What to get at Home Depot and what to forget

Winners and washouts from Consumer Reports' tests

Published: June 04, 2014 08:00 AM

EcoSmart 100W Soft White CFL

Consumer Reports’ Get It or Forget It series continues with a visit to the Home Depot. As the home improvement season hits full swing, this ubiquitous home center is probably somewhere on your to-do list. Or maybe you need a new lawn mower, gas grill, or room AC. We’ve tested scores of these products, including a bunch of Home Depot exclusives. Many offer standout performance at a competitive price. But there are also some duds lurking in the Home Depot aisles. Our guide will keep that orange shopping cart pointed in the right direction.

EGO LM2000

Home Depot winners

Outdoor power equipment. Home Depot carries many top picks from our Ratings of mowers, tractors, and string trimmers. The $400 Honda HRR2169VKA is a CR Best Buy self-propelled gas mower, while the Lawn-Boy 10730, $240, is a push mower pick. Prefer electric? Consider the EGO LM2000, our No. 1 battery-operated push mower. And if your large yard calls for a tractor, the Home Depot-exclusive John Deere D125 is a CR Best Buy. Over in the string trimmer aisle, the $70 Homelite UT33600A is tops among light duty gas models, while the $130 Ryiobi Ry24210A is our best battery-powered string trimmer. 

Behr paint. Whether you’re repainting your home’s interior or exterior, Home Depot is one of the best places to shop for materials. Behr Premium Plus Ultra, sold only at Home Depot, is top-rated among satin/eggshell and flat/matte interior finishes, for $32 to $34 per gallon. Its semigloss formulation, perfect for kitchens and bathroom walls, is another excellent value.

We also give top marks to the Behr Premium Plus Ultra exterior paint line, where you’ll pay between $31 and $40 per gallon. Its flat and satin finishes are best for siding because they hide flaws by reducing reflections. The semigloss version will add some shine to doors and trim, providing visual contrast.

Char-Broil gas grill. Looking for a midsized grill that can sear steaks and slow-cook ribs to perfection? Home Depot’s Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared 463251713, $400, is second only to Weber in our Ratings. We found it quick to preheat and it offers solid temperature range.

Not all Home Depot grills sizzled in our tests, so be sure to check the model number closely. For example, the $200 Char-Broil Classic 463211513 lacks some key convenience features, such as low-maintenance porcelain-coated grates.  

Ridgid R86008K

Rigid cordless drill. A good drill will help on countless household projects, such as installing cabinets, hanging shelves, and securing deck boards. The $180 Ridgid R86008K, available only at Home Depot, is a CR Best Buy, combining superb speed with solid power, handling, and run time.

EcoSmart lightbulbs. As you continue to replace your home’s incandescent bulbs, which have been phased out of production, Home Depot is the place to find new LEDs or CFLs. The $1.50 EcoSmart 100W Soft White CFL makes our recommended list of 100-watt equivalent bulbs. We also like the EcoSmart 6 in. 9.5-Watt 65W LED Downlight ECO 575L for $25.

But not every bulb at Home Depot is a winner. In fact, the EcoSmart Soft White PAR38 90W is our lowest-scoring bulb, due to its dimness and slow warm-up time.          

Quartz countertops. Quartz trumps granite as our top-rated countertop material, offering durability and stain resistance. Home Depot has carried Silestone for years, and it recently introduced a Martha Stewart Living line of quartz in seven colors that mimic marble. Figure on about $3,600 to $4,500 for a typical kitchen. We haven’t tested it yet, but we expect it to perform similarly to other quartz counters.

GE air conditioner. The GE AEL06LS makes our winners’ list of room A/Cs designed to cool areas that are 100 to 300 square feet, say a bedroom or smaller living room. If you need to cool a larger space, you should also be able to find our top-rated models, both from LG, in the 250 to 400 square foot and 350 to 650 square foot range. See our full air conditioner Ratings for the specifics. 

Brinkmann Elite 810-3660-SB

Home Depot washouts

Brinkmann grills. Bargain grills tend not to make the cut in our Ratings, and that’s true with Home Depot’s economy line from Brinkmann. Take the Brinkmann Elite 810-3660-SB. Though it cost hundreds less than our best midsize grills, so-so high and low heat performance dropped it down in our Ratings. The $400 Brinkmann Medallion 810-4580-SB is our lowest-scoring large gas grill.

Home Legend flooring. We haven’t tested all the flooring materials sold at Home Depot, but we would advise you to think twice about several products from the exclusive Home Legend line. The Home Legend Lisbon Natural HL9311LN was one of our lowest-scoring engineered wood floors, due to its poor resistance to fading, denting, and scratching. The Home Legend Jatoba HL89 laminate and Home Legend Horizontal Solid Bamboo Toast BAFL24TO prefinished solid wood flooring also missed our winners’ podium by a wide margin.

HDX Paper towels. The best paper towels in our tests combine absorbency with strength. Home Depot’s exclusive HDX paper towels struggled with both, for an overall score of just 36. That’s a full 60 points below the top-rated Bounty DuraTowel, though to be fair the DuraTowel is head and shoulders above the competition, and the only paper towel judged excellent in every way.       

Glidden paint. While Home Depot’s Behr line of paints aced most of our tests, many of its Glidden exclusives were middle-of-the-pack at best. In particular, the High Endurance and Duo lines each had significant flaws in all their satin, flat, and semigloss formulas. In some cases, they were susceptible to staining, while in others the paints didn’t go on smoothly. Some Gliddens did a bit better, but if you’re paint shopping at the Home Depot, your best bet is to stick with Behr.            

Essick whole-house humidifier. Home Depot’s Essick EP9R 500 is one of our lowest scoring console humidifiers, because of its poor moisture output. Fortunately, Home Depot also carries our top-rated console humidifier, the Essick MA1201, which performed very well overall, and it costs about $50 less than its Home Depot-exclusive brand mate. Go figure. 

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico)

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