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14 Things Home Depot Employees Won’t Tell You

The Home Depot offers a wealth of materials, resources and a customer-friendly return policy. But there are a few secrets about shopping there that only the most savvy DIYers are aware of.

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Secret Language of Price TagsBelen Strehl/Shutterstock

The Secret Language of Price Tags

Most retailers use a series of codes and special prices to secretly label their products. Sales associates use them to sort and move merchandise, but savvy shoppers who’ve broken the code can snatch up items when they’re at their lowest price point.

In The Home Depot’s case, look for yellow sales tags. If the sales price ends with .06, then there are six weeks left before that item is priced lower. If the sales price ends with .03, then that item will be moved to clearance or donated to charity in three weeks. By keeping an eye on those yellow tags, it’s possible to get even better deals on low-cost, high-value items that every DIYer will love.

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Clearance NegotiatorHelen89/Shutterstock

Clearance Negotiations

Once those sale items move to clearance, you might think that the price is as low as it’s going to get. But there’s actually an opportunity to get them for even less.

Clearance rack pricing is at the store manager’s discretion. But it never hurts to ask if the price can come down a little. This is especially useful if you’re buying several clearance items at once. You may be told “no,” but you’d be surprised at how often managers are happy to see these items sell at all.

If you’re uncertain about your negotiating skills, this article on finding the right car price is a great primer.

Check out these 14 clever uses for free stuff from The Home Depot.

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You’ll never shop at The Home Depot the same way again after watching this video:

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Cutting Couponigor kisselev/Shutterstock

110 Percent Guarantee

A price saving tip that requires no negotiating at all is The Home Depot’s 110 percent price guarantee. If you bring in an advertised price from one of their competitors, the sales staff at The Home Depot won’t just match the price, they’ll beat it by 10 percent.

So keep an eye peeled for coupons and online sales. Bring that info in to the store, and you’ll get a healthy discount, no matter how weird a thing you’re buying.

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Wood ScrapsCURAphotography/Shutterstock

Drastic Discounts on Wood Scraps

Many DIYers know The Home Depot will cut lumber and trim to custom length. Better yet, when these items are sold by the board foot, you only have to pay for what you need. But what you may not know is that all that excess lumber and off-cut trim ends up as difficult-to-sell scrap wood.

Ask an associate for the “cull lumber” or “scrap wood” rack, and you’ll find wood that sells for up to 75 percent off. If you need specific dimensions, you may not find what you’re looking for in the cull lumber bin, but you may discover enough materials to help you make something great. As just one example, check out this shelf constructed entirely of scrap lumber!

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Paint CansSebastian Duda/Shutterstock


Customers often ask: Can you return paint to The Home Depot? The paint department custom-tints thousands of gallons of paint each week. Given that volume, it’s no surprise that some of it doesn’t come out perfectly, or is never picked up by the customer who requested it.

Look for a shelf of “mis-tint” or “oops paint” for paint that’s priced so low it’s almost free. Much like the wood found among the cull lumber, you may not find the color or quantity you’d like, but there’s often enough paint at a great price for painting doors or other small projects.

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Store AisleHelen89/Shutterstock

Damaged Goods

Many of the items sold at The Home Depot come in heavy boxes and packing material. If that outer packaging is torn or crushed, the product becomes difficult to sell, even though the damage may be only surface deep. But while the item itself may be untouched, the damaged package means that the retailer will likely be forced to place it on deep discount.

Look for damaged packaging. If there isn’t already a bright yellow sale sticker, ask an associate if they can give you a price discount. And if you had any doubts about purchasing damaged goods, here’s a great explanation of how these perfectly usable goods can help you get more done while staying under budget.

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Laptop ScreenCasimiro PT/Shutterstock

Retroactive Sales

There’s nothing more aggravating that finding that tool or material you need, then buying it and heading home only to see it go on sale the next time you visit the store. If this happens to you with a purchase from The Home Depot, don’t just grit your teeth and regret your purchase — head in to the store to claim your savings! This goes for anything you’ve bought in the last 30 days.

Bring the receipt for your purchase and show it to customer service. Your wallet will thank you. Be sure to keep an eye on sales events, especially around holidays, and you can make recent purchases even better values.

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Tools ManIakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

No-Questions-Asked Returns

Not sure what kind of garden loppers to buy? Get both and bring back the one you don’t use for a full refund. This is also a great strategy should you get to the store and realize you forgot to measure for a specific part. Buy multiple sizes and plan on returning the unused items.

Bring a receipt if you have it, but even without one you can still make the return with a photo ID. Knowing that these returns are possible, you can simply pick up various sizes and colors of a given material, which is sure to help you move quickly on your next trip to The Home Depot!

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Dead Flower Potmichaeljung/Shutterstock

One-Year Guarantee on Plants and Shrubs

At The Home Depot you can actually return a dead plant! The Home Depot’s garden sales come with a one-year guarantee. This means if your tree or plant dies despite proper care, you can return it for a full refund even after you’ve planted it. This guarantee is great for those DIYers who aren’t confident in their plant nurturing skills.

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Wood Stacks AisleChristian Delbert/Shutterstock

Be Wary of Warped Lumber

Chances are you’ve seen the massive stacks of lumber at The Home Depot, especially of common dimension like 2x4s or 2x8s. If you’re itching to start a project, you might be tempted to simply load up your cart and head to the check-out.

But take the time to examine each piece of lumber as you select it. You’ll notice many are warped, cupped, checked or otherwise damaged. Sure, you can always return bad boards, but why go through the trouble of hauling them out to your jobsite and back again? If you’re not sure what to look for, check out this guide for an in-depth explanation of how to select the best pieces at a lumberyard. 

Another question customers often ask is Does The Home Depot cut wood? The answer is usually yes! If you need help cutting lumber before taking it home, ask an associate for help.

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Tool RentalQualityHD/Shutterstock

Rental Tools for Sale

The aisles of The Home Depot are filled with tools of all sizes and prices. Each one is new, never used. But there’s another place in the store that has an even better deal on tools: the rental shop.

Rental tools are available to DIYers of all skill levels to try out or to use for one-off projects. As the various tools start to pick up scratches and dings or are replaced by newer models, they’re put up for sale — usually at a big discount. But unlike used tools found at pawn shops, they’ve been inspected by a qualified technician between rentals.

Of course, you can always simply rent tools to save money. But keep an eye on your local Home Depot rental stock for buying opportunities as well.

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Paint SamplesRoman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock

Holiday Paint Sales

Like many retailers, The Home Depot times clearance sales around major holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. You can pick up paint for significantly less, or bring in the receipt from a recent purchase for a price match. And the higher volume of purchases during the holiday sales means a greater number of bargain-basement mis-tints. These holiday sales are a win all the way around!

If you do pick up a lot of paint during these sales, here are some great tips for storing all those new and half-used paint cans.

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Home Depot SignRob Wilson/Shutterstock

You Don’t Need To Be A Pro To Use The Pro Desk

Anyone who tackles projects as readily as most DIYers can access great deals and sales associates who are motivated to help you. The pro desk does offer some services that are only useful to commercial organizations, but anyone who buys in bulk will benefit as well. Enjoy bulk pricing and even have your shopping done for you, leaving you free to simply pick up and pay.

While it’s great that you can use The Home Depot’s pro desk, these are 10 home improvement projects for which you should always hire a pro.

Dan Stout
Dan Stout is a freelance writer and author based in Columbus, Ohio. Dan's non-fiction has appeared on numerous sites and in print, while his prize-winning fiction has been featured in publications such as Nature and The Saturday Evening Post. He is the author of The Carter Archives series of noir fantasy thrillers from DAW Books.

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