When we saw this cunning walnut doorknob from ModKnobs, we imagined it to be the perfect knob for our bathroom door. But when it finally arrived, the knob we thought so fab turned out to be huge and clunky, way out of scale for the space (see photo, below). We had neglected to take note of the knob’s actual dimensions and hold a template up in the space to see if it would work. Not only did we have to pay return shipping but a restocking fee as well, all because we had neglected a simple step.

It reminded us of other common mistakes we made when ordering hardware online during the Laboratory’s renovation. We learn our lessons the hard way! Like all lessons, some good came out of it; it lead us to create our 7-Step Guide to Buying Hardware Online so you can avoid our mistakes when you buy hardware:

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

1 – If possible, check out the item in person before buying, either at a showroom or at someone’s house. It may well look quite different in real life than in the picture on a website.

2 – Note the item’s measurements. Make a rough mock-up or template to hold up in the space the hardware is to be used to see if its proportion is pleasing.

3 – Make sure the item can be installed where you want it; there may be quirks that get in the way. The gorgous pocket door handle we ordered fit the door but not the minimal jamb the door fits into. We ended up selling the handle on Ebay.

4 – Read the fine print of the online store’s Return Policy. Some stores, like the horrific Alema Hardware, will not accept returns. Others, like MobKnobs charge a hefty restocking fee—as much as 25%.Coupled with the return shipping costs, you can lose a chunk of change.

5 – Check ratings and reviews of stores you plan to purchase one, especially their reputation for customer service. If we had read the terrible reviews of Alema, we never would have ordered from them. Yelp is a good source.

6 – If possible, check ratings and reviews of the item you plan to buy. Just in case. Find out about defects, diffulty installing etc in advance. (And, you do others a big service by leaving YOUR comments and experiences about products as well. How else will someone know that the porcelain sink you bought is prone to chipping?)

7 – Once you’ve placed an order, if you do not receive a confirmation email immediately, CALL the store to verifiy the sale. Our Alema disaster occurred when we received no acknowledgement from them, assumed the sale hadn’t gone through, forgot about it, and ordered the same items elsewhere.

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