How does HGTV’s Fixer Upper work? Fans share behind-the-scenes experiences

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How does Fixer Upper work? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions about HGTV’s mega-hit, something that seems to occupy the minds of fans and skeptics alike. Fixer Upper Season 3 is turning out to be the show’s most popular by far; now, several couples featured in the new episodes have opened up about their experiences, and shared behind-the-scenes information about how Fixer Upper works.

Before we get into the “How does Fixer Upper work” specifics, it’s important to note a few things about the making of the show that have already been confirmed. Financially, Chip and Joanna Gaines recieve a $30,000 “talent fee” from HGTV for every episode of Fixer Upper. That money comes directly from the network, and is not included in the on-screen budget of each project. The money is also separate from the minimum $30,000 renovation budget that High Noon Entertainment, Fixer Upper‘s production company, stipulates each family has to work with before filming can begin.

A Waco Tribune article written between seasons one and two further explained that the entirety of the renovation budget goes to the Gainses’ company, and that HGTV “may throw in some extra landscaping or design flourishes” in addition to “cover[ing] the cost of one bonus feature in each remodel.”

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Waco resident David Ridley, a former male model, recently sat down with KWTX for an interview about his experience on Fixer Upper. David helped answer some of the broader “How does Fixer Upper work” questions, specifically regarding how much influence each family has on the overall design and content of its house. According to David, the Fixer Upper production crew said he was the most hands-on client the show had ever dealt with, and, for him, the most difficult thing about being a part of Fixer Upper was letting go of control and entrusting it to Joanna and her team, which the show’s contract requires.

David also acknowledged that a big part of the “How does Fixer Upper work” question involves the show’s rigorous audition process–something he was able to circumvent, to a small degree, because of friends who work for Chip and Joanna. “[My friends] said, ‘David, you should audition for our show, and give it a shot,'” said Ridley. Two rounds of auditioning followed: the first was the standard paperwork that all potential participants are required to fill out, and the second was a more detailed interview with producers via Skype.

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David also explained that he did indeed purchase his house before going on Fixer Upper, which confirms something we already knew: sometimes, the house hunting portion of a Fixer Upper episode is bogus, and the featured family already owns the house that Joanna and Chip will work on.

Overall, David reinforced what’s probably the most popular perception about Fixer Upper–namely, that the show is all about bringing people together:


I would tell people the truth, and the truth is it was incredible. It was really neat–I would say it marked the experience with authenticity. Everybody from the cameraman, the designers, the workers on the house, Chip and Jo…everybody that was involved made you feel like family, and made it feel like just this awesome experience. And I would also say how much fun it was. It was just fun to be part of a fun show.


Here’s David’s “How does Fixer Upper work” interview:

A Holy Craft interview with recent Fixer Upper participant Jaime Ferguson answers a few more of the “How does Fixer Upper work” questions. Jaime and her husband Kyle were featured in the episode “A Big Fix For A House In The Woods,” and acknowledges that her audition process, which was “a quick, big, exciting blur consisting of a Skype interview, written questionnaire and some phone calls and meetings…might be different now that [the show] has gotten so big.”

Nonetheless, Jaime was surprised to find out that Chip and Joanna “just finish[ed] out the entire project”–meaning the entirety of her house, and not only the rooms that made the final cut for her Fixer Upper episode. (Not every room was a top-to-bottom renovation, though: “The rooms you didn’t see,” explains Jaime, “were just cosmetic–carpet, paint, new fixtures.”) One other surprise was that filming the reveal was a day-long process, beginning at eight AM and ending at four PM, “and it lasted about 2 minutes on TV. It’s crazy to see it condensed down!”

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Beyond that, Jaime further confirmed that the families on Fixer Upper can purchase the furnishings that Joanna uses to kit out each house, but that the furnishings don’t come with the house. However, several of the items used to decorate their house had been custom-made for Kyle, and Joanna gave those the couple as a gift.

Jaime addressed the “How does Fixer Upper work” budget questions more specifically than did David–here’s her full response to viewers who feel the budget can’t possibly be realistic:


I can only speak for our experience but the budget is definitely real. We had several meetings with the Magnolia team prior to the renovation that centered around a proposed plan and budget. As for real estate costs, it definitely depends where you look in Waco. I have never seen a town with such beautiful houses all over with such charm and history, however so many of them have been neglected for years or are in areas that are needing overhauls. We went for school district, so we’re more out in the burbs. Coming from a thriving Austin market we had a good budget to work with.


Did we miss anything? What more would you like to know? Leave a comment with your question and we’ll see about an answer–and, in the meantime, check out new episodes of Fixer Upper Tuesday nights at 9 PM on HGTV.


(Photo credits: How does Fixer Upper work via Instagram)

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  • Emily

    I love this show so much. Obviously some of it has to be staged because it’s a tv show but Chip and Joanna are adorable and so likable so I love to hear that they really are good people and are so involved in the construction and design process. My only complaint is that I wish they’d work outside of Texas! I would die if they came to Northern California to work on my house! ?

    • concerned

      We’re in VA and my daughter absolutely loves their work too!! I always say that if I won the lottery I would pay them to fix up a house for her and her family!!! We love the show too!!!

    • LaLa84

      I also love the show, Chip is so funny and down to earth and Jo is just gorgeous, funny, quirky, I adore them. I live in Texas, near Dallas, and I wish they’d work further than an hour outside of Waco! I would love to have them find an older house for myself and my family, in the city I live in it’s all new subdivisions with cookie cutter houses, there’s no character. I love to watch them breathe life in to a home that has been forgotten about.

      • LaLa84

        My husband even went to high school with David Ridley, the “model” bachelor.

      • aimsless

        Same here. If they’d come closer to Austin, I’d be all over it.

  • The Ferguson’s are so fantastic! It was so much fun learning more about what it’s really like to be a client on the show. Thanks for sharing my post. Keep your eyes peeled for a few more insider sneak peeks coming out later this week on Holy Craft!

  • AnneCink

    I read that the Gaines don’t have a television in their home. Wow! Hard to do in today’s world. I bet they don’t have video games either. I love their parenting style! It’s built on a strong faith!

    • Chris Leckington

      I understand they have watched their own shw at a friend’s home. They also watch family movies The

  • Perthling

    What’s the point of calling something “reality TV” if it isn’t? The people already own the houses, the renovations are over-priced and not done on the whole house, the timeline of the renovations is not given in real terms, and the furnishings at the end are not part of the deal. Only there to make it look like the people got more for their money than they did. Even the bits where Chip acts like a kid and his wife nags him are set up too I bet. All fake. No thanks.

    • Sereenity

      You realize that in this day and age people understand what reality television means. It’s not a documentary. There are scripted elements and then the rest is showing the process of the renovation. As for the price of a renovation I will take your word since you are likely in the business and know what average costs are as well being aware of how their having a show means they can charge a higher fee. Staging is a common practice though. It is only used to help show how the rooms can be decorated. The clients can then choose to keep some pieces or change them. The thing is they don’t hide the fact they stage the finished home. They don’t give timeline because the premise of the show is not deadline oriented. There is no “We have a week to do this! ” that some other shows use. It seems that aside from a few facts of how reality television works you’re reaching to hate the show. They are a lot more likeable than other “reality” television hosts.

      • Carol Raggio

        Well said! I think they are such a remarkable, loving couple? Something we need in this day of television ” reality!

    • ddfskip

      sounds like your full of sour grapes….rehearsed??? It doesnt sound like you would know a real thing if you saw it

      • Perthling

        There’s no reality involved at all and um no people all do not know that the people already own the houses and do not get to keep the furnishings. Sorry but stating “reality” isn’t sour grapes. You sound like a suck up (or maybe a relative of theirs?). Assumptions and all 😀

        • Jeff R Miller

          I enjoy the show and Chip and Joanna have great personalities and seem to be very talented and hard working people. But as someone who owned my own remodeling business for 7 years, I think that the lack of disclosure involving the cost and time frames of the show’s projects does harm to the remodeling industry as it sets unrealistic expectations with the public. The honest thing to do would be to run a blurb at the beginning or end of the show that would let people know the “reality” of the situation, as I don’t believe that the average consumer understands that things aren’t completely on the up and up.

    • Laurence Fitzgerald

      Overpriced? I wish we could get materials and labor for what they quote in the Northeast.

    • Molly1776Pitcher

      Go away nag! You would bitch if they hung you with a new rope.

    • Chawno

      It’s as real as TV can put into a 1hour show!! And the host don’t act or even know how, they are real true God loving people!!

  • Joel Pollitt

    I like the hosts in fixer upper. They are not the usual snotty hosts that turn you off. The usual Orange county soulless yuppie snot bags.

  • Everett from Louisville

    My wife and I are considering downsizing to a smaller, one level house, now that I’ve retired. We have been looking for our own “fixer upper”. We love the show and the results but worry about a reliable contractor. Chip and Joanna are the greatest!

    • Natalie

      and unfortunately you would have to pay for that labor, which I get the feeling is not factored into what they manage to accomplish with the budget on the show.

  • Kalli

    We would welcome them in Niceville, Florida as well. My husband and I have thought of moving to Waco a few times to be closer to family in friends in the region. But, worried about how much work would be needed to put into a home there.

    • Cheri McDonough

      We’re in Navarre, FL and I agree… would sure love to see them come to the Panhandle. ?

  • Sonya Carter Rice

    Okay, so call me whatever, but these guys are America’s “Will and Kate!” They are OUR ROYALTY! They are not only adorable but cleverly possess the ability to take viewers on their journey to help others! This show promotes social awareness and the joys of serving others! Something you don’t see in a lot of other shows. These guys want to HELP others. Of course, I realize that they are obviously receiving monetary rewards for their efforts, but no one can “script” a true joy of the inner satisfaction they feel when they help others! These guys are the real deal! Great job, HGTV for keeping this show intelligent! These folks are not actors; they are regular, down-home people who love each other, their family, their lives, and they are sincerely share the same focus to make a contribution to the world we live in! What is NOT TO LIKE?? Kudos, too, for the producers NOT USING METAL music to “enhance” the show. Some of your viewers are not into that. This show speaks for itself, which is why it’s working! Keep up the excellent work, everyone! We are with you!

  • Natalie

    Sometimes it seems unreal what is done with the budget the family has. One episode the huge house was almost falling down and the budget was 100k. the average homeowner who needs to remodel a room would look at the end product and wonder how they managed to do that unless all the workers were free. I can do a remodel of my kitchen and with material and labor, one room can be 20k and I see a show that remakes a whole house for 100k? Yeah right. I love the show, but, the average homeowner would not get free professional contractors to do the work.

  • Janice Budge

    We have a Texas farmhouse in Rusk county that was built in 1856. It needs some kitchen, bathroom, and cosmetic work. It is all built with horizontal 10 inch solid wood (shiplap) ? We would love for Joanna and Chip to consider working on it.

    • Perthling

      Only if you can pretend to go around looking at other real estate with them beforehand and can afford to be ripped off on renovations…

  • The deplorable clayusmcret

    None of these shows are as they are portrayed. It’s entertainment, people.

    No respect for David Ridley for going after another 15 minutes of fame.

  • Ocean View

    Starcasm deleted my post. I’ve read that this power couple only uses workers that belong to their church. No outsiders.

  • Lynda Laloone

    Let me see if iv got this right! If the budget is 100,000, and they do the job for 75,000, they get to keep the other 25,000? Sweet!