Things You Didn't Know About Chip Gaines

The man with the shiplap, Chip Gaines, is best known for the HGTV reality show "Fixer Upper," in which he and wife Joanna transform blah houses into stunning dream homes in Waco, Texas. Helping families move into their newly-designed dream homes is a fun enough premise to watch, but the couple behind the renovations took it to a whole new level in the series, which ran on HGTV from 2013 until 2018.

With the audience's access to the behind-the-scenes action, viewers have come to know the Gaines couple and their family well. So much so, in fact, that in early 2022 the couple launched their own network, The Magnolia Network, transforming the Gaineses from HGTV sensations to bona fide media moguls.

Fans may think they know everything there is to know about the wildly popular couple, but there's more to them than meets the eye. Chip Gaines is the fun, relaxed showman who always gets a laugh from his wife, his kids, or frankly, us. But there's a lot about this Texas boy we don't see on the show. Let's take a look at some things you didn't know about the renovation pro.

He was flipping houses long before reality TV

"Fixer Upper" was not Chip Gaines' first time in the home renovation business. He actually started while in college and continued to do so when he started to date Joanna — and soon, the practice caught her interest, as well. As Gaines told Glamour about his wife, "When she started watching me do what I did, which was flip these investment properties, she got kind of curious and interested. I love what I do from a construction standpoint, but in regards to interior design and colors, forget it. I would lean on her — What color do we do this wall? How can we do this floor plan?"

And the rest is history, as Joanna's natural design gifts took the couple and the business to a new level. Gaines went on to say, "So it didn't take very long in our career for her to really evolve into a dominant reality in my business. Next thing you know we are years into this thing and the design part of the equation became noticeably different from our competition."

His childhood dream jobs were amazing

While Chip Gaines was a natural in the home business and started flipping houses from an early age, he never expected to one day have a reality show. As Joanna described to TODAY, he had a few other businesses going when they were first dating as well. From landscape to wash-and-fold, Gaines was a man of many talents. But was this the type of businesses he had always wanted to do? That's a no.

According to Dallas News, Gaines grew up with dreams of being a baseball star, but his plans changed when he didn't make the cut for a college team. We're sorry to hear that — but then again, not really. Whatever it took to get the Chip we've got today.

Starting up the business wasn't easy

It's hard to picture Chip and Joanna Gaines as anything but successful, but that was just the case when they started out their small business after marrying in 2003. They were broke. Joanna described their situation to People, saying they essentially had a wad of cash in Chip's pocket but that was about it. And there was some pressure from the family as well. Concerned about the couple's next steps, Joanna's parents would speak with Gaines about his plans for his career. Gaines told People, "Her dad spent the first two years of our marriage asking me if I was going to get a job...I was like, I have a job and I like it."

And it's a good thing Gaines and his wife stuck with their passion, and their families supported them as they kept going. The first home they bought for themselves was, in fact, a fixer upper. The couple told HGTV, "They [family] have seen some pretty bad homes that we have purchased...this one honestly didn't scare them, mainly because the land was so pretty." And we have to say, their track record since then for these houses seems pretty solid.

He believes hard work is the key to success

So how has Chip Gaines been so successful? Natural talent is a factor, but Gaines believes it's way more than that. As he told House Beautiful, "Hard work is the key ingredient. If you're talented and hardworking, great, good for you, you're gonna make it, you're gonna go places. But if you're talented and don't have the work element behind it, the guy that works harder is going to eventually outpace you and outrun you."

And that is not just with the business, but family as well. Gaines has always been open about the balance he and his wife try to seek with running a huge business and raising a family at the same time. He went on to say, "Jo and I are believers in that. We wake up every morning, we get after it, and we spend good quality time with our kids, but that's usually with some sweat dripping off our brow. We enjoy work as a family, we enjoy work as a couple. So big picture, I would say that we are really advocates to the benefits of a good hard day's work. It certainly helps you sleep better at night, it helps you feel confident about the work that you do. And that means a lot to Jo and I as a couple."

He'll take big risks

Chip Gaines was a huge supporter of his wife when she expressed interest in opening her own shop in their early years of marriage. She was fearful of failure, but Gaines had a different view of it. He thought taking a chance on this was something she should go for. He told TODAY, "Everybody's scared of something, but I have a very high fear tolerance. So when I think about starting a business, I would literally call that on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most fearful you can be, like a you lose a couple of bucks, so your friends think you're a loser...So I told Jo, 'Babe, what are you so scared of?'"

With her husband's support, she went for it and the rest is history. He has continued to take those chances throughout his life and career, and those have led to his and Joanna's success. And fun fact, if a business endeavor does not bring Gaines any fear on the scale, what does? Snakes, skydiving, and one more thing. Gaines said, "If you're going to wrestle a grizzly bear, that's a nine." All good things to know about Gaines.

He was shy when the show first started

Chip Gaines is known for being the goof ball, showman on every episode of Fixer Upper, but in the beginning he was the opposite. Gaines and Joanna spoke with TODAY about that first week that camera guys came by to film and see if this could be a show. Gaines was pretty open about how he did that week. "I was awful...terrible."

Joanna went on to say that he wasn't speaking and ended up going behind the camera rather than in front of it. Gaines described this moment, saying, "I got all jazzed about the equipment itself. You know, I was behind the camera with the camera operator, being like, 'What does that button do?'"

So how did it all turn around? Gaines had a surprise for his wife on the last day of filming. He bought a houseboat and thought the family could live there for six months while their home was being worked on. After seeing Joanna's reaction, Chip knew he'd messed up on this one. But being the problem-solvers they are, Gaines and Joanna worked through a solution to get rid of the houseboat. Gaines said it well. "We can be as mad as we want at each other or we can figure out the problem." And solving the boat problem also led to the solution for their problem in front of the camera. Both Gaines and his wife said they forgot the cameras were even there once they started working out the boat issue. In driver mode, the two were able to get everything resolved, and Gaines described the moment everything changed. "As we're walking off towards, basically, defeat and misery, the camera guy put his camera down, and he was like, 'If I do my job, you've just got yourself a reality television show.' So it was a special moment."

If he weren't in Waco, he could see his family living in ...

Although Waco is home and it's hard to imagine Chip Gaines and Joanna living anywhere else, they have definitely considered other cities in the past. However, family has always been the priority, so a move to a new city became less of a thought for Gaines. Speaking at a KILZ Master Class (via People), the couple opened up about the other cities that have crossed their minds. What was Gaines' first choice? He had to make a joke or two to kick it off: "Mine would be Las Vegas... I think the kids would really appreciate it."

But all jokes aside, he does have a city or two where he could picture his family living, if not Waco. He said during the press event, "Waco is our meet-in-the-middle spot: half big city, half tropical — maybe not. We talk about it. We've been to Kansas City a lot recently and have just fallen in love with that community... Salt Lake, every time we go there it just kind of really inspires us. Obviously New York City for Jo. There are a few cities across the country that we would possibly consider if Waco did not work out." Please bring that Magnolia Market charm to as many cities as possible!

He will address the tough topics

Even though one of our favorite things about Chip Gaines is his charm and humor, he knows when he needs to be serious and address the issues. In late 2016, BuzzFeed published an article regarding Jimmy Seibert, the pastor at the Gaines family's church, and his thoughts on marriage, which he said is between "one man and one wife." Rather than pretending the article never happened, Gaines addressed it in a blog post, called "Chip's New Year's Revelation" on the Magnolia Market website.

He said, "Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It's not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith." He went on to say he and Joanna want to be "bridge builders" in society. "We want to help initiate conversations between people that don't think alike. Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don't believe that lie." This was a powerful post from Gaines that gave us deeper insight into his beliefs and concerns.

Family always comes first

It's easy to see on each episode of "Fixer Upper" just how important family is to Chip Gaines and Joanna. The kids are involved in the family business, and it's fun to get a glimpse of their bonding time through the show. And, although the show is wonderful and has brought great things for the family, they won't let it take precedence over their biggest priorities in life. As Gaines told People in an interview, "We are thankful for our success... But if it ever compromised our ability to be a healthy married couple or our kids started to get a little bit off track, we would quit this thing in a heartbeat."

Gaines has stayed humble throughout all the fame, and that is what makes the show so great. He has a great attitude and puts his wife and family above all else. He continued on to say, "All of this sort of fell into our laps.... We were just living our life out here in little bitty Waco. We had dreams and aspirations like most folks, but this has really been something else." We're glad we've been given the chance to see into the Gaines family's life — both their business and their family.

What keeps Chip up at night

With such a huge business on their hands, one would think that the primary thing on Chip Gaines and Joanna's minds would be about said business. While it's true that their TV business is important to them, it's another family business that keeps Gaines up at night. As he told Country Living, "For me, it's less about business.... What keeps me up at night is the idea that a coyote could come to our place and get our beautiful, little goats that have just been born in the last few weeks. When I hear those little suckers, hooping and hollering, I'm always like 'Oh no! There's a coyote, I better go check on them.' It's more agricultural concerns that keep me up at night."

And what is one thing he doesn't stress about? The kids. He said, "I don't worry about the kids at all." With a happy, safe family, a booming business, and a farm to top it off, Gaines and his family are giving us the chance to see into their wonderful country living.

He is still getting used to the fame

Even though "Fixer Upper" has been on the air for some time, Chip Gaines is still surprised by the recognition he receives from big fans of the show. As he told The Hollywood Reporter (THR), people are dedicated. "People are driving cross-country to visit our hometown, hoping to grab a coffee or a beer with us.... Things have gotten so unique and complicated that the best we can do is kind of wave from the top of the silos." And Gaines must do a lot of waving. According to THR, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people come to Waco each week to see the Gaines family and their home.

Even with the fame, Gaines and his wife Joanna still want to have a normal life. They make sure to stand their grand in discussions with the network regarding how many episodes they are willing to do in order to keep a semblance of that normal life. He said during the interview, "The conversation started with, 'We can do 10 episodes,'.... And they were like, 'How about 50?' We went up to 11. They went down to 47." But even with the complications that come with fame and success, Gaines really does want to help and inspire those people who watch the show and make their way to Waco. "I'd love for people to hear our name and get inspired to create spaces in their own homes that help their families thrive."

He knows he and Joanna will make it all the way

"Fixer Upper" is a great show for many reasons, including the home renovation projects and the laughs our favorite couple bring on, but the best has to be seeing the relationship between Gaines and his wife, Joanna. And just to make them even more perfect, Gaines has never been afraid to share just how much he loves his wife. Speaking with House Beautiful, he laid it all on the table. "When I love my wife, I love her all the way. This isn't a sales pitch, this isn't a tagline. You'll see us in our 80s and we'll be sitting together on a rocking chair. That's how it is. That's how it ends for us. I can tell you even 13 years into it, you can put that in the bank. I know lots of country songs have been written about that, and years later it didn't go so well. You can put that in the bank that that's how it ends for she and I."

Swoon. Seriously, we keep thinking we can't love this couple more than we already do, but it keeps happening. Cheers to Chip for being himself on and off camera and letting us as an audience in to see his and his family's day-to-day lives.

He launched a whole other business

Landscaping, fixing up houses, and ... running a restaurant? There seems to be little Chip Gaines can't do. Another Gaines' sideline venture has been to fix up a well-known restaurant in Waco, Texas that had shut down. And just like always, Gaines is taking on this new project hand in hand with his wife. He spoke with Southern Living (per Entertainment Tonight) about the local spot, saying, "I've always been a breakfast connoisseur. I always do a heavy, bigger breakfast, but Jo is the exact opposite. She was kind enough to come with me on this one, and we are going to do up a breakfast joint here in town."

And Gaines isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. An establishment that has been open since 1919, he knew there would be some intense renovating needed. And like he has always said, hard work is key. "The restaurant itself is literally one big giant kitchen," he said. "When we first got in there, it was all the things you can imagine — dingy, musky. But if I took you in there today, you'd be like 'Oh! This is so clean, everything smells so great.' Those are a few benefits of a little bit of elbow grease and hard work on the front end."

The restaurant finally opened up in 2018 — under a whole new name: Magnolia Table, which also became the name of Joanna Gaines' solo cooking show on their Magnolia Network, as well as the title of her 2018 cookbook, which spawned two sequels. 

He wishes he'd given more thought to bringing his kids on Fixer Upper

Not only did viewers of "Fixer Upper" get to meet Chip Gaines and wife Joanna, but they were also introduced to the couple's five children. While that happened organically, Chip later came to regret it. 

"We were kind of naive and dumb, really, to be frank, enough to be like, let's have the kids be involved," he recalled in an interview with Kennebec Cabin Company. Complications eventually arose when the couple's children eventually began being recognized out in public, leading the couple to become extra protective while also realizing they'd created a problem that could have been avoided. "You know, Mama Bear came out and Papa Bear, and I'm like, I don't know that I want my kids to be visible in that way unless they want to be visible," he said.

He and his wife landed on the same page when it came to featuring their kids on television. As Joanna explained in an interview with Yahoo! Life, they ultimately decided to let the kids determine whether or not they wanted to go in front of the camera. "With our kids, I've just gotten more mindful of it being their decision as they've gotten older," she said. In fact, Gaines observed, he and Joanna had come to the conclusion that none of their children appeared to be particularly interested in appearing in front of the camera — so they didn't. 

He proposed to another woman before Joanna

Before meeting future wife Joanna, Chip Gaines was in a relationship with a woman named Amy. As he recounted for The Magnolia Journal (as reported by People), he nearly bungled things big time when he went to visit her in London, where she was living temporarily. "She asked me where I thought our relationship was headed, and I, being a complete idiot, said something along the lines of, 'You know, I've never given it much thought,'" he said.

On the flight home, Gaines had plenty of time to contemplate his feelings and came to a decision. "I walked off that plane hell-bent on making that young woman my wife," he recalled. When Amy returned to Texas, he began pulling out all the stops. At one point, he hatched what he thought was a brilliant plan to make a grand gesture using some leftover building materials from a stone retaining wall he'd recently built for a client. In the middle of the night, while Amy was sleeping, he constructed a miniature version of that retaining wall. He also left a note explaining the significance of the structure. When Amy and her roommates emerged the next day, they were horrified to see what appeared to be a tombstone outside their home. That led Amy's father to send Gaines a letter pointing out that his beyond-normal tenacity in pursuing his daughter was not being greeted warmly, at which point the lovestruck Gaines agreed to knock it off. 

The greedy reason he waited five months to call Joanna after their first date

Chip Gaines met Joanna Stevens while she was working in her father's tire store in Waco, Texas, and he came in to get the brakes on his vehicle fixed. He asked her out, and she accepted; their first date took place in a restaurant situated on the porch of a historic mansion. 

As Joanna later recalled in the couple's book, "The Magnolia Story," she felt they'd hit it off and that the date had gone well. She expected Chip would call her up and ask her out for a second date — a call that didn't come until five months had passed. She was understandably irked, but didn't know there was a reasonable — albeit kind of stupid — reason for his tardiness: He'd made a $50 bet with a friend over who could wait the longest before calling back the women they'd dated. "I really wanted that 50 dollars from John!" Chip insisted. "That's the only reason I didn't call."

When the long-awaited call finally arrived, Chip invited Joanna to accompany him to a basketball game. "Once again, without hesitation, I said yes," she said, "and from that night on Chip and I started seeing each other almost every day."

Chip Gaines is a published author who's written multiple books

While television stardom would have seemed wildly unlikely to young Chip Gaines, that would also have held true of the notion that he'd someday write books. Yet that too came to pass when he and wife Joanna co-authored their first book, "The Magnolia Story," published in 2016.

Chip then went solo with his own follow-up, the 2017 book "Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff." As the title suggests, Gaines shares the wisdom he picked up along the way. "Some parts are more fun and lighthearted than others; some parts get a little gritty," he said of the work in an interview with Forbes. While the book collects thoughts and ideas he'd been compiling for some time, he admitted the actual process of writing was not something that came easily. "Honestly," he joked of having written two books, "it was like having open-heart surgery, twice."

Gaines' next book — "No Pain, No Gaines" — arrived in 2021. This time, he stresses the importance of the relationships he's built in contributing to his success. However, in an interview with Baptist News Global, he was quick to point out that it wasn't a book about relentless networking in order to attain personal advancement, but something more pure and spiritual. "It's about how to find a group of real people who come through for you in good times and bad," he said.

He once enlisted his assistant to find a homeless man a job

Viewers who watched Chip and Joanna Gaines on "Fixer Upper" and their subsequent projects for their own Magnolia Network likely walked away thinking they were good, decent people with kind hearts and admirable intentions. And while it's true that television doesn't always represent reality, in this case there's some anecdotal evidence suggesting that may actually be true.  

At one point in his book, "Capital Gaines," Chip turns over the writing duties to three of his assistants, who each share their own personal experiences of what he was like as a boss, gleaned from their years of working for him. One of these assistants, Beth, writes about the time Gaines came bounding into the office, late for a meeting: "He called to me and said, 'Beth, it's kind of a long story, but I picked up a homeless guy, and he's sitting outside in the parking lot. Can you go out there, talk to him, and find him a job?"

Sadly, Beth wrote, that story didn't have the kind of ending that her boss had been hoping for. After doing some calling around, she eventually found the man a job working in the warehouse — but he never showed up for the interview that had been scheduled.

The reason Chip Gaines doesn't talk about politics

Another section of Chip Gaines' book "Capital Gaines" details his thoughts about the importance of overcoming fear in one's life. "If I ever run for public office one day, there's a good chance my stump speech will be about making it illegal to live in fear," he wrote. In another portion of the book, he pens his own epitaph, jokingly describing (or predicting?) wife Joana's two terms in the White House, where he serves as her vice president.

While that may seem like a veiled hint about one day entering politics, Gaines has admitted that he doesn't necessarily have plans to enter the political arena. In fact, he told Variety that he's consciously avoided making any statement that would point to a political affiliation on one side or the other. "We want people to not think of us as right-wing or left-wing or moderates or versions of those concepts in between, and just look at us as human beings that are looking out for the betterment of other human beings," he explained. 

The way Gaines views it, the divisiveness that has widened America's political divide is hurting everyone — left, right, and everything in between. This problem is one that he's eager to try to solve. "Let's figure out how to bridge this gap so we can actually get some s*** done," he declared.

He's very particular about flooring

As viewers of "Fixer Upper" came to realize, Chip Gaines and wife Joanna had an outsized affection for shiplap in their home renovations. Speaking with House Beautiful, Chip admitted that he had two distinct "passions" when it comes to homes: landscaping for the exterior and flooring in the interior. "But when I get in the front door, I'm sort of a flooring snob, so I love to see high-quality products, whether it be tile or hardwood floors," he explained. Those elements, he added, were typically the first thing that leapt out at him whenever he opened the door to enter a new home.

He's also a stickler when it comes to painting. "For me, preparation is everything," he said. "People hate that. They hate spending time taping off walls and trim and windows. So a lot of people skip steps. When you skip steps, just like with any industry, bad things typically tend to happen." From his perspective, all that prep work before painting a wall is akin to the foundation of a building — when someone tries to cut corners by avoiding sanding, taping, and that all-important coat of primer, the end result will invariably be shoddier. According to Gaines, the extra time and effort put in at the start of a paint job will yield dividends at the conclusion of the job, ultimately saving time when it really counts. 

He insists he's the same guy off-camera as he is on TV

The Chip Gaines that viewers see on television is the same guy they would encounter in real life. That declaration comes from — no surprise — Chip Gaines himself. As he explained in an interview with Forbes, he's no actor, and doesn't have the capability to pretend to be anybody but his own authentic self when the cameras roll. 

"There really is no difference," he said of his on- and off-screen personas. "I'm the same guy on the show as I am at the office and at home with Jo and the kids. Jo and I have always believed in hard work and not going home until we're proud of the work we've done."

In fact, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey (via People), Gaines said came to realize that it was his authenticity that was at the core of his success as a television personality. "TV was a funny thing for me. I'm an authentic, sincere person. So, as long as things are natural and organic, I'm in my element," he explained. His inability to act, or even to pretend to be anything but his authentic self, led him to an epiphany about himself and what lies at the core of his popularity with TV viewers. "But the more staged something becomes or the more required something becomes, it boxes me up," he added.

The most important lesson Chip Gaines ever learned

Chip Gaines has always been a firm believer that hard work will always eventually outpace talent. That was the most important lesson he's ever learned in his life — courtesy of his father. 

"My dad taught me about the true value of hard work, and the value of honoring your commitments and the importance of pursuing the things you're passionate about with a sense of tenacity," he told Forbes, sharing the core values that have defined him. As a result, he's made it his life's work to enact those values on a daily basis through every aspect of his life. According to Gaines, "It's not so much about what you do, but how you do it that defines your character."

Due to his early career as a tradesperson, working with his hands, Gaines has had to adjust his views on what a hard day's work feels like. "I hope I don't get emotional or too philosophical here, but my life's most complicated struggle has been summarized by the thought that if you don't sweat, if you don't physically feel exhausted, it's not work," he explained in an interview with Entrepreneur. "And I found myself in this real odd place, getting less and less sleep, overwhelmed by the reality that I've got a full-time job that doesn't require a whole lot of quote-unquote sweat equity."