people searching for houses aren't even really searching for houses, and the properties they view aren't even real!

  11. yeahhhh i love me some HGTV but i take it all with a grain of salt. you know what i hate? when shows like flip or flop use different contractors, one week they will quote $10,000 for a kitchen, the next week it will be $40k. it is ridiculous and there is no explanation why it jumps so much. and then of course shows like property brothers or house hunters are all over the shop with prices because they are all over the place - literally all over the map. we haven't done any big renovations in our house - we live in an 'okay' area but it's not great, so updating it HGTV style would be a waste of money we wouldn't get back. KC was like 'we could update the kitchen like they do on HGTV for cheap' and I was like LOL NO. hell no. not gonna happen.
    i want your tub! sorry you didn't get a freestanding one but damn i want a tub i can stretch out in!

  12. I totally feel you. I grew up with renos so I've always known HGTV was full of crap... good for design inspiration though!

    Nevermind if you're doing the project yourself instead of paying someone, because then you only manage to get over to renovate once a week and it takes AN ACTUAL YEAR to finish a master bath... and this is the origin story of how my boyfriend and I came to live together, when he ripped out his bathroom for "just a few weeks" lol.

    Laura @

  13. Yes...totally agree with you!!! We bought a fixer upper last year and had it gutted (but no walls knocked down or anything that drastic). It was way more expensive than we expected (and we had a really great contractor)!

    We watch "Vacation Homes For Free" and have always felt that their remodeling quotes were ridiculous. The only way they could do it that cheap is if they were getting at least 1/2 of the materials for free. Now that I know how much all that renovation really costs, I watch it with a grain of salt.

  14. I'm pretty sure the only channel we watched while our home was being built was HGTV. I had all of these grand ideas for our new home - so many projects I was dying to do as soon as we had it. Our house was being built...but it would still mean lots of little projects to make it truly ours.

    Well, none of it has been done. I love HGTV for the ideas, but I feel so let down by them. I want a real channel that tells me like it is - renovation is expensive and these projects are not easy.

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  16. I think HGTV does a bad job of explaining why some of those numbers seem so low for their teams. They get contractor discounts, most likely, or buy things like tile and wood in bulk, because they do this as a business 365/24/7.

    But yeah, they make it look way simpler and way easier than it is. I try to take everything they say with a huge grain of salt.

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