Should You Buy Products Yourself for a Remodel?
Last updated December 2021
If you can buy products on your own, our advice and price ratings probably will help you pay less—often a lot less—than what your contractor will charge you to supply them. Although remodeling companies sometimes can obtain contractors’ discounts, most don’t buy in such large amounts that they get deals. Also, 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. Some things to keep in mind:
- Any item’s buyer is responsible for making sure it fits and works. If you supply a defective or incorrect item and it creates more work, you’ll probably pay extra for it.
- 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.
- Shop around for the best price. Our undercover shoppers always find huge store-to-store differences for the exact same products. For appliances, call or email local stores and ask for competitive bids.
- Don’t assume a sale price is a good price. A 10-month Checkbook investigation found that sales at some stores almost never end. Even if you see something on sale for 50 percent off it’s probably just an attempt to mislead, not a special short-term deal. Many appliance and flooring stores are among the worst fake-sale offenders.
- Factor in shipping costs. For some products—particularly appliances and furniture—shipping costs often 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. Make sure large items will fit through staircases and doorways. If you’re ordering the front door, make sure that will fit, too. If you’re buying flooring or tile, buy enough—you’ll need extra to account for waste and damage.
- Get an okay. Have your architect, designer, and contractor check your order, including double-checking your measurements, before you place it.
- Consider buying secondhand. Purchasing 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.