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How HGTV Ruins Remodels

There are so many great HGTV shows that can help inspire the remodel of your home. From simple facelifts to complex tear-downs, there are shows that highlight every type of remodel. While home improvement shows have been around for decades, HGTV has managed to make those niche shows mainstream. They’ve done so by amping up the entertainment level and removing some of the less dramatic how-to aspects of those shows. In fact, they have become so good at entertaining us, we can often forget that we are missing important pieces of the puzzle required for a great remodel.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the designs and various finishes on an HGTV show. Gorgeous large windows shine sunlight into kitchens with islands that can seat eight people. Charming lights dangle above the island perfectly coordinating with the sink faucet that looks like it can easily be in a restaurant kitchen. It’s beautiful. Anyone would want one just like it. And you’ve found one just like it on Pinterest to share with your remodeler.

Of course, what HGTV isn’t telling you in that moment is that the gorgeous island countertop you are looking at is quartz and the price for the island alone is $5,000. To resurface your entire kitchen will be $15,000 – for only the countertop material. Now some shows, to their credit, will say that the countertops were $15,000. But they fail to mention $15,000 is the price of the quartz. It doesn’t include the labor to install it. Because someone has to carry that 500 pound slab of quartz into your home, ensure it fits, is level, and that it is properly adhered to your countertops.

That same show might highlight a unique mosaic design that has been created to go behind the stove and create visual interest. You see the show’s host moving around the pieces until she has created a design that is perfect for the space. What they don’t mention is that those special designs add to labor costs. A skilled worker will have to use a tile saw to cut those pieces to make them fit into the space and ensure the grout lines are even throughout.

And what about the beautiful hammered copper farmhouse sink? It’s $600, before tax and labor. That’s only about 40% more than a porcelain farmhouse sink. While that cost difference may be within reach, if every item you select is 40% more than planned, you can quickly see how the numbers add up.

And how much can that labor possibly costs? On HGTV, it seems like it only takes a couple of hours to make your home beautiful. In truth, the average kitchen renovation for an 200 square foot kitchen is 30 working days. The guys building that kitchen will work hard Monday through Friday, but your kitchen still won’t be done for 6 weeks after construction begins. That assumes you already factored in a month to design the space and order the materials. Now, what if that copper sink is back ordered or shows up damaged and needs to be exchanged? There are many factors out of your control and out of your remodeler’s control that can add days or weeks to a project.

So, given all of these gaps in information, why watch HGTV at all? Because it is inspiring. HGTV can show you what is possible and help you visualize it in a way that scrolling through Pinterest or the HOUZZ website cannot. You can learn about products and possibilities that could solve real challenges in your home that you might not otherwise know to even ask about.

The trick is to know how to take that inspiration and apply it to your reality. Here is how we recommend you take the ideas you glean from HGTV without letting them ruin your remodel.

Be Clear About What You Want

Gather the pictures and ideas you have and put them all in one place. Share them with your remodeler as part of your estimate. If you do not specifically say, “I want a copper hammered farmhouse sink.” The estimate you receive will only account for the cost of the type of sink you do mention or the most common type of sink for your kitchen remodel. The more clarity you can provide regarding the aspects of the remodel you value the most, the more accurate your estimate will be.

Skilled Laborer Costs Vary By Region

Keep in mind that labor costs are not affected by choosing ceramic over porcelain tile. But if the tile has a special design or requires a lot of cuts, that will increase costs. One hot trend on HGTV is to blend the border of the tile into the floor or wall of the surrounding are. It looks really cool. But that kind of cutting and inserting is very time consuming. By deciding which of these special touches are most important to you, your remodeler can ensure you have a design that fits your budget. Please keep in mind that the people who will be remodeling your home are, as they should be, skilled laborers. Throughout the U.S., the wages for laborers can vary tremendously. If the prices for the homes on the show are less than where you live, than the labor will also cost less than where you live. And if the labor is too cheap, ask yourself if those laborers are skilled and insured.

Share Your Budget

Yes. If you tell the remodeler that you were hoping to spend no more than $40,000 on your kitchen remodel during the estimate meeting, then he can tell you which of your ideas will not fit into that budget. So often a client will say, if I share an amount, I’m afraid the project will always come in at that amount, even if it actually costs less. But uninformed shopping can often lead to disappointment. Imagine walking into a car dealership without knowing the price ranges for the cars they sell. You know you want an SUV that will seat six, has DVD players for the kids, and has a great safety record. How much that car will cost will depend a lot on which dealership you walk into. Are you looking at a Honda Pilot or the new BMW X7?

There are a lot of different remodels and remodelers. Are you looking for the cheapest, for quality, a company with good reviews? Make sure they do the kind of work you are looking for in the manner you want it. There are significant price differences in every aspect of construction from what kind of underlayment is used to waterproof your roof to the type of grout. Understanding the materials a remodeler use will help you understand the quality of the build. Look at the company website and read up as much as you can. And then trust your research and give the remodeler the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their best to give you the kitchen you asked for at the price it will cost them to do it consistent with their reputation.

Stick To The Plan

Now that you have your estimate, how do you avoid any other pitfalls? Try your best to stick to the plan on which your estimate was built. The cost of making changes can be significant. During your remodel you may be tempted to open up your space by taking down a wall. On HGTV you’ll see the contractor say, “To take down that wall, we’ll have to put in a steel beam. That’ll cost $2,000.” Again, there are details missing that will likely impact the budget. Is that amount the cost of the steel beam? Does that include the $150 delivery fee for the beam? What about the $250 engineering letter that the building inspector will want confirming the beam can handle the load? Will more flooring be needed to fill in the gaps from the old wall? How will this design change affect the timeline? What are the total costs of adding another few days to the timeline in terms of labor and homeowner inconveniences like eating out more or rent if you moved out during the remodel. The truth is that taking down that wall costs a lot more than a single steel beam to hold up the ceiling.

So, don’t rush the estimate. Consider what changes you might want to make to your home in advance and include estimate conversation. And if, half way through the remodel, taking down a wall becomes an important opportunity to enhance the space, give your remodeler the time it takes to determine what will be required to take out that wall and how much it costs in total.

There is a lot here, but your game plan can be summed up simply.

  1. Do your research. Figure out what your style is and identify the features of your remodel that mean the most and are your must-have items. Then communicate your must haves with as much clarity and specificity as you can provide. (E.g. kitchen sink vs. farmhouse sink vs. hammered copper farmhouse sink)

  2. Consider the cost of labor when determining your budget. If you base your budget on the cost of kitchen appliances and countertops alone, you’re only budgeting for fraction of the cost of a remodel.

  3. Find a remodeler you really think you might want to work with before you request an estimate. Once you have that person, be honest and open about the project, your budget, and your concerns.

  4. Take as much time as you need and provide remodeler the time he needs to get the best estimate possible. Every change you make during construction will cost more than if you had made that decision prior to demo day.

Now, excuse us, we have some HGTV to catch up on.We love to get inspired too!

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