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Home Depot does have some “top-notch, top-rated” appliances, including some models that it sells exclusively, says Robert Markovich, home & yard editor at Consumer Reports. However, “if you care about service, you’re going to want to go to ABT Electronics or the local independents,” says Markovich, pointing to an annual survey of more than 16,000Consumer Reports subscribers who recently bought appliances.

At the local appliance store, you’ll get personalized attention from a salesperson who can explain, say, the difference between a manual-clean filter and a self-clean filter on a dishwasher (manual clean is high-maintenance but generally quieter). And unlike Home Depot, local dealers service what they sell — instead of pawning you off to a manufacturer’s 800 number.

3. Doors, Windows, and Trim

The wrong-sized doors or windows can bring a job to an expensive standstill, and fixing problems takes longer at Home Depot because “you never speak to the same person twice,” says Larry Roland of LRC Carpentry in Melrose, Mass. Roland, who buys lumber but not doors, windows, or trim from Home Depot, says he also gets better quality at a specialized lumberyard.

4. Kitchen Cabinets

A single 24-inch corner cabinet costs $107 at Home Depot and $117.99 at Ikea, but Ikea’s simple Scandanavian styles are “vastly more sophisticated,” says Julie Carlson, editor-in-chief of the influential decor and renovation site Remodelista.com. On a recent visit to her local Home Depot in the Bay Area, Carlson found the design of the kitchen storage units particularly depressing, describing them as “cheap stuff trying to look like hand-carved, baronial cabinets.” Ikea’s cabinets, by contrast, are inexpensive yet chic-looking, according to Carlson.

5. Cleaning Products

For a company that advertises itself as being environmentally conscious, Home Depot falls behind the times in the cleaning aisle, carrying products that are rife with toxic chemicals such as ammonia, sodium hydroxide, and hydrochloric acid, with only a few safer options, like Martha Stewart’s Wood and Floor Cleaner. “The cleaning products section made me feel like I was contracting a respiratory disease just by strolling the aisles,” says Remodelista’s Carlson. By contrast, Target does a much better job of devoting shelf space to natural alternatives like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Caldrea, J.R. Watkins, and Clorox’s Green Works line.

The former Executive Editor of O at Home (Oprah Winfrey’s Home Magazine) and the all-new (and gorgeous) Country Living, Katy McColl writes and edits full-time, as a freelancer and Contributing Editor. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, CBS Moneywatch.com, Best Life, Page Six Magazine, Blueprint, InStyle Home, and other publications. She also wrote and edited features for 10 years at JANE Magazine. She co-wrote Lonely Planet’s guide to New York City, and her non-stuffy career guide, Should I Do What I Love? (Or Do What I Do, So I Can Do What I Love on the Side) continues to inspire staffers who feel stuck in unfulfilling jobs. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband, David Lukens.

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