I’ve got friends in home places…

Renovating a weekend house — especially a cabin you bought for less than the price of a car — is very different than home improvements in your own house. We’re finding that good enough, close enough, and well, it wasn’t quite what we wanted but I can live with it are really just fine. We are reusing, recycling, and taking a lot of secondhand items out of friends’ garages.

About a month into the renovation, a friend’s boyfriend introduced me to a new idea. You see, he’s a manager at our local Home Depot, and he tipped me off that home improvement stores have tons of marked-down inventory that customers never see on floor… and that you can buy it for substantial discounts if you know to ask.

Sebastian explained that appliances and fixtures, like clothes, are updated every year. When that happens, the old ones go “out of style” and end up as clearance. But stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have very limited space for clearance so they usually just put out two or three items at a time. They keep all that other stuff way up on the shelves or in the back of the store. If you ask nicely, and if you’re flexible about your expectations, they can usually help you find something that meets your price point – and can even have items sent from other stores. The same is true of display items, which can be marked down 50% or more!

The secret is this: go at a quiet time (such as between 10 and 4 on a weekday), ask nicely, and be flexible. During this process, we’ve gotten to know a lot of the folks at our local home improvement stores and they really are happy to help as long as it’s not noon on a Saturday.

For our bathroom, we had very specific size requirements but could be flexible on the style. Because of that, we took a slightly damaged, $299 floor model sink for $49. A quick touch up with a furniture marker covered the few tiny nicks, and you’d never even know. It’s covered in tools here, but I think it looks pretty snappy!

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3 thoughts on “I’ve got friends in home places…

  1. It looks amazing! Thanks for that tip!

    Another tip: are you familiar with the Loading Dock in Baltimore? It’s close to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store – and both are great locations for “close enough” and “good enough” and even “better than expected” items. These stores are your home improvement version of a thrift store, with new and used (donated) items. Years ago, I was looking for a door that would fit into a very narrow opening at my cabin. I found one at Home Depot that was perfect – so perfect that I’d decided I’d pay full price of $150. Paying full price is something I need to think about (at least for a day) but before I got back to HD, I happened to make my first trip to the Loading Dock where I found the exact same door (new, no less!) for a mere $25. That was quite a coincidence; like all thrift stores, you rarely find exactly what you had in mind. But sometimes you find something even better: a great idea!

  2. Not too long ago, my husband and I ripped out an old cast-iron tub. It wasn’t in great condition, but still usable. We put it for free on craigslist… and part of me thought no one would take it. But of course, whenever you give anything away on craiglist, 500 people call you immediately… The guy who took it was renovating a lake cabin (in NJ), and apparently only using free things he got off craigslist.

    I’m thinking in comparison, your HD bargains are looking pretty high-end and spiffy. Spa-like, even.

  3. Great blog, gals! I live up the hill from you in the Susquehanna Trails in PB Twnsp. I’m doing a book on PB and ‘the cabin people’ is one of the essays! I’ve (almost) finished my cabin reno after 11 years. She’s looking a bit more finished 🙂 Look forward to meeting you someday – keep up the great work!

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