How To Maximise Your Shopping At Home Improvement Stores

How To Maximise Your Shopping At Home Improvement Stores

Any budding DIY enthusiast or homeowner can tell you that they spend a lot of time at places like Bunnings. Shopping at big box stores can be a frustrating experience, from trying to locate a single item to finding someone who can answer a basic question. Here are some tips for making the most of your visit to these home improvement behemoths.

Pictures: Scott Lewis, Scott Lewis, Jonty Reason, KomuNews

Get the Lay of the Land

How To Maximise Your Shopping At Home Improvement Stores

If you are a DIY enthusiast, you will undoubtedly learn how your Bunnings is laid out. Instead of scrambling to locate an aisle on each visit, take some time to walk each aisle and just familiarise yourself with the different sections of the store. This will help make your next visit go much faster.

Typically, you’ll find timber on one side of the store and home and garden on the opposite side. Paint is in the middle, flanked by tools and hardware on the timber half and lighting and plumbing on the home and garden half.

The back rows are dedicated to appliances, kitchens and storage, and they can be setup as mini-showrooms to sell cabinets, carpet and countertops.

If you’re just heading in for an item or two, you can always order online and get free in-store pickup, without having to search the aisles.

Talk to the Pros

If you’ve got a question about a pipe fitting or how a particular light switch is wired, gently ask a fellow shopper. Look for the folks wearing the dirty shirts with the name of a contracting company on it. Don’t badger them for how-to advice, but they will often be willing to answer a question or two. Just remember, they are shopping to solve a problem and are usually in a rush to get back to the jobsite.

Every section in the store will have an employee who is a team leader and can offer qualified advice for locating an item. The tough part can be finding this person. Sales associates can help you track down these individuals, but don’t ask them for much more as their home improvement knowledge can be minimal.

Make Use of Their Services

The big box retailers know that not all of their customers drive full-size trucks, so they have large track saws and chop saws that will cut your wood to length for you. This will save you time on your project and also make it easier to fit the lumber in your car. Check out the scraps pile for discounted wood items, too. You can often find smoking deals for irregular sized lumber.

Your home improvement store may also cut pipe, rods, chains and make keys. Some stores also offer paint colour matching capabilities (call ahead to confirm). Just bring in a piece of carpet or fabric and they will match it to a paint colour.

Lastly, you can usually rent tools and trucks at most home centres. No need to invest in a tool you’ll only need once.

Take the Classes (Kids Inc)

How To Maximise Your Shopping At Home Improvement Stores

Home improvement stores sometimes ofter educational courses that cover gardening, plumbing, woodworking and more. The schedule and variety of classes vary from store to store, so ask the store manager at your local retailer for details. These classes are free and a great way to learn some new skills and get hands-on experience. Plus, they’re taught by a local expert, so it’s a great opportunity to pick the brain of a pro who is willing to teach.

That goes for kids too. Skip the Saturday morning cartoons and bring the family for weekly kid-friendly DIY activities that include building a model car or painting a birdhouse. These classes are also free to attend.

Find Great Deals

How to Maximise Your Shopping at Big Box Home Improvement Stores

Remember, there are always deals to be had if you ask. Don’t be afraid to:

  • Look for items that are scratched or damaged and ask for a 20 per cent discount. Expect to get 10-15 per cent off.
  • Bundle big ticket items and ask for a deal.
  • Find an item at a competitor store for a lower price and get that price or 10 per cent less.


  • Whatever you do, don’t ask the staff for electrical advice. Don’t ask people standing in the aisle unless they are wearing a shirt with an EC number on it.

    And most importantly, don’t try it at home. Seriously. Your average home handyman is not a qualified electrician and neither are you. Don’t mess with things you’re not trained to work on and you won’t get hurt or burn your house down.

    Also, it’s a $5000 fine for unlicensed work if you ever get caught doing it. So don’t risk it. Use a licensed sparky.

    • “Also, it’s a $5000 fine for unlicensed work if you ever get caught doing it. So don’t risk it. Use a licensed sparky.”
      It can also have insurance ramifications.

    • It always baffles me about the paranoia regarding electrical work. I will leave difficult things to the professionals (like distribution boards), but things like wiring a new powerpoint or light is dead easy stuff.

      I don’t see people get all uppity about working on their own cars (when they’re far more deadly).

      • Why the paranoia? In a word – unions. They lobbied hard to get the restrictions in place using the safety factor as justification. The fact that it meant more business for them is totally irrelevant of course.

  • Don’t get rid of your unwanted invoices at Bunnings, it sounds lame at the hearing…

  • Don’t ask the staff for advice unless it is to locate something. I asked for a tap valve and a staff member said “yeah they don’t make these anymore” and proceeded to try to convince me a completely different size valve to what I was after. So I left there and went to a trade store, they had them readily available.
    If it’s plumbing and tapware, be prepared to get what you pay for. I have bathroom fixtures that don’t look good not long after installing them. Try an actual bathroom place, as the off the shelf items at Bunnings are often plastic and just chrome colour coated.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!