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14 Things You Shouldn’t Buy in Home Improvement Stores

Find out which items you're better off leaving on the shelves the next time you're at a hardware megastore.

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Large stack of wood planks


Americans spent an estimated $16.16 billion on home renovations in the past year, according to research. Many of them borrowed the funds from friends and family, took out loans or paid with credit cards, so it’s important they save wherever they can, says Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate for

“Wood is one item that comes in at a much cheaper price from a local lumber yard than at the hardware,” she says. “If you are buying big quantities the savings here can be quite significant.”

Here’s one example: A white pine timber beam could run you about $30 at Home Depot. At your local lumber store, you may be able to find it as low as $12. Check out these home improvement projects that will double the value of your home.

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close up on stacking fluffy carpet


Many local home-improvement stores tuck away area rugs in their decor sections, and they also offer carpeting services. However, Debbie Gartner at The Flooring Girl suggests looking online for decorative carpet pieces. She says it’s likely these stores don’t dedicate enough space or financial resources to keeping those kinds of rugs on display or in inventory. You may have more luck finding the piece of your dreams in the color, shape and size you want on Amazon, Overstock, or Wayfair.

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Rows of batteries stacked on top of each other. Up close macro shot.

Household Batteries

If you’re buying your standard everyday AA, D, and other size batteries, chances are you would pay less for them at Walmart or Costco than at the hardware store. For about $14, you could get an 18-pack of Duracell AA batteries at Home Depot or a 40-pack at Costco. On the other hand, find out the things you should always buy at Costco.

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Close up man hand installing vent cover from ceiling Mounted Air Conditioner.

Tradesmen/Installation Services

Some home improvement stores offer trained workers to install appliances or even renovate for you. However, you might get more bang for your buck by sub-contracting directly versus having your hardware superstore manage the service.

When you pay for a project installation through a store, they usually take a cut of your money and subcontract to other businesses and tradesmen who do the work. Even those who are subcontracted may subcontract yet another person to do the work. By then, the quality of the service may not up to the price you’re paying.

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building, working tools close-up, architecture

Tools You Don’t Know How to Use

It feels great to decorate your kitchen, build a veggie garden or complete a home project. But taking on a task you’re not qualified to complete can be dangerous and wasteful, especially if you buy tools you don’t know how to use.

To avoid forking over money for hardware that may injure you and damage your home, know the ins and outs of your tools before you buy them. Your local hardware store or a friendly contractor can help. These are the home improvement projects you should never pay someone else to do.

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Grill utensils tools fork tongs close up grilling barbecue summer dirty clean steel metal

Kitchen or Grill Accessories

Sometimes when you buy a grill or other major kitchen appliance, stores try to throw in a few spatulas, pans and accessories as part of the sale. These megastores stock may high-quality heavy-duty devices, but may not invest as much in the best quality accessories to go with them. Next time you buy yourself a sleek stove or barbecue, stop by JCPenney, Walmart or another home goods store to grab the smaller accompanying gadgets.

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wooden hanger on white wall

Home Decorations

Looking for an affordable piece of art to hang on your walls or a nice adornment for your balcony? While hardware stores are great for buying tools and other supplies for your home, you can find something more aesthetic and at a better price at a retailer like HomeGoods, Pottery Barn or your local flea market, says Jill Caponera, consumer savings expert at

Decorating your home soon? Find out 20 budget-friendly decorating tricks that will make your house look way more expensive.

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close up of open dishwasher with clean utensils in kitchen

Major Appliances

Cyber Monday isn’t the only time you can score mega-deals online. There are hundreds of discounts, coupons and deals happening online every day.

Home improvement stores are no different. Shoppers who see a product they want in the store might be tempted to buy it on the spot, but that same product might be discounted on the store’s website with free delivery or pick-up in store options. It’s always worth taking a look online, especially for the more expensive appliances, before making a final purchase.

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Though some home improvement giants sell smartwatches and other wearable tech, you’ll likely find better prices, greater variety and higher quality products at an appropriate tech-based store. Before heading to any store, find out the truth behind these 19 home improvement myths.

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Close-up Of White Smoke Detector On A Ceiling

Smoke or Carbon Monoxide Detectors

“Store-bought smoke detectors are generally inexpensive because they use a technology called ‘Ionization’ smoke detection,” says Maxwell (who goes by the single name), co-founder of TrueSecurity. “This form of smoke detection causes many false alarms, and, more importantly, can miss fires entirely.”

Also, smoke or carbon monoxide detectors from a hardware store typically don’t alert authorities in times of crisis. That’s especially important if you ever have a carbon monoxide leak, as these can quickly incapacitate you. Opt for monitored detectors and carbon monoxide communicators instead.

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Granular lawn fertilizer on the fresh lawn in the autumn garden

Lawn Fertilizer

A big box home improvement store might steer you wrong and sell you a fertilizer that you don’t understand or that won’t get the job done, says Zach Hendrix, co-founder of GreenPal. An established lawn, new lawn, new sod and a winterized lawn all benefit from different levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in fertilizer. Your local nursery or lawn care service is likely a better bet. Check out things you should never do to your lawn.

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Old corrugated cardboard boxes stacked close to new brown carton boxes stacked

Shipping Products

Packaging and materials for shipping freight are often more expensive and may be a lower quality at home improvement stores, says Therese Kerrigan, director of marketing communications at FreightCenter. “Lesser quality boxes may break during freight transportation, and subsequent damage claims may be denied because of the packaging,” she says.

Look online for better quality materials and pricing. Or at the least, check that the boxes at the hardware store are up to standard.

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Many colorful sponges and brushes for housework

Cleaning Products

Though grabbing those Clorox wipes as you’re picking up gardening tools may seem convenient, don’t make it a habit. Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch says you could end up paying five to 10 percent more for cleaning supplies at home improvement stores versus grabbing them at Walmart or bulk store. Check out 35 ways to save money around your home.

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A lot of nails close up

More Than What You Need

It is tempting to buy everything in bulk at home improvement stores. However, how likely are you to use 500 nails when you simply want to hang up a few picture frames?

“If you want to buy smaller amounts of any home improvement item, talk to customer service before lugging a big box to the register,” says Nelson Garcia from Student Loan Hero. “They might point you in the direction of one-off purchases or, especially in smaller hardware stores, give you a deal on a smaller amount of what you need.”

Next, find out the 100 home repairs anyone can do.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Noelia Trujillo
I have seven years experience in both print and online communications and currently work as a Media and Promotions Officer at a regional not-for-profit in New South Wales, Australia, where I manage the public relations, social media, marketing, advertising, promotions and digital design. I am also a freelance writer, editor and translator (Spanish/English). My work has appeared on,, and GQ Australia.