Behind The Scene Secrets Of HGTV’s Fixer Upper

When Fixer Upper finished its final season in May 2018, thousands of fans mourned the loss. Throughout the show’s five-year run, Chip and Joanna renovated over 100 homes with a joyful attitude.

Although fans enjoyed what was on screen, few knew what was happening off-screen. Behind the camera, the Gaines didn’t like all clients, and the team encountered legal struggles over a gate. These untold truths about Fixer Upper will make you do a double-take.

Participants Rarely Meet Chip And Joanna

During an interview with Country Living, Season 3 participant Rachel Whyte said that she only met Chip and Joanna twice. The first was on real estate day, and the second was during their design meeting. In the meantime, they texted each other.

Joanna and Chip Gaines pose with Mike Herrera and his family on 'Fixer Upper.'
HGTV
HGTV

After her conversation with the Ermoian family, blogger Rachel Teodoro claimed that the Gaines used to meet with their participants more often. But as the show gained popularity, their line of contact became thinner and sparse.

Most Conversations Are Real

Beyond the staged house-hunting scenes, most of the show is genuine. In an interview with Country Living, Season 3 client Rachel Whyte explained that “what happens really is real.” Occasionally, the producers will ask people to repeat something they said.

Chip and Joanna Gaines talk to clients while on camera.
HGTV
HGTV

“The hard thing is remembering what you said before when asked to repeat it,” Rachel said. She added that Chip and Joanna showed them two other homes, despite them being “pretty set” on which one they would choose. So parts of those scenes are authentic.

The Hosts Honor Their Participants’ Wishes

Although the designers and participants spoke over text, the Gaines paid particular attention to what their clients wanted. Lindy Ermoian happily revealed that she had more control over the design than she thought they would.

Hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines pose for a portrait in the kitchen of the newly renovated Ferguson home, as seen on Fixer Upper.
HGTV/Scripps Networks
HGTV/Scripps Networks

According to participant Rachel Whyte, Joanna asks her clients for a Pinterest board so she can explore their personal style. “They really [went with] the concept,” Rachel said. She added that she “fully trusted” Chip and Joanna to do a great job.

The Gaines Didn’t Like Some Homeowners

Although Chip and Joanna act kind and giving to each client, they don’t enjoy everyone. During a Facebook Live interview, Chip revealed that some projects “didn’t go as expected” and resulted in “inappropriate thoughts about the homeowners.”

Joanna and Chip Gaines talk to the Fuch family about a bottle they found in their backyard.
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Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

On top of that, the Gaines have expressed some frustration about former participants renting their renovated homes. They claimed that after some homeowners put their houses on the market, they made the application “more strict” to not appeal to “this new vacation trend.”

Chip Feels THat He Lost Apart Of Himself When He Became Famous

In a sit-down interview with Oprah in March 2021, Chip Gaines admitted that he initially struggled with newfound fame when Fixer Upper became a hit show and felt that he lost apart of himself. He quickly expressed his gratitude to his wife for helping him through it.

GettyImages-870570788
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

In the interview with Oprah, Chip said: “Really what happened… and was the truth for Jo and I… was it was no big deal for her, but for me to become famous, I lost a part of myself that was really‚Ķ it was sad. I would say it took me a year or two while I was still filming to try to grapple with what exactly it was that I was losing.”

Chip Got Sued Over A Gate

In 2016, Chip Gaines got into a legal battle over a metal gate. The Gaines’ downtown property, Magnolia Market at the Silos, has an alleyway that doesn’t belong to them. When that alleyway switched owners, the new company wanted to charge $10 for visitors to park.

Joanna Gaines and Chip Gaines wave to fans in Columbus Circle on their way to the 2019 Time 100 Gala.
James Devaney/GC Images
James Devaney/GC Images

Unable to reach a compromise, Chip put up a metal gate, which his lawyer says was meant to protect their business. Still, the company sued Chip for $1 million. The case was later dismissed.

Chip Bought Out Magnolia

Before Fixer Upper began, the Gaines didn’t fully own Magnolia. They partially owned the company, but after HGTV approached them with the show, they fully bought the company. This didn’t sit well with their former partners, John Lewis and Richard Clark, who filed sued Chip for not telling them about the TV show.

Chip and Joanna Gaines playfully bit at their book,
Laura Cavanaugh/WireImage
Laura Cavanaugh/WireImage

In an interview with People, Lewis said that after Chip bought the company, he never heard from the Fixer Upper star again. However, Chip’s lawyer calls their claims “meritless” and wonders why they didn’t contact Chip earlier.

Families Have To Accept Designs That They Don’t Like

Throughout the renovations, Chip and Joanna do their best to create something that the families appreciate. But in the show’s application, one section says that participants must accept the design team’s choices, even if they don’t approve of them.

Joanna and Chip Gaines pose for a photo with Jo and David McCall.
HGTV
HGTV

“Are you willing to trust the Design Team to make decisions and changes to your house, on your behalf, often without consulting you?” the application reads. To become a participant on the show, one has to accept that they won’t have a hand in every choice.

Chip Doesn’t Do Much Work

Although it seems like Chip Gaines helps with manual labor, that’s only when the cameras are rolling. In an interview with the blogger Rachel Teodoro, the Ermoian family of Season 2 said that they rarely saw Chip on set.

Chip and Joanna Gaines work on a home.
HGTV
HGTV

According to them, participants aren’t supposed to see the home in progress, but they were staying right next door and couldn’t avoid it. When they glanced at the house, Lindy and Chris Ermoian never once saw Chip.

Clients Can Keep Some Handmade Items

Although participants can’t keep all the furniture, they can keep any custom work designed by Clint, according to Rachel Whyte. For instance, the Ermoian family received Clint’s handmade rolling bar as a gift after the show.

A participant of
HGTV
HGTV

If the designers make handcrafted items, the participants can buy them at a discount. After the renovations finish, participants receive a spreadsheet of discounted furniture for around $75. If clients have the budget for new furniture, they’ll get a deal!

They Sometimes Go Over Budget

Although the team establishes a budget before the camera rolls, these are all estimates. Joanna and Chip stick to the budget 78% of the time, according to Architectural Digest. They exceed the budget in 15% of cases and only remain under budget in 7% of renovations.

Joanna and Chip Gaines remove the giant poster to reveal a new home for participants of 'Fixer Upper.'
HGTV
HGTV

While the Gaines sometimes go over budget, they do a remarkably great job at sticking to the clients’ budget. It’s no wonder that the minimum is $30,000, according to the contract.

Joanna Never Studied Interior Design

During an interview with Glamour, Joanna revealed that she has no interior design background. In college, she majored in communications, and she aimed to open a boutique later in life. Her first experience with design was during her first home project.

Joanna Gaines attends The Build Series to discuss
Laura Cavanaugh/WireImage
Laura Cavanaugh/WireImage

“We found this little fixer-upper building and tackled that project together in the first year of marriage,” Joanna said. “I sold a bunch of products that would go in a home.” After the show began, she got a lot more design experience.

The Gaines Don’t Own A TV

Despite being TV stars, the Gaines don’t own a television. They explained that 12 years ago, a pre-marital counselor challenged Chip and Joanna to live without a TV for the first six months of marriage. They haven’t owned one since.

Chip Gaines and Joanna sign a board at AOL Studios In New York.
Brook Christopher/FilmMagic
Brook Christopher/FilmMagic

That said, they still watch their show. Joanna said that when a new episode comes on, they watch it at their friends’ house. “I am so funny,” Chip joked. “Like, I can see why people watch this.”

The Gaines Land Some Deals

Although the renovation budget often exceeds $300,000, the Gaines still land some construction deals. According to the Ermoian family, the hosts got discounts on roofing and other construction costs.

Chip and Joanna Gaines check the blueprints during home construction on Fixer Upper.
HGTV
HGTV

On top of that, participants receive discounts on Magnolia furniture. Although the furniture isn’t included in the renovation budget, the participants can purchase some afterward for a lower price. The team continues to help the family after the episode ends as well, where they find even more deals.

The Remodeling Takes Very Little Time

On average, most full home renovations take up to a full year. But with a tight TV show timeline, Chip and Joanna manage to finish the home within a couple of months. In the Ermoian’s case, construction began in July and finished in October.

Joanna Gaines helps her husband carry wood through a home during renovation.
HGTV
HGTV

While the Gaines manage a surprisingly fast turnaround time, they still run into issues. According to Architectural Digest, the team reports a problem during half of their renovations, and these cost $4,600 on average.

Some Tender Moments Don’t Make The Cut

It goes without saying that many moments won’t make the final cut. But surprisingly, some tender and significant moments for the clients did not appear in the episode. Chris and Lindy Ermoian recalled one of these moments.

Chris and Lindy Ermoian pose with Joanna and Chris Gaines.
Jennifer Boomer/HGTV
Jennifer Boomer/HGTV

During their Season 2 renovation, the Ermoians received a music and art room. When they entered the room, Chris played a song that he wrote for his wife. Oddly, this emotional moment did not make the final cut, but you can find the song “Lighthouse” online.

The House Isn’t Worth Much More Afterward

Viewers may believe that the homes are worth far more after the renovation. But overall, they don’t pull in much more value. On average, a Fixer Upper home gains $26,036 in value. That’s only 25% of the renovation cost.

A participant walks toward a revealed home on the show 'Fixer Upper.'
HGTV
HGTV

This is also below the national average, according to Remodeling’s Cost Vs. Value 2018 report. The $26,000 addition usually comes from the addition of one bathroom, not a full remodel. However, some owners make more money by renting their homes.