Behind The Camera 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

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

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.

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.

They Fake The House Hunting Part

People take a selfie while a production team films Fixer Upper.
Instagram/@matsumoto818
Instagram/@matsumoto818

Although most of Fixer Upper is authentic, the house hunting portion may be fake. After Season 3, participant David Ridley revealed that the guests choose their house before they begin filming.

In addition, most homes have to be under contract before the production team moves the project forward. “They show you other homes, but you already have one,” David told The Cut. “After they select you, they send your house to Chip and Joanna and their design team.”

Most Conversations Are Real

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

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.

“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.

Clients Don’t Keep The Furniture

Joanna and Chip Gaines announce their new baby.
Twitter/@hgtv
Twitter/@hgtv

In the final set, most furniture comes from the Gaines’ store, Magnolia Market. A participant from Season 3, Jamie Ferguson, revealed that her final home design included “staging furniture” that the hosts removed after the show. But they sometimes incorporate some of the owners’ personal furniture if it has meaning.

On her blog, Joanna Gaines explained that participants begin with a renovation budget that doesn’t include furniture. “It’s something some clients add at the end,” she clarified.

The Hosts Honor Their Participants’ Wishes

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

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.

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

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

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.”

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 Got Sued Over A Gate

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

The Budget Is Established Before Filming

Chip and Joanna Gaines look over a blueprint on the show
Pinterest/HGTV
Pinterest/HGTV

Before the cameras roll, participants have to agree on a renovation budget. According to the Fixer Upper sign-up form, the minimum budget is $30,000. On average, clients spend around $173,00 on the house alone.

The renovation costs almost as much as the new home. Most participants spend around $111,000 on renovations. But once the home is finished, it’s worth enough to make money off of selling it or renting it to tourists and fans of the show.

Families Have To Accept Designs That They Don’t Like

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

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.

“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

Chip and Joanna Gaines work on a home.
HGTV
HGTV

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.

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.

Some Participants Rent Out Their House Afterward

A house on the show 'Fixer Upper' (top) is renovated (bottom).
Twitter/@joannagaines
Twitter/@joannagaines

After the homes get remodeled, their value skyrockets. So it’s no wonder that participants rent out their homes to fans of Fixer Upper. The Shotgun House owned by Cameran and Jessie went for $360 per night, while the Barndominium from Season 3 goes for $840 a night.

But were the Gaines bothered by that? “They do not have a problem with it at all,” Josh Barrett of Season 2 told Fox News. He asserted that Joanna was surprised that he didn’t charge more.

…But The Gaines Don’t Want More Of That

Chip and Joanna Gaines are filmed as they walk down the streets of Castle Heights.
Facebook/WACOAN
Facebook/WACOAN

According to the Waco Tribune, most homeowners didn’t partake in Fixer Upper to make an extra off of renting fees. But as the show grows in popularity, the Gaines will try to recruit participants who aren’t just interested in money.

Magnolia spokesman Brock Murphy told the paper that the Gaines have no problem with former participants renting their homes. However, they put their heart and soul into designing personalized homes, and they don’t want to lose that value in the show.

Do The Gaines Mislead People?

Chip and Joanna Gaines pose in the middle of the street.
Instagram/@joannagaines
Instagram/@joannagaines

In July 2017, when Season 3 participants Ken and Kelly Downs were sleeping, a car crashed into the Fixer Upper Home. Although no one was harmed, the Downs expressed that they felt “deceived” by the Gaines and Magnolia.

“It’s like the Wild West here,” Kelly told the Waco Tribune. She described that they had struggled with noise from late-night bars, intimidation, and harassment from neighbors after their rent went up. “It’s not safe,” she asserted.

Clients Can Keep Some Handmade Items

A participant of
HGTV
HGTV

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Not All Rooms Get Remodeled

Chip Gaines takes a selfie with TJ and Stephanie for Fixer Upper.
Twitter/@chipgaines
Twitter/@chipgaines

All the beautiful rooms you see during the reveal don’t encompass the entire home. Often, the Gaines don’t remodel every room in the house. Joanna told Hooked on Houses that it depends on the customers’ budget.

During the interview, Joanna also said that not all rooms are done during the reveal. “We help them finish their renovation even when the cameras aren’t rolling,” she explained. If the participants need more work, Magnolia Market will continue to support them.

The Show Raised Taxes For Waco Residents

An aerial view displays a carnival in Waco, Texas.
Twitter/@cityofwaco
Twitter/@cityofwaco

In 2015, property values in downtown Waco had doubled. By 2017, the Tax Increment Finance Zone increased by 34%. Residents and property owners have complained about Fixer Upper raking up property taxes in Waco.

Some downtown buildings, such as the Stratton Building, increased in value by 683%. The sudden tax hike threatened some business owners, which worried Real Estate agents and residents alike. One Waco couple revealed that their taxes had tripled since the show aired.

Joanna Never Studied Interior Design

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

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.

“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

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

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.

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 Families Can Keep Their Giant Poster (Or Can They?)

Joanna Gaines takes a picture of a home covered by a large poster.
Instagram/@chipgaines
Instagram/@chipgaines

To hide the renovated home, Chip and Joanna erect two 12 foot by 12 foot posters in front of the house. The signs are taken down during the reveal. In an interview with Glamour, Chip said that the families can keep the enormous posters.

However, participant Jaime Ferguson said that she never received the poster. “I haven’t seen the poster since that day,” she said. “I have no clue where they go!” She added that the size of the poster would be a hassle either way.

The Gaines Land Some Deals

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Chip And Joanna Own More Than One Business

Joanna and Chip Gaines stand on the sides of the sign for Magnolia Silos.
Pinterest/Magnolia
Pinterest/Magnolia

When Fixer Upper debuted in 2013, Chip and Joanna owned Magnolia Market. Today, they run several more businesses. They have the bed-and-breakfast Magnolia House, a bakery called Magnolia Baking Co., and a two-acre shopping area called Magnolia Market at the Silos.

In 2017, Chip told the Waco Tribune that he also plans to open his own store in Magnolia Market. His store will feature home goods such as clothes, small tools, and Magnolia-themed goods (some of which were originally sold at FedEx).

Not Everyone Loves The Shiplap

A bathroom is garnished with shiplap wooden walls.
Pinterest/discoverDMCI
Pinterest/discoverDMCI

Joanna’s signature farmer chic design usually includes white shiplap. With distressed wooden furniture and many houseplants, this aesthetic looks great. But many critics and viewers are tired of it.

According to Country Living, shiplap has blown up on Pinterest. Since Joanna asks all clients to make a Pinterest board of ideas, she may see a lot of it on there. But as the style grows in popularity, it also becomes less desirable. Even some clients aren’t a fan.

Some Renovated Rooms Aren’t On Camera

Joanna and Chip Gaines dance while on camera.
Twitter/@Matsumoto818
Twitter/@Matsumoto818

The reveal scene at the end of each episode rarely shows every room. Many rooms are either not shown on camera or remain unfinished. On her blog, Joanna explained that the state of these rooms depends on the client.

“Some homeowners want to finish off their other rooms on their own since it is mainly cosmetic,” she explained. “Other times, we finish the spaces for them after the reveal.” All of the leftover rooms are on a separate budget.

They Started The Show On Accident

Joanna and Chip Gaines sit in a living room.
Twitter/@magnolia
Twitter/@magnolia

Chip and Joanna weren’t aiming to create a home design show. HGTV picked them up unexpectedly. According to Joanna, the couple flipped a home during their first year of marriage. Photographer Molly Winn featured evidence of their job on designmom.com.

After HGTV saw their work, they reached out to Chip and Joanna Gaines through their website. They proposed a reality show that featured their work in this hometown. “The rest is history!” Joanna declared.

The Gaines’ Church, Exposed

Joanna and Chip pose in front of their home.
Twitter/@BrandonAmbro
Twitter/@BrandonAmbro

For some viewers, Joanna and Chip’s openness about their Christian faith is a plus. But in 2016, a Buzzfeed article revealed that the couples’ church, Antioch Community Church, is openly against same-sex marriage. Their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, has also preached that conversion therapy is necessary.

A spokesperson for Antioch Church said that she could not speak for Chip or Joanna. HGTV also responded to the backlash by saying, “We don’t discriminate against the LGBT community in any of our shows.”