Home makeover shows. Who doesn’t love them? From Fixer Upper and Property Brothers to Extreme Makeover, we all love to watch ordinary folk have their homes renovated. But what we see on screen seems to be somewhat different from the reality faced by participants after the film crew has packed up and left. Here are 20 shocking stories from ex-participants…
20. Bills, bills, bills
Reddit user akumamatata8080 asked, “People who’ve been on home renovation shows, how’s the house holding up?” And there rapidly followed a glut of responses. One reply was from a user named DryProperty. “I work for one of the construction companies that was contracted to build the new house on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” they wrote. “This was, like, ten-plus years ago when the show was at the height of its popularity.”
DryProperty continued, “Anyway, it was a huge, nice house built for a widowed mother with several kids (father had recently died, hence why she was on the show). [But] even though the house was ‘given’ to her, she couldn’t afford it after a year or so – property tax, electricity, water, upkeep, etc – and put it on the market. Simply owning a home of that size is very expensive and she couldn’t afford it.” Oh no.
19. PA problems
Another to respond to the Reddit thread was user onetaketammy. “In the early 2000s I worked on a few episodes of Trading Spaces as a production assistant,” they wrote. “In one house we did a kitchen that featured a backsplash made of broken glass. The grout did not fully fill the cracks so this family with small children literally had shards of glass with sharp edges on the walls! We also spray-painted a dishwasher black and it started chipping off almost immediately but they framed it so it looked nice for TV and we peaced out.”
But onetaketammy wasn’t finished with their story. “I was a college student studying television production and they handed me a drill and told me to remove the hardware from all of the cabinets,” they wrote. “I had never touched a drill before… [or] painted entire walls of a home before but Trading Spaces changed all of that! To be fair though, the premise of the show was only having two days and a budget of $1,000 (or something around that) to complete the renovation and production did stick to that concept, so you get what you signed up for!”
18. Cardboard calamity
Home makeover show Trading Spaces has been the source of some quite horrific transformations. A lot of these disasters were at the hands of the long-time designer on the program Hildi Santo-Tomás, who has – to put it mildly – got quite unconventional tastes. But one person’s kookiness is another’s nightmare. And perhaps none of the TLC series’ creations are more notorious than the so-called “Cardboard Room.”
Reddit user dr337 knew the man who suffered at the hands of the show. They wrote: “Worked with the guy that was the ‘victim’ of the infamous Cardboard Room on Trading Spaces. [It] cost thousands to rip that garbage out and replace all the Sheetrock in the room as soon as the cameras left. Ruined their friendship with the neighbors. Some of those designers were just psychopaths.”
17. Fix it yourself
Here’s another cautionary tale from someone in the know about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Responding to the thread on home improvement shows, Reddit user shelbyrobinson wrote: “Remember Extreme Makeover, a show where they build or hugely remake a home for a needy person/owner? They did one here in my town (won’t say [where] for privacy) and my brother, a builder was approached to help build a home in the dead of winter.”
The Redditor explained, “[My] bros couldn’t help, but our friends – the neighbors to the home, volunteered and the home was completed in one week. In heavy rain, and cold, they built it, and now the home has any number of problems too. The owner went back on Extreme Makeover to fix everything and was told, “You got this for free, fix it yourself.”
16. Fairy Wonderland turned wasteland
Another responder to the epic Reddit thread was the user 14RainbowFish. They wrote, “My family was on a home renovation show when I was a kid, in the late ’90s/early 2000s. I think it was Changing Rooms or possibly another show by the same cast and producers. It was one of those shows where they do three rooms in the house and mine was one of the rooms they decorated.”
The unusually named 14RainbowFish added, “It looked so pretty, they decorated it to look like a fairy woodland with huge tree murals on the walls and a night sky of stars hanging from the ceiling. But it held up really badly, all the murals on the wall peeled off and it looked bad pretty quickly. I had fun shooting the show though and it was a cool story to tell my friends at school.” Well, we guess that’s some consolation.
15. Extreme makeover to extreme sale
Nicole Okvath appeared on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in 2005. But the mom-of-eight – who had her 5,300sq ft house in Gilbert, Arizona renovated – ended up having to move out for a number of reasons. Firstly, she divorced from her husband and had to raise her large number of kids on her stepdad’s Arkansas farm.
Secondly, Okvath simply couldn’t afford to live at the swanky property that was totally rebuilt for her and her family. The bills were too big, especially utilities and taxes, and the family had to sell up for less than a third of its $1.3 million estimated value. Then came a massive 2012 garden sale of almost everything there. Okvath didn’t blame the now-canceled program though, describing it to AZ Central as a “blessing.”
14. Quality thrown out the window
Another respondent to the innocent query posed by akumamatata8080 – who was evidently a fan of movie The Lion King – was fellow Reddit user jayelach. Now there’s nothing like a bit of insider information from relatives, right? Well, as it happened jayelach had a family member involved in one such program.
“[My] father-in-law is a contractor,” jayelach wrote. “His team helped with a build for a home makeover show shooting in Las Vegas. He said they were told to work fast and cheap, which throws quality out the window. There would also be moments where the crew would finish something, then the producers would bring in the “volunteers” to hammer the last nail and act like they did the project.” How cheeky!
13. Taped-up tragedy
Another who replied to the soon-epic thread on home improvement show participants was Reddit user 12fingertips – who if their moniker is to be believed strangely seems to be in possession of six fingers on each hand. Anyway, he or she didn’t specify which show it was that the acquaintances appeared on. But what they said was fascinating and alarming all the same. How so?
“Friends were on a show a few years ago,” wrote the Redditor 12fingertips. “It was a super-intense three weeks of filming and the redesign looked great on camera.” But the truth seemed to be less palatable: in reality, by all accounts almost everything was stuck together with staples and tape. “After the show, my friend took two weeks off work to rebuild everything properly,” they wrote.
12. PA problems, Part II
Another negative comment on the legacy of home improvement shows came from a former employee. Not surprisingly perhaps, they preferred to give their account under a Reddit alias, mrsninja, writing, “I was a PA on a couple of TLC and HGTV home renovation shows and I felt so bad for the homeowners.”
So what exactly prompted these feelings of compassion and remorse? Well, several things, it seems. “The designers/stars would show up for a few hours, do their thing for the camera and then us PAs would be left to paint, hammer, build, etc for the reveal,” they wrote. “Most of us had zero experience with any of it. You can imagine how “quality” the work was. I guarantee that 95 percent of the work would need to be re-done.”
11. Property Brothers bother
Property Brothers is one of the best-known and most-loved of all home improvement shows. Twin brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott – the former a real estate guru and the latter a licensed contractor/renovator – have earned legions of fans around the globe with their impressive work and humor. But according to a Reddit user who claimed to have insider knowledge, things aren’t as they seem on the show.
“My countertop company was hired to fix cabinets and countertops for a house after a Property Brothers episode,” willonding wrote. “Like I’ve seen others comment, the show filmed around all the problem areas so on the episode looked great. The homeowners were livid after the show just picked up and left and we were stuck dealing with them. Not a fun few weeks.” Oh dear.
10. Military-made mishaps
Military Makeover is a feel-good home makeover show in which American military veterans get their abodes renovated. But according to one Reddit user going by the alias sugar_lace, all is not what it seems with the show. “I know somebody who was the star of an episode of Military Makeover on Lifetime. This was one to two years ago,” they wrote.
So, what did the show do that was so bad? Well, sugar_lace continued,“They completely gutted his house and started from scratch. I never watched the episode but a few weeks after the crew left, water started leaking into the basement each time it rained. He needed help digging a trench around his house and there were a few other issues.” How disappointing.
9. Mexican mishaps
Reddit user msnrf802 told a tale of a popular local joint made soulless. “A wonderful family-run Mexican restaurant in my town was on Restaurant: Impossible,” they wrote. “Everyone was surprised because the food and decor there had always been great. Apparently the issue was poor management and money skills (I never actually saw the episode of the show). Anyway, they turned a vibrant, bustling Mexican dive with a large, diverse, delicious menu into a boring, stark, unwelcoming place.”
Going into greater detail about changes which they claimed were very much for the worse, the Redditor added, “They painted all the walls white, took down almost all the decorations, and put in awful fluorescent lighting. The menu was redone and… [featured fewer] than ten items, all of which were unoriginal and boring. The quality of the food and service suffered. The consensus of the community was that it was so much better before. It was less than a year before all of the old decorations were back… Very disappointing.”
8. HGTV horror show
So, the question posed on this viral thread got literally thousands of responses. And it should be stressed that there were some positive outcomes described on there, alongside all the tales of woe. But a happy ending was very much not how things worked out in this case, described by user mydogharry2019.
“[My] boyfriend’s brother got a kitchen makeover from HGTV,” wrote Reddit user mydogharry2019, though they didn’t specify which show that it was. “They left behind the light bulbs, used the lighting and most of the work was cheap material. Kitchen fell apart a year later,” they added. Oh my.
7. Grout of order
Another day, another instructive anecdote about an HGTV show on this epic Reddit thread. This one came courtesy of a user named Awdra. They wrote: “Plumbing and remodeling company I work for did plumbing for an HGTV show about ten years ago. We did the hook-ups for the new laundry room.”
Awdra continued, “The homeowners picked some fancy Moroccan tile[s] for the floors at some upscale NYC boutique and the host of the show decided it would look better without grout…which went about as well as you’d expect. Filming wrapped, and we were called back out a few weeks later to replace the fancy tile that immediately chipped and became dangerous with some boring tile[s]. Had to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), etc.” Ah, best they didn’t reveal their real name, then.
6. Plumbing the depths
Plumbing is not the most enticing of jobs, it’s probably fair to say. Working with dirty water pipes and fixing toilets can’t be a great deal of fun. It actually sounds kind of gross. And judging by this story from a humble plumber who appeared on a HGTV show, it’s no better when it is on the television.
Reddit user Azzpirate revealed, “I plumbed a house that was getting an HGTV remodel. Long story short: they cut more corners than the contractors already want to and that’s saying a lot. I would never buy a house remodeled on one of those shows.” Hardly a glowing reference, then.
5. Backyard blues
Many homeowners dream of having a beautiful backyard. Think lush, green grass, attractive plants and trees, maybe a pond or a water feature of some kind. But judging by this insider story, having an expensive garden developed on a reality TV show is not all that it is cracked up to be. In fact, as Reddit user LordRandle explained, it can be something of a nightmare.
So, what exactly happened then? Well, LordRandle wrote: “[My] friends were on a backyard renovation show… they put SO many plants in.” Sounds great, right? Well, you’ve got to factor in the levels of maintenance necessary for all the new planting. “With them being full-time workers with a family, the upkeep was simply not possible. [It] looked terrible within the year,” the Reddit user concluded.
4. Arabian nightmare
This is another instance where the insider didn’t reveal the specific name of the show. But Reddit user RealLivePersonInNC went in hard on whichever one it was anyway. “My sister’s master bedroom got a makeover on a ‘surprise your spouse’ show,” they wrote. “The designer was going for an ‘Arabian nights’ romantic vibe, but it ended up pretty weird-looking with all the closets hidden behind yards of draped fabric.”
RealLivePersonInNC continued: “They took it all down and painted the room a neutral color within months. The show also took the ceiling fan out and replaced it with a giant tree branch wired up with twinkling lights. Not too long afterwards, half the lights went out and it was too hot in the room without the fan, so that got put back as well.” The Reddit user did however note that it “didn’t cost them anything and was a fun experience,” so there’s that.
3. Train wreck of a room
Here’s a mildly amusing tale of a home improvement show slip-up. Take it away, Redditor frp1995. “Some family friends were on one of those shows,” they wrote. “Their son was sixish years old and really into trains, so he got an insanely train-themed room, complete with a ride-on train that chugged slowly on a track around the room.”
But as should have been anticipated, he’d become less interested in it as he got a bit older. Frp1995 continued: “It was great at first, but he outgrew it really quickly and was embarrassed by his train room within a few years”. Unlike Rod Stewart then. But that wasn’t all. “The paint on the outside of the house started chipping off within weeks and the house looked HORRIBLE with big chunks of peeled-off paint,” the Redditor added.
2. Laundry room laziness
This story involves a 48-hour remodeling of laundry rooms in two different houses. Redditor ImpetuousRacer said their designer was also intended to be “the person doing all the construction work” and noted her good ideas and ambition. But after getting the couple to help, he revealed how he and his wife were working “from dawn until 1 a.m. both days.” He added, “I was exhausted and had some complaints about the extremely poor workmanship and shortcuts they were taking. They acted like I was some jerk.”
The unfortunate homeowner continued: “They also cut drywall out and soffit[s] as part of their idea… I had to hire an electrician that my contractor knew to reroute the wires and install new lights, and we negotiated they do [it] free of charge for credits on the show. After production they never credited the electrician and pretended they didn’t know about it after I called them out on it.” The Redditor also revealed he was eventually forced to hire at his own expense a drywall person, a painter and a carpenter to fix things to his liking.
1. Painter’s brush with incompetence
Not all workmen operate to the same standards. And this statement is just as true of painters, it seems, as of other tradesmen, if this contributor’s experiences are anything to go by. The Reddit user going by the name of datderdewdo wasn’t too happy with their friends’ experience on the TV show Love It Or List It.
So, what exactly happened? Well, datderdewdo wrote, “I’m a painter and know two different couples who were on Love It Or List It. [The] painted rooms looked good enough for the camera, but [not] in person. [I] had to repaint all renovated areas.” Those couples certainly didn’t love it, then.