Shopping Smarts

Comparison pricing may mean a lot of legwork, but this kind of preliminary research pays off in the end. In the increasingly competitive building supply market, it doesn't hurt to let a store know you're working on a small remodeling project, and, armed with a complete shopping list, inquire if it can offer any courtesy discounts if you make all your purchases there. Also ask about meet-or-beat pricing policy. And don't overlook online retailers, either. Inspect merchandise and gather model numbers at a home center or plumbing-supply house, then investigate Web outlets. Here's a solid tip: Rather than search sites one at a time, use a shopping bot like Stay away from extreme designs in lavs, light fixtures and vanity hardware. If you're a stickler for everything coordinating, purchase accessories and fittings from one manufacturer — what's silver to Brand X may be pewter in Brand Y. The same goes for paint and tile. In a small room, keep the number of colors, patterns and materials down; more than three different ingredients can quickly overwhelm the eye. The baths shown here put all these practices into play. In each case the homeowners planned their projects carefully, shopped around for the best values and got their hands dirty. Their experiences paid off not only in dollars saved but also in the satisfaction of a job well done.
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