By Mike Thayer
I recently wrote about a project I'm about to undertake, the construction of some self watering raised bed garden planters!
In doing some shopping homework online before going out and purchasing materials for the project, I checked out pricing at Lowe's, Home Depot, Menard's and Sutherland's.
Here's the materials list:
- Six 12' 2x6s
- Three 12' deck boards
- Two 10' 2x4s
- One 8' 2x4
- Four 8' 2x2s
- 24' of 4" diameter perforated drain pipe with sleeve
- Pond liner
- Exterior screws
- Soiless potting mix
- 1/2' vinyl tubing for drainage
- 1" CPVC (fill tube)
I must admit, Lowe's, although a big box store is one of my favorites. I always seem to walk out of there having bought more than what was on my list... Funny how that works huh? I could spend hours in that place, but if I did, projects wouldn't get done. But I digress. Knowing this is going to be a pricey project - have you seen the price of lumber these days? - I looked at all the lumberyards in my neck of the woods to see who would be the least expensive to purchase all the necessary materials from. Other considerations are availability and product quality. I know from projects I've done in the past for example, that the quality of wood from Menard's isn't as good as Lowe's or Home Depot. You really have to pick through the boards to find the good ones. I've never shopped at a Sutherland's before, so I don't know about the product quality or customer service (Lowe's can be lacking at times in that area) but they're on the radar because they are a much smaller chain than the others, based in Kansas City with just 49 stores mostly in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma - so it's kind of a 'buy regional' thing. As a matter of perspective, Georgia based Home Depot has over 2,300 stores nationwide, North Carolina based Lowe's has 2,000+ stores nationwide and Wisconsin based Menard's trails with 335 stores concentrated in the Midwest.
Back to that materials list, here's the per planter price breakdown:
Coming in the cheapest was Menard's at $397.05, all materials needed were available.
Coming in second in terms of lowest price, Lowe's at $413.08 with all materials needed, available. I will say however they have the worst online shop, not user friendly and it kept freezing up. I had to make several attempts - and on different days even! - to finally 'fill' my cart.
Coming in third in terms of lowest price, Home Depot at $421.52, with all materials available. Home Depot's website provided the best/easiest online shopping experience.
The most expensive store, was the smallest lumberyard chain of the four - Sutherland's. The project price came in at $432.61 and they did not have the pond liner needed for the project in stock, nor could I order one to have it shipped.
I went shopping with Cindy C - the motivator of this project - earlier this week and we started at Sutherland's and buying regional in mind. Some of those materials for putting together that first planter (1 of 5 planters to be built, 3 for her, 2 for me) are pictured above. And while Sutherland's stores their lumber indoors like Home Depot and Lowe's do, we did have to really pick through a lot of boards to get the good ones and they didn't have any decent treated 2x2's to speak of. We did have to ask for assistance in trying to find a few items which was hit and miss. One associate pointed us in the right direction, another took us directly to where we needed to go, another gave us entirely wrong information. The lady at the checkout was kind of rude, as in, she'd rather not be there kind of rude. Cindy and I walked out of Sutherland's a bit disappointed in both product availability and customer service. The experience didn't exactly make one eager to keep dollars regional on the next trip.
After picking up a few things, we then ventured to Lowe's to get what remained on the materials list. We also did some dream shopping in the power tools section... Cindy has a mitre saw which will come in handy on this project, but she wants a table saw. I had my eyes on a new drill press. We found the 12' 2x6's we needed without having to really pick through boards at all and the 2x2's were plentiful. TIP: I made the mistake of going for the lumber first, taking the cart and that 12' lumber through a number of aisles and the power tools section presented a challenge at times, avoiding people, displays and other obstacles. If it were a game and hitting things earned points, I would have scored high.
I'll keep you posted with how the project is going once the building begins. To sum up the shopping experience, Menard's may be the cheapest but past experience puts product quality in question. Sutherland's, while initially the preferred lumberyard to shop at, is the most expensive, with the product quality, availability and the customer service a mixed bag of good and bad. Lowe's, a personal favorite, remains a repeat store to use, a Bachelor on the Cheap recommendation. Home Depot, not visited on this occasion due to location, becomes a plan B.