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The single most common question we hear about our building supplies is: “Where do you get [insert material stock here] for that price?” Surprisingly enough, the answer is the same place you do most of the time: the big box. We just strike at different times.

Take this flooring material, for instance. You can barely see it, but the 1’x1’ adobe tile for 98 cents/sq. ft. in the back was priced at $4 a sq. ft. not two months ago. In the same time period the laminate hardwood flooring was on the display wall for 3 to 5 times its currently marked price — now it’s bargain fodder. There’s nothing wrong with the stock; it’s just got to leave because they need the floor space and either it didn’t sell or they’ve got way too much gathering dust already.

Look for deals like this when seasons change or when the stores are shifting display modes — you’ll find them and save tons of cash, and it might allow you to do the project when you otherwise couldn’t. For what it’s worth, the same trick works with most outlet or chain stores that order supplies in bulk.


11 Responses to On The Cheap: Building Supplies

  1. jmudler says:

    To dovetail into the too many projects too little time topic recently, big ticket items on super sale can also cause me to jump from one project to another. My gloat would be over 2300 sqft of prefinished 3/4 oak hardwood (Bruce) for a whooping $1 a sq foot. Needless to say I laid on top of the 4 pallets until I could get a couple of friends trucks to transport. My fear was a builder snagging them up.

  2. JR says:

    Everytime I enter the local big box store I make a loop to check out the clearance sections before I head to what I am there for. I have found many great deals over the last few years; I also grabbed 650 sq-ft of Bruce 3/4 Oak engineered flooring for $1/sq-ft.

  3. Brau says:

    Don’t forget to shop around and mistakenly become habituated to the big boxes. That’s what they hope for. I found the best price on flooring (74¢ sq ft) at a local lumber yard and not the big boxes. The same brand engineered flooring at H. Depot and Rona was selling for double at $1.49 sq ft. Another local hardware retailer also beat out H.Depot and Canadian Tire on a compressor and nailer by a full $50. The big boxes always seem to have cheaper and better lumber, but don’t be fooled, they make the profit up somewhere else.

  4. Geoff says:

    The big box stores also use a trick where they have manufacturers build “brand-name” products to their own specs which are often thinner, weaker and generally lower-quality. For example, a Delta faucet from the big guys is not the same faucet you can get from your local hardware store. You usually get what you pay for…

    I have also found that my local guy often does better price-wise than their giant rivals on much of the same products and supplies. He and his staff also smile and make eye contact when I walk into his store, which is more than I can say for those “employee-owned” chains.

  5. Toolhearty says:

    Brau Says:

    …I found the best price on flooring (74¢ sq ft) at a local lumber yard…

    ??? A what now?

    Oh, wait a minute… I’m thinking back. Ah yes, I remember now. A lumber yard. Yeah, good times.

    (seriously, the four yards that were all within 15min. of the house are all gone now, replaced by a couple of big boxes)

  6. Steve says:

    “He and his staff also smile and make eye contact when I walk into his ”

    A negative in my book. I dont like eye contact.

  7. Tim B. says:

    @Steve — I take it a step further than that..

    If I know what I want, and am aiming for a speedy transaction at a reasonable price, I normally hit the big-box… In, out, no hassle, and (usually) a better price. Self-checkout counters at my local big-box houses make that even quicker and easier.

    If I’m not totally sure what I’m looking for, looking for something odd-ball, etc, I hit the “mom-and-pop” hardware store equivalent. I often find that the “old coot” behind the counter knows what I need better than >I< do within his respective department.. and am willing to pay the tarif (in more often than not, slightly higher prices) for that extra guidance / assurance…

    @Toolhearty — I feel your pain =( Nearest one to me now is about 20-30 mins drive…. vs. the big box being at most 10… Sad, sad, sad.

  8. Over the River says:

    Don’t forget to stop by your local Habitat For Humanity resale store or others like it in your area. Choices vary, but you may be able to get enough drywall or wooden floors to do a full room for about $100 – $200.

  9. wheels17 says:

    Like JR, I love those out of season prices. I was planning to put in a whole house ventilating fan next year, spotted “was $288, now $35” at Lowes a couple of weeks ago. WooHoo!!

  10. Brau says:

    @ Toolhearty

    Geez. Sorry to hear that. I’m already lamenting the loss of older family owned franchises like True Value and Irly Bird, and the unique products they carried. I’d feel truly sick if the only stores were H.Depot/Lowe’s. Around here the local yards have teamed up with franchises like Ace, Home Hardware, Rona, etc. They get the benefit of mass buying dollars through the franchise but still are individually owned, run, and more flexible. Truth is, the local Big Boxes can’t keep up to them where serious building supplies are needed beyond weekend warrior stuff.

    One thing I’m glad to see lately is a greater sense of customer service at all outlets. A number of years ago most yards were “trade” based and you’d get snooty looks from yard help if you didn’t refer to a sheet of 1/4″ ply as “1/4″ GIS D grade ply”, or common nails as 2 1/4″ Brights. They all seem to be much more helpful toward non-trade sales.

  11. Directile says:

    There are a lot of stores that have massive amounts of inventory and they would love to move the material as fast as possible. The types of tiles you could find deals on are ones that were brought in series like 4-5 colors and 2-3 different sizes. Usually there is 1-2 colors that don’t sell as good as the other two so warehouses have plenty of this material sitting around just begging someone to make them a deal. Go to your local store and ask for closeouts, there will be plenty to choose from. The downside is that the colors obviously aren’t the best of the series, however the quality is usually very good at a fraction of the original price.

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