Do-it-yourselfers once had just two choices, hardware stores and home centers, for locating tough-to-find products, especially those needed to mend old-house parts.
Then came the Internet.
Though I enjoy prowling home-center aisles and cramped precincts of the neighborhood hardware stores for things, ordering online saves time and shoe leather.
Still, the stores remain crowded, especially with people looking for ideas and bargains. As Consumer Reports' ShopSmart publication suggests, however, that some places are just not right for buying certain products.
The March issue of ShopSmart says, for example, that Lowe's should be your destination if you are looking for heavy-duty snowblowers and generators, but not for air purifiers and leaf blowers.
Home Depot is the exclusive retailer of Behr paints, a winner in ShopSmart's tests, the magazine says, and the home center's EcoSmart lightbulbs "are another smart buy."
Pick it for lawn mowers and Behr interior paints, but skip it for flooring and Glidden interior paints.
Craftsman and Kenmore are two Sears brands that often do well in ShopSmart tests, but their private-label paints and stains don't.
Pick Sears for refrigerators and laundry appliances, but skip it for cordless drills and interior paints.
Walmart's house brand is Great Value, and the store also carries exclusive products from big brand names such as Bissell and Char-Broil.
ShopSmart says to pick Walmart for lightbulbs and gas grills, but skip it for vacuum cleaners and coffeemakers.
Gray: So many shades. Twitter was up to its hashtags over dress color a few weeks back, but consumers seem less uncertain about one hue.
Sherwin-Williams reports that "gray is a sophisticated color being used throughout the home in values from light to dark." Fifty-eight percent of homeowners surveyed said they were "most excited about trying a gray color palette in their homes in 2015."
The company said it has 95 shades of gray.