I worked for a roofing company in college, and my boss liked to tell the story of a material mishap he suffered shortly after starting his business. He’d been working hard installing a new asphalt roof for a customer who was away on business. There he was putting down the final shingles when she pulled up to the house. “It looks nice,” she shouted from the driveway. “But it’s the wrong color.”

That lesson has stuck with me all these years, along with the implied importance of getting material orders right on a remodeling project. Recently, the Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed general contractors about the mistakes that lead to the biggest delays and cost overruns on a project. On their list of culprits, materials arriving broken or different from what was ordered was second only to existing structural damage.

When the time came to renovate my own home—a 19th-century brownstone in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn—I vowed to avoid that pitfall by ordering many of the home renovation materials myself and getting them to the site well ahead of when they would be installed, just in case there was a problem.

In addition to avoiding costly mistakes, the decision helped with budgeting because my architect agreed to lower her fee if we managed that part of the project. By building ample lead time into the process, I could also hold off on certain purchases if I knew a sale was coming—during one of the summer holiday weekends, for example, when deals abound on everything from paint to ceramic tile.

Settle on a Style

If you plan to buy your own home renovation materials, you really need to know your style. My wife and I spent hours on sites such as Houzz, Pinterest, and Remodelista, creating a digital ideabook of photos to help pinpoint our design preferences. Our tastes skew traditional, with a few modern flourishes here and there, so we fall in the so-called transitional camp of home design.

The next step was figuring out where to shop. There’s no shortage of home centers in the New York metro area, and most of them provide free or affordable design advice, as well as the names of local installers. But we already had an architect and general contractor on board, plus the volume of selection at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s felt a little overwhelming.

So we looked into dedicated kitchen and bath showrooms, which offer a more curated selection of products and knowledgeable staff. At the recommendation of our architect, as well as friends and colleagues who had recently remodeled, we ended up choosing Ferguson for the kitchen and bath fixtures, and a pair of tile showrooms, Nemo Tile and Tile Bar, for the tile work. Below is our advice for getting the most out of those visits.

Bathroom remodelling image

Check out the full article on home renovation materials here: http://www.consumerreports.org/home-remodeling/when-and-where-to-buy-home-renovation-materials