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12 Useful Home Depot Shopping Tips

The Home Depot offers a wealth of materials, resources and a customer-friendly return policy. But there are a few secrets about shopping there that only the most savvy DIYers are aware of.

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Secret Language of Price TagsBelen Strehl/Shutterstock

The Secret Language of Price Tags

Most retailers use a series of codes and special prices to secretly label their products. Sales associates use them to sort and move merchandise, but savvy shoppers who’ve broken the code can snatch up items when they’re at their lowest price point.

In The Home Depot’s case, look for yellow sales tags. If the sales price ends with .06, then there are six weeks left before that item is priced lower. If the sales price ends with .03, then that item will be moved to clearance or donated to charity in three weeks. By keeping an eye on those yellow tags, it’s possible to get even better deals on low-cost, high-value items that every DIYer will love.

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Cutting Couponigor kisselev/Shutterstock

Low Price Guarantee

A price saving tip that requires no negotiating at all is The Home Depot’s low price guarantee. For in-store purchases, if you find a lower price on an identical, in-stock item from a competitor, the sales staff at The Home Depot will match the price. For online sales, the guaranteed includes the price of the item and the shipping cost.

So keep an eye peeled for coupons and online sales, and if you see a lower price from another retailer, bring that info in to the store.

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Wood ScrapsCURAphotography/Shutterstock

Discounts on Cull Lumber

Many DIYers know The Home Depot will cut lumber and trim to custom length. Better yet, when these items are sold by the board foot, you only have to pay for what you need. But what you may not know is that all that excess lumber and off-cut trim ends up as difficult-to-sell scrap wood. It typically ends up in the “cull lumber” rack along with damaged or flawed boards that stores sometimes sell for up to 70 percent off. If you need specific dimensions, you may not find what you’re looking for in the cull lumber bin, but you may discover enough materials to help you make something great.

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Paint CansSebastian Duda/Shutterstock

Mis-Tints

The paint department custom-tints thousands of gallons of paint each week. Given that volume, it’s no surprise that some of it doesn’t come out perfectly, or is never picked up by the customer who requested it. Customers have 30 days to return paint they’re not satisfied with, which ends up on a bargain shelf.

Look for an area of “mis-tint” paint that’s priced at a steep discount. Much like the wood found among the cull lumber, you may not find the color or quantity you’d like, but there’s often enough paint at a great price for painting doors or other small projects.

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Store AisleHelen89/Shutterstock

Damaged Goods

Many of the items sold at The Home Depot come in heavy boxes and packing material. If that outer packaging is torn or crushed, the product becomes difficult to sell, even though the damage may be only surface deep. But while the item itself may be untouched, the damaged package means that the retailer will likely be forced to place it on deep discount. You can sometimes find slightly damaged items marked down as well, so if you don’t mind something like a dent in an appliance, you may be able pick up at a discount.

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Laptop ScreenCasimiro PT/Shutterstock

Retroactive Sales

There’s nothing more aggravating that finding that tool you need, then buying it and heading home only to see it go on sale the next time you visit the store. If this happens to you with a purchase from The Home Depot, don’t just grit your teeth and regret your purchase — head in to the store to claim your savings! This goes for anything you’ve bought in the last 30 days.

Bring the receipt for your purchase and show it to customer service. Your wallet will thank you. Be sure to keep an eye on sales events, especially around holidays, and you can make recent purchases even better values.

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Tools ManIakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Easy to Understand Return Policy

Not sure what kind of garden loppers to buy? Get both and bring back the one you don’t use for a full refund. This is also a great strategy should you get to the store and realize you forgot to measure for a specific part. Buy multiple sizes and plan on returning the unused items. The Home Depot will offer a full refund on any new, unopened item that you bring back within 90 days. However, there are a few exceptions, like gas-powered equipment, furniture, area rugs, consumer electronics and generators. With those items, you’ll only have 30 days to return them.

If you’re using a The Home Depot consumer credit card, a commercial revolving charge, or The Home Depot commercial account, you’ll have 365 days to return most items. Be sure to read the store’s return policy for more information.

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Dead Flower Potmichaeljung/Shutterstock

One-Year Guarantee on Plants and Shrubs

At The Home Depot you can actually return a dead plant! The Home Depot’s garden sales come with a one-year guarantee. This means if your tree or plant dies despite proper care, you can return it for a full refund even after you’ve planted it.

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Wood Stacks AisleChristian Delbert/Shutterstock

Be Wary of Warped Lumber

Chances are you’ve seen the massive stacks of lumber at The Home Depot, especially of common dimension like 2x4s or 2x8s. If you’re itching to start a project, you might be tempted to simply load up your cart and head to the check-out.

But take the time to examine each piece of lumber as you select it. You’ll notice many are warped, cupped, checked or otherwise damaged. Sure, you can always return bad boards, but why go through the trouble of hauling them out to your jobsite and back again? If you’re not sure what to look for, check out this guide for an in-depth explanation of how to select the best pieces at a lumberyard. 

Another question customers often ask is Does The Home Depot cut wood? The answer is usually yes! If you need help cutting lumber before taking it home, ask an associate for help.

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Tool RentalQualityHD/Shutterstock

Rental Tools

The aisles of The Home Depot are filled with tools of all sizes and prices. Each one is new, never used. But there’s another place in the store that has an even better deal on tools: the rental shop. If you don’t need to invest a tool, most stores offer rentals for those things you might only need to use once for a particular job.

Rental tools are available to DIYers of all skill levels to try out or to use for one-off projects. Sometimes, as the various tools start to pick up scratches and dings or are replaced by newer models, they’re put up for sale. But unlike used tools found at pawn shops, they’ve been inspected by a qualified technician between rentals.

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Paint SamplesRoman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock

Holiday Paint Sales

Like many retailers, The Home Depot holds clearance sales around major holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. You can pick up paint for significantly less, or bring in the receipt from a recent purchase for a price match. And the higher volume of purchases during the holiday sales means a greater number of bargain mis-tints. These holiday sales are a win all the way around!

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Home Depot SignRob Wilson/Shutterstock

You Don’t Need To Be A Pro To Use The Pro Desk

Anyone who tackles projects as readily as most DIYers can access great deals and sales associates who are motivated to help you. The pro desk does offer some services that are only useful to commercial organizations, but anyone who buys in bulk will benefit as well. Enjoy bulk pricing and even have your shopping done for you, leaving you free to simply pick up and pay.

Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.