For five years, HGTV’s cameras followed Chip and Joanna Gaines around Waco, Texas, as the couple transformed dilapidated or boring homes into the best houses on their blocks. But after watching the duo renovate nearly 80 homes for their hit show Fixer Upper, viewers wanted to know: what was it like to have your home fixed up?
Recently, some of the lucky families who appeared on the show sat down to shatter the squeaky-clean shine that viewers saw. These families spilled the beans on what it was actually like to have Chip and Joanna working on her homes—and the truth was a lot different than what you might’ve seen on TV!
1. Before the Gaines’s revealed their finished renovations, they always obscured their hard work with a conveniently placed poster printout of the old house; then, they’d wheel it away for a big reveal. Show participants were allowed to keep that picture, though who knows where it ended up…
2. Guests on the show did not get to keep the beautiful furniture Joanna organized in the house, as it belonged to a staging company. Jaime and Kyle Ferguson, who appeared on the show in season three, bought a few tables and chairs, but everything else had to go back.
Rachel Whyte / HGTV
3. HGTV and the Gainses weren’t total sticklers, however. Joanna gifted homeowner Kyle Ferguson custom-made items for his music room and Chris and Lindy Ermoian, also from season 3, with a fancy rolling bar (pictured).
4. It’s nice to think that HGTV paid for the renovations (you know, as a “thank you” for being on the show), but that wasn’t the case. In reality, clients needed more than a little bit of pocket money—at least $30,000—to put towards renovations.
5. The scenes where Chip and Joanna showed clients three different houses they might be interested in buying? Those were all staged. Most of the time, show guests had already picked and purchased a home.
6. One on-screen client, Lindy Ermoian, wasn’t completely happy with the house she and her husband had bought due to its ugly, rust-colored roof. Luckily, Joanna worked some magic and offered to replace it for half the normal price!
7. Not everything filmed made it into a 60-minute episode. For instance, Chris Ermoian was surprised to see that HGTV edited out a moment where he played Lindy a song on the guitar, even though the Gainses eventually made the song’s note into an art piece.
8. Off-screen, clients didn’t get a lot of face-to-face time with Joanna and Chip—they were busy people, after all! Instead, Lindy Ermoian said, clients coordinated with a designer and a few assistants.
9. Viewers watching at home often saw Chip in blue jeans and a hard hat, pouring concrete or bashing down walls. But that was just a little bit of television showmanship. When the cameras were off, homeowner Lindy Ermoian said that Chip didn’t do much of the hands-on work.
10. So what did Chip do? As homeowner Jaime Ferguson put it, he was “100 percent a goofball.” He spent so much time joking around with the crew that, for the sake of conciseness, most of his on-camera time was edited out of the final product.
11. Joanna wasn’t quite the goof that Chip was, however. She was quite contemplative, and according to homeowner Jaime Ferguson, “immensely gifted” at all things “fixer upper.” Sounds like she made a good yin to Chip’s yang!
12. Once Chip, Joanna, and their team got to work, they tore through the renovation process quickly and efficiently. For example, it took them only three months to turn Lindy Ermoian‘s dull, 1981 ranch house into a bold and boisterous beauty.
13. That said, the cameras packed up and took off before the home was officially done. Professionals still needed to conduct inspections on Lindy Ermoian‘s home when the TV crew left, and her family didn’t get to move in for weeks.
14. But Joanna and Chip never left a job undone. While cameras might have left before the the work was finished, the crew improved every room in the house. For Jaime Ferguson, that meant extra bathroom shelving and hidden kitchen spice racks.
15. Chip and Joanna didn’t just rebuild client homes in their own grand visions. Participants were allowed to design, plan, and give feedback on renovations and plans. “It really did seem like they wanted to please us,” Lindy Ermoian said of the show’s crew.
16. In fact, before renovations started, Joanna asked participants to create a Pinterest board that featured their decorative tastes and preferred styles. Then, the designers worked hard to stick with highlighted concepts.
17. The casting process was more than picking up the phone and giving Chip a ring, too. For Jaime and Kyle Ferguson to get on the show, Kyle had to endure a Skype interview, written questionnaires, phone calls, and more.
18. The renovation budgets weren’t just pulled out of thin air or created on the program Fixer Upper itself. On-screen clients worked with the Gaines’s parent company, Magnolia, to develop a budget that actually worked for them.
Jeff Jones / HGTV via New York Times
19. Plenty of participants confirmed that the show was scripted—sort of. Rachel Whyte, who appeared on a season 3 episode, said conversations were organic at first, but producers often re-filmed them from different angles.
20. Since clients weren’t trained actors, many admitted being on camera could be a little awkward. “It was uncomfortable at times because we, like most people, aren’t used to having cameras around us,” Rachel Whyte said.
21. Even with all her hard work, Joanna found time to be a dynamite mom, too. When cameras stopped rolling, guests on the show could often find her spending time with her kids on the job site.
Molly Winn Photography
22. Joanna hand-made various decorations that she put up in the house for filming purposes, like these shiplap framed art pieces. She sold them to Lindy Ermoian and her husband for $75—a pretty good deal, considering how nice they were!
23. On the last day of filming, Chip, Joanna, HGTV crews, Magnolia, and even the Fixer Upper guests all intermingled when food trucks served up delicious lunches. Everyone involved in the show was rewarded!
HGTV via People
It’s amazing to see how much went on off-camera on Fixer Upper. Did any of these backstage secrets surprise you?
Share these secrets with your friends who loved Fixer Upper below!