When did you first feel like a grownup? When you bought your first car? Opened your first checking account? Got married? For Mina Starsiak Hawk, her “grownup thing” was buying a house after graduating from Indiana University. Her mom, Karen Laine, cosigned the $37,500 mortgage.
They bought a fixer-upper and tore it down to the studs. They refinished the floors and replaced the tile and cabinets. They were inexperienced and watched YouTube videos to learn what to do. Mina recalls the pair had a lot of fun with “minimal injuries.”
From Lawyering to Hammering
Until then, Karen was a practicing attorney (she still is), and Mina was a part-time waitress looking for direction. But after finishing work on the house, the pair looked around the Fountain Square neighborhood, where Karen’s law office was located, and found another house to rehab.
By the time they had completed the rehab on their third house, the women realized they had a business. They called it Two Chicks with a Hammer and continued to purchase dilapidated houses to turn them into showpieces. They got priced out of Fountain Square and have been since concentrating on the nearby Bates-Hendricks neighborhood.
What Do They Look for When They Rehab?
When they first began, Mina told the Indy Star that if they can find a house for less than $15,000, they take it. If it’s within the area they want, they believe they can fix anything. They prefer crumbling foundations because if half a house is gone, it’s that much less demo to do.
Before the show launched, the mother-daughter duo sold a standard 1,200-square-foot house for $124,000 and saw it resold for $172,000. Properties are selling for more, Karen told the Star, but that also means the burned-out houses are selling for more. They moved to the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood because it’s going through the same growth Fountain Square was several years ago.
Talent Scout Finds the Duo
The women say they fell into the TV business “by accident.” In 2015, seven years after they started the business, a talent scout from production company High Noon sent them a Facebook message. Mina thought it was a scam.
When they realized it was a serious offer, the ladies hosted a Skype interview. After passing background and social media checks with the network, they taped a couple of weeks’ worth of action with a Flip cam. The HGTV executives liked what they saw and gave them the green light to make a pilot.
Revitalizing – Not Flipping Houses
The attractive duo had to pick up its pace for TV—three houses a year just didn’t cut it. The mother-daughter team works together to assess costs, personal sacrifices, physical labor, and, of course, budget. Audiences enjoy their upfront, practical approach and the chemistry between them.
While the Good Bones stars are usually targeted as “flippers”—buying rundown houses and quickly turning them around for profit, Karen bristles at the term and insists the team “revitalizes”—a more intense rehab process than flipping houses requires. House flippers may indeed repair the structure of a home.
Improving Neighborhood House by House
But Mina and Karen do so much more. They work with interior designer MJ Coyle to create an inviting interior. They apply fresh coats of paint and repair leaky pipes in the bathrooms, but they also hang pictures on the walls and find furnishings that fit the image they want the house to project.
They don’t choose random houses, either. Karen notes they want to work in “neighborhoods committed to being a neighborhood.” She told the magazine Indianapolis Monthly that they are committed to buying as many houses as they can so they can have a beneficial impact on the entire area.
Spinning Off of Good Bones
Many Indianapolis media outlets credit the program for its role in transforming Bates-Hendrick’s reputation. What was previously an area dotted with abandoned properties is now a hip neighborhood filled with new businesses, including Mina’s home furnishings store, Two Chicks District Co., that opened in June 2020.
Viewers received a pleasant surprise last fall when the network announced that Mina would be featured in a spinoff show—Good Bones: Risky Business—to begin in the summer of 2022. The six-episode series will feature Mina going solo to purchase the historic Sanders House in Fountain Square.
Rehabbing Historic Sanders House
More than a century old, the 6,000-square-foot property—which includes the main home and a carriage house—will be the largest project Mina has tackled to date in terms of size and budget. The overhaul will require precise restoration to return the Sanders House to its former glory.
Mina called The Sanders House an amazing historic property. She admitted it’s a larger project than anything she’s taken on before—especially solo. But she says that she’s committed to bringing it back as “the jewel of the neighborhood.” HGTV calls the property a perfect complement to Good Bones.
Minna Gets Married
Mina and her mom have seen their lives transformed during the years that the show has aired. Steve Hawks first met Minna in 2013 through Facebook. She thought he was “stunningly handsome” but after the two met in person, there were some rocky moments.
Steve proposed to Mina in 2015, shortly before the Good Bones pilot taped. They were married on June 11, 2016 and welcomed their son Jack in August 2018. While Steve is deeply involved with Good Bones, he is also an account executive with the CoStar Group, a commercial property company.
The Hawks Share Fertility Struggles
The couple was determined to have a second child, but Mina struggled with infertility, a condition she shared with the show’s viewers. One doctor told her she had less than a one-percent chance of conceiving a second child. After a round of IVF, things looked pretty grim.
Mina was ecstatic to learn she’d beaten the odds and become pregnant. She shared the miraculous news on a very emotional episode of Good Bones. Charlotte Drew was born to great acclaim in September 2020. The couple celebrated her first birthday by taking her to root for the Indianapolis Colts.
Plastic Surgery Controversy
In the spirit of honesty with viewers that has characterized Good Bones, Mina also confided that after Charlotte’s birth, Steve had a vasectomy, so there will be no more little Hawks. She said that with her “two nuggets,” her family is complete.
Mina was also open about her post-partum plastic surgery. Both children were born via caesarian section, and the TV rehabber said she lost not only confidence but actual strength after the births. She had developed diastasis recti during her pregnancies and was left with four-and-a-half inches of separation in her abs.
Open About Mommy Makeover
Both factors led her to opt for intensive plastic surgery—a tummy tuck, liposuction, and breast implants, a series of surgeries often referred to as a “mommy makeover.” She went public because she acknowledged her body looked amazing after the surgery.
She wrote on Instagram that she didn’t want to post “a beautiful picture on some beach in 6 months with a tummy that does NOT look like it carried a child and letting you all think it is and that it’s something you all should be able to just work hard enough to obtain.”
Surprised by Viewer Support
Mina said she expected some blowback and was surprised by the many women who contacted her saying they had also had the surgery and never regretted it. She also received supportive messages from women who couldn’t afford cosmetic surgery. She admits she is fortunate.
But 2020 wasn’t pure joy for the Starsiak Hawk family. While Mina and Steve rejoiced in their successful IV treatment and Mina’s pregnancy, Steve’s sister Stephanie died suddenly in March. Mina posted about her pain on Instagram. “Right as Covid hit hard, we lost Stef; way too young.”
COVID Hits the Family Hard
Mina called her sister-in-law a “bright light for us in a time she herself didn’t see much light. Losing her parents, Rick and Sally, affected her deeply. It did all of us, but Stef in particular.” Stephanie died just as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country.
Mina added they could not even gather as a family to mourn Stephanie because COVID-19 made such gatherings impossible. When Charlie was born in the fall, Mina posted on social media that she thought of Stef every time she looked at her baby.
Karen Steps Away from Two Chicks
Mina isn’t the only one whose life has changed during the run of Good Bones. After building Two Chicks and a Hammer into a successful construction business in addition to the TV show, Karen stepped back in 2019 to reestablish her law firm and spend more time with her husband Roger.
Roger is Karen’s fourth husband. He makes brief appearances on the show and more frequent appearances on her social media feed. Roger was featured on episode eight of Season 3 of Good Bones, “A Backyard Barn for Karen.” He surprised her with a sign for her guest house and helped with some of the renovations.
Roger Appears in 2015
Roger made his first appearance on Karen’s Instagram in 2015, and most people believe they married that year although it has not been confirmed. She revealed on Facebook that he became her significant other when she was 53. Laine was born in 1962, so do the math.
The pair celebrated their wedding anniversary on September 23, 2020. In 2017, she began posting more of Roger on social media and calling him her husband. On Facebook, Karen shared that Roger is younger than she is. She joked that she needed a younger man to keep up with her youthful spirit.
Supporting Roger’s Cancer Treatment
Social media pages reveal Roger has helped Karen on a few renovation projects, such as a new “Karen’s Corner.” Roger is a fan of singing, traveling, and riding his motorcycle. In addition, he’s a very competitive Scrabble player. Roger also likes to pretend that he isn’t best friends with the family cat.
But life isn’t all fun and games. Roger was diagnosed with cancer in Good Bones’ early years. This is one topic that the couple has kept private. Karen was by his side throughout his treatments. She hasn’t spoken about Roger’s cancer diagnosis on social media, but he appeared very happy and healthy as of October 2021.
Mysterious Break-Ins Spoil Married Bliss
The couple has also endured a series of break-ins at their home. During a November 2020 break-in, Roger’s bicycle was stolen. Another break-in occurred on Karen’s daughter Kelsey’s wedding day. This one was especially upsetting as the intruders left feces in the garage as a deliberate insult.
Karen told a local news station that the suspects had rummaged through the bathroom in the garage. “That’s what makes it feel personal because it’s not, ‘Oh, I need to go to the bathroom,’ it’s ‘I’m going to leave my feces behind for you to clean up.'”
Fourth Marriage is the Keeper
When it comes to marriage, the fourth time was the charm for Karen. She was first married to Casey Starsiak, and they share three children, including Mina. Karen had her youngest daughter, Kelsy, with her second husband Randy. A third marriage to Mick didn’t last long.
As previously mentioned, in 2019, Karen stepped down from Two Chicks and a Hammer, Although Karen still appears in the TV series, Mina has taken on a larger role in the company, along with Karen’s other children. As Good Bones progressed, fans got to see more of Karen and Mina’s family, including Kelsy and Mina’s half-brother Tad.
Kelsy Increases Role on Show
While the women of Two Chicks and a Hammer are hard workers, Karen and Mina are family-oriented, as is evidenced by their close relationship with Kelsy on and off the Good Bones set. Kelsy was born on October 15, 1992.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Kelsy graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and French in 2015. A couple of months after earning her degree, Kelsy started working as a sales associate at PepsiCo. A few months later, she was promoted to the role of district sales leader.
Moving on and Marrying Neil
Kelsy started working for Two Chicks and a Hammer after two-and-a-half years at PepsiCo. In 2018, she took on the role of Chief Business Officer. When Karen stepped back in 2019, Kelsy was there to pick up some of the slack that resulted. Kelsy continued at Two Chicks and a Hammer for more than three years.
Since February 2021, Kelsy has worked as a senior project manager at Studio Science. Still, fans can follow her personal life. On November 7, 2020, Kelsy married her long-term boyfriend, Neil Spaeth. According to the couple’s page on The Knot, they dated for at least three years before Neil proposed to Kelsy in Paris.
Tad Takes on Demo Role
Mina’s younger brother, Tad, is also making more appearances on the show. The hunky demolition expert is known for gamely getting his hands dirty on the various home renovation projects, with his kooky methods often questioned by everyone. His energy is irresistible.
Born Thadeus Starsiak, Tad keeps his personal life private. We do know his mother died when he was just 12. According to The Cinemaholic, Tad grew up with Karen. As Tad explained to HGTV, “When I was going through that rough time, every day I woke up and she was there for me. It’s great having her as a teacher and as another mom.”
Brotherly and Sisterly Love Smooths Things Along
Tad is very close to Mina, too, showing as much in an Instagram post celebrating her birthday. “I appreciate and love you dearly… We are quite different, but it doesn’t make it harder to love you… I’m a better person because of you in many ways.”
The Good Bones star is in a long-term relationship with a woman named Chrissy. Tad shared a sweet Valentine’s Day post about her on Instagram, alongside several cute photos of the couple.
A Demo Guy with Side Hustles
Like his siblings, Tad also studied at Indiana University, and he was heavily involved in student athletics during his tenure there. These days, as confirmed by The Cinemaholic, Tad is the project manager for Two Chicks and a Hammer. He’s been involved in demolitions since the age of 8 when he did them to earn extra money.
Tad originally joined the company to do demos, though he does have some side hustles. He owns a clothing company called Love Heals that sells T-shirts and tank tops with slogans such as “Demo the Hate.” Its website notes, “It’s about bringing awareness to something we all can support—loving ourselves and others more fully to help us heal our past traumas.”
Mina Also Has a Side Hustle
Mina is now a published writer. She finished writing her first children’s book, “Built Together”, in 2020. She wrote this book to teach kids that all families are built differently, while also incorporating some construction fun.
Mina also pops up in competition shows A Very Brady Renovation and Rock the Block, making her a burgeoning stalwart on the all-conquering network. Whether the Indiana native is working alongside the Brady kids, other HGTV hosts, or her mother and business partner, she’s no stranger to hard graft.
How Much is Mina Worth?
Despite her demonstrable success, there’s some debate over how much Mina is worth. Wiki Net Worth, for example, advises she’s done well for herself but leaves the amount “undisclosed.” Affair Post, meanwhile, cites “authoritative sources” for its estimated figure of $350,000.
The site also suggests Mina earns around $65,000 per year. Celebrity Divorce goes higher, at $500,000 and, finally, The Celebs Closet declares the Good Bones star a millionaire, with an estimated net worth of $1 million. Each of these figures sounds reasonable for a self-made woman with her own business and an ongoing TV career.
Who is Mom, Anyway?
As we mentioned, Karen had a successful career as an attorney before starting Two Chicks and a Hammer. The fact that she’s a lawyer, a wife, and a mom might make it seem that Karen is strait-laced and serious, but it turns out that she has a wild side.
She told Marketplace Events that people are often surprised she has a tattoo. It starts at the nape of her neck, covers her back, and extends down the backs of her thighs. Even Mina told the L.A. Times that sometimes she feels like the mom, citing Karen’s “hippie personality.”
Mina Keeps Things Ship-Shape
Starsiak Hawk tracks all the expenses for the show, keeping a tight watch on everything. She has a spreadsheet with line items for each house, the order number for each item, and when it’s been checked into their warehouse. She has said that she wishes everyone would consult her about all decisions.
Her superior organizational skills mystify Karen, who says she raised Mina to be a free spirit like her. Instead, Mina is a nose-to-the-grindstone watcher of the bottom line. “I’ve failed as a mother,” Karen joked to the Los Angeles Times. The good-natured tension between them adds spice to the show.
Good Bones Itself is a Side Hustle
Good Bones has helped to make the family’s core business, Two Chicks and a Hammer, more successful, but it has also significantly increased the workload. Karen explains that it’s like having two full-time jobs. They film from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. but still must finish the actual work on the houses.
HGTV doesn’t foot the bill for the houses Two Chicks and a Hammer rehabs, so they have to come up with cash to purchase. They estimate that they put about $150,000-$180,000 into rehabilitating each house, so, based on that, they require $1.5 million to $1.8 million in cash to complete 10 houses in a season.
Different Strokes for Mom and Daughter Houses
Despite working so closely together, Karen and Mina have wildly different tastes in homes. Laine loves to keep it simple, and she offers a ton of suggestions for ways people can make the most out of living in small spaces, such as adding as many shelves as possible.
Laine has said she wouldn’t mind living in a tiny house and could carve out a study for her husband. Mina, on the other hand, said she is far too disorganized to confine her family to such a small space, adding “my husband would kill me” if they tried it.
Team Shares Biggest Reno Mistakes
Underestimating time and money. Karen admits that everyone does this whether they’re handling the reno themselves or hiring a contractor. Once you start digging in, she points out, you find problems that no one knew were there, and they are going to cost you.
The second mistake is underestimating—or overestimating—what people can do themselves. Mina notes that some things are more complicated than homeowners can handle, and those things should be subcontracted to a professional. Mina and Karen suggest avoiding anything that can have “the potential for dramatically dangerous outcomes.”
Don’t Skip Thorough Inspections
Karen and Mina have worked with a lot of contractors over the years, and one of the biggest headaches they faced was working with a contractor who disappeared without finishing the job. It left them with a very important lesson: Always do thorough inspections.
The team tied payments to completion with a certain contractor. Mina looked and saw the roof seemed to be in place and handed over the payment. Later when she checked, she found they had only installed the shingles—not the complete roof. Yikes!
Make Sure Your DIY Projects are Done Correctly
This is a two-part mistake: not paying attention to the little details to make sure a project is done right and being too stingy with the budget. Karen and Mina learned this lesson the hard way during their first renovation.
After installing the foam underlayment for bamboo flooring, they didn’t cut openings for the HVAC return and vents; they just covered them. The duo also tried to save money by buying a manual nail gun instead of a pneumatic one.
Only a Mother Would Laugh
Manual nail guns are basically a rubber sledgehammer that you have to smack onto a strike plate. At one point, Mina missed the strike plate and hit herself in the ankle. Karen, she recalls, did not run to save her. Instead, she burst out laughing.
As she laughed, Karen stumbled backward—and because the hole for the HVAC return wasn’t cut out, she fell about five feet down the return hole and bruised her whole leg. Now, they both were laughing. They finished the project but did not make the same mistake again.
One secret kept from fans is the inordinate amount of feces that is left in the homes when Karen and Mina assume ownership of the properties, both human and animal. They added that this is the worst problem they encounter. Karen said they prefer homes that have had fires because some of it has already burned up.
Karen has also claimed that “poltergeists happen” while they inspect new homes to renovate. She didn’t go into more detail, but fans are sure to be shocked that Good Bones has more in common with than they might have imagined.
Mina Opens Her Store Mid-Pandemic
In June 2020, Mina fulfilled her long-term dream by opening her retail store in downtown Indianapolis, giving locals and Good Bones lovers a chance to purchase apparel, jewelry, gifts, and, of course, home décor through the store’s official website and the brick-and-mortar location.
Two Chicks District Co. has a small restaurant where shoppers can relax with a delicious meal, light snack, or a glass of wine. Mina dreamed of opening a store for a long time and hired Kelsy to open and run it about three years before it opened.
Something for Everyone
Why the delay? Minna pointed to financing complications and bandwidth as primary reasons. The rehabber and business owner does credit her HGTV show with a lot of the store’s success, pointing out that the TV platform has given the store a boost.
The store’s e-commerce platform allowed fans to purchase Good Bones items even while the pandemic kept them at home. Mina noted the store is in the Midwest, so they tried to find merchandise that was affordable for the target demographic. Rugs, pillows, and other pieces run from $90-$400, which makes the store “fun [and] approachable.”
Our Love Affair with Home Improvement Shows
Good Bones is only one of a slew of home improvement shows that are all offspring of Bob Vila’s This Old House, a public television production that began filming in 1979. While Good Bones stands out for its mother/daughter dynamic and Indianapolis location, it owes a lot to its predecessor.
Boston PBS station created the program and produced it from its inception in 1979 until 2001 when Time Inc. acquired the television assets and formed This Old House Ventures. WGBH also distributed episodes to PBS until 2019, when became the distributor starting with the first episode of Season 41.
A One-Time Series That Never Died
Initially a one-time, 13-part series airing on WGBH, This Old House grew into one of the most popular programs on the network. It has produced spinoffs (notably hosted by ), a magazine, and for-profit websites. The show has won 17 and received 82 nominations.
Unlike Good Bones, where Two Girls and a Hammer purchases the properties, WGBH acquired the first two project houses (6 Percival Street in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and the Bigelow House in nearby Newton) for renovation. The series originally focused on renovating older houses.
Changes Over the Years
In the beginning, the houses were also modest in size and value, with the homeowners doing some of the work as a form of sweat equity. It was initially controversial among building contractors, and some cast members were afraid that they were giving away secrets of the building trades.
The renovation of the Westwood house (Weatherbee Farm) became something of a cult classic because of an escalating dispute between hosts Vila and Abram and the homeowners over the direction the project was taking. Vila complained the owners could have contributed more “sweat equity.”
Old House Goes Upscale and Controversial
As the show evolved, it began to focus on higher-end, luxury homes with more of the work done by expert contractors and tradespeople, eliminating the sweat equity issue. This didn’t seem to harm its popularity or ratings.
Vila left This Old House in 1989 following a dispute over his doing commercials for Rickel, a competitor of one of the program’s underwriters, Home Depot. Home Depot dropped its local sponsorship after Vila’s commercial aired and, according to news reporter Barbara Beck, WGBH fired the host.
Vila Stays in the Home Reno Game
Vila was a popular host. During his stint on This Old House, the show drew 11 million views and garnered five Emmy Awards. He created a similar show called Bob Vila’s Home Again, which ran for 16 seasons in syndication. Today, the 75-year-old Vila shares his expertise on YouTube.
Vila also appeared on episodes of the comedy Home Improvement as himself on Tool Time, the fictional show within the sitcom, where main character and cable TV host Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor (played by Tim Allen) saw Vila as a rival and made futile attempts to outdo him.
This Old House Continues with New Host
After Vila’s exit, Steve Thomas took over hosting duties, remaining with the program until 2003. Abrams continued as the carpenter. Cast members later complained that Vila took up too much screen time and noted that the show became more of an ensemble production after he left.
To celebrate the show’s 40th season in 2019, a retrospective and revisit of some of the more notable projects was incorporated into a handful of episodes, with some of the original homeowners providing tours. The first house highlighted was the original 1979 project house in Dorchester.
And the Parodies Live On
Tim Allen’s Home Improvement (1990-99) is the most famous spinoff of This Old House. Bill Nye the Science Guy parodied the show as “This Old Brain,” and “This Old Climate.” ‘s parodied the show as “This Old Backyard.”
In 1985, PBS produced a parody of This Old House titled “This Old Shack” that featured Bob Villa and master carpenter Paul Thumbs. The New Mickey Mouse Club offered “This Old Home,” which featured renovations on the candy house from Hansel and Gretel.
Do Home Improvement Shows Help Homeowners?
The jury is out on this. Missy Cleary with The Cleary Group in Sarasota, Florida, told Apartment Therapy that these shows do realtors no favors. She points out the process of buying a home or fixing one up is much more complicated than it looks on TV.
Brenda Bradshaw, a buyer’s agent with The Cleary Group in Bradenton, Florida, adds that timelines on reno shows can set unrealistic expectations for homeowners. They also don’t always reflect the issues that can occur during the process. Remember, they’re made to entertain, not reflect real life.