HGTV & DIY Network are great sources of inspiration for the new home construction and remodeling industries. Their shows are full of creative design ideas and beautiful materials. The problem is that they do not accurately represent the actual and true costs of building a home or rennovating an existing home. Their “budgets” leave out important expenses that cannot be avoided when undertaking a new build or a remodeling project in the real world. We are going to walk you through the real costs involved in building or rennovating so that you can have realistic expectations with your builder or remodeler.

Plans and Permitting

How the design is paid for and the fact that permits are required for most of the projects shown on TV is rarely discussed on any of these shows, however there are costs associated with those necessary steps in the real world. In order to get the design drawn up and have architectural drawings of your new or remodeled home, you are paying for that either through a design fee, hourly rate or the costs are rolled into your construction contract. Permits can also be a significant expense depending on the project you are undertaking and need to be accounted for. Also note that someone has to take the time to pull the permits, and meet with multiple inspectors throughout the course of your build or remodel, and that all costs money too.

Demolition and Labor

On TV you usually see the Home Owner involved in the remodel demo process, and sometimes they even bring in a huge crew of family and friends. That’s called free labor, and it’s not part of the budget you see on a reality TV show. In the real world the demolition is going to be part of your remodeling expense along with all the labor to build your project. These reality shows don’t include labor in their budgets either. The labor of all those hunky carpenters you see on TV is paid for by the show, and its commercial sponsors. So the overtime you would pay in real life for all those long nights of construction doesn’t factor in to those television budgets at all.

Material Selections – Tile, Countertops, Cabinetry, Fixtures.

Selecting your tile, cabinetry, the perfect countertops and all your fixtures takes a lot of time in the real world. Homeowners visit show rooms like ours and work within a specified budget for each element. These budgets are set forth during the initial stages of creating a contract with your builder or remodeler. Often home owners work with designers to narrow down all the choices out there – most builders will have on-site designers that are assigned to your project and are a built in part of your contract.

Here’s where it get’s shady on the reality shows and what throws off the expectations of what an actual budget would be vs. what you see on these shows…. On a reality show home owners are usually shown their products in the great reveal — or maybe you see them picking from a few choices the designer presents. That’s because the products are preselected on reality shows. The majority of these selections on a reality TV show are either 100% donated from the vendors, or are signficantly reduced in cost — all in exchange for publicity and the abilty to market their products to these vast audiences of home enthusiasts. That’s right, FREE – Free, free, free! And therefore not even close to a true representation of what your budget allowance should be for selections.


Furniture is never included in the budget of a reality TV show and it’s rarely part of the costs associated with building or remodeling in real life.The homeowners on these shows do not get to keep the furniture. I repeat – all that great furniture is not theirs! The furniture is just a prop for the show. Once the cameras are off it all gets taken away. Your builder or remodeler would likely never include furniture in your budget, and they certainly are not going out an picking couches, beds, chairs and dining room tables to surprise you with once you move back in.

So just how do reality designers come up with the budgets they present on TV? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps they use a random number or maybe there is some truth behind it and the few things that the show cannot get for free are added up to create the budget. Each show probably has their own method, but the important thing to remember is that they all have major holes in them. In reality there is a cost associated with each part of your build or remodel. Just remember that those costs will vary based on the part of the country you live in and the products you select, but whatever they actually are in reality they will be much, much more than you saw on a television show! Sorry, but the truth hurts!

If you are building a custom home or remodeling your current home in Wilmette, IL, Delafield, WI or Lake Geneva, WI, you should visit our showrooms in the area. Our showrooms are filled with marble, ceramic, porcelain, terracotta and cement tiles for uses on floors, walls, backsplashes, fireplace surrounds and more. We also offer custom tile and interior design services. Our clients rely on us for interior design help when they build their custom home or are working on a remodel. Call any of our showrooms today for an appointment.