6 Clever Ways for House Flippers to Save Big on Remodeling Supplies


My husband and I have flipped numerous houses, doing much of the work ourselves. We look for bargains when choosing materials to use. Why pay $20/sq ft for glass tile if you can find something suitable for $5? Your 100 square foot backsplash just went from $2,000 to $500 instantly.

I don’t mean to suggest that you go with bottom of the barrel finishes or that you do subpar work to save money. And I am most certainly not suggesting that you cut corners. Do it right and up to code, but shop around. Home Depot can have some really great deals. We put 18″ travertine tiles in our kitchen for $2/sq ft. I could have paid $18/sq ft for the exact same look, but why?

And, of course, remember: If you are flipping the house, you don’t have to love the finishes.

Here are some of my favorite ways to save money on supplies.

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6 Ways to Save on Remodeling Supplies for Your Flips

1. Buy Off-the-Shelf

I have two big box home improvement stores in my town. They both sell “off the shelf” cabinets, which are made by Hampton Bay. They only come in about 30 sizes, but combined with spacers, you can make it work for most kitchens. There are 6 different finishes with a basic door style. The fronts are solid wood, and the sides are plywood covered in a thin veneer. This may sound unappealing, but unless you are using custom cabinets, most cabinet boxes are not solid wood.

In one instance, I was able to get almost everything I needed for my kitchen through this off-the-shelf cabinet line, but they didn’t offer a refrigerator panel, and I needed one for my layout. I noticed another custom cabinet company had what looked like the exact same color that I was choosing. I compared the samples as best as I could, took a leap and ordered the refrigerator panel.

Since wood is a natural product, color variations are normal. The panel is an almost exact match, and the slight difference can be contributed to natural variations in the wood. I spent $2,000 on the off-the-shelf cabinets. The custom brand would have cost more than $5,000 for almost the exact same thing. Sure, I would have had more size options, but I prefer that $3,000 in my pocket.

2. Check Out the “Oops” Paint Selection

Do you know most places that custom-color paint will make mistakes from time to time? This is your chance to swoop in for a bargain. Using quality paint is a lesson I learned the hard way a long time ago. I bought the cheap $15-a-gallon paint and ended up putting on 5 coats to cover the darker walls. 5 coats! Never again. I now use the paint-with-primer, which is about $35-a-gallon, but covers in one coat. Twice the price, 1/5 the work. Sold.

Except it isn’t always twice the price.

I am in home improvement stores a lot. (Once, the cashier said to me, “You look familiar…” to which I replied, “Yes, I am in here every single day.”) Whenever I have an extra minute, I swing by the paint department, even if I am not yet to the painting stage. I check out their “oops” paint section, the shelf where they put the paint they mis-colored. Maybe they used the wrong base paint; perhaps it wasn’t the right finish. I really don’t care what the problem was because I can have them replicate it if I need more than one gallon. I like the $7 price tag.

Related: Flippers, Fear Not! 5 Reasons Why House Flipping is Alive & Well

If there are several cans of the same or almost same, I buy them all. I can get a 5-gallon plastic bucket and mix them all together to create my own custom color. (You can only do this if they are the same finish. Don’t mix flat with ultra gloss.) Those same stores where you bought the paint have empty paint cans for sale, so you don’t have to store that giant 5-gallon bucket when you are done.

3. Don’t Write Off Big Bargain Stores

Did you know that Costco sells tile? It isn’t guaranteed they will have it in stock now, but from time to time I find some pretty amazing mosaic tile. My kitchen backsplash was purchased at Costco for $5/sq ft. It is glass, travertine (a perfect match to the travertine floor) and emperador marble. It looks beautiful with my honey maple off-the-shelf cabinets from Home Depot.

They also sell wood and laminate flooring at very competitive prices, in addition to light bulbs, light fixtures, faucets, garbage disposals, toilets, etc. Their inventory changes quickly, and just because they sold it in the past doesn’t mean you will be able to find it again. So keep your eyes out, and you may be surprised to see some great bargains on materials.

4. Spruce Up the Property With Hearty Plants & Discount Mulch

In the spring, everyone sells plants. Landscaping companies, home improvement companies, even the grocery stores. A few well-placed plants can make a huge impression. My all-time favorite is the Purple Fountain Grass. I bought it last year when I was installing my own landscaping. Each plant cost me about $6. I live in Colorado, which is considered high desert. Despite what you may think, we don’t get all that much precipitation, and I was looking for drought-resistant plants. Enter Mr. PFG. He grew to an impressive 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide in only one growing season. Even when he was first planted, he looked beautiful. Another winner is Salvia, which is also drought resistant.

Once your plants are in, cover up the surrounding areas with mulch. In the spring, you can find bags of mulch for around $2.50 a bag. But wait! Those big box stores use forklifts to move pallets of mulch around. Sometimes the forklift goes right through the bag. Instead of throwing that bag away, they tape it up and add it to the pile of ripped bags. They sell those for $1. I like to stockpile those whenever I can find them. I use the same color all the time.

Related: 7 Signs You’re Entering Into a House Flipping Disaster

You can get mulch even cheaper at those landscaping places, where they will deliver it to you in large quantities if you happen to have one near you.

5. Get Suggestions from Friends

When I lived in Chicago, I saw ads for Tile Outlet on almost every TV station. They were cheesy, low-budget ads and always featured the same woman with blond ’80’s hair. They all ended the same: “Tile Outlet. 2444 W. Fullerton in Chicago, just 3 blocks west of the Kennedy Expressway.”

When we started flipping houses, we asked friends where they bought their supplies, and they all said they bought their tile at Tile Outlet. Every. Single. One. So we took a drive, and our jaws dropped. Absolutely gorgeous tile at ridiculously low prices. On some closeout items, they require you buy the rest of what is there, but mostly there is such large quantities, you only need to buy what you will use.

But based on their silly commercials, I wouldn’t have gone in there on my own. Asking our friends garnered some pretty amazing suppliers.

6. Repeat What Works

We have come up with a great color palette for our flips. We use the same materials over and over because we know how to work with them. I use the same cabinet knobs in every house, because they look good, yet are inexpensive. They are sold in packs of 10, and it doesn’t matter if I only need 21 for this house; I have some left over from the last one. Or I just used up my stash, and I buy 30 because I know those extra 9 will be used in the next place.

We use 18″ travertine tile because it is cheap. It’s a natural stone, so there isn’t anything to match because none of it matches. It looks stunning, and doesn’t cost much more than plain ceramic. If I have too much left over from the current house, I just store it in the garage until we buy the next one.

Flipping houses can be exceptionally profitable. Save money where you can, so you can spend it when you need to.

What is your favorite money-saving tip? 

Let’s all help each other out by sharing our best tricks & tips in the comments section below!

About Author

Mindy Jensen

Mindy has flipped numerous homes in the past 10 years, one at a time and doing much of the work with her husband. She lives in Longmont, CO, and is always looking for an ugly duckling to turn into a swan.


    • Mindy Jensen

      Thanks for the tip, Joseph.
      While I haven’t had much luck at Habitat for Humanity, I know some people score really big there. I do use the thrift store to pick up some staging items, like vases. I like to leave them on the counter filled with flowers for after closing.

      • Deanna Opgenort

        Individual stores vary with the management. Some managers are closet hoarders, and figure that their used ’70’s cabinet is an irreplaceable and incredibly valuable object worth AT LEAST the price of a new cabinet.
        Others are more sane, and have figured out that buyers come for great bargains, and if it flies out the front door that leaves more space for the treasures marching in the back door, and that YOU will come back more often the more great deals you get.
        Our local one did have a “hoarder” type (still have dozens of boxes of ugly plastic cabinet handles at $6 each. Really Ugly. Bad ’80s ugly. 60′ of wasted shelf space). New manager is much better, so stuff moving much faster.
        Plan SOME wastage – you may find that the $15 fixture you thought would work in a space doesn’t look good (no returns), but that the real wood flooring you got at .25/ft more than makes up for it.

    • Gina S. Washington

      Joseph, Yes I Habitat for Humanity is a Great Option. I enjoy going there getting some awesome Bargains. Although I am getting familiar with the GA Market of R.E. Investing I am so looking forward to a Very Successful Future. Blessings to you Joseph and Mindy

  1. Edward Briley

    Top things that sell flips faster. Ceramic tile in kitchen and bath, to include tub surround in Bathroom. In my opinion, kitchen back splash can be a + or -. Hardwood floors that are finished with High Gloss polyurethane . I use a custom cabinet builder for cabinets. They are solid wood, and built custom for each home. This sounds like it is expensive, however, less of a cost than box cabinets, in my case. I have done it both ways. I also replace the roof, put in new replacement windows and make the outside of the home maintenance free, check the electrical and update as needed. Update and repair plumbing as needed. Replace HVAC. Of course repair drywall etc… I do not put in ceiling fans either, because they can be a + or – also. Add or check for washer dryer hook ups, they are very important. Adding just a half bath will increase the sale price, and make the home more likely to sell faster. You are not going to be able to do this in all cases. Now I buy houses in my area for less than $30,000 and sell them for between $100,000 and $150,000. Of course they need more work than I just mentioned, mainly some structural and exterior work here and there and/or installing or replacing duct work. Now with this being said, the last home I have on the market now is up for sale for $89,900, however, only because of the area it is in. I just could not resist buying a 3BR/1B Brick home built in 1981 that is 1100 SF for $22,000. Flipped it in five weeks, and total investment is $58,000 and is on the market for sale now. Five weeks work is well worth a $20,000 + profit. The only reason I can do this, is because I did my homework before I started flipping houses. I talked with other investors and contractors, and was lucky enough to find the correct contractors, that can and will do the work quickly. Time is money. My electrician charges me $95 per hour, + parts (I furnish the wire), can anyone tell me why I pay that much for him? I know the answer. Top this off with an excellent paint job, and new appliances, and the house will sell for a decent profit.
    I turn houses into homes, and I don’t do shortcuts.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Thanks for the response, Edward.
      You were extremely lucky to find correct contractors right out of the gate. I have heard too many horror stories to count about the contractors doing a poor job.
      I really like these two comments, “…I did my homework…” and “…I don’t do shortcuts…” Both stellar points. You MUST do your homework. You may slide by on one or two without it, but more often than not it will come back and bite you. Same with shortcuts.

  2. Taking advantage of specials. Home Depot just offered the laminate floor we use at 50% off. The four pallets I bought will save me almost $2000.

    Buying in bulk also is a good way to save money. Items such as lightbulbs, trashbags, ceiling fans, light fixtures, flooring and paint are discounted it bought in bulk.

    You can also set up a program with big box suppliers who will put large orders through the bid room for additional discounts off list price.

    • Mindy Jensen

      That is an excellent tip, Alex!
      Those off-the-shelf cabinets I mentioned frequently go on sale for 20% off. Why pay more if you don’t have to?
      And I read in the forums recently that anything over $2,000 can go through the pro desk or bid room to see if there are any additional discounts available. We bought already-ridiculously-low-priced flooring, and since we bought so much, they threw it through the pro desk and saved us an additional $200. Not huge in the whole scheme of things, but I will take an extra $200 in my pocket any day.
      Thanks for reading!


    We have a ReStore in our town. It is a great source of buckling materials to furniture. I’ve bought items there and have donated surplus. Check them out because you’ll never know what you’ll find.

    (In case you’ve never heard of this before, it is a place Habitat for Humanity sells its overstock and donated items)

    • Deanna Opgenort

      The one in Medford OR, amazing!
      The one here in San Diego CA – not so much. It’s like it’s being run by a hoarder, to whom each and every old, outdated item is precious, and worth AT LEAST as much as full retail! I’ve quit going there, because there is so little likelihood of finding a good deal on anything (ugly plastic cabinet knobs — $6 EACH…they have hundreds of them….still….can’t imagine why they aren’t flying off the shelf…..).Sorry, I shop used to save money, not to save the world.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Thanks Joan.
      I didn’t want to look uneducated and ask what buckling materials were!
      I have heard of many people who find great deals at the ReStore. We have seen great stuff that we didn’t need (like an entire cherry cabinet kitchen for almost free) when we didn’t have space to store it. Boo. Our local ReStore is more thrift store than building materials, but I know some day I will find something amazing there. Right now, it is just a great place to recycle extras that I know I will probably never use.

      • Cheryl Ruohomaki

        Mindy you should find out if your Habitat/Restore is a Lowe’s partner. Why many Restores have just household good that have been donated is because the managers of the Restore don’t know they could be apart of the nationwide program Lowe’s has with Habitat for Humanity. Some managers in these store need to be lead. So ask if you don’t have more building supplies in your local ReStore.

  4. Jerry W.

    Great article. The only thing I disagree on is the paint. I use the same paint over and over again. I can actually paint one wall when a tenant moves out and you cannot tell. Once you commit to a new color you are stuck with a total repaint, you cannot touch up.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Hi Jerry.
      You are 100% right about repainting for tenant flips. You should absolutely use the same color over and over. Saves money down the line, too because you don’t have to purchase and then store all those different colors. One 5-gallon bucket, and when it’s empty, just go buy a new one.
      I was referring to flipping houses. Since you are fixing the place up to resell, the paint color doesn’t matter as much.
      Thanks for reading!

    • Mindy Jensen

      Hi Troy.
      I have seen my fair share of hideous paint colors – who is painting interiors black? Who is painting exteriors purple???
      But some of those may be diamonds in the rough. Perhaps that brown is too dark, but a gallon of pure white will mute it out to a nice tan? Maybe it takes two gallons of white…
      Thanks for reading.

  5. Eric D.

    I use RTA cabinets. Try them, you will save more and get better quality than off the shelf. They cost average is ~$100 per cabinet, if you just count the number of cabinets that you will need. No particle board, solid oak fronts.

    I get discounts at Sherwin Williams, Lowes and Home Depot. Buy 10% off coupons on eBay for ~$2 each.

    Always ask for discounts, and contractor buying programs. Buy in bulk where possible.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Hi Eric.
      I have read about the ready to assemble cabinets in the forums. Where are they sold, besides IKEA? BTW, IKEA also has a 20% off sale, I believe 3 times a year. Their cabinets are available in a lot more color/size options than the off-the-shelf I talked about, but not everyone has an IKEA near them.
      Thanks for the tip!

  6. So many great pointers!

    Mostly, I buy and hold his rentals, so I stick with the same paint color, as I can see was already discussed. I use the same roofing materials from Home Depot, the same hardwood flooring from my floor guy, the same porcelain tile (and grout) from Lowe’s (they’ve had the same color in stock for at least 10 years–I by about 10 boxes every once in a while so I always have some ready to go).

    I have a fantastic custom vinyl window and slider door manufacture right here in Charlotte North Carolina. They are called Duke Vinyl Products. Standard sizes are only a tiny bit less expensive than custom sizes, but since I’m always rehabbing older houses, there’s nothing standard about my projects. I can get a higher quality window or slider door from Duke then I can off the floor from a big box store, and I’ll spend the same or less every time. Usually, they have my stuff ready within the week. And if you need it rushed, they can do that too sometimes. I just faxed in my order, pay the deposit, and wait for them to call me to come pick them up. Awesome people to work with.

    I also rely on Surplus Warehouse (they have locations throughout much of the US). They seem to carry just about everything you would need to build a house, except lumber. Mostly, I rely on them for kitchen cabinets (they have solid wood case cabinets on the floor, already assembled) for about 20% less than the big box stores. Of course, off the floor, they have a limited supply of finishes. But you can also order other finishes for just a little bit more. I did a stunning, L-shape cherry kitchen with a 42 inch wall cabinets, European hinges, solid wood shelving, full extension soft-close dovetailed drawers, stainless lazy Susan, Etc., for less than $2000 (2 walls of cabinets, each wall being 12 feet long). They also have gorgeous bathroom vanity cabinets that look like pieces of fine furniture. They have several colors of granite vanity tops with a built-in sink which cost far less than anything in a big box store and look like 1 million bucks. They also have really great quality Formica countertops up to 12 feet long at great prices. They also sell flooring, doors, windows, and a lot more. Pricing on their tubs is fantastic!

    One thing I have learned after 15 years in this business is to buy plumbing fixtures from a plumbing supply company. Not from a big box store. I have learned that there is, in fact, a difference. Since I buy and hold, I have to Face any future plumbing repairs that may come up. Since I stopped buying plumbing fixtures from big-box stores, I have had very very few repairs post rehab. I stick with Moen and generally go over the exact same style and finish every time.

    I know what you mean about some Habitat for Humanity stores. We here in Charlotte happen to be blessed with several ReStores. One in particular, on Woodlawn Road, is absolutely fabulous! It’s near a pretty pricey neighborhood, so I’m assuming these things are being donated from high-end homes. I’m not really thrilled about their cabinets, but they do have decent cabinets are pretty low prices. But I have found there an excellent source for tile and stone. For some reason, they receive pallets of very high and stone and tile on a regular basis. When I see something gorgeous at a great price, I grab it. It will be used somewhere. This particular store also has an amazing array of furniture, useful if you are staging the property. Frequently, they will have a beautiful lighting fixtures also.

    Anyway, a lot of really great points have already been mentioned, but I just thought I’d add a few things that worked well for me. Maybe it will help one of you also.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Terri, your lengthy response just goes back and reaffirms point #5, Ask your friends. Thank you for taking the time to type out all those great tips! I was starting to get excited about Surplus Warehouse, until I saw that they are conveniently not located near me. But bonus for those of you in the South (and Ohio, randomly) who have one near you.
      And that is a great tip about big box plumbing. We actually ordered supplies online when changing out old (leaking) copper pipe to PEX.

  7. JT Spangler

    I buy mis-tinted paints and discounted stains anytime I see them (in non-horrible colors). I know when I get more rentals that’ll be more trouble than it’s worth, but with just a few the cost difference is worth it.

    I also have found great deals in the ReStore, salvage stores, and even the big boxes.

  8. Deano Vulcano

    Amazon is a great source for materials.
    Oil rubbed bronze Bathroom faucet from Lowe`s $99.00
    Same look faucet from Amazon $49.00.
    I`m a Prime member, so shipping is free..
    You can spend all day shopping on your computer finding all kinds of materials at amazing prices with
    no running around from store to store.
    Rent a small storage room and stock up.

  9. wesley c.

    One person mentioned buying 10% off coupons for Lowes on ebay for $2. They come to your email immediately. I think they give you the discount up to $500 or $1000. So I space out large purchases. Home depot doesn’t have such coupons but they will honor them if you get the credit card sized actual coupons that get mailed to you (not the email printed ones).

    One other thing that I think is a recent promotion is that you can sometimes buy $100 Lowe’s gift cards for $85 on ebay or sometimes at Staples. They usually limit you to three. I buy all three every time the promotion comes up. These can be combined with the aforementioned 10% off coupons. This is a big savings!

  10. Cara Palmer

    When I shop at Lowes I use Ebates and my lowes card to order online and pick up at the service desk. You get a discount if you pay your Lowes card off when it comes and cash back from Ebates. I haven’t found any other way to get a bigger discount at Lowes.

  11. Peter Crisp

    These are great tips and not just for house flipping. I have another suggestion. I go right to manufacturers and distributors sometimes to see if they have surplus or off-spec stock. For example, I have a wood deck/entryway to replace on a 5-plex. My default is PT decking, but I found a manufacturer close-by that makes a high-end thermally treated product that’s much better. They ship across North America. Normally this would be way out of range for a rental property, but I emailed them to see if they have off-spec stock they want to clear out. Sure enough, they have some. So, for a slight premium over PT, I have a deal today to buy the stock. Since this product is nearly maintenance-free and doesn’t splinter, it’s a much better bet long-term. I find that if I buy quality – plumbing or anything – I have fewer hassles later. So this way I get the best of both worlds. Online (eBay, etc.) is also a great way to go.

  12. Eric Hrlbock

    I’ve been buying Ben Moore and sherwin oops for years. 2-7$ a gallon. The other day Marist college order 15 5 gallons and didn’t like the color and I scored for 12.50 a 5 gallon. All a very nice color all the same. Guess you can guess what color my rentals will be.

  13. Thanks so much for sharing all of this advice for flipping your house at a lower cost! I had no idea that you could \”oops\” paint for a really low price compared to the normal colors available! That definitely sounds like something to look into, especially if the price is so low! I also really like your tip on looking for different supplies by asking friends. That\’s a great way to ensure that you get some good materials at a good price!

  14. Brandon Stevens

    Great Tips.

    Especially the paint, while we own a lot of rentals, and usually don’t go this route because were worried about being able to match down the road…for a flip..who cares 🙂

    We also use craigslist extensively. Maybe some people think there is only used items on there but we find a lot of high end materials that are either contractor surplus, wrong sizes ordered by homeowners, etc….all new for a fraction of the cost. Keep a lookout in the clearance sections of the big boxes for these items as well, many special orders are custom sizes and they’ll just sit and sit there but if you are doing a down to the studs or new exterior walls you can pick whatever size windows, doors, etc… you want.

    And of course never forget ebay…lots of scratch and dent returns, surplus etc… these high dollar items in mid priced homes go a long way with the seller because they know they arnt going to find those type of things at their price point very often.

  15. David duCille

    What is this bagged mulch of which you speak? Tree companies have so much mulch they often give it away. Worse case scenario, landscape suppliers sell it by the truckload and it is dirt cheap. $25 to fill up the bed of my old ford ranger. I estimate that was probably equivalent to at least 25 bags of mulch.

    • Mindy Jensen

      The tree companies provide mulch for free, this is a true statement. However, that mulch is whatever they chopped down that day. I’ve used it, and it can vary greatly even in the same pile. Pine needles, soft wood mixed with hard wood. It’s great filler, but it doesn’t look great in your yard.
      The landscaping companies will fill the bed of your truck for practically nothing – but that’s only if you have a truck bed to fill. Bagged mulch isn’t the cheapest option, but sometimes it is the only option.
      Thanks for commenting!

  16. I bought a complex that somebody had used the “mix leftover paints” trick on. They had gone to the Home Depot and got ALL the castoffs and rejects. They mixed them together and came up with a paint the color of mud, and painted the entire building with it – body, trim, pipes – EVERYTHING. They had also got a deal on some apparently military surplus paint, and painted the interior hallways olive drab. Ghastly.

    We repainted the whole thing using my own money saving trick: “Marry a woman who works at the paint factory”. Can’t beat that employee discount.

  17. Lydia S.

    Fantastic information! I’ll be checking into the locations of some suggested stores.
    While back in Canada preparing to sell my home, I visited the ‘hazardous recycling’ trailer at the nearby Fire Dept regularly.
    People drop off their unwanted or partly used paints/ stains/ caulking/ you name it!, and I saved a bundle making use of freebies that way!
    It doesn’t appear that recycling of such products is done the same way here.

  18. Adrian Chu

    In stock cabinet from Lowe’s cabinets are great too!

    In lieu of Amazon, you can also check out Jet.com. They are a new competitor to Amazon. In general, I have found their prices to be slightly lower and they offer many promotions and coupons to lure new customers in. Their selection is more limited compared to Amazon though.

  19. Ashley Wilson

    Excellent Post!!!! I am currently writing a daily journal (and post it weekly to BP) on our latest flip. I was literally just saying in my recent post (to be posted tonight) that I am the extreme coupon lady of flipping! There are several tips that you give, as well as the people who posted, that I am using already. However, here are a few more: 1) someone previously mentioned ebay discount codes, but you can also buy gift cards to different suppliers on ebay, and pay less than the card amount, 2) purchasing online in general (if you have the time), most places offer free shipping, or flat shipping rate, prices are most of the time cheaper, and you can normally find a coupon code for most online stores to offer deeper discounts, 3) some companies (like Wayfair) offer major discounts for company purchases (I recently learned of this and save $90), and 4) Just ASK for a discount (even asking subcontractors)!! You’ll be surprised at what you get:)

  20. Great post! Thank you. I go to the stores in the morning. If you can catch them putting outside discontinued sale racks, offer to buy the whole rack. I’ve bought racks of beautiful light fixtures (I’m talking from Swarovski chandeliers to ceiling fans and bathroom fixtures at an average cost of $2.00 per), faucets, and misc. tile, etc. The manager has to have an employee put them out and take them down every day until they are gone. The paid labor costs more than they will sell for.

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