When I first started in the building supply business 35 years ago, one of my first great customers was a wonderful Catholic pipefitter who had nine children. As you can imagine, money was tight in a family that size. The main reason I remember this customer so vividly is every time he entered the lumberyard, he would ask, “What deals do you have today?” He understood that it was not uncommon for builders and homeowners to make mistakes when ordering doors, windows and building supplies. Many times, these products would end up in the bargain bins of the store. It took several years, but this customer eventually built a beautiful home that housed his wonderful family for about a third of the cost of a new home.   

The dirty little secret that most homeowners don’t know is that many local supply companies have deals on one of a kind, rejected special orders or closeout merchandise that can be purchased for literally pennies on the dollar. Keep in mind, this merchandise is typically in perfect condition but is just unwanted — a misfit item. In fact, local merchants would prefer to sell these items to you at 20 cents on the dollar rather than a salvage company at half that price.

There are two things you must keep in mind when looking for building supply bargains. First, go to your local building material supplier and ask to see their bargain bins, even those buried deep in the warehouse. Next, be flexible and understand that you are getting an extremely low price because you are buying what’s available and not necessarily the exact thing you want. If you are unwilling to compromise your wants, don’t do this.

If you are on a tight construction budget, here is how you maximize your savings: After the plans for your project have been completed, go to your local door supply company and tell the manager, “I am building this project and I want to save money. Do you have some interior and exterior doors that have been returned or ordered incorrectly that you would be willing to make a deal on?” There is a really good chance they will have doors that will fit your needs in a little different style at a price significantly under the price of a specified unit. Don’t be surprised when you have doors offered to you that are much better and at a lower price than the ones specified in your plans. Make sure the doors meet building codes, size requirements and application.

When buying bargain windows, you have to be a little more careful because sizes must be closer, and there is a difference between windows used in wood frame construction and windows used in masonry block construction. The same strategy applies in asking the window manager to look at their bargain windows, but you may have to go back to your draftsperson to change the type of window that is put in your plans if you find a bargain. Building codes can be a little trickier on windows so make sure you have good information. It is not uncommon to get tremendous savings on bargain windows with huge upgrades.  

Be sure your windows and doors have Florida Product Approval numbers so they can be used for your project.  

Bargains are available in just about every area of a construction project. Cabinet companies are notorious for having a warehouse full of good, bargain cabinets and the same can be said of light fixture companies and plumbing suppliers. The key is to always ask to look at the bargain area, and don’t be afraid to counter a price. If a cabinet is in the bargain bin at $100, make an offer of $50. All the businessperson can say is “no.” Keep in mind, those items in the bargain bins are choking that company’s cash flow and most managers are more than willing to make a deal. 

With a little work, a little negotiating and a whole lot of flexibility you can build any project bigger, better and cheaper.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply Inc. He is also the host of the Around the House radio show heard every Monday at noon on My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.