Insiders Spill Secrets of HGTV Home Reveals

HGTV homeowners

HGTV/YouTube Homeowners enter their house for a "reveal day" segment on HGTV's "Help! I Wrecked My House"

Whether it’s Chip and Joanna Gaines pulling apart the massive “before” picture of a “Fixer Upper” home they’ve transformed or Ben and Erin Napier’s clients opening their eyes to see their new house’s “Home Town” makeover, renovation TV shows are known for the big payoff at the end of each episode: the moment the hosts reveal the finished exteriors and interiors to their gobsmacked clients. But what viewers don’t see may be just as fascinating as what they do; multiple HGTV hosts and homeowners have revealed details about what really has gone on behind the scenes of their reveal days, from budget hiccups to unfinished projects.

HGTV Stars Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

Erin Ben Napier

HGTV Erin and Ben Napier of HGTV’s “Home Town”

Over the years, many viewers have wondered why HGTV’s reveals typically only show a handful of rooms — frequently including the living area, kitchen, and primary bedroom, but often ignoring other areas of the home. In an Instagram post on January 17, 2023, “Home Town” host Erin Napier shed some light on the reasons for this.

“Because y’all ask this every single time, if you don’t see bedrooms or bathrooms on the episode it’s because it’s real life and people don’t typically renovate every room,” she wrote. “And if they do, we don’t have time in the schedule to do it all for TV because we are doing 5 houses at a time, 20 episodes a season so they have that work going on separately or in phase 2 after we finish.”

Meanwhile, viewers also frequently wonder about the little design quirks they notice in home reveals, such as why the titles of books are never shown on shelves. In a June 2022 blog post, “Help! I Wrecked My House” host Jasmine Roth answered that question.

Roth wrote, “It’s a really simple answer: copyright! That’s right, this isn’t some breakthrough of a design trick. Although it’s actually kind of a hot button issue with book lovers who aren’t fans of hiding the titles.”

Pointing out that she even has to hold stacks of books with only the pages showing instead of the spine of the book, Roth continued, “It’s because the network would have to get copyright clearance from every single title in order to display them.  And that’s not very realistic considering each design could have at least 10 books in them!”

Budgets are also questionable to some viewers. Homeowners have to foot the bill for their renovations, but in a March 2021 profile of HGTV in The New Yorker, host and designer Steve Ford said clients “are getting more for their buck than they should,” benefitting from cost-savings that producers secure through discounted goods and services, which is why many renovations seem to cost less on TV than they do in real life.

Most homeowners also don’t get to keep the furnishings they see in their homes on reveal days. In an interview on HGTV’s website, former network executive Betsy Ayala admitted that most homes are staged for the final reveal.

“Most if not all of our flipping shows are staged,” Ayala said, but noted that sometimes a renovation will include furnishings and homeowners can also choose to purchase the staged pieces.

In a 2017 Instagram post, Napier wrote, “The homeowners’ budget usually does allow for lots of pieces they get to keep + the custom pieces builds for each home and I like to use the homeowner’s own furnishings and objects as much as possible.”

Napier also wrote that they use decor and furnishings from local shops in Laurel, Mississippi, and give their homeowners a “catalogued binder of everything we use that shows the special price our shop owners offer if they would like to keep it.”

HGTV Homeowners Share What Viewers Didn’t See During Their Reveal Segments

Though homeowners have to sign non-disclosure agreements with HGTV and its production partners before filming, some still share inside details on their experiences — from wonderful to awful.

Nashville homeowners Kristen and Nick Mancini loved the results of their renovations, featured on a January 2023 episode of Christina Hall’s new series, “Christina in the Country.” After their episode aired, Kristen shared insights about their experience via her Instagram Stories on January 20.

Answering a viewer who asked whether there were “any big moments that didn’t make the episode,” Mancini posted a photo of their new stairs and railing, revealing an unexpected project that increased their budget, but for which she was ultimately grateful.

“So we weren’t originally planning to update our front staircase at this time but when sanded down our hardwood floors, we realized the original builders installed red oak stair treads when our flooring was white oak,” she wrote, adding that the stairs looked pink compared to the rest of their wood.

“The only way to fix it was to replace the stair treads,” she continued. “When they replace those they have to break the spindles so we really didn’t have a choice to go ahead and update the whole stair case and upstairs railing. I’m SO HAPPY we ‘had’ to but it was definitely a hit to the budget. We couldn’t include this drama in the show because the stair parts were back ordered and didn’t get finished until after our reveal and final film date.”

Mancini also revealed that, instead of living elsewhere during renovations, her family stayed in their kids’ upstairs playroom the whole time, with a “6ft table with our coffee maker, toaster oven and crockpot set up.” She added that she washed dishes in their boys’ bathtub.

Because of supply chain issues, Mancini also said that they had to “immediately” order kitchen appliances to ensure they were installed in time to film their big reveal.

“While I love how our selections function,” she wrote, “I wish I could’ve shopped around more. I probably would’ve wanted to do paneled/hidden appliances or really pretty ones. We could only pick from what was in stock which really limited options.”

While Mancini still feels good about her family’s experience with HGTV, other homeowners have been vocal about their disappointment and anger following theirs. For instance, in exclusive interviews with Heavy, disgruntled homeowner Ron Onyon, whose family was featured on HGTV’s “Renovation Impossible” in the fall of 2022, has said the crew left his house with more problems instead of less.

Though Onyon and his wife appeared excited during the segment in which host Russell J. Holmes revealed their renovations, he said they didn’t have time during filming to inspect the quality of the materials and installations until after the film and construction crews left. Onyon said that in addition to discovering damaged, unfinished and inoperable elements of their renovation, which he’s shared on his TikTok account, his family was displaced for several months instead of the 10 days Russell told viewers the home makeover took.

“The show, host and contractors have known of my issues since the reveal,” Onyon told Heavy.