Chip Gaines' Remodeling Tips Every Fixer Upper Fan Needs to Know
Get your home ready for demo day with Chip's tips and tricks.
If you're like us, you've always wanted the inside scoop on what it takes to get a remodel worthy of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Luckily, you don't have to live in Waco, Texas to give your home the ultimate Fixer Upper remodel. Whether you are getting ready to set a budget or are preparing for demo day with your contractor, we asked Chip to share his insider advice for scoring the perfect home renovation.
Q: One of the largest headaches when it comes to remodeling is staying on budget. What has been your best approach to setting a realistic remodeling budget with clients?
Chip: Going into a project, it's important to know what you want to spend and to be realistic about it. If you have a limited budget, spend your money where you'll get the biggest bang for your buck. If Jo were to hang a new picture on the wall, I probably wouldn't notice, but if she changed our paint color, I'd catch it right away. If you have a larger project and budget, you may think your estimated cost will cover everything; but, if you run into an expensive problem with the foundation or plumbing, it can throw you for a loop. Make sure you get an inspection before you start your project and stay in regular contact with your contractors to prevent any surprise costs.
Q: For homeowners that want to make a big impact but have a limited remodeling budget, what projects should they do first?
Chip: Hands down a new paint job would be the first thing I'd recommend. It is one of the simplest yet most dramatic ways to transform a space, especially if you start noticing places on your walls in high-traffic areas with one too many scuff marks or kids' handprints (in our house, honestly they're probably mine). In our work, budgets are often limited and Joanna and I rely on paint to make a big difference.
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Q: We've all heard how painting cabinets is the next big thing and an easy way to make a big difference in a home. How can you tell if existing cabinets can be restored with paint or if they're too far gone?
Chip: There's no doubt that replacing kitchen cabinets can take a big bite out of the budget, sometimes even 50%. I'd first ask yourself if the functionality and layout of the cabinetry works before deciding if it's worth repainting. If you're just planning a cosmetic refresh, then make sure you inspect the condition of the cabinets to see if they're salvageable. Large nicks and cracks in the wood with significant wear or laminate that is separating can be challenging to paint over and the finish won't hold up over time. If the cabinets are in decent shape, but you want a refresh or a different look, painting is a great option. My one tip here is to always start with a high-quality primer like KILZ Max to protect the cabinets and create a smooth base and you'll see a truer color from your paint.
Q: Another trend that's all over homeowner's Pinterest boards is exposed ceiling beams. Give us the dirt, how complicated is this project?
Chip: This can be a complicated project that you'll definitely want to leave to the professionals. If done incorrectly, it becomes a safety hazard, and that's not worth a "picture perfect" living room. Now, if your ceilings are high enough and there's room in the budget, this is definitely something that makes a dramatic and worthwhile difference. When we take this on in a client's home, you can just about guarantee they're wowed every time.
Q: On Fixer Upper, you and Joanna come up with a lot of creative solutions to complicated problems. What's been your favorite solution to-date?
Chip: That's a tough one, and I don't think I can pick a true favorite. There was one family though who had more than a few sets of kids and grandkids and they knew this home would be the holiday gathering spot. The problem was there wasn't space to add more guest rooms. So we ended up doing a bunkroom with four queen-sized beds, which gave the family plenty of room for kids and grandkids. Jo and I are constantly rethinking spaces for our clients' needs. We're big on making your home work for you.
Q: If you were building a new home, what would be your top 3 must-haves?
Chip: Plenty of land to work, a big porch for rocking chairs, and a kitchen that has all the things Jo needs to whip up her favorite Gaines family recipes.
Q: Big renovations call for their fair share of demolition—what are your recommendations when it comes to expanding space and knocking down walls?
Chip: We all know demo day is my favorite day, but I've been surprised by how many homeowners are actually afraid of demo! When you start talking through the details of your project, don't be afraid to make a major structural change. Raising a ceiling, replacing a porch or taking out a wall or two can completely change the look and feel of your home. It may be daunting to pick up that hammer and start swinging, but if you keep your end vision in mind, it will help you stay on track. Just make sure you have a structural engineer sign off on your plans before you go knocking down anything that could be load bearing. You also need to pay attention to the plumbing and electrical in the house so you don't compromise the integrity of the home.
Q: You've been through a lot of remodels, what are some of the most common DIY mistakes you've seen people make?
Chip: I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is biting off more than they can chew. This often leads to skipping steps, shortcuts, quick fixes and choosing lesser quality products to save a buck. In the end, these mistakes usually end up costing more. For Jo and me, it's extremely important to us that the end result will last decades and is not just built for the now, but for the future. I think this is something people often fail to consider before they dive head first into a project.
Q: We've talked a lot about the client side of remodeling, let's switch gears to the contractor side. What do contractors expect to see from homeowner's both prior to and during a remodel?
Chip: As a contractor, I want to know that the homeowner has done their research and has a good handle of their budget and what the project could cost. It can be tempting to get carried away with the idea of renovation and then not spend enough time carefully planning out your project. Sit with an idea for a while and talk openly and honestly about it with your contractor before going for it. You don't want to put the time, money and effort in, only to change your mind when the project is too far down the road.
Want more tips from Chip? Check out his advice for fixing up your favorite space.