When it comes time for home improvement projects the first place most people start is at Lowe's or Menards. For this blog post I will leave out Home Depot since we do not have a location real close to us in Hendricks County, so I almost never shop there. As a house flipper, stores like Menards and Lowe's are my second home. When I first started I purchased almost everything from these stores, but now I have branched out to other stores for certain things. After managing 16 house rehab projects I have developed preferences for each store based on what I need.
Right out of the gate I will say that Menards is cheaper in price on about 90% of their products, but the quality is also lower. On many items the qualify difference isn't as big of a deal, but on other items you don't want cheap quality. For example, for the vinyl black kick plate strips that many people put on the bottom of cabinets by their flooring only costs about $2 each from Menards, but cost about $7 from Lowe's. The only difference is the thickness, but this is an item where quality won't matter, so get the cheaper stuff. Let's break down everything else....
Kitchen Cabinets - My first flip in 2016 I bought off the shelf cabinets from Lowe's. The quality was not good at all, and I said I would not buy those again. I now order RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets online that are nice quality solid wood and do not cost much more than the Lowe's in stock cabinets. On the last house I rehabbed in 2019 I did purchase two Lowe's stock cabinets to make an island and the quality has actually gotten a lot better for those. I might take a second look at them again if I have a small project that doesn't need as nice of kitchen. Menards selection of stock kitchen cabinets are pretty slim, and the quality is not great, so I don't get those there at all.
Kitchen Countertops - If you just need standard laminate countertops then Menards is the cheapest and the quality is good. If you are looking for a solid surface such as granite or quartz you are better off going to a local company for better pricing and service.
Bathroom Vanities - This is a tossup, I go for whatever looks nice, and hopefully is on sale from Menards, Lowe's, or some of the local stores that get big box store returns. I have gotten great deals from companies that deal with store returns, paying 40-50% of retail where there is nothing wrong with the item.
Bathroom/Kitchen Faucets - I used to get these all from Lowe's or Menards based on what's on sale, but now I get almost all of them on Amazon. There are a lot of great quality brands I have found, and they are about half the price of the branded ones in stores.
Tile - For backsplash and shower tile I prefer Lowe's styles and selection, but if I can find something at Menards I like the pricing is usually better.
Tub/Shower Sets - Usually for these I am looking at reviews and what is on sale. There are some cheap sets out there that I try and avoid. When you spend that money replacing something expensive like this it's important you put something of quality in and spend the extra money.
Laminate and Vinyl Plank Flooring - I prefer Lowe's hands down over Menards for these items. I like the colors, styles, and quality much more. Flooring is one thing you don't want to skimp on. Many times cheaper flooring is a pain to install as well. As the popularity of vinyl plank has taken off in recent years I have moved more into that over laminate. Also, local flooring stores are good sources for quality vinyl plank, but I still prefer Lowe's because I am already going there for other things, plus they will deliver it for only $20 for Lowe's credit cardholders.
Carpet - I used to always buy this from Lowe's because of the price and free install (install is built into pricing). After seeing prices continuing to increase, and lead times all over the map for carpet installs I started shopping around. For the last 5-6 houses I have used a local flooring store that has been great to work with. Better pricing, quality, and almost always can install exactly when I need it done.
Electrical - This is something I don't personally buy a lot of because a contractor is usually doing my electrical stuff. But for basic plugs, switches, plug covers, switch covers, etc, I prefer Lowe's because they seem to be better quality.
Plumbing - Another item I don't personally do a lot of other than minor things. For quick connect things like SharkBites, Menards has its own brand that are cheaper, but I am unsure of the quality of them. I don't like using cheap plumbing materials in places that can cause expensive damage if something leaks. For actual SharkBite brand plumbing items you will find the best prices on those at a local plumbing supply house (anyone can shop there) and on Amazon.
Lighting - I prefer Menards selection and pricing for this category. However, if I am looking for something nicer for kitchen, dining area, or ceiling fans I like Lowe's selection better.
Doors (Int/Ext) - Generally cheaper at Menards, but this is an item I usually have contractors pickup, so it ends up being their personal preference.
Paint - It depends on how much I need. If it's only a gallon or less I usually just get it when I am at Lowe's. I've never really tried Menards paints. If I need more then I get it from PPG or Sherwin Williams for better pricing and paint quality.
Appliances - Since HHGregg closed down a few years ago I have been getting all my appliances at Lowe's. I have price shopped a few times at other stores, but find that Lowe's is almost always cheaper or around the same price as anywhere else. Since I am already at Lowe's and they deliver free it's just easier to get them while I am there.
For all the nick nack materials I usually just get them where it's convenient or where I already know the item is cheaper if there is a sizable price difference. Amazon has been a great source for many materials I purchase over and over.
I think that about covers all the main categories. If you need any free home improvement advice leave a comment or reach out to me!