Frugal DIY Shopping on the Tundra

Then I heard the sound that all Arctic explorers dread . . . the pitiless bark of the sea lion!

– Homer Simpson

We left the igloo yesterday, despite the strong urge to stay in, eat carbs, and sulk.

weather

What adventurous possibility drew us from our murky abode? The creatively named Building Materials Outlet┬áin delightful Eagan, Minnesota. If you are local to MSP and have a home project on the go, it’s well worth a jaunt just south of I-494.

It's not fancy!

It’s not fancy!

Retailers bring BMO their overstocks and other surplus materials, and BMO sells them, adding a 12% charge on the top to cover their costs. BMO has been around since 1963, so they have this business model figured out. The inventory ranges from doors to appliances to carpet to millwork from a multitude of sources. BMO has two huge warehouses, and I do mean HUGE.

Millwork

Some millwork perhaps.

One of several aisles of cabinets.

One of several aisles of cabinets.

A small sample of their windows.

A small sample of their windows.

BMO also auctions off parts of their inventory regularly; the auctions are online here. The auctions tend to be larger lots that might make more sense for contractors than for homeowners, but they give a good idea of the stuff on hand.

Bathtubs and light fixtures (and check out the level of the snow against the window).

Bathtubs and light fixtures (and check out the level of the snow against the window!!!).

BMO isn’t a salvage place like many we frequent. The website says that over 90% of their stock is new. In fact, I’ve never seen anything used–maybe shopworn or damaged sometimes, but nothing used. Sometimes, you just need new stuff! We were shopping for a new kitchen sink, but we still walked through the whole place…just in case.

Doors stretching off into the sunset.

Doors stretching off into the sunset.

We’re not regular BMO buyers, but we are regular shoppers. It’s one of our standard stops when we are planning a project, and we’ve picked up some great deals over the years. Of course, the stock changes all the time, so repeat visits are warranted. Some of the deals we saw on this trip included $5 wood cabinet doors and $19/sq. ft. granite countertop blanks (both prices are before buyer’s premium and tax are applied).

The stock involves a wide range of styles, not all of which I can vouch for.

The stock involves a wide range of styles, including some very specific items.

So far, so good–but there are some things to know before you go.

Also, it's not super-warm in the warehouses, as the Kev demonstrated.

It’s not super-warm in the warehouses.

Thing one, all sales are very final, so you can’t take something home to try it out.

Thing two, it’s strictly a warehouse environment. You must take your purchases with you immediately upon purchase, and you must load them yourself. There are many large warning signs–no pets, no kids, no cameras (ahem!), shop and load at your own risk.

On the other hand (and in contrast to the signs), the folks working there are very friendly. It’s just important to remember that this is a DIY shopping experience in more ways than one.

We learned about BMO from a contractor, but it is open to the public, and it’s always busy. Despite that, we find that few locals outside the trades have heard of it. If you are working on some serious home improvements in the Twin Cities, BMO should be part of your scouting process. Just be careful out there!

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