Remodeling Realities

baltimore houseThe opportunity to support renovation reality television shows through labor and product donations is something I’ve really enjoyed, especially when the outcome was life changing to the recipients. I learned a lot from the experiences, met great people, and came to understand that what we see on TV is not always the whole story. In this installment, I will try and pull the curtain back just a little.

We have all seen the various set ups for a renovation reality show. Someone is surprised by a knock on the door, or met at a home center, and the show’s team promises to make over their house, yard, bathroom or kitchen in a week’s time.

If you have been following along in any of my previous postings, you know that just about nothing in construction gets done in a week. As I sit here writing this, I am trying to get a piece of equipment moved – I will be lucky if that alone gets done this week. So, how it possible that these TV projects get done so quickly? Bottom line, it takes a village.

In general, home improvement television shows have very tight shooting schedules, so it’s imperative that all participants meet the producers’ deadlines in order to keep everything moving. To handle this, there is a lot of preparation work that goes on behind the scenes.

In the case of my first project with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, we had a six-week lead time going into our 104-hour build. Much like on a standard build, materials need to arrive on time to ensure the project runs smoothly, so my team first did whatever we could do off-site ahead of time. While on-site, being able to think on our feet was critical – Mother Nature threw many curve balls.

Group 002Behind the scenes, there is a team of designers that usually has access to the space beforehand to help design and specify what is needed for the build. These designers call out all the color choices for siding, roofing, fabrics, tile, furniture pieces, carpet, trim details, and even the plant and landscape design. They truly make the house a home. Having their eye on the project is crucial to completing the entire look and feel.

You also have the community aspect of renovation television. On Extreme Makeover, hundreds and sometimes thousands of volunteers donated their time and labor to support families in need. Without these volunteers – and round-the-clock labor – it would have been impossible to finish construction in a week’s time.

Even with all that, the TV camera eye misses a lot and the cut the viewer sees may have a bit of “magic” applied to it. For instance, after we finished our first Extreme Makeover build, we spent the next two weeks to fix the drywall and repaint the inside of the home. It looked great for TV, but didn’t meet our finish standard. So we did the right thing and made it look good.

When you look at all the elements involved in planning a renovation reality series, it’s easier to comprehend how such a large project is completed in a short time frame. While the shows are valuable for information design ideas, keep an open mind when planning your own renovation and set realistic expectations for project timelines.