Extreme Home Makeover Could Be Most Wasteful Show On TV.


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A few weeks ago while flipping channels, I caught a few minutes of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover TV show. I will admit that when the show first started years ago, I did watch a few episodes as it was kind of interesting and heart warming. But I quickly got bored and stopped watching – until this last time. I tuned in right as the old house was being destroyed by bulldozers and hundreds of people wielding axes, hammers and crowbars. It was almost as if the producers of the show had found a whole mess of crazy people and told them to wreck this poor old house to the ground. Perfectly good sinks and toilets were smashed, healthy 2X4’s were cut down, and windows were smashed with whatever a person could get their hands on. At the end of all this madness, a giant pile of rubble was left to be carted off to a landfill somewhere. It was so sad, but even more so it was so incredibly wasteful.

In addition to the waste that is created, the show builds these gigantic mansions that A. don’t even fit into the neighborhood they are in, reducing their resale value and B. are so big that I can only begin to fathom the price of the utilities every month. If a family is poor before they get into the mansion, just how are they supposed to pay for it after the crew leaves? Not only can they not afford them, but they are not even educated in how to go about trying to do so. There have been stories about a home in Atlanta in foreclosure, how the Leomiti family got a new house and the Higgins orphans were left with nothing, and how when crews demolished the Byers’ old house, the old mortgage still stood – “There’s still $250,000 left on the old mortgage that they have to pay, and then they have to pay property taxes on the new value of home because it’s a lot more than the old home was,” explained Umpqua Bank Manager, Heather Rogers. Not everything is as rosy as the show let’s you to believe after Ty gives that grand tour in the last 15 minutes.

But let’s get back to the waste of materials for a second – unless there is something the show is not telling us, all this stuff goes to a landfill. We watch it get destroyed, and broken windows, sinks and toilets are of no use to anyone…so I am guessing that they don’t recycle any of it. Places like the Habitat ReStore are amazing in that it gives homeowners (or hobbyists, for that matter) a way to get recycled doors, windows, sinks, toilets, wood, roofing materials, appliances, etc. for a lot less than new. This not only provides money to the Habitat for Humanity organization but also keeps all that stuff out of the landfills. It only makes sense to recycle and/or reuse everything that can be salvaged from a construction site, right? I think the producers are more concerned with the wow factor of people destroying things than they are about the environment, which is really too bad – they could be setting an example for the millions of people who watch the show every week.

I do understand that the show does a lot of good for incredible people who are having a rough time. Couples who take in foster kids while living in a mold-infested trailer or families with special-needs kids who cannot afford to adapt their home get a lot of help from the show; I get that. But I just don’t understand the need to be so wasteful by breaking everything in an old house and then building a house that the needy family can afford. This is why I think the show is probably the most wasteful one on TV, and one I wish they would take steps to improve. To do so much good while doing so much bad just is not right.

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  1. I saw this episode too. First, the best part about renewable resources are that they are renewable. Even if all of the scrap wood does make its way to a landfill it will retire in decomposition and yield more wood.
    And did you see the part where they installed 3 massive solar panels? Not sure where they ended up at the end of the construction, but he had mentioned that they were rated to supply 100% of the electricity. I’m also going to guess that no matter how big the house is the insulation and heating system are much more efficient and there are probably conveniences like zoning and compartmentalization where there was not before.
    Just speculation though.. I could be very wrong.. I bet they also cut a lot of corners when building a house in ONE WEEK..

  2. Could not agree more. I appreciate the message of the show, and am moved by its efforts. However, the means with which they use – say, for instance, giving wanting families their very own McMansions – is sorely in need of a “makeover”.

  3. I completely agree with you about that show for all the reasons you stated. I actually hadn’t thought of how wasteful it is too until reading this. We try to reuse as much as we can or donate/give away the materials that we are removing from our home. Some stuff is unsalvagable like rotting lumber but I have been amazed that someone else’s junk is another person’s treasure even applies when renovating a 60s ranch 🙂

  4. The show wields great influence and it would be nice if the producers took that responsibility more seriously. What a positive example they could set by following the suggestions you’ve provided — recycling and donating the usable materials. I, too, stopped watching a long time ago. While I wasn’t, at that time, thinking specifically in terms of waste, I couldn’t fathom how those people could possibly pay for the upkeep on a place as large as those being built.

  5. If that truly is the case, why was the perfectly fine sink and toilet being destroyed, and intact windows being smashed? That link is only about one house, and the builder is an eco-builder this time. I do wonder, though, why they won’t televise the careful deconstruction. It must not make as good a TV show.

  6. You make an incredibly accurate (though probably unpopular) point. As much as I love seeing a family in need get a new home that is far superior to the old one, I would have so much more respect for Ty and the show if they would have less fun demolishing the homes and at least try to salvage anything that is salvagable, even if it just goes to Habitat for Humanity. It would also be great to see them focus more on green building. Can you imagine the great example that would set?

    As for the mortgages, in many of the episodes I’ve seen over the past year or so, they almost always find a donor that pays off the family’s mortgage. This was probably in response to many of the families losing their homes or continuing to struggle even after the remodel. So they still have to pay property taxes, but it looks like the show is trying harder to get the mortgages paid off as well.

  7. My biggest disgust with the show and the reason I stopped watching is that these homes are HUGE! Many of the bedrooms are as big as my livingroom/kitchen put together. Bigger is NOT better.

  8. I don’t like the waste, but we don’t know that it was a perfectly good sink honestly. it could be completely rusted out on the bottom. I had a sink in my condo that looked awesome from the top but was rusted to the porcelain from the bottom.
    some of those windows may not be up to code, but granted they could be used for something other then a window, reuse right?
    I don’t like the huge wasteful spaces and huge homes in the ghetto, it is like a kick me sign.
    But I also think you links are poorly placed, those people made bad choices and that has nothing to do with the show or ABC. I love what you write but I disagree with you there.
    I would love for Ty to do a fully green show. I say lets write him!

  9. I have no original thoughts to contribute. All well said. As much as I do like the show for giving a helping hand to those in need and reminding us as humans that, in perspective, there are others worse off. As much as I would LOVE Ty to show up at my door (and I don’t have a “house” to demolish at least)it would have to be totally sustainable & moderately sized for any real appreciation from me.
    And am I the only one that ever thought… who wants to have to CLEAN all that space.
    I think their best episodes are when they build community centers and such for everyone to use.

  10. Karissa – I don’t quite understand your phrase “your links are poorly placed”, but the fact is that the show and network built these giant homes for people that could not take care of them. Did they give the families counseling? Financial advice? Or are the producers so in need of creating the weekly spectacle of a TV show that they don’t care what happens after they leave? Teach a man to fish, they say…

    Thanks Jen and Lorenz – One can dream that a TV show might have some motivation to do what is right rather than just chasing ratings…

  11. I totally agree, the salvaged materials are quite valuable and can service the community by reselling through Habitat’s ReStores (which helps fund more affordable housing) and the raw building materials can actually be reused in structures. An average 2,000 square foot home can be recycled as much as 85%! That means tons of materials helping the community, not sitting in the local landfill. Great blog…I hope they’re listening!

  12. It’s all very lovely what that show does for families. But the waste of resources I can’t condone. Why? Because the sheer speed (and hence the waste) of building is strictly about entertainment value. If the goal were doing good for a family, why must the project be crammed into a week resulting in ridiculous amounts of waste and no doubt some corners cut.

    Unfortunately that’s just one show! HGTV is pushing their latest offering “Showdown” where two teams compete to be selected to design a person’s room. The competition features two mock-ups of the room. The mock-ups are fully designed, painted, etc. and then a winner is chosen and then REAL room then gets another dose of resources as it’s decked out to match the winning design.

    I guess it could be said we are damaging the planet through our unrestrained appetite for pleasure and entertainment. This is even more obvious when you add in the enormous resource cost of producing enough meat to feed our HABIT (not need) of eating meat for every meal, every day.

  13. I agree with you. My family gets tired of hearing me say the same thing over and over. ‘why can’t they build several smaller houses in a week and help multiple families (since they tend to go to areas where more than one family is in need of help), rather than building one large house where the family will potentially not be able to afford the taxes and utilities.’ Of all the shows I have seen, there were only a handful of homes that were less than 2000 square feet. I guess the demo just makes for good tv rather than a salvage effort. They should have an episode with HabitatFH involved, that would be cool.

  14. Ok, so I’m sure if you ever meet a little girl that can’t even feel safe in her own house because she is allergic to the sun and has to hide from every window in her home, or an amazing dancer that has m.s. that looses feeling in her legs and everytime she shuts her eyes and has to find a way to walk down 36 stairs a day and it just get worst by more and more stress, you tell them that they should not take this amazing opportunity of recieving a new “mansion” that will most likely be paid for, recieve over 100,000 to help them and put their children through school, a week long vacation, which they probably have never and may never again get a chance to have, and actually the chance to know that their are thousands of people that really do care and want to help by volunteering for free, and their actually is a meaning full show on television that will teach you something and make you feel like maybe this world is not going into chaos, maybe you can be the one to tell them that it’s a waste of time because their making a waste out of their old shack, which you honestly don’t even really know what they do with and if some of the appliances were actually useful,and they might have to pay 500-5000 the most for property taxes once every year. That sounds sad really sad.

  15. This site is about environmental issues, and as far as I can tell, they destroy and cart away the trash. Never been proven otherwise. Then they build McMansions that use a ton of energy, materials and water. And to conclude, people cannot even afford the homes they are given, so they are forced into foreclosure. It is possibly the most wasteful show on TV.

  16. David: Do any you or any of the other bloggers know what they do with materials? I doubt it. So, I think it is wrong to down the show when you don’t know. I think these people are being given something wonderful in a life full of difficulty. What they do with it is on them.

  17. I just don’t like the idea of helping one family with a mansion. But the studio execs know that helping lots of people standard homes is not going to get them ratings.

  18. Atleast there is a show out there that cares about the struggles of people and showing the people on the show that they care about them. And even though we may not know where the waste goes who knows if its going to a landmill. People should care more about helpin people in need then where the materials go afterwards.

  19. josh… dont u understand?? taking care of the enviroment is helping people in need.. Billions of people who will live in the coming years… Isnt it better to help them aswell and not just think for moment in hand..

  20. i saw the show once where the gal demo’d a totally good water fountain…a pretty sculture…totally reuseable and totally illogical to wreck it.
    i live humbly and simply. i remodeled my home 2 years ago with REUSED and REFURBISHED materials. it can be done to look amazing….
    patch it and wear it out….make it do or do without.

    the material world and prefabricated housing is overrated. and as far as this show implores- glamor is a disease in itself. exorbitance is not always functional.

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