Home improvement shows are a mixed blessing, says Kent Drinker of Timberlake Building & Renovations.
Drinker speaks from experience. The Annapolis-based project and client relations manager had his brush with television when his company was featured on a recent episode of HGTV's "Bang for Your Buck." Although he hasn't seen a major effect on his business after the show aired in May, he says the industry has definitely been affected by images, trends and projects seen on home improvement shows.
"It's pretty common for us to have homeowners come with a big folder filled with clippings of what they've seen on television and in magazines. ... A lot of the time they don't know what they want. They just see it," he said.
The showbiz sparkle of these programs and articles does not match up with real life, according to some local home industry experts. The time in which projects can be completed is misleading, they say, and variables such as costs, labor and materials are also skewed.
"Our take is that the shows are great for providing ideas," Drinker said. "How practical those ideas are is dependent on people's budget, the available materials and time."
Drinker's company was featured in "Bang for Your Buck," a show that pits renovations of the same room against each other to see which adds the greatest value to the home. The company teamed with interior designer Dream House Studios of Annapolis to renovate the original great room, kitchen, living room and dining room of a 1929 cottage. After the renovation was completed, a group of experts determined that Timberlake Building & Renovations' project provided the best "bang for your buck."
In real life, however, customers won't see their projects unfold like a television episode.
"Sometimes they see something, and they don't know how much it costs and how much is required to install," Drinker said. "It makes the process of getting from the concept to the completion that much longer. There are almost too many choices out there."
Since her work appeared three years ago on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" — creating a house for the Boys Hope Girls Hope organization — Joy Waida has seen a number of clients with lofty expectations for home improvement projects.
"What gets me is that people's expectations are unrealistic," said Waida, the owner of Joy Home Design, Staging & Interiorsin Fallston. "These shows will have a team ... behind the scenes. You go out to dinner, and you come back and it's done. These projects don't just happen in a day or week. It is a collaborative process. It doesn't happen overnight."
Even with a large crew, it was impossible to complete the renovations associated with the Baltimore extreme makeover, which at the time was the largest project in the history of the show, according to Waida.
The home in Baltimore was only "75 percent completed" when the structure was revealed on the show, Waida said.
"They only showed parts of the house that were finished. We had to finish the rest of the house after they [the show] left," she said. "That's something the public doesn't even know."
Home improvement shows also don't give an accurate picture of the true costs of projects, according to Waida.
"I've had that said — 'do the design on the dime' — to me so many times," she said, referring "Design on a Dime," a series on HGTV. "Do they understand that the people on the reality show don't get paid? Who is going to pay the salary for those doing the project? It cost more. It's a misconception."
Dee Cunningham, a decorative painter, also participated in the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in Baltimore. She shared many of the same concerns and experiences as the other local experts.
"Reality shows hurt business because customers think the price I quote them is too much," she said. "A lot of my time is spent educating them about what happens and what needs to happen in order for the project to be completed. And the time frame — everyone thinks that It can be done within an hour."
Cunningham, who owns Deelite Design, based in Ellicott City, oversaw a group of 40 decorative painters in the house. The group painted furniture, murals, ceilings and other pieces throughout the home.
"I haven't really seen business as a result of the show," she said. "It gives me clout from the outside perspective. But personally, it wasn't that big of a deal."
A renovation reality check
Want to achieve a reality-show look in the real world? Here are a few tips:
•Don't overspend on a place that might become an investment property for you in a few years.
•Don't go over the top with the finishes, such as cabinetry. And cut out the "bells and whistles." It's pretty common to blow your budget on top-of-the-line appliances and gadgets for your home. Focus on the basics and always keep your budget in mind.
•Do your homework. Check around to see what others homeowners have done and ask them what they would do differently.
•Have a realistic time frame. Rushing inevitably leads to mistakes. Don't think that within 30 days you will have an entire project finished.