Checkbook offers advice on how to get the best deal on many remodeling-related products: appliances, cabinets, countertops, hardware, flooring, carpet, plants, furniture, and more. You can use our advice and price ratings to pay less—often a lot less—for these and other types of products if you buy them on your own, rather than through a contractor or design shop, for several reasons. Although remodeling companies sometimes can obtain contractors’ discounts, most don’t buy in such large amounts that they get those deals. Since they’re passing the costs on to their customers, many contractors don’t bother buying from the lowest-cost suppliers. And remodeling companies usually mark up the prices for extra profit.

When reviewing contractors’ proposals, compare their prices for appliances, fixtures, and other materials commonly supplied by homeowners to make sure you can’t save a lot by buying them on your own. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Whoever buys something is responsible for making sure it fits and works. If you supply a defective or incorrect item, and it creates a delay or more work, you’ll likely be on the hook for extra costs for the trouble.
  • Don’t get carried away. Most contractors won’t work with customers who insist on buying building supplies like lumber or shingles. If the contractor counts on profits from the sale of appliances, cabinets, etc., it will likely raise its price for your job to otherwise pad the bill.
  • When buying products or supplies, get competitive bids to ensure you pay the lowest prices. Call or email stores, tell them you’re shopping for the lowest price, and ask them to bid. You’ll always save big.
  • Don’t assume a sale price is a good price, especially when shopping for appliances. A 10-month Checkbook investigation found that sales at some stores almost never end. Make  sure you shop around, even if you see something on sale for 50 percent off; it’s probably just an attempt to mislead.
  • Don’t forget to factor in shipping costs. For some products—particularly appliances and furniture—shipping costs erase savings from buying online.
  • Ask about return policies. Homeowners who remodel often change their minds, and you might accidentally order something that doesn’t fit.
  • Measure and re-measure. If you’re ordering the front door, make sure it will fit. If you’re buying tile, buy enough. For tile, flooring, and other materials, you’ll need to order extra to account for waste and damage; ask your contractor to double-check your math and measurements.
  • Get an okay. Have your architect, designer, and contractor check your order before you place it.
  • Consider buying second-hand stuff. Purchasing used and salvaged items—sinks, tubs, doors, decorative hardware, and millwork—can add up to big savings. But ask if you’ll pay more for installation.
  • Buy early, but not too early. Delivery delays are common, and your contractor won’t want to red-light your entire job because the tile hasn’t shown up or an antique stained-glass window got lost.