Eight simple home improvement savings
You may not be aware that interior paint can often be purchased in "tester" cans for $5 or less. These smaller sized containers are great for covering a single wall or adding accents around the home. Most specialty stores carry these cans for generic and custom colors. While browsing, ask a store employee if your desired tone is on clearance. When people return unwanted colors in prime condition, the store sells these pre-mixed buckets at a discount. The deals are irregular and rarely advertised.
2. NAILS, SCREWS AND JOINTS
Think of fastening materials - nails, screws, joints and staples - as veggies at a grocery store: Generics give you comparable quality for less than the name brand. In many cases, such steel goods are made in the same factory and packaged in different boxes.
3. POWER TOOLS
Shop sales and specific brands to avoid overspending. Shy away from "pro" models and those with loads of accessories you won't use. Black & Decker, Skil and Hitachi all make lines of affordable and reasonably reliable power tools, including cordless drills, screwdrivers and sanders, most in the $50 range. Check user reviews online before buying to be sure you don't settle for an inferior device. If you prefer to do everything virtually, scour online hardware outlet stores that specialize in factory-reconditioned tools. These are certified by the manufacturer to work like new and are sold for a discount of 20 percent or more.
4. HAND TOOLS
Wood handles are relics of a bygone era and not worth buying new. Given that you'll probably use these tools a few times per month, there's also little need to buy an ergonomic version. Opt for a well-balanced tool with solid metal on all striking or sawing surfaces. Kobalt, Estwing and Crescent make reliable tools that hold up well with occasional use. All three have limited lifetime warranties and offer basic models for under $20. Most hardware stores don't sell pre-used hand tools. If you aren't concerned with the dents and dings of age, sift through garage sales and thrift stores. Don't pay over $5, and check for any serious damage, such as a cracked handle.
5. PLUMBING PIPES AND JOINTS
The same grocery store metaphor used for fasteners applies to pipes, joints and other basic plumbing items. Buy the joints and valves sold in large open bins, rather than in prepackaged boxes. As for piping, PVC and copper have the longest life span of all cheap plumbing supplies, typically lasting more than 60 years. They're worth the typically negligible extra amount.
Search local suppliers and garden centers where it's easier to haggle for the amounts you need. Saving cash largely depends on your intended project, so be aware of lumber grades, grain types, and the difference between hardwoods and softwoods. Both Lowe's and Home Depot price-match printed adds from competitors and occasionally tack on an additional discount.
Very few jobs require an enormous tube and requisite caulk gun. To battle overkill, General Electric recently unveiled a new product line called Caulk Singles. Available through Lowe's, they're sold in single-use packages the size of a juice pouch and made for minor fixes.
8. DOORS AND WINDOWS
Look for Energy Star-rated products. The $1,500 federal tax credit for these items expired Dec. 31, but new, smaller tax credits are available (see energystar.gov). Such products are guaranteed to save money on energy bills.