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I am looking to have vinyl siding installed on my home. Are there any advantages to getting a quote from Lowe's or Home Depot instead of contacting contractors directly? It seems that this is just adding a middle man that needs a cut of the profit. Does going through a store provide additional warranty on the work or anything else for peace of mind?

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HD and Lowes to my knowledge do not have any contractors on staff. Meaning that they outsource all of their services to local contractors.

Pros

  • you get a warranty from a company you know will probably honor it in a year

  • you can sometimes - not all the time - use their financing and may be able to have zero interest for a year if your credit is good enough (if you don't pay it in that time you do pay back interest)

  • edit: Adding in another pro since I forgot about why I have used them going back 15 years ago. During one of my flips I couldn't find a licensed plumber - well I could but I was new to flipping in the area and was under an immensely quick timeline, so the bids I was getting were high but the worst part is no one would guarantee a deadline. I got a 4k plumbing bid from bigbox but stipulated that it must be done within 10 days or money back. I couldn't believe the supervisor at bigbox signed it... Day 9 they were 20% done. I called and informed supervisor and took pictures (with a real camera). 4 plumbers finished the next day. I doubt bigbox was worried about the job but sure the supervisor was worried about his. But if you can get them to agree on timelines it is probably very easy to deal with your credit card company to decrease amount.

Cons

  • HD/Lowes make money by jacking up the normal price by 20-100%. I have seen very simple small bathroom installations get 20k quotes. Just thinking I could do 20 of these a year and live very nicely just by doing bathrooms.
  • They do very little to vet out contractors. Usually these are guys who aren't drumming up enough business on their own. For the bigger companies that HD/Lowes deal with you aren't getting their best people. The only thing that HD/Lowes does is take contractors off their list once they have had issues.
  • you will now have a middle man to deal with that will be fed part of the information/issues from you and part from the contractor. Also you will have to deal with admin issues with the middle man. I have seen many times HD/Lowes mess up these small contracts and leave something off or promise something to one side and not the other.
  • you could have multiple contractors for a seemingly easy job. There is no one "owning" who is going into your house.
  • Good luck taking one of the big boxes to court if you can't resolve an issue. Most of their small print would probably make you file hundreds of miles away and moves things out of small claims. You are also dealing with a legal team. Back in the day I had a friend who was using one of the "orange" ones to sub subcontract... He had several disputes. He basically got a letter from their lawyer banning him from their stores after he filed a police report.

My advice. I would only use them if you feel that you don't have any reputable businesses around you that can do the work (not reputable Joe from craigslist - and nothing wrong with using Joe if you are confident on what you need to do) or if you feel you are just the type of person everyone takes advantage of.

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    Actually, my understanding is that the first con bullet point isn't exactly how it happens. They don't jack up normal prices at all. Rather, they insist that their subcontractors cut their prices by that much for the Big Box to get their profit out of it. I guess the argument they make to contractors is that they'll make up for it in volume. I hear mixed stories from contractors as to whether or not that's actually a good deal for them. :) – DA01 Mar 31 '16 at 17:09
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    @DA01 - I am positive they make their subs give a lower quote - part of the "finders" process. In my area it generally works like this (and I am near big city). You go to bigbox, they have one of their guys go out take pictures, he might write you up a quote to begin with, they send pictures/what needs to be done to subs, subs write a quote if big box didn't but bigbox does 90% of time, this quote is way way way higher than standard for the area. I am sure bigbox is bending both sides over. This might work different in different areas though as most of these things are regional. – DMoore Mar 31 '16 at 17:13
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    @DA01 - My pricing info is based on a long history - none in last 3-4 years of my subs going to sites, seeing the bigbox quote, giving customer 20-30% discount and paying me 10% and still walking out of the house giddy. – DMoore Mar 31 '16 at 17:15
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    Gotta echo that orange and blue aren't getting the best trades. They're better than an uninsured/unlicensed idiot off craigslist, as they've surpassed a certain basic bar, but anyone legit with skills won't put up with the poor treatment (pay, scheduling, etc) of the big boxes. – Aloysius Defenestrate Apr 1 '16 at 4:06
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According to Home Depot's website, they provide a year of warranty on anything that is done. Of course this has the added benefit that they're a huge company with the ability to cover any problem you may find yourself in. On that note, any reputable contractor will have insurance sufficient to cover any mishap that they cause and should also warrant their work. If you hire an independent person there is a slight risk that they go out of business (including retirement) before their warranty is over whereas there is almost no risk of Home Depot shutting its doors in a year.

At the end of the day, if you use the big box store as a middleman you save yourself the hassle of vetting/finding a contractor and you get the peace of mind of having a giant company standing behind the work. If you are confident in your ability to choose a good reputable contractor then using Home Depot/Lowe's probably doesn't provide meaningful benefits.

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    In some cases you might be able to use the big stores financing options to pay for the job, but this is the right answer. The big national store gives you a name you can trust, and they will stand behind the work if it comes to that. – JPhi1618 Mar 31 '16 at 15:48
  • This is mostly true, but now you are the middle man between HD and the contractor. This might be easier than managing a contractor... not from what I have heard. – DMoore Mar 31 '16 at 17:18
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Big box sub (HD, Lowes, Sears, etc.) or direct negotiation with contractors is the same - you still need to do your own due diligence on an individual level. Lots of hustlers out there even reputable contractors who will charge the housewife/clueless bro set double/triple the going rate because they can. Roofing, painting and plumbing especially.

Sometimes big box will do a national deal with a national/regional subs such as granite countertop installs or appliance delivery/setup that is well below what a local contractor will charge and they do decent work. And if they screw it up you have a corp office you can go to and pound on tables and throw chairs if necessary (figuratively, you know what I mean). Conversely, too many times people hire the local contractor with a nice "face" guy who sells the job thinking they're getting craftsmen who've been doing custom cabinetry for 30 years only to find the job subbed out to a bunch of illegals with no clue and then wonder why they get sloppy work and some stuff missing from the house when they're done.

Get multiple quotes, some references (from qualified consumers who know what a quality job is supposed to look like), and even do some comparative shopping yourself on materials at the big box or building supply house. Contractors typically get 20-30% + discount on materials but they charge you retail. And if they load up their crews with illegal day laborers they're making even more. I know, I'm Mr politically incorrect but that's the world we're in now. There are plenty of good honest crews out there but you need to do your homework.

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Shopping and comparisons are always helpful to get what you want and need. You should compare prices and quality, and don't be scared to ask your contractor for help picking out materials. A contractor will probably not be shopping at lowes and might find a better deal or better quality item, and probably make some good recommendations. Check Angie's list to see if your contractor has been rated by other clients... and if not, ask him for some references.

  • This is not an answer to the question. – stannius Apr 1 '16 at 23:15
  • @stannius My reply answers the question, and more. SomeGuy is concerned that many contractors charge a finders' fee or otherwise mark up prices. Also, he wants warranty information. Comparing prices and warranties is the way to determine whether he is getting shafted. Reputable contractors might find a better-than retail price and quality, and by asking the contractor for help selecting materials, then SomeGuy will certainly know the deal; and the contractor will not be able to mark up prices without SomeGuy knowing it. The advantage of better prices and better quality is self evident. – Ben Welborn Apr 4 '16 at 17:56
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if you look at the number of lawsuits against home depot an lowes in various states and provinces, you will quickly realize that hiring a big box store gives you nothing more than a lighter wallet and the illusion of security.

if you believe that big box stores are somehow reputable or looking out for you, i have some land to sell you in florida.

fool me once shame on you, fool me twice...

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