Here's something you may not know: In addition to selling just about anything you could ever need for projects around the house, many of your favorite home improvement stores actually offer a host of in-store services free of charge. And in a down economy, we can use all the help we can get, right? Of course, stores don't necessarily advertise these freebies, but they'll come through if you ask.
Let's take a closer look at the complimentary services offered nationwide at Lowe's home improvement centers
(stay tuned for posts on The Home Depot as well as a variety of local hardware stores).
1. Certified Kitchen Design
This has got to be one of the best deals the store offers. As a DIYer, you'll probably end up buying all or most of your kitchen remodeling supplies at a home store. That's what Lowe's hopes for, of course, but it's not a requirement to sit down with a specialist and turn our ideas into a computer-generated blueprint -- free of charge
To make sure you're getting the kitchen you want, rather than someone else's version of what they think
your kitchen should look like, it's best to do some planning at home, on your own, before you sit down with a designer. To get started, check out this kitchen planner
-- it's available for free online and has lots of helpful tips and inspiring photos, helping you to get a grasp of elements like storage, counter space, lighting and style.
Be forewarned that a kitchen specialist certified by Lowe's (or Home Depot, or any other home improvement store) is not necessarily the most highly trained designer. If you're lucky, you'll run into a CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer), which is someone certified by the prestigious National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)
. But you might not be so lucky.
According to a poster on Garden Web
who used a designer at Lowe's: "Picking a good designer is the key. Be prepared to walk away and come back on a different shift to try someone else. Ask them what their experience is with kitchen design and with the software they will be using." In other words, free design could
be worth what you pay for it.
2. Computer Project Design
In addition to help with your kitchen design, you can get computer designs for decks, fencing and storage buildings. This will give you a shopping lists of the materials and accessories to build your project. Beware that the goal is typically to sell you installation services, which as a DIYer you likely don't want. Be prepared to shun those offers.
3. Cutting Materials to Size
Have you ever wanted to buy a bit of lumber for a project, or some mini blinds to make your house a little cozier, but you wondered what kinds of tools you needed to cut the materials to fit? Wonder no more. Lowe's will make the cuts for you. This includes pipe, rope, chain, tile and any number of other materials. Lowe's wants to make the sale, so just ask.
4. One-Year Plant Guarantee
Okay, a lot of nurseries guarantee their plants. But who holds onto the receipts? In this economic climate, it makes more sense than ever to do just that. If you have problems with a plant from Lowe's (other than the fact that it took over your neighbor's yard), bring the dead plant in, along with your receipt, and Lowe's will replace it at no charge. I suggest, however, that you not put the exact same plant in the exact same spot and give it the exact same care. As the saying goes: If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting.
5. Pipe Threading
most pipes need threads (grooves that allow a pipe to screw into place) in order to be functional. Lowe's offers free threading services for any types of pipe, including galvanized and black iron pipe. The process involves a machine-based cutting operation with a metal wheel that creates threads on the ends of the pipes. This service is specifically designed to both thread and cut pipes. No blade is involved in the process.
6. Woodshop for Kids
For the younger set, Lowe's offers free wood projects
. For March, the project is a wooden kaleidoscope, and April's project is a little pie-shaped box with sides and a flapper arm to flick a small bearing around. Lowe's calls it a "mini baseball game". These projects are for kids in grades 1 to 5. I'm not sure the average hip kid would like these toys, but the building part would be fun. And they get a free apron, goggles, and a "certification of merit."
7. Paint Color Matching Service
You may already know this, but it's still worth mentioning. To get just the right paint color, you don't' have to stand for hours, until your feet and back hurt, looking with glazed eyes (pun intended) at thousand of paint swatches until you find the color you like. Just bring in a sample of a picture in a magazine, or an item of clothing, or a piece of carpet or flooring in the color that already rocks your world and the paint technicians will use computer software to match that color in a matter of seconds. Also, check out Lowe's information on color theory
8. In-Store Translation
This really beats waving your arms around, pointing and hollering in your native language. The Language Line phone service provides live translation of more than 140 languages. So if you're a native Swahili speaker, you just might be in luck.
9. Loading of Supplies
While I often wonder about shoppers who request that a clerk load two bags of groceries at the supermarket, this service at home improvement stores is one I love. We're talking lumber, bricks, concrete -- you name it, they'll load it into your vehicle.
10. Lowe's Will Beat Anyone's Stock or Advertised Price by 10%
Okay, this one doesn't necessarily count as a free service, but it's still a money-saving service you should know about it. Plenty of stores say they'll match their competitors' prices. But Lowe's won't just match the other store's price; they'll beat it by 10%. This applies to a verifiable lower everyday or advertised price on an identical stock item at any local retail competitor that has the same item in stock. Just bring in the competitor's current ad or ask Lowe's to call the store to verify the item's price. Cash (or charge card)-and-carry purchases only. Competitor's closeout, special order, discontinued, clearance, liquidation and damaged items are excluded from this offer. Of course this doesn't include the deals you find on eBay, Amazon or other discount sites either.