The Renovation Mistake That Cost Fixer Upper's Chip & Joanna Gaines Big Time

Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper" are known for their incredible home transformations. Many of us have taken a page from their book when it comes to designing our own homes. But, sometimes, even the experts make mistakes. Unfortunately, the mistake that the Gaines made during some of their renovations cost them big bucks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forced the Gaineses to cough up tens of thousands of dollars after the agency said they failed to take proper lead paint precautions.

The EPA found the Gaineses to be in violation of the Toxic Substances Control ACT (TSCA) Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP Rule). The EPA said that the couple failed to minimize the risk of lead-based paint hazards on 33 houses they renovated on their show. In addition to paying hefty fines, the Gaines were required to perform lead abatement work, as well as make an effort to educate the public about the hazards of not following safety guidelines during home renovations. 

The accusations

If you're wondering how "Fixer Upper" home renovations really hold up, you'll find that not all go as planned. The EPA's allegations were waged after the organization reviewed episodes of "Fixer Upper." The footage from the programming didn't reveal the legally required precautions to safely remove paint and prevent potential exposure to lead. While lead-based paint was outlawed in 1978, there are still some homes that have lead-based paint in them. That's why the RRP Rule requires contractors working in homes built prior to 1978 to follow certain procedures to contain and dispose of dust when working on these homes. 

Lead-based paint can create a hazard when it is chipped, damaged, or removed during a renovation creating lead dust. When exposed to lead, it can cause seizures, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and in severe cases, death. Children with developing nervous systems are most at risk for lead poisoning.

The EPA said that the couple failed to get EPA certification before conducting their work and didn't hire a certified contractor to perform the work. Other complaints include not covering floors and vents to prevent and contain the spread of dust and paint chips and not posting signage, among multiple other violations of EPA law. The EPA said that the Gaineses company, Magnolia Home, was very responsive after being made aware of the violations.

The outcome

"After EPA contacted Magnolia with concerns about the company's compliance, Magnolia took immediate steps to ensure compliance with the RRP Rule, including to obtain RRP certification and training for the firm and its staff and to ensure active compliance across all ongoing renovation projects," an EPA statement says. Magnolia Home also agreed to update its recordkeeping practices by staff and subcontractors to ensure that they were in compliance. The company also agreed to submit periodic reports to the EPA as proof of compliance. 

In the settlement with the EPA, Magnolia Homes paid $40,000 in civil fines. They also hired an independent certified abatement firm to conduct $160,000 worth of lead-based paint abatement work in homes or facilities occupied by children in their hometown of Waco, Texas. On top of that, the Gaineses used their television platform to educate the estimated 3 million households that watch "Fixer Upper" about lead-based paint safety. This was one massive renovation mistake they never want to make again.