We compared Walmart to home-improvement giants Lowe's and Home Depot and found one huge advantage to shopping at Walmart

walmart lowes home depot home improvement 111Katie Canales/Business Insider

  • Home Depot and Lowe's are two of the best home-improvement stores in the US in terms of customer satisfaction, offering professionals and non-professionals alike all they need to complete the DIY project of their dreams.
  • The two are often compared to see which is the better go-to home-improvement retailer. Business Insider wrote in a 2018 review that Home Depot had much more to offer than Lowe's, and it was more popular among millennials who named it their home-improvement store of choice, according to a Bank of America survey.
  • But while Walmart is in no way as specialized in home improvement as Lowe's or Home Depot, we wondered which retailer was the best option for the everyday shopper in search of some essential home-improvement items.
  • We visited all three stores to see what each offers overall in home improvement and to see how easy it was to locate three standard items: a hammer, a tape measure, and a box of nails.
  • Home Depot stuck out for its wide selection in various departments, Lowe's for its overall displays and branding, and Walmart for being the perfect place for the average shopper.
  • While Home Depot and Lowe's certainly have more to offer and seemed designed for professional builders and do-it-yourselfers tackling bigger projects, you can fill all your basic home improvement needs at Walmart for a fraction of the price and time.
  • Here's how the three stores compare.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

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Our first stop was a Lowe's store in San Francisco, California. This is one of the company's 2,200 or more locations in North America, according to Lowe's website.

Our first stop was a Lowe's store in San Francisco, California. This is one of the company's 2,200 or more locations in North America, according to Lowe's website.

Source: Lowe's

Upon walking in, we saw trash bins and brooms, just to name a couple of the mounds of different products lining the shelves and aisles.

Upon walking in, we saw trash bins and brooms, just to name a couple of the mounds of different products lining the shelves and aisles.

But first things first! Where could we find a hammer?

But first things first! Where could we find a hammer?

A "Tool World" banner seemed like a good place to start.

A "Tool World" banner seemed like a good place to start.

We saw some power drills upon entering "Tool World."

We saw some power drills upon entering "Tool World."

But after that, the hammers were easy to find. Lowe's had a wide selection of them, which was a little overwhelming to us home-improvement novices.

But after that, the hammers were easy to find. Lowe's had a wide selection of them, which was a little overwhelming to us home-improvement novices.

There were multiple brands, and prices were varied, too. Some were priced under $10, while others were closer to $30.

There were multiple brands, and prices were varied, too. Some were priced under $10, while others were closer to $30.

We asked a sales associate what the best option would be.

We asked a sales associate what the best option would be.

She told us that if we were looking for a basic hammer just to keep around the house, a $5.98 fiberglass-handle option (pictured on the left) was the way to go.

She told us that if we were looking for a basic hammer just to keep around the house, a  $5.98 fiberglass-handle option (pictured on the left) was the way to go.

Shelling out $6 for the tool seemed to be a good deal. Plus, it didn't take long at all to locate the hammers.

Shelling out $6 for the tool seemed to be a good deal. Plus, it didn't take long at all to locate the hammers.

And it wasn't difficult to find the tape measures, either — they were right across the aisle from the hammers.

And it wasn't difficult to find the tape measures, either — they were right across the aisle from the hammers.

The selection of tape measures was equally as overwhelming as the hammer section.

The selection of tape measures was equally as overwhelming as the hammer section.

There was an eight-foot measure on a keychain for $3.98 ...

There was an eight-foot measure on a keychain for $3.98 ...

... and some 12-foot and 16-foot measures for $4.98 and $5.98, respectively ...

... and some 12-foot and 16-foot measures for $4.98 and $5.98, respectively ...

... but we looked for a 25-foot measure, since that's usually a safe bet for most users. This Craftsman one below was priced at $19.98.

... but we looked for a 25-foot measure, since that's usually a safe bet for most users. This Craftsman one below was priced at $19.98.

Source: Business Insider and How Stuff Works

Another 25-foot non-stainless measure by Kobalt cost $12.98, so there was a bit of a range in pricing.

Another 25-foot non-stainless measure by Kobalt cost $12.98, so there was a bit of a range in pricing.

Finally, we perused the store for the nails, which were a couple of aisles over from "Tool World."

Finally, we perused the store for the nails, which were a couple of aisles over from "Tool World."

The first thing we noticed, though, was a bunch of intimidating drawers that we thought would have nails in them, but they turned out to be nuts, washers, and screws.

The first thing we noticed, though, was a bunch of intimidating drawers that we thought would have nails in them, but they turned out to be nuts, washers, and screws.

But nearby was a more digestible section that included a box of wire nails for $1.38.

But nearby was a more digestible section that included a box of wire nails for $1.38.

There was a $4.48 assortment of box nails, which are similar to your average common nail, that would seem like a good purchase.

There was a $4.48 assortment of box nails, which are similar to your average common nail, that would seem like a good purchase.

Source: Britannica

After about five minutes in the store, we'd found all three items.

After about five minutes in the store, we'd found all three items.

And finding everything was a breeze, which made entering a specialty home-improvement store less of a headache.

And finding everything was a breeze, which made entering a specialty home-improvement store less of a headache.

It was also reassuring to know that if we had come into the store with a list of items needed to complete a do-it-yourself project, there would have been plenty of help at our disposal.

It was also reassuring to know that if we had come into the store with a list of items needed to complete a do-it-yourself project, there would have been plenty of help at our disposal.

There were signs posted around the store for customers with questions. One even advertised an app that you could download to help you find a product you're looking for.

There were signs posted around the store for customers with questions. One even advertised an app that you could download to help you find a product you're looking for.

Others promoted meet-and-greets that could help further educate customers. And throughout our visit, at least three sales associates passed us and asked if we needed help finding something.

Others promoted meet-and-greets that could help further educate customers. And throughout our visit, at least three sales associates passed us and asked if we needed help finding something.

Another user-friendly aspect we appreciated were these handy visual explainers above product sections, like a bathroom drain graphic showing what a P Trap was.

Another user-friendly aspect we appreciated were these handy visual explainers above product sections, like a bathroom drain graphic showing what a P Trap was.

If the need arose for a replacement of that specific toilet part, navigating the selection would be less daunting with easy-to-read visuals displayed above it.

If the need arose for a replacement of that specific toilet part, navigating the selection would be less daunting with easy-to-read visuals displayed above it.

And for customers looking to create their own gallery wall in their home, for instance, there was a designated section for hanging frames instead of shoppers having to independently hunt down each thing.

And for customers looking to create their own gallery wall in their home, for instance, there was a designated section for hanging frames instead of shoppers having to independently hunt down each thing.

The paint section was equally convenient.

The paint section was equally convenient.

Color swaths and curated schemes would simplify taking on a paint job.

Color swaths and curated schemes would simplify taking on a paint job.

There were, however, also aisles lined with bare materials that seemed clearly more designed for a more advanced do-it-yourself project. One had boards of wood in varying lengths and widths.

There were, however, also aisles lined with bare materials that seemed clearly more designed for a more advanced do-it-yourself project. One had boards of wood in varying lengths and widths.

Across the store were other categories of products, like appliances ...

Across the store were other categories of products, like appliances ...

... and ceiling fans and light fixtures, with some priced in the $50 range and others above $200.

... and ceiling fans and light fixtures, with some priced in the $50 range and others above $200.

The pricing labels throughout the store were neat and modern, which made them easy to read, ...

The pricing labels throughout the store were neat and modern, which made them easy to read, ...

... and walking around, Lowe's felt light and airy, making for an overall welcoming feel.

... and walking around, Lowe's felt light and airy, making for an overall welcoming feel.

Stepping into Home Depot, the store felt a little grittier, with no-nonsense orange detailing.

Stepping into Home Depot, the store felt a little grittier, with no-nonsense orange detailing.

The store we visited is one of the company's 2,284 North American locations. The aroma of wood was overpowering before we even walked past the entrance doors, and there was sawdust sprinkled across the floor in certain areas.

The store we visited is one of the company's 2,284 North American locations. The aroma of wood was overpowering before we even walked past the entrance doors, and there was sawdust sprinkled across the floor in certain areas.

Source: Home Depot

With its high ceilings, the warehouse-like Home Depot gave off an industrial feel to seemingly draw in more professional home improvers.

With its high ceilings, the warehouse-like Home Depot gave off an industrial feel to seemingly draw in more professional home improvers.

We looked for the hammers immediately, which were easy to find. The size of the selection was comparable to the selection at Lowe's, and the hammers were from different brands and in varying sizes and prices.

We looked for the hammers immediately, which were easy to find. The size of the selection was comparable to the selection at Lowe's, and the hammers were from different brands and in varying sizes and prices.

There was also a useful graphic above the rows to help customers make their selection, like how to opt for a lighter hammer for general use or a hammer with a longer handle for framing things.

There was also a useful graphic above the rows to help customers make their selection, like how to opt for a lighter hammer for general use or a hammer with a longer handle for framing things.

We looked for a similar general-purpose fiberglass handle option and found one on the bottom shelf for $6.97, which was a bit more expensive than the one at Lowe's. There were also more inexpensive wooden ones.

We looked for a similar general-purpose fiberglass handle option and found one on the bottom shelf for $6.97, which was a bit more expensive than the one at Lowe's. There were also more inexpensive wooden ones.

A few aisles over, we found tape measures by brands like DeWalt, Stanley, and the more affordable Anvil.

A few aisles over, we found tape measures by brands like DeWalt, Stanley, and the more affordable Anvil.

Source: The Wire Cutter

There was a Stanley 25-foot measure for $6.97, which seemed like one of the best deals in the section.

There was a Stanley 25-foot measure for $6.97, which seemed like one of the best deals in the section.

On to search for nails! We found them a few aisles away with other accessories like nuts and bolts.

On to search for nails! We found them a few aisles away with other accessories like nuts and bolts.

Nails were split up into different categories, like outdoor and general construction.

Nails were split up into different categories, like outdoor and general construction.

We found boxes of roofing nails and nails built for patio work, to name a few examples ...

We found boxes of roofing nails and nails built for patio work, to name a few examples ...

... and we looked for a versatile nail kit like the one we found at Lowe's but didn't find one. On Home Depot's website, though, we found this $3.98 98-piece assortment.

... and we looked for a versatile nail kit like the one we found at Lowe's but didn't find one. On Home Depot's website, though, we found this $3.98 98-piece assortment.

Source: Home Depot

I could have used Home Depot's app to search for the item and figure out where to find it in the store. I also could have asked one of the sales associates I saw walking around — there was at least one in almost every aisle I ventured down.

I could have used Home Depot's app to search for the item and figure out where to find it in the store. I also could have asked one of the sales associates I saw walking around — there was at least one in almost every aisle I ventured down.

In fact, there were a number of elements in the store that seemed to meet the home-improvement beginner halfway.

In fact, there were a number of elements in the store that seemed to meet the home-improvement beginner halfway.

There was a color-coded banner in the nail aisle describing which nail finish would best suit a customer's needs.

There was a color-coded banner in the nail aisle describing which nail finish would best suit a customer's needs.

And the paint department was also user-friendly.

And the paint department was also user-friendly.

There were helpful graphics explaining paint finishes and options ...

There were helpful graphics explaining paint finishes and options ...

... and the color swatches seemed endless.

... and the color swatches seemed endless.

And pricing labels stood out, with the store's signature handwritten-style font.

And pricing labels stood out, with the store's signature handwritten-style font.

Another service Home Depot offered to simplify matters was free carpet installation — there was a large banner promoting it at the store's entrance. Lowe's has a similar service.

Another service Home Depot offered to simplify matters was free carpet installation — there was a large banner promoting it at the store's entrance. Lowe's has a similar service.

Source: Lowe's

And we found tons of other product categories for the home remodeler in the store, like light fixtures ...

And we found tons of other product categories for the home remodeler in the store, like light fixtures ...

... and model kitchens.

... and model kitchens.

The appliances section, filled with refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers, seemed endless and more vast than Lowe's. They also seemed better grouped together than at Lowe's.

The appliances section, filled with refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers, seemed endless and more vast than Lowe's. They also seemed better grouped together than at Lowe's.

Overall, we found most of our items within five minutes at Home Depot, the prices were low, and the overall selections across multiple departments were much more extensive than at Lowe's.

Overall, we found most of our items within five minutes at Home Depot, the prices were low, and the overall selections across multiple departments were much more extensive than at Lowe's.

But how does Walmart, a store with much less of a focus on home improvement, measure up to Home Depot or Lowe's in terms of finding basic items?

But how does Walmart, a store with much less of a focus on home improvement, measure up to Home Depot or Lowe's in terms of finding basic items?

Upon walking into this Walmart, we saw a navigation banner directing customers to the left, toward the lawn and garden section, which we followed ...

Upon walking into this Walmart, we saw a navigation banner directing customers to the left, toward the lawn and garden section, which we followed ...

... before coming upon another one pointing to the home and paint and hardware sections ...

... before coming upon another one pointing to the home and paint and hardware sections ...

... and just like that, we were in the home section. Though Walmart isn't a home improvement retailer like Home Depot or Lowe's, we found it considerably easier to navigate to where we needed to go to find our basic items.

... and just like that, we were in the home section. Though Walmart isn't a home improvement retailer like Home Depot or Lowe's, we found it considerably easier to navigate to where we needed to go to find our basic items.

And we pinpointed the hammers in no time at all. However, if we'd had trouble finding them, tracking down a sales associate would have taken some time — it was a ghost town in that part of the store.

And we pinpointed the hammers in no time at all. However, if we'd had trouble finding them, tracking down a sales associate would have taken some time — it was a ghost town in that part of the store.

Though our choices were more limited, we found a Stanley fiberglass hammer for $4.88, a price much lower than over at Lowe's or Home Depot.

Though our choices were more limited, we found a Stanley fiberglass hammer for $4.88, a price much lower than over at Lowe's or Home Depot.

It was the same with the tape measures that were further down the aisle: there were fewer options, but that can be a good thing when you're trying to make a decision.

It was the same with the tape measures that were further down the aisle: there were fewer options, but that can be a good thing when you're trying to make a decision.

They had tape measures with smaller lengths, like a Komelon keychain 10-foot option for $1.67.

They had tape measures with smaller lengths, like a Komelon keychain 10-foot option for $1.67.

There was a $2.97 25-foot option by the Hyper Tough brand ...

There was a $2.97 25-foot option by the Hyper Tough brand ...

... and also a $13.97 25-foot option by Komelon, so there was a price range even with the limited supply.

... and also a $13.97 25-foot option by Komelon, so there was a price range even with the limited supply.

And finally, one aisle over, there were small boxes of different kinds of nails for under a dollar, which seemed like a great deal. It took perhaps one minute to locate all three items in Walmart.

And finally, one aisle over, there were small boxes of different kinds of nails for under a dollar, which seemed like a great deal. It took perhaps one minute to locate all three items in Walmart.

The best part about Walmart was that because the home-improvement section was smaller, all the basics were so close to each other.

The best part about Walmart was that because the home-improvement section was smaller, all the basics were so close to each other.

The hammers, the nails, and the tape measures were all either in the same aisle or just one aisle away from each other.

The hammers, the nails, and the tape measures were all either in the same aisle or just one aisle away from each other.

And other products were in close proximity to each other as well. There were toilet seats ...

And other products were in close proximity to each other as well. There were toilet seats ...

... within feet of rows of locks ...

... within feet of rows of locks ...

... which were a couple of aisles over from the storage containers.

... which were a couple of aisles over from the storage containers.

And like at Home Depot and Lowe's, Walmart's shopping process was streamlined. For example, there was an area where customers could find everything needed to hang a frame.

And like at Home Depot and Lowe's, Walmart's shopping process was streamlined. For example, there was an area where customers could find everything needed to hang a frame.

There were plenty of helpful samples and explainers in the paint department, just like at Home Depot and Lowe's.

There were plenty of helpful samples and explainers in the paint department, just like at Home Depot and Lowe's.

Though the paint brands weren't as popular as the ones at Lowe's or Home Depot — Behr and Sherwin-Williams, just to name some that the latter two carry, are fairly recognizable household names ...

Though the paint brands weren't as popular as the ones at Lowe's or Home Depot — Behr and Sherwin-Williams, just to name some that the latter two carry, are fairly recognizable household names ...

Source: Good Housekeeping

... they did carry Glidden, which has been found to be of similar quality as the bigger players like Behr. We saw Glidden advertised at Home Depot as well.

... they did carry Glidden, which has been found to be of similar quality as the bigger players like Behr. We saw Glidden advertised at Home Depot as well.

Source: Good Housekeeping and Consumer Reports

Aisles and departments were clearly marked, which made navigating through the aisles effortless.

Aisles and departments were clearly marked, which made navigating through the aisles effortless.

As far as offering customers both professional and non-professional a hefty supply of home-improvement products by trusted brands, Walmart has nothing on Home Depot or Lowe's ...

As far as offering customers both professional and non-professional a hefty supply of home-improvement products by trusted brands, Walmart has nothing on Home Depot or Lowe's ...

... but for the average person who's on the hunt for a hammer to keep around the house or apartment, and on a budget, too, Walmart brings a lot to the table.

... but for the average person who's on the hunt for a hammer to keep around the house or apartment, and on a budget, too, Walmart brings a lot to the table.

For sheer value and for its easy store navigation, Walmart wins.

For sheer value and for its easy store navigation, Walmart wins.

Shopping at Walmart also gives you the added benefit of being able to cross other necessities off of your errand list at the same time. Need a hammer and a new set of pajamas? Walmart has you covered.

Shopping at Walmart also gives you the added benefit of being able to cross other necessities off of your errand list at the same time. Need a hammer and a new set of pajamas? Walmart has you covered.

You can't always go to Walmart for all you need to build something from scratch, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered when you're in the market for some staple items.

You can't always go to Walmart for all you need to build something from scratch, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered when you're in the market for some staple items.
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