10 Tips for Online Shopping for Home Improvement Projects

By thelandingco on November 27, 2015 in DIY, Renovations, Tips
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Have you noticed the Black Friday frenzy creeping north from our American neighbours the last few years? I’m not enthusiastic enough to tussle with crowds at a bricks and mortar stores but I have taken advantage of great online sales to get a head start on my Christmas shopping a few times.

If you are in the middle of, or preparing for, a home improvement project, here are a few shopping ideas to keep in mind!

  1. SHOPPING FOR THE BASICS: 
    Basic building materials rarely go on sale. Deep discount prices on 2 x 4’s and drywall are few and far between.   If you plan well, you can keep a running list of items and their prices, comparing different suppliers.  Perhaps the most likely place to find bargains for the basics is firesales, business auctions, and business closeouts.  Your shopping list is the key.
  2. ONLINE RESEARCH:
    Online stores offer a great opportunity to do product research and compare prices from the comfort of home before making final decisions.  Many people put a lot of credence in online product reviews.   Perhaps their greatest benefit is alerting you to the issues.  Beyond that, remember the source of what you are reading.   Finding reviews from 3rd party sources, or science based sites can offer more solid advice.
  3. CANADIAN TIRE SHOPPING:
    TLC designer Will Klassen claims that “Canadian Tire is the best flyer company in the world!” They sell great quality items that are needed in every household: faucets, toilets, basic lighting, etc. Beware of the power tools at Canadian Tire.  In that case you often get what you pay for.
  4. SHOPPING BLOWOUTS:
    The best way to take advantage of anticipated sales such as Black Friday and Boxing Day, is advance planning.  Confidence to make a decision comes from having a list you are sure of, and knowing your prices.  Electrictronics are often the loss leaders that people line up for at 5 a.m.   If you do your research when the flyers come out, you will know if what is being offered is for you.  Remember, no deal is a good deal if you don’t need it.
  5. ONLINE SHOPPING FOR HANDMADE ONE-OF-A KIND ITEMS:
    Highly specialized handmade items and artwork for your home are more accessible than ever through e-commerce sites such as Etsy. TLC recently worked on a kitchen that featured a granite sink with an exquisitely carved apron made by an artist in New Mexico and custom designed wrought iron fixtures.  300 pounds of granite was delivered right to the door.   We opened and checked everything out before the driver left.
  6. ONLINE SHOPPING FOR FURNITURE:
    One of the challenges with online furniture shopping is proportion and dimension.  Because you aren’t standing in front of the piece, you need to go out of your way to visualize.   Perhaps you can source the item locally – just to look at it.  You can tape off its dimensions on your floor.  Whatever you do, make sure you look carefully, and understand the specifications.  You don’t want to be left with a new sectional couch for your garage.
  7. SHOPPING FOR TRADESPEOPLE:
    Be careful if you are relying on sites such as Craig’s List or Kijiji to find tradespeople in your area. The prices may look good, but unless you are knowledgeable enough to be vetting self-claimed professionals, exercise caution.   If they don’t respond like a professional they probably aren’t.   Watch for clear explanations, price lists, written agreements, clear specifications, payment schedules.   Are they open and transparent, or do you sense something is being withheld?  On the other end, are they talking too much?  Do they pay attention when you ask questions?  Do you feel understood or do you sense that you are getting the same answer everyone before you was given.  References are invaluable – if you use them.
  8. SHOPPING ONLINE FOR DESIGNER ITEMS:
    Kijiji, EBay or Craig’s List can be great sources for second hand furniture and one-of-a-kind items.  Know what you are looking for and then be disciplined and patient.  Those that are good at this shop every day – often several times a day. Online sites let you set notifications.  You can set your search so that you only review listings you haven’t  searched through before.  Once you find what you are looking for, be ready to act.  A recent project included steel kitchen cabinets from a specific manufacturer in the 1950’s.   Everything was sourced through Kijiji over several months of persistence.   The power of this kind of searching increases with designer input, “My clients often send me listings to review for them.  Their confidence grows as they learn how and why some items work and others don’t.”  Will Klassen, TLC designer.
  9. SHOPPING ONLINE WITH PASSION:
    Did you see something in a magazine or on television that’s just perfect for your home?  And then you found it on Kijiji!   You’ve been looking forever.   The price is right.  The owner answered all your questions.   At TLC we like to say, “Don’t drive further than you’re willing to come home empty handed.”  For lots of people that is an hour.  “I have found items online and driven half a day to pick them up.  Often I see the flaws days later.” says Will Klassen.   Somehow, when you’ve traveled beyond that hour, you aren’t prepared to see what you don’t want to see.  Your passion drove you till you found your dream, and then your passion blinded you from seeing that the dream wasn’t quite as you’d hoped.
  10. ONLINE SHOPPING HAS HIDDEN COSTS:
    Finally, if you are inspired to do a little online shopping this week, don’t forget to include shipping costs and exchange rates in your price comparisons. And, make sure to check the returns policy in case the item isn’t suitable or arrives in less than perfect condition.  “So many items come from the US.  Often, by the time the package arrives it has cost me double the listed price.  It is often worth it for handmade items.  But otherwise, I prefer to shop in Canada.”   Will Klassen.

Happy shopping!

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