Why real remodeling is nothing like reality TV

I’ll be honest, as an interior designer, when a client tells me how much they love watching remodeling programs like those you can find on channels like HGTV, I cringe a little. Immediately, my damage control mode kicks in because I know I’m going to start a discussion about what a real remodeling project entails.

The reality is that remodeling is dirty, expensive, invasive and time-consuming – but when it’s done properly, the results are well worth it. It’s not what you see on TV. I know because I briefly participated on one of those DIY programs where the preface is that with some professional guidance, a couple homeowners could completely remodel their bathroom in a weekend.

The reality? It took more than three weeks with a team of contractors, a project coordinator and me as their designer. The truth is that home improvement shows are created to inspire homeowners and sell products. Period.

So what’s the inside scoop from real professionals on the reality of remodeling your home? Here’s a brief guide with some additional insights provided by Minneapolis remodelers Chad Stamps and Corey Robideau of Core Design Build:

Planning - Budget for your project, research ideas and think about timing of your project and how it will affect your daily life.

Will it be easier for your household to endure a kitchen remodel in the summer months because you have access to outdoor cooking and you can plan a summer getaway, or does it make sense for you to do it when your kids are in school and you are at work each day, limiting exposure to the day-to-day disruption?

Design - Contractors are generally not designers, nor is the homeowner expected to be one, but being that the design process is vital for every other element to flow smoothly in your remodel, hire a professional designer.

Certified designers are going to look at your space objectively; they are idea generators, they will educate you on materials and they have the knowledge about what does and does not work well in a design. Yes, it costs some money upfront, but think of  their services as an investment that will most likely prevent you from making costly mistakes.

The contractor - Once you have spent the necessary time to plan for your project and you have a fabulous design in place, then you need a reputable, experienced and honest contractor to create a quality finished project.   A contractor should be licensed, insured and bonded, but those are just the basics.

They should also come with references; offer warranties for their work; be good managers of people and money; be able to show you previous work they have completed; have a favorable ratings and reviews; and be in good standing with your local Dept. of Commerce or the state’s attorney general.

They should first approach your project on a legal level, which means having permits pulled, a detailed contract signed before any work begins, a payment schedule in place that is fair to both the homeowner and the contractor and a clear understanding of lien waivers. Ask to meet the workers and trust your instincts.  Remember that these workers are going to be in your home every day, sometimes for several months.  You have to like them and trust them. They have your project in their hands.

Most importantly, ask all the questions upfront and don't have unrealistic expectations.  Yes, if you’re doing a major kitchen remodel, you may be washing your dishes in a bathtub for two months, dining out constantly and tracking drywall dust throughout the house, but that is the reality.

About this Angie's List Expert: Chantal Devane is the owner and principal designer of Devane Design, a full-service interior design and remodeling company located in Eden Prairie, Minn. Chantal has been in the interior design and remodeling industry since 1999, and her work has won multiple awards, including several Best Interior Designer awards from Southwest Metro Magazine and the Minnesota Sun, Best of Remodeling on Houzz.com, and the Angie's List Super Service Award every year from 2009 to 2012.

As of Feb. 26, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


Surprise surprise the designer is telling people to use designers :/ I agree if you have no DIY skills what so ever then maybe hire people to deal with the dangerous stuff, like plumbing and electrics; but it is not hard to put cupboards up. Maybe it is a different culture in the US (I'm from the UK) but you could save yourself a lot of money doing some things yourself.

Renovation is worthless without good taste. Take a good, long look at the "after" photo. It has all the good taste of a third rate steakhouse chain.

I have had my share of remodeling projects done in a couple of different houses over the years (2 bathrooms, a kitchen, general repainting/papering, a rec. room)...the truth is you often encounter unforseen issues which slow things down a bit---My experiences include a good many subcontractors who failed to stick to the agreed to schedule, thereby causing many delays in the project and such. One contractor I hired came to take measurements and do an estimate for a tile floor in a bathroom which was being redone entirely, with the floor being last. After one week he had not showed or returned calls. I had to hire someone else, so the floor was not finished until at least 2 weeks after it should have been. Then there was the surprise waiting under the old floor which was revealed when it was torn up that week.....always unforeseen issues.

Couldn't agree more. Especially in an older house that may have asbestos or other nasty stuff to deal with, hiring a designer is very important.

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