Prepare with Pictures
One word for you…pictures! When you prepare to go to the hardware store, it’s simple for you to understand that the pipe comes out of the wall about “this much” and turns “this way” but it’s usually too complicated to explain properly. Don’t get frustrated when the hardware store employee needs more information to help you. Unfortunately, we can’t see the situation for ourselves.
If you go into the hardware store with pictures from as many different angles as possible, it would help. Looking at the situation, whether it’s a pipe situation in the wall, or a trim that you want to match, will help. If you can put a tape measure on the issue as well, that will also help. If you don’t have a picture phone, prepare to draw out or diagram what you have. Trust me, we won’t judge you because we kind of play pictionary for a living!
Prepare for Many Names
Just as important as pictures, you need to know that an item in the hardware store can have many names. Don’t be surprised if the salesperson knows an item by a different name. Be prepared to tell them what the item is used for if they don’t know the term. As this article from House of Antique Hardware shows, there are many terms for things in a house.
Frequently, people sent by their contractors or a friend get confused. You may not know what you are looking for so allow a person time to google a picture. Let me tell you this right now, there are very few projects that are unusual or out of the ordinary so there’s no need to be embarrassed about what you’re doing.
Again, we roll back to how helpful photos are, but I digress. I recommend that you don’t get angry when somebody doesn’t know a term. If you aren’t ready to tell them what it’s used for, get ready to draw. You have to give them something to go on in order to help you get what you need. The good news is that if you can communicate what you need, they can usually recommend something that will be easier or less expensive to use. We are all very good at translating a description or drawing into exactly what you need.
Prepare By Bringing Samples
If at all possible, take a sample of what you are looking for with you to the hardware store. Especially if you are trying to match something like a piece of trim or a section of carpet, you have to have a sample for the best match. Without a sample, there can always be error, even if you have a holy grail of a photo.
If you are concerned about taking a sample that isn’t going to give enough information, it’s very simple to call and ask what size or what piece you may need. For example, the paint department needs a specific size chip in order to do a paint match. To figure out what plant disease you are dealing with, you may need to bring in the entire plant. Ask first when in doubt.
The only thing standard, in the entire hardware store, is a painter’s pole. There is no standard door, standard wall, or standard light bulb in your entire house. From ordering lumber to buying insulation, there is nothing that is standard. Just trust me on this.
NEVER expect that the item that you have is standard or you will be incredibly disappointed and make thousands of extra trips to the store.
That is not to say that there isn’t a normal. For example, walls are normally 2×4 or 2×6 construction. So we can sometimes guess what will work for you. It helps if you can tell us the age of your house. The age of a house can tell us some of the construction techniques. If you need help to figure out how to tell how old your house is, check out this article from Bob Vila.com. Even if you can tell us a decade that it may have been made in, it is helpful.
The more information you take to the hardware store, the more satisfied you will be with your trip. If you are wondering what information you really need to take, you can always call and ask. I always tell people, you can never provide too much information on your project.