Author Topic: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot  (Read 8942 times)

AccidentalMiser

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Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« on: May 09, 2014, 10:05:25 AM »
DW and I are in the process of buying a property with three dwelling units on it.  All the units need some work, which I am capable of doing.

So, here's my dilemma:  When we lived in Wisconsin, we lived ten miles from a "Menards" store.  Menards has awesome sales and low prices on lots of stuff we really need to do the jobs.  Siding, windows, insulation, etc. etc.  The price on most of these items are 25% lower at Menards when compared to Home Depot.

Unfortunately for me, the nearest Menards is 4.5 hours away, now that I live near Chattanooga TN.  Do any of you southern Mustachians have a secret builder's supply store that you know of? 

Otherwise, I guess I'll be planning a couple of road trips to the nearest Menards with my truck and trailer!

Frankies Girl

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2014, 10:10:17 AM »
I'd look for discount suppliers in the area. Also see if you have any Habitat for Humanity ReStores nearby (there appears to be one located on Main St. in Chattanooga) so it couldn't hurt to call them to find out if they have anything you might need or would know where to get it.

And don't forget that you can also see if the big box chains have any returned or deeply discounted items.

ZMonet

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2014, 12:26:14 PM »
If you have to go the Lowes/Home Depot route, you can pick up 10% off coupons for a couple dollars across the Internet.  I've used freeroms.com to pick a couple up or I think you can get one for free on the Lowes website (Google Lowes Moving Coupon).  Also, consider buying Home Depot/Lowes gift cards for around 10% off at sites like cardcash or raise.com.  Combine the two and the prices START to get a bit more reasonable.

If you're military/reserves, you can also get 10% off for showing your military ID.

Good luck.  Wish they had Menards around me.

adesertsky

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2014, 02:33:17 PM »
You can ask about getting the contractor's discount if you'll be buying a lot.

Menard's gives me a headache every time I go there- I either can't find anything or the stock is so old that it is covered in dust.  I never saw such miserably old looking new boxes of fire extinguishers. 

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2014, 04:14:00 AM »
Thanks, everyone.  I notice that HD has a price match policy also.  With the volume I intend to do over the next few months, perhaps they'll match Menards' prices.  Can't hurt to ask...

paddedhat

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2014, 07:12:52 AM »
As a small custom home builder, who did a lot of my own work, I learned that most suppliers are going to be of value to you, and for very different reasons.
I do all of my own electrical work. My local electrical supply house was the best place for a very limited number of supplies. If it is a commodity item, breakers, common receptacles etc..... Then HD will absolutely be cheaper. If it's an obscure, or low volume part, generator transfer switch, utility specific meter base, etc.... my supply house is often 30-50% less. One thing was always clear, Romex always comes from HD, or Lowes. My local supply house was bought by an international player in the industry. This resulted in many positive changes, but even then they couldn't buy Romex by the tractor trailer load, and sell it as low as the average DIYer pays for it at the big box stores. Lighting was another place where prices, an lack of in stock product means that the big boxes are always the best bet.

Plumbing is another area where faucets and fixtures can be had for less than my local supplier pays for them. OTOH, supply piping, drainage and other commodities are 30-50% less at the supply house.
A giant red flag in this department is PEX fittings. In a big box store, they should put the darn things in a jewelry case, since they are priced like it. If you can't get a local supplier to give you good pricing on Pex parts, buy online. I literally pay 13cents for clamps that Lowes  prices at 4-5X higher.

Finally, once you are ordering a high volume load of..........lumber, sheetrock, deck material, doors, windows, interior trim, etc...... you should at least get two bids from local lumber yards before you pull the trigger at Menards, Lowes or HD. My local yard will supply a house full of interior doors and trim for about 15-25% less than HD, and the quality is much better.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2014, 05:37:53 AM »
@paddedhat

Thank you very much!  In general, are the local suppliers reluctant to deal with DIY folks? 

When I was in the HVAC biz, there were a number of suppliers that simply wouldn't do business with you if you weren't "in the trade". 

Can you recommend some online vendors for PEX?

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2014, 07:10:03 AM »
It may just be our state, but most towns have a Habitat for Humanity Restore.  They sell leftover materials and the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Greg

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2014, 07:41:26 AM »
Finally, once you are ordering a high volume load of..........lumber, sheetrock, deck material, doors, windows, interior trim, etc...... you should at least get two bids from local lumber yards before you pull the trigger at Menards, Lowes or HD. My local yard will supply a house full of interior doors and trim for about 15-25% less than HD, and the quality is much better.

And delivery is often included!

A lumber yard may let you open an account and give you better pricing than a walk-in customer. Let them know you're building and want to open an account, and the prices will magically get better.

kendallf

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2014, 07:54:26 AM »
For PEX, try the vendor MMM recommends in his plumbing article, www.pexsupply.com.

I ordered a bunch of stuff from them and they were much cheaper than HD or Lowe's, and delivery was quick.  Moreover, I decided not to use most of the stuff I ordered (long story) and they took it back and credited my account more than six months later; really going above and beyond in my book. 

monarda

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2014, 08:10:06 AM »
Finally, once you are ordering a high volume load of..........lumber, sheetrock, deck material, doors, windows, interior trim, etc...... you should at least get two bids from local lumber yards before you pull the trigger at Menards, Lowes or HD. My local yard will supply a house full of interior doors and trim for about 15-25% less than HD, and the quality is much better.

And delivery is often included!

A lumber yard may let you open an account and give you better pricing than a walk-in customer. Let them know you're building and want to open an account, and the prices will magically get better.

Yes, we use both local lumber yards and the ReStore and other second hand sources, like Craigs list.
For lumber, at least, the quality is much better than at Menards or Home Depot.  We do get electrical supplies and fixtures at Home Depot.

paddedhat

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2014, 08:34:48 AM »
@paddedhat

Thank you very much!  In general, are the local suppliers reluctant to deal with DIY folks? 

When I was in the HVAC biz, there were a number of suppliers that simply wouldn't do business with you if you weren't "in the trade". 

Can you recommend some online vendors for PEX?

Suppliers, and their relationship with the walk-in trade and DIYers, is something that you can't really make a blanket statement about. Some are fantastic to deal with, some have a sign on the door that literally says "go away".  For a supply house, the "value" of doing business with homeowners, and DIYers is pretty interesting. My local electrical distributor is an example. When it was locally owned, management had a community minded attitude, and felt that it was important to be there on Saturdays for the guy that needed help running power to his shed, or finding a new bulb for the aquarium light. The new owners decided that if they couldn't generate X amount of sales that day, they were probably spending money to stay open, and they now operate from 7-4, weekdays. Anybody is welcome, but the contractors keep the doors open, so the hours are set for them. Generally, I have found that the availability of the big boxes has changed the game. Many supply houses that would avoid DIYers in the past are now not only will to do business, but willing to be pretty competitive. I would recommend that in dealing with them, you keep the purchases large, and you let them know that you are serious. For example, don't stop in the local lumberyard, tell them you are flipping a house and want "contractor prices" first, the guy you want is probably in a dumpy back office, and is their "outside sales guy". Chances are, he is not working the counter, and showing little old ladies where the Elmer's glue is. Secondly, the counter has seen hundreds of idiots come and go, idiots who were going to be the next big time flipper, contractor, etc... Get a printed quote from a big box store, use a piece of scrap paper to block the $ amounts, and make a copy. Ask who you can give a list to, since you need a quote, and it's a cash quote, paid in full before delivery.

Finally, there are always going to be supply houses run by total a-holes. IMHO, at least in these parts, these a-holes seem to gravitate toward the plumbing/HVAC area. There is one here that has an amazing culture of arrogance and distain for anybody that isn't part of their little club of contractors. I simply won't walk in the door there anymore. It's so bad that a very large friend of mine actually jump the counter, and offered to do some attitude adjustments, as a counter guy was running away. The other extreme is the houses that are just idiots who have the idea that if you aren't going to spend several thousand a month, they will be happy to take your money, IF you pay full retail. I have a great supplier for tubs and showers. The unit I wanted was out of stock, and I called a nearly competitor to see if they had one. They had it in stock and wanted almost twice the price. I asked if they would do better since I typically pay about half that? The logic of what came next is why you sometimes have to shake you head and walk away. They told me that they can sell it for that price, "once you become a high volume customer, and you buy ten tubs or so, then you would start seeing prices like that". I replied, "no, that doesn't work for me. The guy up the street usually stocks what I need, and welcomes my cash, I'll wait"

As for the PEX question, I've had great local access, so I can't really recommend an online supplier.

Greg

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2014, 09:42:20 AM »
Can you recommend some online vendors for PEX?

Pexsupply.com is who I've often used.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Alternatives to Lowes/Home Depot
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2014, 01:45:35 PM »
Thanks so much for all your input!  That's what I love about these forums, profitable and actionable advice just for the asking!