Home Depot 6AM trick

18 Replies

Not sure if all out there are familiar with this, but J Scott suggested a great idea for finding better than standard contractors by going to your local Home Depot at opening and talking to the contractors that are there bright and early.

Based on my experience so far with contractors in middle Georgia I probably should've seen this coming, but now I'm getting breakfast because there wasn't a single one between HD and Lowes.  Oh Warner Robins I won't miss you.

We'll see if there's better luck closer to 7.

@Mason Keith

That is a pretty solid point that he made, but maybe the evening is just as effective. For instance my father and a few others I know of would usually do their trip to home depot after a night of work to save them the time in the morning. Unless of course anything popped up last minute. Well hopefully you find what you are looking for!

Hey @Mason Keith . You're in Centerville on Watson? 

I use a contractor that has done work on my rentals. His primary work is electrical but he tells me he runs a crew of guys that span the trade and are insured. I can't say how he is with a big rehab but he's really honest, prompt, and fair for the work I've used him for which was service calls and one small rewire job. 

I also have a contractor contact (written down at the house) that I got from the WR REIA. He spoke there a couple months ago. The REIA host uses him for his flips and recommends him. PM me if you're interested.

I don't think the early morning Home Depot tip was meant to be a rule like the 2% rule.  I think it's suggestion for teasing out contractor behavior that can make a difference.  

In a city like Atlanta, some Home Depots would be better than others.  The Buckhead Home Depot is huge and covered up with contractors while the farther out Home Depots are more handymen.  

In a rural area like Warner Robbins, word of mouth would be the best way by far.  Other approaches might be to check permitted jobs on known flips.  If one investor does lots of cash deals, then you can look at what GC, plumber, electrician, HVAC subs pulled permits. If there's new construction near you, then checking the mechanical subs and seeing who pops up a lot is a good way to find a 'system replacement' team.  

Lastly in rural areas, Home Depot is where newbies and small-timers go.  If you're looking for a crew, the follow a full lumber delivery truck to a job site and go to a real lumber yard.  You'll find great help from them since they actually know contractors by name (and volume).

Best of luck! 


Go talk to your builder's supply company.  We buy most of our building materials from a local supplier - not Home Depot or Lowe's.  They know everyone building and who pays their bills on time.

Find out who sells the straightest lumber in your area... lot's of carpenters will not work with lumber shaped like a banana. if you understand plumb,level and square!

Good contractors typically don't shop at the box stores or are just their to get a few things.

Anyone who has their act together buys from wholesalers, if you want recommendations talk to them.

@Mason Keith  The '6:00am rule' is cute but I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in it. I also would question the wisdom (and safety!) of approaching someone in the parking lot at that hour...I know I'm always wary of such things. 

A better indicator might be to observe how the contractor handles the return of the shopping cart after loading his vehicle.  If he takes the time to place it properly in the corral, he's probably conscientious.  If he just leaves it in the middle of the lot and drives off, he's probably not.  Bonus points if he walks it all the way back to the building entrance!  

I come for a production home background and have built over 500 tract homes.  Now I just do house flips and I can tell you that we buy from Lowes almost all of our materials for our flips.  When I first started flipping house, I got bids from all of my old production subs, but soon discovered Lowes was beating them by 10-15%.  I should say that the materials I'm buying is all finish stuff, plumbing fixtures, lights, tile, etc....stuff that usually goes with house flipping

Wow, this blew up while I was at work. Thank you everyone for your responses, your thoughts are very much appreciated.

I'm glad I went to see if it'd work, because trying to get a contractor is killing me, but it seems prudent to return to working references from folks in the area at this time.

Originally posted by @Rick Baggenstoss :

@J Scott We're poking and prodding your rule of thumb.  Care to weigh in or refine it?

I guess I assumed that my every word wouldn't be taken so literally...  :-)

Some thoughts:

-  As you mentioned above, this isn't a hard-and-fast rule that will always work in every location.  The point of this suggestion is to identify characteristics of those contractors that you'd like to work with, and then find contractors who have those characteristics.  Conscientious, hard working and reliable are three important characteristics to me, and I've found that most contractors who have those traits are also the contractors who are buying their materials early in the morning.

-  I used Home Depot as an example, but my implication was any major supplier of building materials.  Lowes is just as good, and some building supply houses may be even better.  It really depends on the type of contractors you're looking for and where those types of contractors tend to shop.

-  I don't think I ever said to approach contractors in the parking lot (as someone above mentioned).  While I'm comfortable talking to people at 6am in a Home Depot parking lot, I'm sure that doing the talking inside the store is just as effective.

There are lots of other good suggestions above, and I've written many blog posts and articles about how I recommend finding contractors.  Home Depot at 6am was one suggestion -- certainly not the be-all, end-all of suggestions.  

That said, I still stick by it...it's worked for me on many occasions...

Originally posted by @Jon Klaus :

Try contractor parking beside the lumber entrance at Home Depot.  I see more at HD than at Lowes.  Even ran into my old plumber there last week.  

It's an absolute scene at our HD between 6-8 am.  Definitely happening at the lumber entrance side.  I knew nothing about HD in the morning until I pretend GCd a couple of jobs for a PM client.  I hired all the subs but had to pick up a shower stall and tile for guys coming to the job site at 7:30.  It was a totally different HD than the one I know as a DIY consumer. Piles of stuff everywhere. The tile aisle was a maze of boxes that you could hardly walk through.  And it's all gone by 8:00. 

Originally posted by @J Scott:

-  I used Home Depot as an example, but my implication was any major supplier of building materials.  Lowes is just as good, and some building supply houses may be even better.  It really depends on the type of contractors you're looking for and where those types of contractors tend to shop.

I'm guessing it depends on the size of the area, but all the building suppliers are good bets where I am.  Some contractors here never use Home Depot. We have major electrical, plumbing and hardware suppliers to the trade.  And a large non-corporate lumber yard.  My experience hiring high end contractor employees for non high end side jobs has been good.  And I've had good experiences using referrals from the plumbing and tile suppliers.