Home improvement


A primer on buying paint (and why this weekend is a good time to buy)

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

If a paint job is in your future, this weekend is a good time to buy the paint. Many manufacturers put paint on sale during holiday weekends in the spring and summer. Sherwin-Williams stores have discounted their paint 30 percent through Monday. Home Depot has one-gallon cans of Behr paint $5 off or $20 off 5-gallon pails (with mail-in rebates). I single out Behr because its Premium Plus Enamel interior paint is top-rated by Consumer Reports and it’s comparatively cheap ($22 to $25 per gallon before the rebate). 

A good paint can add another three to six years between jobs, according to Consumer Reports. Its top-rated exterior paints cost $20 to $40 per gallon. In the June 2009 issue, the top picks after nine years of testing are M.A.B. Seashore Satin ($40/gal.), Kilz Casual Colors (Wal-Mart, $20 to $23), Valspar Ultra Premium Duramax Satin (Lowe’s, $33), California 2010 flat ($38). The top exterior picks after six years of testing are California Fresh Coat Velvet Flat ($34), Behr Premium Plus Flat or Semigloss and Behr ($20 to $35) and Ace Hardware Royal Shield ($22 to $25).

For interior paints, Consumer Reports liked the following flats in its March 2009 issue:
Behr Premium Plus Enamel (Home Depot, $22), Valspar Signature Colors (Lowe’s, $27) and Olympic Premium (Lowe’s, $17).
Eggshell/satin: Behr Premium Plus Satin (Home Depot, $24), Benjamin Moore Regal ($45) and Kilz
Casual Colors Satin (Wal-Mart, $23). Semigloss: Benjamin Moore Regal ($45), Sears Best Easy Living Ultra ($25)Behr Premium Plus Enamel (Home
Depot, $25) and Kilz Casual Colors (Wal-Mart).  

Expensive paint might be overkill in the garage, basement or doghouse. If you’re on a budget, you may have relegated yourself to the shelves of mistints and recycled paints.

Paint Liquidators (3869 Minnehaha Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-310-1302) sells Behr, Sherwin-Williams, Glidden,
Ralph Lauren, Benjamin Moore, DeVine and others for $4 to $8 per gallon and $1.50 to $2 per quart. A small selection of low or no-V.O.C. paint
is for sale, too. Five-gallon buckets of paint are available for $20 to $30. Ten colors of recycled paint from Fridley-based Amazon Environmental paint are always
in stock for $40 to $45 per 5-gallon bucket. For most colors, only a gallon or two are available. If you need more, a paint store that sells the same brand of paint can match the color for the needed amount.

The store has hundreds of mis-tints and recycled paints, but it’s not for someone with very specific color preferences. Primers, sealers, faux finishes and floor paint are also usually available. Paints come from a major hardware store chain and other sources.

Other budget options include Abbott Paint (gallons $10 at 1808 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-698-5518), ReUse Center (gallons $3 to $4 and quarts $2 to $3 at 2801 21st Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-724-2608), Hirshfield’s locations (gallons and quarts $5 or less) and Sherwin Williams locations (gallons $2 to $3 and quarts 50 cents to $1). 

 For free paint, try your county environmental recycling center. Check the blue pages in the phone book under a county’s “environmental services.”

Menards’ sack sale is back

Monday, February 9th, 2009

It’s been at least a couple of years since Menards had a sack sale in which everything a shopper could fit in the bag receives a 15 percent discount. Finally, it’s back with a few tweaks. The paper sack usually included in the Sunday paper has been replaced by the reusable eco-friendly reusable bag, available for 98 cents, that must be purchased at the store. All the merchandise must fit inside the bag. Items taller than the top of the bag cannot be more than twice the height of the bag. The discount applies on both regular and sale merchandise. 

I’m hardly a hardware Hank, but I like to use the sale to buy halogen bulbs or Menards store brand items that rarely if ever go on sale. The promotion lasts through Sunday Feb. 15, so check the sale flyer in next Sunday’s paper too to take advantage of the 15 percent discount on top of sale prices. In the past, Home Depot has also matched prices if you brought in the bag, but with the eco-friendly bag, it’s more complicated. I spoke to a manager at the Quarry Home Depot in Minneapolis who said they would price match if a customer brings in the bag, but I don’t know if they will keep the bag to prevent multiple uses.  Another wrinkle? Menards doesn’t mind if you shop several times during the week to take advantage of the discount, but you will be required to purchase a new bag each time. Bags are not returnable.

 Which items do you buy during the sale that offer the best deal? Are there some items that rarely go on sale nad are best to buy at the sack sale?

Buying generic isn’t just for food

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Ever heard of Space-Gard air filters? Bear with me if you haven’t. If you have one on your furnace you know how expensive they are. The Space-Gard 2200/2250 model runs about $45. But Menards carries an off-brand alternative called BestAir that’s half the price of the name brand. In fact, Menards has the BestAir filters on sale this week through Sunday January 18 for $19.96. Filters that fit most Honeywell, Trion and Air Bear models (16″ by 25″ and 20″ by 25″) are also on sale. I’ve tried the BestAir filters for a year and am very satisfied with them.  

 Anyone have another example of a non-food store brand or off brand that saves big bucks off name brands? For me, many Kirkland Signature items from Costco come to mind.     

20 percent off storewide at The Container Store (thanks, Oprah)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The Container Store has never done it before, but upon Oprah’s insistence, the store is offering 20 percent off your entire purchase through Nov. 19. To download the coupon, go to  www.oprah.com/dated/oprahshow/oprahshow_20081029_messy and then click on The Container Store coupon. Sure, you can also get the discount at www.containerstore.com (use coupon code CLUTTERCREW) but now that The Container Store is open just off France Avenue in Edina by Macy’s Home Store (3825 Gallagher Dr., Edina, 952-831-3780) , go there instead. Tell ‘em Oprah, er, Dealspotter sent you.

Cheaper, easier leaf removal

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Fall’s charm evaporates when I have a rake in hand. Assuming that you’re not mulching and composting the leaves (cheapest of all), the next best option is to pay less for the many lawn bags you’ll need. I usually find the lowest cost bags at Sam’s Club ($15.56 for 90 bags with integrated cinch ties). But for those who aren’t Sam’s Club members, my advice is to save money by choosing the store brand. Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Menards, Fleet Farm and most other suppliers sell a cheaper off brand. All you’re really concerned about is that the bags be 39 gallon (typical size for yard cleanup) and the thickness be about 1 mil. Anything with a thickness of .7 mils is flimsy; a 1.3 mil thickness is sturdy. Costco’s Kirkland Signature bags and 1.2 mils thick; Sam’s are 1 mil.

This is the first year I have used a leaf blower. I tried the new Toro Power Sweep (model #51585) because it’s only $35. It’s electric and powerful enough to move piles of maple leaves. It has two speeds. The only problem I encountered is that my extension cord kept falling off the blower’s plug-in, but I think that’s my fault, not Toro’s. I plan to use it for nuisance snowfalls of 2-inches or less too. The Power Sweep blower can be purchased at www.shoptoro.com or Home Depot. Additional dealers can be found at www.toro.com.

If you’ve got a money-saving tip for leaf removal, please share it. For example, anyone have a time-saving method to get the leaves from the pile to the bag?   

Cheap, effective way to keep gutters clean

Monday, October 6th, 2008

You can spend several thousand dollars having a hooded gutter system installed, or you can spend less than $100 by installing gutter screens.

I installed them myself two years ago and have been very happy with them. I like the Sheerflow gutter screens sold at Menards and Fleet Farm, altho Home Depot and Lowe’s sell a similar product. The ones at Menards and Fleet Farm come in 4-foot lengths in white or brown. Fleet Farm has them on sale for $1.67 each through Saturday, Oct. 11. The Sheerflow has two screens, including a fine screen mesh. The fine mesh, which is installed facing up, keeps out helicopters, leaves and debris. I cannot say how it works with pine needles. Occasionally, wet leaves collect on top of the screen but they blow off when dry.

I think these 2-layer screens work much better than the aluminum inserts (worthless) or the single layer screens without a fine mesh on top (helicopters and leaves get stuck in the holes). My advice is to try Sheerflow before you invest in the hooded surface tension systems, which will cost you $15 to $30 per linear foot. The Sheerflow screens are 41 cents per linear foot (on sale) at Fleet Farm through Saturday.

For a video demonstration, go to startribune.com/video after noon on Tuesday and watch the Dollar Duo. I installed them myself, but if you resolved never to get on the ladder again, hire a handyman to clean out your gutters and then install them.

If you’ve tried this system, let me know. It’s worked great for me through two fall seasons, but if you’ve had problems with the Sheerflow 2-screen inserts, lay it on me.