The untold truth of Good Bones

Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak, the mother-daughter team you've seen on HGTV's Good Bones, bring both beauty and brains to the small screen. Their show follows the two women and their company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, as they rehabilitate homes in their hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana — but Good Bones isn't your average home renovation show. Laine and Starsiak entertain audiences with their contrasting personalities and charm, but what really sets the show apart is the passion they have for what they do. Laine and Starsiak aren't just trying to show the world how well they can rehab a house — they want to transform their entire community.

Their unique backgrounds (Laine was a lawyer and Starsiak is a real estate agent) also give them a unique perspective on the industry. They built their business from the ground up, and though they are now reaching huge audiences, they are still jumping over hurdles every day. Here are some of the most fascinating things you never knew about the women behind Good Bones.

The houses they rehab are often filled with poop

Laine and Starsiak manage to make rehabbing houses look fun and easy, even when things get nasty. While it might seem exciting to turn a run-down house into a showpiece, in reality, things get downright nauseating. Starsiak revealed to Indy Star just how gross things can get: "It's always shocking," she said. "The houses we go in, there's so much poop. It always amazes me. Human and animal poop."

Because the houses are often so disgusting, Laine and Starsiak like taking on houses that have had a fire. Fire burns up some of the poop, making their jobs a little easier. Starsiak said that the house they fixed up in the pilot episode of Good Bones had had a fire, but was hiding another weird surprise. "It also had a chest freezer that was full and hadn't had the power to it in at least six months," she said. "We had to empty it to take the weight out to carry it upstairs. It was full of slabs of meat. I 100 percent thought there'd be at least one frozen cat."

They are adamant that they're NOT house flippers

People who don't know a lot about Laine and Starsiak might mistake them for house flippers, but they are adamant that it's not what they're about. House flipping tends to be purely a business venture, but Laine and Starsiak have bigger goals than just making money. Instead of branding themselves as house flippers, they see themselves as neighborhood rehabilitators.

"We truly are rehabbing neighborhoods," Laine told Indy Star. "If we were flipping, we wouldn't strip down to studs, install new electrical, new HVAC, new plumbing or whatever else needs to be done. This is rehab. These houses need a good 12-step program."

They are also excited about the opportunities that they are able to bring to people in Indianapolis. "We have this opportunity for local people to apply their trade and grow in their chosen career, which is a beautiful thing to watch," Laine told PopSugar. Starsiak hopes that the exposure the show has given Indianapolis helps other small businesses in the area grow.  

Laine's wild side

Before starting Two Chicks and a Hammer with her daughter, Laine had a successful career as an attorney. When they landed the show, she had to take a step back from practicing law in order to focus on the business, although she retained a few of her clients. The fact that she's a lawyer, a wife, and a mom might make it seem that Laine is totally straight-laced and serious, but it turns out that she has a wild side. "Most people are surprised to find that I have a tattoo that goes from the nape of my neck, covers my back, and extends down the backs of my thighs," she told Marketplace Events.

The lawyer-turned-house-rehabber also knows how to throw a good party. Her rules for get-togethers are simple: "Fun people. Easy-to-eat food. Music. Adult beverages." Wrap parties for Good Bones must be a blast if Laine has a hand in planning them.

Starsiak is the daughter, but she says she's the "mom"

Once you know about Laine's wild streak, it kind of makes sense that Starsiak considers herself to be the more responsible of the two. "She's the kid, and I'm the mom," Starsiak told the Los Angeles Times about her mother, who she says has a "hippie personality."

Working so closely together is bound to put a strain on any relationship, but fortunately, the mother and daughter have a tight enough bond that they're able to make it work. That doesn't mean it's easy, though.  Laine and Starsiak have very different personalities, which sometimes leads to friction. "Any mother-daughter duo who says they'd love to work together only say that because they haven't done it!" Laine told PopSugar

The two manage to work past their differences, though, and learned how to make their skill sets "mesh." Laine said, "I don't get in her way, and she stops me from doing stupid things." Starsiak said that working with a relative is what makes a successful partnership. "There's a level of trust you don't get even with a lifelong friend — you can't get that unless you're with family," she said.

YouTube taught them everything they know

When you watch Good Bones, it's easy to assume that Laine and Starsiak are trained contractors with decades of experience, but that isn't the case. Before they ever started their first project, Starsiak was working as a waitress as Pizzology and Laine was a defense attorney. Neither of their jobs did much to prepare the mother and daughter team for rehabbing homes. When they decided to rehab their first house, they taught themselves how to do it.

"Most of it we learned along the way," Starsiak told Indianapolis Monthly. "I read the directions for flooring and putting up light fixtures. I watched YouTube to figure out how to tile." According to her, the easiest thing to learn how to do was the demolition. "Well, no one has to teach you how to break sh*t," she said. The fact that Laine and Starsiak learned how to do everything on their own makes their incredible success even more impressive.

It's all about Indy

Good Bones is set in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Laine and Starsiak have no plans on branching out from that location. "It's important to me to stay in the neighborhood where we live," Laine told Indianapolis Monthly. They hope that they can help revitalize the neighborhood by staying laser-focused and only rehabbing local homes. "If you do one house in one ZIP code, and another in another ZIP code, you don't have any effect on the neighborhood," said Laine.

Starsiak said that she and her mother "received awesome feedback from locals" after the show hit the air. "People seem to really love how the city is being showcased," she told Visit Indy. Their efforts have also apparently had a positive effect on Indy tourism. "We also know of at least two people who have come to visit Indy only because they saw the show and loved it, so it's bringing new people to our incredible city."

Deep debt and cancer didn't get in the way of their dreams

Laine and Starsiak aren't just passionate about what they do — they're also fiercely committed to their business. These two don't let anything get in their way. Contrary to what people might think, starring in an HGTV show like Good Bones doesn't exactly make you rich overnight. 

Laine told Indianapolis Monthly that "early on, for the talent, there is very little money in TV." The profits made from the show go straight back into the business, going towards fixing up the next house. Starting up the business required both Starsiak and Laine to take out mortgages and to ask their family to invest in the company. "We don't have enough to afford Porta Potties at all of our job sites," Starsiak explained. "We're not rich yet," Laine said with a laugh. "I'm still deeply in debt."

An even bigger challenge came when Laine's husband was diagnosed with cancer. While filming the show, she also supported her husband through his treatments which included a surgery. "Once we got the show, we didn't have a choice," Starsiak said. "There was no more talking about the hurdles. It was, 'Just do it.'"

They have to fight against sexism

You'd think that running a successful business and starring on a hit reality TV show would mean that people would respect you, but, nope — Laine and Starsiak still have to deal with a lot of sexism. They've proved over and over again that they're not afraid of hard work, but they still have to demand respect from men.

"There have been a few occasions where the boys sass me," Laine told Indy Star. "We're dealing with guys in their 50s who have been doing this a long time. … They will get a little mouthy, and I can't let that go because then they will not respect me. If I'm your boss, you don't get to be disrespectful." Starsiak's advice to getting through it? "Don't try to be a lady," she said. "You've got to be real, not afraid. You've got to get your hands dirty along with everyone else."

Starsiak thought the casting agent who scouted them was a scammer

Starsiak didn't set out to have a television show. In fact, she was so surprised when she and her mom first caught the attention of a casting agent that she thought she was being scammed. "She kept calling my cell phone, and I thought it was someone messing with me first and trying to get our business information," Starsiak told PopSugar.

Laine, on the other hand, had secret dreams of being in the spotlight. After they had already landed the show, she came across a letter that she had written to HGTV several years before telling the network that they should make a show about Two Chicks and a Hammer. While their eventual discovery came years later and had nothing to do with the letter Laine wrote, it does serve as proof that she knew she and her daughter were born to be on TV.

HGTV fame means working two full-time jobs

Good Bones has helped to make Two Chicks and a Hammer more successful, but it has also significantly increased their workload. "Everything is harder," Laine told No Mean City. "It's like having two full-time jobs, filming 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day while we're getting our work done."

The show has complicated their lives in more ways than one. Laine and Starsiak aren't just working longer hours, but have also found themselves racing against the clock to expand Two Chicks and a Hammer. "I think our biggest challenge has been growing our business fast enough to meet the needs of HGTV," Laine told PopSugar. HGTV doesn't foot the bill for the houses Two Chicks and a Hammer rehabs, so they have to make sure they have enough money to rehab enough houses for an entire season. "Mina will tell you that we put about $150,000-$180,000 into each house," said Laine. "So if we do 10 houses, that's $1.5 million to $1.8 million. And we didn't have that in our pockets, so that growth spurt was up."

They have totally different tastes in houses

The mother-daughter duo spend a lot of their time working on houses, but they have wildly different tastes in homes. Laine loves to keep it simple, and has a lot of suggestions for how people can make the most out of living in small spaces, such as adding as many shelves as possible. "I strongly believe we can all live more with less," the low-maintenance TV star told Marketplace Events.

She said that she wouldn't mind living in a tiny house, and could even make the small space work for both her and her husband. No doubt Laine's space-saving solutions would come in handy living in a small home. Her daughter, on the other hand, hasn't inherited her mother's love for minimalism. Starsiak said that she wouldn't fare too well living in such a confining environment. "I'm far too unorganized, and my husband would kill me," she said.

They'd love to collaborate with some other big names

Laine and Starsiak make a perfect TV team, but they would also love to work with other big names in the business. The fiery-haired Laine said that she would love to have the chance to pair up with Mike Holmes, the star of Holmes on Homes. "I have a soft spot for gingers, and I think I could learn a thing or two from him," she told Indianapolis Home Show.

Starsiak said that the HGTV star she'd most like to work with is Clint Harp, who first became known as a craftsman on Fixer Upper before landing his own show on DIY, Wood Work. "He's just the nicest human alive and super-talented and funny," Starsiak told Marketplace Events. While we all want Laine and Starsiak to continue working together for years to come, if they ever do decide to part ways, it could be interesting to see them work with one of these pros.