Rehab Addict – please stop the madness!

I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this post – but I just can’t help myself. I was pushed over the edge watching last night’s rerun.

Being an old carpenter and having quite a few renovations under my tool belt – and the Misadventures currently in progress – I watch a lot of home renovating shows and most are entertaining but really not that helpful in the actual nuts and bolts of renovation. The exception is This Old House – it’s really a good show and gives good advice on repairs that will not need to be redone in a couple of years. Holmes is pretty good too. Are most of their projects expensive fixes? Yep pretty much they use expensive products – but it depends on what you’re fixing. Is it a flip or do you want to do it right?

The other renovation shows on DIY and HGTV are not so great and Rehab Addict is one of my least favorite. She’s fun to watch, but not someone I would seek for advice.

This show should have a disclaimer – she is a flipper of houses, not a restorer of old homes. I watch the show but in every episode I find myself yelling at the TV – don’t do that!

And here’s why.

If you are fixing up a house to ‘flip’ then by all means use a lot of ‘elbow grease’ clean it up and call it a day. Bad cast iron bathtub? Spray paint it with a can or finish with a reglaze kit – it’ll look good for a couple of years. It will be way cheaper than a new tub, that’s for sure. But if you decide build a brand new tiled bathroom around your ‘refreshed’ alcove tub and a few years later the rust is eating through the drain flange – you are going to have a problem that no ‘elbow grease’ will remedy.

Sure most of us are on a budget and aren’t going to plop out a couple of grand for a new cast iron tub and  that’s fine – just understand the difference of  fixing something for a couple of years or for your lifetime.

A TV promo running now in our market has Nicole Curtis telling viewers ‘Don’t like the layout of your home? – Just move a wall’ What? I have renovated several 1930’s homes and I can tell you from experience – it’s not that easy to move a wall in an old house. You’ll need a structural engineer for certain. Load bearing walls will need point loads that go all the way the down to the foundation. You’ll need inspections and engineer seals to do this legally. Non load bearing walls can be a problem if you have a floor above them – many old houses have 2X8 floor joists that might be a trampoline if you take out the wall below.Talk about costs – and safety issues too – not to mention you may not be covered by insurance if you try to ‘just move a wall’ by yourself.

And the last straw was last night – and why I’ve finally snapped. It was a rebroadcast of ‘Burned Out Bathroom’ and I was yelling at the TV again!

Here’s the transcript and time of the dastardly deed.

00:04:04    [ Drill whirring ] Justin has been busy upstairs getting the bathroom drywalled and the tub area fitted with 6-inch subway tiles.

What is depicted is some drywall ‘green board’ (Moisture resistant) being attached around the alcove tub and some subway tiles being installed – no waterproofing, no membrane. I don’t know what to say. It’s not to code in our area and I don’t know any professional that would do such a thing. I’m no fortuneteller, but I see mold, rot and big problems in this bathroom’s future.

Will it last? Depends – if you want to deceive the next home buyer and sell it pretty quick – sure.

Shame on you Nicole Curtis.




30 thoughts on “Rehab Addict – please stop the madness!

  1. Thank you so much for this post…I do actually love watching Nicole Curtis…very entertaining…I’m no where near (or even close) as seasoned as you…I am just beginning to learn what it means to become my own general contractor.
    What I now believe after surviving my own home renovating foibles: ‘if it was so easy, everyone would be doing it…and doing it the correct way…that stands the test of time.”
    I believe that if you touch anything…to flip or to live in…make it right and do it right…for you or another tenant down the line.
    Wanted to also say thank you for the info you shared re: 1930 OLD HOMES and MOVING WALLS…very useful as I have been looking at one of our 1929 walls — and about to call in an architect.
    Happy Remodeling!
    all the best,
    Danielle at

    • Thanks Danielle – I just couldn’t stand the thought of someone thinking ‘this is so easy’ and try to save a few dollars to find that they will end up spending big time to fix a mistake. I’m like you – if it gets touched – it gets fixed right. And you can tell from my posts I spare no expense and effort. Why? It’s for the house – not just for me. When my time comes to leave this place and let the next family create memories – I hope they feel the love that went in to bringing this old home back to a bright, happy place. Expensive? you bet – but not nearly as expensive as doing it wrong and then doing it again. Thanks for the note – I hate to rant…but couldn’t help myself. 🙂

    • Thanks for the Flak 🙂 But bad advice is bad advice – whether it’s a remodel or a restoration – unprotected drywall around a tub is a really bad idea.

      • Netflix only has the 1st season so I can’t pull up ‘Burned Out Bathroom’ (S4 E11) to see what you’re referring. Maybe DIY or HGTV will air it again. Your reaction to Rehab Addict is the same I have toward all the others (where cost is never an issue and vinyl and PVC are options).

      • Thanks for the feedback. I’m with you on the most of these shows. Unrealistic costs – and many show a low cost for renovations (Like Property Brothers) 60,000 for a whole house renovation? My renovation has many flaws – but fake look-alike plastic stuff isn’t one of them. I wish they would have more realistic programs that would show a detailed renovation over a period of weeks or months and not a 30min or hour show – but then that wouldn’t be good TV.

    • You’re probably right Cat – it is TV after all – but she relies on contractors a lot – so she might not know the building codes. I don’t know how you get some of this stuff past inspections – it would have our inspectors scratching their heads and giving us a red ticket.

  2. I totally agree with you! I love watching Rehab Addict because other shows, like the Property Brothers, seem to have no sense of history and make every old house look trendy and cookie-cutter. BUT–often Nicole’s methods are suspect. When I see her slopping paint on old cupboards without even taking the doors off, or daubing porcelain repair goop on the rusty sink and making a mess, it makes me crazy! Not that everything we do is perfect … but I agree, Rehab Addict takes an “OK for now” attitude rather than a technical one.

    • Hi D’Arcy – thanks for the comment. I think her heart is in the right place and you’re so right about the other shows. But they tout her as a ‘renovation expert’ and with their resources they should either show how to do it the right way – or not show it at all. I have no problem with spray paint and ‘elbow grease’ for stuff that can be easily unbolted and replaced – like a pedestal sink. But when you mess with structure and elements that can’t easily be replaced – then I start yelling at the TV 🙂

  3. I love the show to see the old houses – rare on HGTV, everything is so modern, but I also cringe – a lot. The lack of safety equipment drives me completely bonkers (sanding floors with a giant sander in flip flops?), and the short cuts taken are frustrating. It’s a love-hate relationship for sure. The safety part makes me angry – I also yell at the TV a lot. But she doesn’t like to paint woodwork, so she at least gets a gold star for that from me.

      • Hey Chad! As you know – it’s hard to make plaster dust and 2X4’s that glamorous – so you gotta make good TV somehow.

    • Hi Amy – this is so funny because I have thought of you while yelling at the TV. You should be doing this show. “What would Amy do – not Nicole” I have been so upset with some of her ‘fixes’ that I have never noticed the safety elements – and you are so right! I agree – there needs to be more shows that save and restore old homes. I guess that’s why I like This Old House. I really think she has the right idea about saving old houses. I just shake my head when I see a shower like the one I was ranting about. Most probably she has done a lot of damage to this house that won’t be detected for years – I can just imagine the money it will take to repair and ‘restore’ this bathroom in the future.

    • You make a good point – I have a couple of new cast iron tubs in my renovation – the freestanding type that did, unfortunately set me back a few grand. The only bathroom I have finished originally had a cast iron alcove tub that was ‘reglazed’ a couple of years before I bought the house and it was rusting and flaking and had to be replaced. But you are right – you can get a new cast iron tub for a few hundred – so it makes me even madder. 🙂 Is it worth scrubbing up an old bathtub with lots of rust and build it in the wall? I suppose if you’re a flipper and don’t care what happens after you sell – I guess that’s OK – not.

      • My friend’s parents had a bathtub that needed refreshing and didn’t want to rip out the 60-year-old mud set tile around it (I don’t blame them!) so they had Bath Fitter make a plastic cover for the tub only. That seems like a more intelligent fix than the reglazing thing. And they’re well made – ripping a similar one off of my old bathtub gave me my only renovation-related scar to date!

  4. I have to admit I picked up a few bad habits from them, sometimes unknowingly. Some of these shows also give you a dollar amount they spent to do certain projects and they are totally unreasonable. They don’t mention that half of their supplies are at a discount or of no cost to them. I have seen them gut houses and replace whole kitchens and bathrooms. tear out walls and replace with load bearing beams claiming they only spent $15k on the whole project. That gives the little guys, like myself, the impression that a whole house rehab can be done for the prices they claim and then of course, once you get started you either run out of money or you have to cut corners to finish. My rehab was piece-mealed all the way LOL
    . They also don’t include the prices for the permits, engineer inspections (possibly because they use their own engineer??), and labor. I mention this because it really frustrates me when I try to do something and think I can do it for the same price they do. That is why so much of my work was done by myself and day laborers …all without permits

    • Hey Ms. Jay! You are right! Costs for materials and labor are usually way off on these shows. The other day on a Property Brothers show they show a full glass tiles shower and flash the little price tag of 2100.00 – what? Is the the price for the tile – the glass – or the labor? To do a tile shower like that in my town would cost closer to 10,000 than 2000. TV would be too boring to show trivial stuff like permits, and professional services. 🙂 I just wish they would put a disclaimer stating this is “TV” not reality.

  5. I am completely with you there.
    Whether you are going to bring an old house in line to 21st century living standards or just renovate and remodel a place that doesn”t work, you want to do it properly.
    who would want a dodgy ” cosmetic” flip anyway?
    I certainly don’ t want to “do” my
    house twice!!!

    Lets keep it real please

  6. So agree, Curt. I actually participated in the filming of one of these “reality” home improvement, buying shows and I am here to tell you that nothing is real. So I often wonder if these jobs are done as badly as they seem or if the real stuff is done but just now shown as it does not make for good TV.

    • I agree with that mind-set. It’s too bad so many people buy based on the look of new tile or fresh paint and fail to really look for quality construction.

  7. Thank you for liking my blog. I do hope you will check back from time to time. I also love the mission of your blog- love the show to see the old houses – rare on HGTV, everything is so modern …sigh

    • I liked your bar stool upgrade. I really started my blog to keep track of what I did behind the walls – where I put plumbing pipes and electric. And I never thought I would completely gut the house and start over. Thanks for stopping in.

      • Thank you, they have helped inspired stage one of our kitchen remodel (stay tuned…lol). I take photos of all my projects and homeownership is a snowball effect- you start one project and it turns into something else.

  8. Not to mention, who tears into a construction job wearing a skin-tight, low-cut tank top and short shorts ?! Well, at least she wears gloves and goggles.
    When I first got cable TV, I was so excited to be able to watch home improvement and cooking shows. Fairly quickly, though, the decorating and how-to shows morphed into how to flip a house, or competitions. And have you ever noticed how they emphasize the negative? You see people arguing, walls that fell in, budget shot, or just horsing around, which I suppose the producers think is “entertaining”. I would much rather watch This Old House, because they TEACH you things, and the atmosphere is much more positive. AND you can watch TOH on regular TV for free.

    • Hi Julie! Thanks for your post. And you’re right – it’s all about ‘entertainment’ not the real nuts and bolts of what it takes. It would be nice if someone made a show just to illustrate the elements of a house. The foundation, the framing, etc. Even if you didn’t do the work, you could at least understand how a typical house is put together. But then, that wouldn’t be that entertaining.

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