Cable television, the internet, and social media sites like Pinterest have changed the way people view home improvements. Most of them are good; it’s now easier than ever to get inspiration and ideas for things you can do to improve your own home. Unfortunately, there is also a downside to this recent trend – the fantasy image, and the unrealistic expectations it gives to homeowners when it’s time to start their own projects.

What You See versus What’s Behind the Scenes

The biggest problem with things like HGTV or home improvement blogs is that they tend to show only the pretty side of the project. You might get a vision of a designer sketching on a pad of paper while she enthusiastically determines what color or size of furnishings will fit into the newly finished room. Or you might see the entire project go from conception to implementation in just a few weeks.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot you don't see as well, and this lack of understanding can lead you into trouble when the time comes to undergo your home improvement project. The reasons for this are myriad – maybe there are time constraints on the show, and they only want to show you the best parts of the project, or perhaps the blog is interested just in inspiring you, not showing you the whole process. Whatever the case, if you only pay attention to these venues, you’re missing out on some much bigger details.

Lead Time

One of the things you probably aren’t aware of is the lead time. This is the time it takes from when you purchase an item such as tile or wood flooring to when it arrives at your home. Lead times can vary, and in some cases it can take up to 4 months for something to arrive.

Those lead times are already factored into the show, having been planned out way before filming ever started. So when you see a custom kitchen come together in a week, you aren’t seeing the weeks of waiting that went in first.

Down Time

Remember that a TV show has a rigorous schedule to keep – a schedule that has little to do with real life. TV shows also have very large crews whose only jobs are to work on that house – if someone can’t make it, they usually have a backup signed and ready to go in a minute.

In reality, your project could get put on hold for a variety of reasons, from your Pro needing to wrap another job, to a damaged part that needs to be reordered before it can be installed.

Downtime can drag out your project far longer than you first thought. You can help eliminate some of this with precise scheduling, waiting until everything arrives before you begin, and checking each box as it arrives to ensure everything is there and nothing broke during transit.


It happens all the time. In the middle of a project, your Pro suddenly encounters something they weren’t expecting. Or, maybe you suddenly had a great idea for something that could really improve the finished look. Unfortunately, these changes can throw off your schedule – and your budget. You need to be prepared to roll with changes as they come; remember on a home improvement show, these changes have already been hammered out weeks before the cameras began rolling.

What You’ll Do While the Work Goes On

Home improvement projects rarely wrap up in under a week. Your new kitchen could take up to 8 weeks start to finish, while your bathroom could take 2 or 3, and your new floor could take at least 2 or 3 days. Obviously, these things are going to inconvenience you at best and force you to move out at worst. Make sure you plan ahead and have an idea of where you’ll go or what you’ll do while the work is going on. Whether that means setting up a takeout budget or just moving in with your in-laws while your floors cure, you need to have a plan in place to make the whole situation livable.

Take Note from Reality – Not TV

Remember, shows, blogs, and Instagram accounts are showing you only the prettiest sides of a home improvement project. Also remember that they absolutely have their benefits as well, from giving you inspiration and ideas to questions you should be putting to your Pros. As long as you keep in mind that not everything you see is going to play out in your project, you can continue enjoying these sources of entertainment without an issue. Talk with your Pro to find out what a more realistic looking picture is for your home, and diffuse a lot of the frustrations that you might otherwise encounter.