Local Hardware Stores a Construction Resource

Do-it-yourselfers and others looking for help with projects can look for answers at local hardware and lumber shops

By Molly Priddy
Western Building Center in Whitefish on April 19, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

With spring making a bright return to the Flathead Valley, the weather is finally playing along and allowing the construction season to begin in earnest.

After such a long winter, it feels as though at every turn there are people swinging hammers in the sunshine or machinery digging up dirt for new developments. Contractors are busy as bees, with some reporting schedules full through 2019.

So where should one look for help if they’ve decided to start a home-improvement project? Where do you even start?

For homeowners looking to complete relatively small-scale projects — decks, siding, windows — a classic resource is still oftentimes a solid bet: visiting your local hardware store.

Sliters Lumber and Building Supply and Western Building Center have been serving customers with these questions for decades, and their staff tends to have a good feel for the pulse of construction.

Andrew Sliter, president at Sliters, said his staff has regular contact with a lot of contractors working on projects, and they like to keep tabs on who has a pocket of time here and there. That way, if a customer mentions having a project they want to do but don’t feel up to the task themselves, the staff can help connect a contractor with time to the client with a specific project in mind.

“It’s pretty neat to be in a position where we get to act as a referral source,” Sliter said.

Andrea Sliter Goudge, vice president at Sliters, said remodeling projects, even if the homeowner does have a contractor, require all sorts of decisions.

“We love to interact with those homeowner customers and walk them through what differentiates the products,” Goudge said.

At Western Building Center, Kalispell store manager Ty Shanks said he enjoys spending his Saturdays helping the do-it-yourselfers find their way through a project or find a referral if they decide they can’t manage on their own. Shanks likes to chat with customers to help them get a feel for the scope of their project, which only bolsters their plans.

“If I can catch people in here before they hire a builder, we’re much better off,” Shanks said. “I specifically work Saturdays just to catch those people.”

Of all the remodeling projects, Shanks said decking has taken on particular popularity this year. Traditionally, cedar and redwood have been the go-to options for outdoor decks, he said, but with increases in lumber prices, composite decking, such as Trex, are getting more mainstream.

“I don’t even stock redwood decking anymore,” Shanks said.

This year, WBC is offering machine and tool rentals to help do-it-yourselfers on their projects; Shanks said it should help anyone who’s been putting off a project because it required an expensive tool they didn’t want to purchase just for one use.

“I’ve made a big focus in the last 12 months saying I want to have the tools here so you don’t have an excuse, and that’s been a huge growth here,” Shanks said.

Sliter also recommended the Builder Connect program through the Flathead Building Industry as a way to find a contractor.

Otherwise, anyone is welcome to visit with the professionals at their local hardware store.

“Local hardware stores have a pretty good pulse on who’s a good craftsman, from roofing to sheet rock to carpentry, and it tends to be the folks who are present every day,” Sliter said.

5 Popular Home-Improvement Projects

1. Deck: With lumber prices ticking up, composite materials are all the rage for decking. Composites, though likely more expensive than wood, require far less maintenance and have a long life.

2. Siding: Similar to decking, homeowners are looking for siding materials that have a long life and simple maintenance options. Steel is popular, and homeowners can experiment with using several types of siding and colors in their project.

3. Roofing: If you need a new roof, consider which material would be available to use and your home’s structure could support. Consider maintenance costs when pricing out the project, and research fire codes in your area to ensure you’re protecting your home properly.

4. Windows: Whether you’re going for better energy efficiency or just a new look, replacing windows is a classic do-it-yourself project. Check with local hardware and building resources for the best type of window selection for your specific home.

5. Painting: Changing a room or entire building’s color scheme is one of the easiest ways to give the place a new, fresh feel. Building-supply store staff members are a great resource for how-to advice.

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