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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