Where to go for home improvement supplies

Where do you go when you need nails, screws, bathroom tile, drywall, etc? There's a dizzying array of choices. For example, there are the neighborhood hardware store such as Berwyn Hardware or Jacob Low Hardware in Havertown. Amazingly, a fair number of these are still around. There are of course the big box home improvement stores e.g. Lowes and Home Depot. Tweener stores such as DMI Home Supply in Ardmore and Fisher's Hardware in Drexel Hill combine traits of big box and neighborhood stores. Let's not forget specialty stores such as Beatty Lumber in Upper Darby or the Tile Shop in King of Prussia.

So, where should you go?

Well, it depends. On what you're looking for and what's important to you. Below is a list of the different types of home improvement stores and their characteristics. Let me make clear that these are my impressions and not based on statistical analysis of any kind. Hopefully, this list helps you decide. This is a topic that generates endless conversation so let us know your opinion.

One other thing I want to say: I prefer Lowes to Home Depot. I feel the stores are run in a more professional manner and that the merchandise is better.

Neighborhood Hardware Stores

Pros
Convenient location
. These stores are usually nearby.
Not intimidating. There's usually a relaxed atmosphere. You can get to know people that work there and develop trust.
Advice, recommendations. Whatever the project or task it's likely that you can get advice on how to proceed and recommendations if you are looking to hire someone. Such
   information is not easy to come by in the big box stores
Buy the quantity you need. If you just need a couple of screws or nails you won't be forced to buy a box which will sit unused in your toolbox for the next 20 years.

Cons
Goods selection. Due to their size, such stores cannot carry significant quantities of building materials such as lumber and drywall. Some materials, such as tile, they
   probably wouldn't carry at all.
Price. I haven't specifically compared prices but it's likely that the gallon paint you buy in the neighborhood store is going to cost more than the gallon purchased at
   Lowes or Home Depot.
Inconvenient hours. Not generally going to be open nights and Sundays like the big boys
Limited or no tool rental.

'Tweener' Stores

Pros
Friendly atmosphere. Same attribute as neighborhood store.
Advice, recommendations. Again, similar to neighborhood store/
Goods selection. They will have lumber, cement and drywall in reasonable quantity as well as other hardware items
Tool rental. Likely to have garden, construction equipment, generators, etc.
Repair shop. May repair lawn mowers and other power equipment.

Cons
Location. There are not that many of these so greater travel may be necessary.

Big Box

Pros
One stop shop. What don't they have? They have all construction materials including lumber, drywall, roofing, siding, cement, plumbing and electric supplies, etc.
   in quantity. Also, there are appliances, kitchen cabinets, all kinds of power and hand tools, doors, flooring, cleaning supplies and a garden center.
Price. If you're looking to purchase a large amount of any building material such as tile or lumber it's going to be hard to beat these guys.
Installation services. If you're purchasing items that generally require professional installation then they can provide that. This is a limited 'pro' because it
   could be pricey and I'm not sure of the quality you'd be getting. I'd prefer to go to Angie's List.
Delivery service. You can get what you purchase delivered and generally in a short period of time for a minimal cost.
Convenient hours. They're open from early until late and on Sundays.
I would add tool rental here but for some unknown reason Lowes doesn't offer it. Home Depot has an excellent tool rental facility.

Cons
Service. OMG, finding a 'sales associate' is a major achievement in one of these stores. You feel like you have to jump out and attack them as they're sprinting by trying to
   avoid you. And even if you should be so lucky as to snag one, their expertise can vary from non-existent to excellent. It helps if you know what you need in such a store.
Stores are huge. It can be hard to find what you're looking for and you might be exhausted by the time you reach it.
Location. You may need to travel.

Specialty

Pros
Deep selection. If you're looking for that Brazilian hardwood flooring or the hand painted tile the specialty store will either have it or know how to get it.

Cons
Location. As above.

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