Best of Orange County 2020: Best home improvement store

1. The Home Depot

Multiple locations; 1-800-466-3337; homedepot.com

The Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement retailer and the top pick on this list. It has 2,293 locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico; Orange County is home to about 20 of them. It reported an estimated 80% online sales growth in the latest quarterly results as it expanded its curbside order pickup.

With about 35,000 products available in-store, Home Depot can be daunting for the amateur do-it-yourselfer looking for something specific, such as a green, 25-foot outdoor extension cord or a smart keyless dock lock in oil-rubbed bronze. Luckily, the large warehouse-style stores clearly mark the aisles and use the same basic setup at each location.

Home Depot also does a good job of grouping together on one end of the store the bigger items that are much more popular with professional contractors – things like lumber, drywall and other construction materials.

Another option is to go online at homedepot.com, where you choose from an estimated 1 million products. This is also where you can find inspiration with detailed project ideas, instructions and project calculators. For example, you can shop for tile for your new entryway by seeing what others have done and ordering supplies based on your square footage.

If you aren’t comfortable doing the work yourself, Home Depot offers its own installation services for the “Do-It-for-Me” customer. From flooring to electrical, cabinet, fencing and other installations, as well as painting and other services, it has you covered.

2. Lowe’s

Multiple locations; 1-800-445-6937; lowes.com

Lowe’s began in 1921 as a single small-town hardware store in North Carolina. Today, it serves an estimated 18 million customers a week in the U.S. and Canada, with more than 2,200 retail locations. There are six stores in Orange County, in La Habra, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Tustin, Rancho Santa Margarita and San Clemente.

Lowe’s extensive online offerings include DIY projects, articles on popular topics like outdoor living and storage and organization, how-to videos and buying guides.

Lowe’s also operates its own home installation service for those who don’t have a contractor or got in over their head when planning a do-it-yourself project.

As a company, Lowe’s puts a premium on corporate responsibility. Its most recent report on its efforts highlights its work promoting sustainable practices, helping customers reduce their environmental footprint and giving back to the community. Lowe’s received the 2019 Energy Star partner of the year award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Ace Hardware

Multiple locations; acehardware.com

Ace Hardware’s locally owned and operated stores have a devoted following, as these stores focus on friendliness, knowledge, and the needs of its customers with a focus on do-it-yourselfers more than professional builders.

With this, comes loyalty: Ace Hardware rated the “highest in customer satisfaction” among home improvement stores in the J.D. Power 2020 survey; the 13th time in 14 years it has earned the distinction.

While its stores are smaller than others on this list, Ace has a bigger footprint worldwide, with about 5,300 outlets in about 70 countries. There are 20 stores in Orange County, stretching from La Habra to San Clemente.

Beyond the tools, plumbing and electrical parts, household products, paint and other items it sells, Ace offers its Handyman Services for easy upgrades to more labor-intensive work. It also has half-day and full-day service packages for those who have a “to-do” list of repairs and tasks they have put off that can be bundled for a handyman to tackle.

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