Why we have a love/hate relationship with HGTV

In an era of ease, the cable network HGTV is reminding generations of homeowners that it’s possible to tackle housework without calling a contractor. Home-buying, renovating and house-flipping reality TV shows broadcast on the network are inspiring countless trends and reminding us that, “the first step in bringing an idea to life is putting pen to paper.”

We love these messages! But as much as we love HGTV…we also sort of hate it. Hear us out. What is their problem with representing any practical examples of recycling or reuse?! We’ve all seen the image of a gleeful homeowner with dreams of an open-concept living space taking a sledgehammer to an impractical, obsolete wall that separates a cramped kitchen from a diminutive dining room; or to an unstylish, out-of-date, but perfectly reusable cabinet set. In fact, the first step in any HGTV renovation is almost always demo day. This is the day when homeowners are invited to get down and dirty, put on their PPE, and take a sledge hammer to smash, tear, and wreck their way to a beautiful new space. There’s even a TV show called SledgeHammer in which viewers follow along as the host, “smashes everything from breakfast to bedrooms.”

Now don’t get us wrong, smashing things with sledgehammers can be fun. However, the sad reality of demo day is what ends up in the landfill: hundreds of pounds of reusable, and often high quality, building materials, all destroyed for a few minutes of TV and a pristine and trendy new kitchen. Nearly 25% of materials in American landfills are unwanted items from renovations. That’s crazy, but it’s also totally unnecessary!

Here at The RE Store we put in work to keep items like these out of the landfill. It’s our belief that unwanted, perfectly reusable items deserve better. When you look at building materials from our perspective, an old 2×4 turns into a birdhouse, and that old cabinet makes a perfect raised garden bed – we’ve tried it ourselves! When we begin to think of materials as having long lifespans, it makes sense to reuse. A talented salvage crew (like that of The RE Store and many of our friends in the reuse industry) can systematically demolish a home to save as much as 90% of the materials . But not when you’ve smashed it beyond recognition.

So, as much as we love how HGTV is making home ownership and design seem possible and accessible, we’re disappointed in their attitude about unwanted materials. Here’s what we propose. Next time you’re planning a renovation, consider if the materials can be used again. Many materials, even those out of date, have years left in their life spans! An outdated cabinet set is perfect for a garage. Hardwood flooring can be used in countless woodworking projects and can also be reinstalled in a home. Windows, doors and trim can be carefully removed with hand tools and used again. When we are reusing instead of throwing away, we are acting as responsible citizens and we are actively making our community a better place. 

Decon diaries: the series

Deconstruction is more than power tools vs. hand tools.This is the part of a multi-post series that will dive into the interesting world of deconstruction. We invite you to follow along. As we add more to this series, click here to see the whole series to learn about successes, tools used, the permitting process and more.