To compete with national home improvement chains, independent hardware stores offer shoppers a variety of free installation services, clinics and other resources. From grill safety tips to lessons on faux painting, neighborhood hardware stores are expanding their free services, says Scott Wright, a spokesman for North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA).
• Leaky faucets and appliance installation tips: Hardware store managers can provide step-by-step help when homeowners need to connect a refrigerator ice-making unit or other minor household appliances.
''Trust me like you trust your doctor,'' said Ronnie Berman, owner of Ronnie's Hardware in the Country Walk. Mike Leach, an employee at Hardware City in Pembroke Pines, provides assistance about selection and installation of faucets and shower stalls either at the store or by phone. Store employees are trained to answer questions about home improvement projects.
''Ask your store to do free demonstrations on how to do simple household repairs,'' says Joan Stewart, author of Marketing Toolbox for Hardware Stores, and a publicist.
• Painting tools: Specialty paint and hardware store employees are knowledgeable about color selection, brushes and finishes for interior and exterior. Independent distributors of Sherwin-William paints sell low-cost paint samples that let you test a color on your walls. Many hardware stores also provide computer-based color matching services to duplicate or customize swatches of color from fabric samples or color chips, Wright says.
• Grill and lawn mower assembly: If you purchase a grill or lawn mower at a hardware store, ask about free assembly. Some stores will make home visits to help you install propane gas grills.
• Home improvement clinics: From trendy decorating seminars to in-store craft projects for children, stores offer an assortment of free classes.
For example, Palmetto Ace Hardware in Pinecrest will offer a class on buying installing and operating home generators on June 9, say co-owners Galen Moffett and Dan Hitchcock.
This is from my latest column in the Home & Design section of the Miami Herald.
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