Homeowners detail ‘nightmare’ experience being on Magnolia Network’s ‘Home Work’

Families featured on the Magnolia home renovation show “Home Work” are alleging that their remodels turned into “nightmares,” sharing experiences like months of delayed construction, tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected additional high costs and a lack of communication from the show’s hosts.

At least three Instagram users have shared posts detailing their experiences with Candis and Andrew Meredith, a Utah-based couple who restore and renovate homes. Candis began her career restoring and selling homes at 21, and Andrew joined her in the work shortly after the couple wed in 2013. In 2015, the duo began hosting “Old Home Love” on HGTV before launching “Home Work” on Magnolia Network, run by Chip and Joanna Gaines, in 2021.

The 13-episode series, which finished airing its first season in October, showed the Merediths renovating their own home, a 20,000-square-foot former schoolhouse, while also remodeling the homes of other families.

Two homeowners whose remodels were part of the show both shared similar stories on Instagram and with TODAY.

Aubry Bennion, a Utah-based project manager, had just finished renovating her own bathroom when she applied to the show and was contacted in October 2019. Her kitchen needed a renovation, and she was willing to do it on a budget. On Instagram on Jan. 5, Bennion shared her experience across 18 posts.

“On the eve of a Magnolia Network cable launch, the well-edited version of the story will show only their side of October 2019 and beyond,” Bennion wrote in one caption. “People, bank accounts, livelihoods, families, our health, sanity… all of us have been left on the cutting room floor.”

In an interview with TODAY, Bennion further detailed her disappointment, explaining that she was eager to work with the Merediths. “Candis is a great designer,” Bennion said. “I thought ‘This is a good chance to have a room … look like something Candis Meredith would do.’”

Homeowner Jeff Hawley shared a similar story with TODAY. “Two times, somebody fell through the floor into our basement,” he alleged, sharing photos of a hole being patched up in the basement ceiling where he says one of the incidences happened.

A photo provided by Jeff Hawley shows a hole in the ceiling being patched up after he said a construction worker fell through into the basement. (Teisha Hawley)

A photo provided by Jeff Hawley shows a hole in the ceiling being patched up after he said a construction worker fell through into the basement. (Teisha Hawley)

In response to the allegations, Candis and Andy Meredith gave their first interview to TODAY, in which they said they were “upfront” about the risks of a home remodel at the beginning of the process.

“We were very upfront in the beginning that this is hard,” said Candis, emphasizing that this was the first time she and her husband had taken on client projects. “It is extremely difficult to pinpoint everything that’s going to happen or things that might change.”

When asked about the incident with the floor, Candis told TODAY that she wasn’t there when that happened. “I do know that the contractor patched the ceiling,” she said. “During construction I know a lot of things can happen by accident, and I do not want to condemn the contractor for that happening.”

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”

Jeff Hawley’s wife and mom of three, Teisha Hawley, told TODAY that she and her husband were thrilled to be chosen for the show after they submitted to an online casting call in 2019. The two had purchased their Utah home a few years earlier and the chance to have their home remodeled by the Merediths was too good to pass up.

“I’ve followed Candis and Andy forever. They’ve worked on HGTV, they have worked with the Bucket List family,” Teisha told TODAY. “I was like, if we’re lucky enough to get this, it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The couple told TODAY that they initially had goals of renovating their family room, living room and kitchen, emphasizing the kitchen. Candis, they said, suggested more changes, like knocking down walls and moving the kitchen from one side of the house to another.

“It sounded so wonderful. But I also was like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t think we can afford it.’ I was like ‘Can you really do that?’ on tape,” Teisha said. “And (Candis) was like, ‘I know all the secrets … I’ve never gone over-budget on anything.'”

“We thought it would be really cool to take our style and our lower budget the way we do renovations and try and save money and be creative if we could take that out to some people,” Candis told TODAY.

The couple said they agreed on a final budget of $45,000, with $35,000 being wired to the Merediths and $10,000 being used to purchase furniture and appliances. The couple said they had planned to take out a home equity loan to fund the remodel, but then they said a producer called wanting to start the work the next day, so they wound up using their own funds.

Teisha and Jeff Hawley wanted to renovate their kitchen and living space.  (Teisha Hawley)

Teisha and Jeff Hawley wanted to renovate their kitchen and living space. (Teisha Hawley)

The Hawleys — as well as Bennion — said they believed they could still live in their homes while the renovations were ongoing, though it was not encouraged by the Merediths. Since the Hawleys said Candis promised a turnaround time of three weeks, they decided to live in the basement with their three children. Teisha told TODAY that she thought the renovation might take longer, but was still comfortable staying in the basement for up to six weeks, more than double the time the Merediths initially outlined. Bennion said she had also been told that her kitchen renovation would take three weeks.

“Hostages in our house”

Jeff Hawley said that minor frustrations, like missed appointments by contractors and limited contact from Candis and Andy, began quickly, but he and his wife soon became concerned about larger issues with the demolition process.

“There was another point where they started cutting a hole on a wall that was on the corner of where another door was, so two doors would be going into each other. … My wife was basically noticing something was wrong, calling Candis and saying ‘Hey, I think they’re doing this wrong.'”

Teisha said that she and her children were home for much of the day, confined to the basement, leaving them “emotionally drained” as the “nightmare” remodel continued. The Merediths told TODAY that they regret letting clients live in their homes while the renovation went on.

“We didn’t make the people move out of their houses, which looking back, that was probably a mistake,” Andrew said.

Bennion said that she also noticed escalating issues in her home, especially as new entrances were suggested, a deck was installed and her backyard was leveled. Like the Hawleys, work stagnated and she sometimes had difficulty contacting the Merediths. Concerns, she said, Candis attributed to the oddities of creating a television show.

The Merediths told TODAY that construction errors were the fault of contractors who had been hired, though they declined to name the general contractor they used in the renovations.

“Our agreement stated that we were consulting on the renovation, we were not performing the work,” Andrew said. “We worked with contractors. We were not swinging hammers at their property … We hired a general contractor, and he was in charge of all hiring.”

Bennion said that as a project manager herself, she felt that the Merediths’ approach was flawed.

Aubrey Bennion's kitchen after demolition. Bennion said long periods of time would go between work.  (Aubry Bennion)

Aubrey Bennion’s kitchen after demolition. Bennion said long periods of time would go between work. (Aubry Bennion)

“I truly don’t know if (Candis) understood the concept of her role as a project manager to manage her clients scope and schedule and budget,” said Bennion. “I do that for a living. It’s like 101.”

Throughout the process, both homeowners said that it was impossible to get a fixed budget or breakdown of costs, despite multiple requests. In response, the Merediths told TODAY they “did (their) best to communicate” quickly throughout the process.

Andrew continued that the first four clients the couple had worked with —including Bennion, the Hawleys, Vienna Goates (who shared her experience on Instagram) and an unnamed fourth party — had been their first-ever clients, which led to bumps in the road. However, six other clients whose homes were filmed for other episodes of the show “went wonderfully,” Andrew said. One client named Jeana, who runs the Instagram account HotCocoaReads, posted to her stories on Friday a reel of the space the Merediths did for her:

“Andy and Candis did beautiful work on my space and while it took longer than I hoped, I ultimately feel that Candis truly wanted me to love my space,” it read.

Both the Hawleys and Bennion, however, said that things took a turn for the worse as construction continued: The Hawleys were left with floors that were uneven and had been installed incorrectly, while Bennion said she was living “in chaos” and raising concerns about the work being done as the renovation carried on. In the end, both homeowners had what Bennion called “tough” conversations with the Merediths, only to find that they were significantly over-budget for their projects.

The Hawleys said that their subfloor was not leveled before flooring was laid, leading to complications.  (Teisha Hawley)

The Hawleys said that their subfloor was not leveled before flooring was laid, leading to complications. (Teisha Hawley)

On a heated call with Candis in early February 2020, Bennion said she was told that her $25,000 renovation was now $40,000.

“I said, ‘Tear it out. Tear it out and take it back,’” Bennion recalled. “Like, ‘I can’t pay you, do what you need to do to get done, and then take it all out and take it back.’ This is not my kitchen anymore. I have asked you about (cost) at every turn and you’ve always told me that it was going to be OK. This is not the appropriate time to tell me that’s what you’ve already (spent.) You’ve had times to tell me, I’ve been begging you to talk to me and you haven’t.”

At around the same time, the Hawleys say they were being asked to double their budget after having been told that their initial $35,000 only covered the cost of demolition.

When TODAY asked the Merediths about the price increases, they confirmed the numbers Bennion presented but would not comment on what the Hawleys gave.

Teisha said that she considered paying another $20,000 to finish the work, but the couple decided it was too risky based on the work process that was already completed.

“In my head, it was like, ‘We’re already stretched. If we stretch that far, we’re going to be stretched beyond what I felt we could repair,'” Jeff recalled. “For us to stretch that much further, we would have just been beyond a point where we could actually return and fix this and not be just hostages in our house.”

Final results

Jeff said that on Feb. 20, 2020, he and Teisha decided not to send any more money and instead quit the show. A family friend later helped them repair the home for a deep discount, but repairs still cost about $25,000.

Bennion had her project finished by the Merediths, but didn’t pay Candis the extra money she had asked for. Candis said that she paid “tens of thousands” of dollars out of her own pocket to finish the work, but declined to specify a number, citing legal advice she received. Bennion confirmed that she only paid the Merediths about $13,000 of the initial project, but had made it clear to Candis that she couldn’t pay for any more work.

“(Candis) turned it into like, ‘Well, I have been spending my own money, and I’m totally happy to, we can work this out afterwards and you can pay me back,’ and I was like ‘Hell no, I’m not mixing my finances with you forevermore,'” Bennion recalled. “I don’t even want to do this right now, let alone more or longer.”

Later, Bennion said that she found out the Merediths had not paid the flooring company, Lemco Flooring, that had laid the floors. She said that she paid the company immediately once they contacted her. The Merediths confirmed to TODAY that they had not paid the company.

“We were advised not to pay another penny towards her renovation after we were threatened with lawsuits,” Candis told TODAY. “It’s not that we didn’t want to pay Lemco.”

Bennion said that she was told by Lemco Flooring that the floors had not been properly sealed, leaving them prone to damage, and looking at the paint used on her laminate cabinets, she found that they had been painted with a material that wasn’t designed to be used on them. She also said having a landscaper fix her yard after it was leveled for “Home Work” also cost about $18,000.”

At Bennion's home, the renovation grew to include a back porch.  (Aubry Bennion)

At Bennion’s home, the renovation grew to include a back porch. (Aubry Bennion)

The Hawleys and Bennion both said that they have connected with other homeowners impacted by the “Home Work” series, and have considered pursuing legal action, but aren’t taking any steps at this time. Complaints have been filed with the Utah Department of Commerce’s Consumer Protection Division. The Merediths confirmed that they were aware of the complaints and said that they had been in contact with the state.

“We have dealt with every agency that has reached out to us,” Candis said.

The couple shared a seven-page statement on Instagram Friday with their response to the Instagram allegations made this week.

“Watching a single sided narrative unfold and these hateful comments from said narrative is extremely painful,” it reads. “We have always done what we could to to remedy anything within and outside our control.”

In a statement, Magnolia president Alison Page told TODAY that the network was “aware” of the situation.

“Magnolia Network is aware that certain homeowners have expressed concerns about renovation projects undertaken by Candis and Andy Meredith,” Page said in a statement emailed on Thursday. “Within the last day, we have learned additional information about the scope of these issues, and we have decided to remove Home Work from the Magnolia Network line up pending a review of the claims that have been made.”

The Merediths told TODAY that they are no longer taking on client projects.

We have not spoken to these people and we have not looked for new clients in over two-and-a-half years. We don’t go out looking for people to work with,” Andrew Meredith said. “Our living is not doing client projects.”

“We don’t want to do this ever again,” Candis added. “We never intended to hurt anybody … It’s just impossible to share a full truth without hurting people.”

Update 1/7/22: This story was updated to include the positive experience Jeana posted on the @HotCocoaReads Instagram account.