After reviewing power tools and hand tools for well over a decade, we get asked the Lowes vs Home Depot question a lot. To determine whether Lowes or Home Depot is a better store we need to cover a lot of ground. Looking at the two home improvement warehouses I don’t think you can truly pick a loser. However, polling the office as well as several of our Pro reviewers, we definitely value one over the other—just for varied and differing reasons. Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments section below.
Company Histories of Lowes and The Home Depot
Lowe’s Company History
Lowe’s North Wilkesboro Hardware store was founded in North Carolina by L.S. Lowe in 1921. In addition to hardware and building materials, the Lowes general store sold sewing accessories, dry goods, horse tack, produce, and even groceries. It wasn’t until 1946, six years after Jim Lowe (son of L.S. Lowe) took over the hardware store, that Lowe’s started truly targeting home improvement products.
It was three years later, in 1949, that Lowe’s opened up its second store in Sparta, North Carolina. While joint-owner Carl Buchan took over the company as its sole owner in 1952, the stores kept their name.
The company went public in 1961, though it wouldn’t get listed on the NYSE until 1979. The company was serving one million customers by 1964. By 1982, it had reached $1 billion in sales with $25 million in profits. Soon after, Fortune Magazine named Lowe’s one of its “Top 100 Best Companies to Work for in America”.
In 2002, Lowe’s joined the Fortune 100 with $22 billion in sales and opens stores in Canada and India in 2007 and 2015 respectively. 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Lowe’s.
The Home Depot Company History
Interestingly, The Home Depot (yes the company name actually includes “The” in front) started much later than Lowe’s—about 57 years later, in fact. It all began when two men, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, were fired from Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers in 1978. Two months later they started The Home Depot Inc. A year later they already had two stores open—both in Atlanta, Georgia. By the end of the year, they added their third store and employed 200 associates.
The Home Depot went public on the NASDAQ in 1981 and they expanded into Florida. Their Pro focus didn’t come until around 1986. Three years later they had opened their 100th store. It was located in Monrovia, California.
Around that time they had eclipsed every other home improvement retailer, becoming the largest in the U.S. With the acquisition of Total Home, the company expanded into Mexico. By 2005, The Home Depot had opened its 2,000th store—this time, celebrating the event in Riverdale, Georgia.
In 2017, THD had surpassed $100 billion in sales and expanded its commitment to veterans’ causes to $500 million.
Lowes vs Home Depot Company Size
When you compare the sizes of Lowe’s vs Home Depot in terms of store size and employees, you find some surprising things. First, The Home Depot has 2,006 stores across the United States. It also has another 182 in Canada, and 129 in Mexico (2317 total). THD employs around 490,000 associates throughout its network.
Lowe’s has around 1,737 stores in the U.S. and about 450 in Canada (about 2187 total—it closed its Mexican stores in the late 2010s). They employ roughly 300,000 associates in all.
|Lowe’s||274,000 (91.3%)||26,000 (8.7%)||– –|
|The Home Depot||437,000 (89.2%)||34,100 (7%)||18,000 (3.7%)|
|Lowe’s||1,737 (79.4%)||450 (20.6%)||– –|
|The Home Depot||2,006 (86.6%)||182 (7.8%)||129 (5.6%)|
The average Home Depot store has around 104,000 square feet of enclosed space with approximately 24,000 more square feet of outside garden area.
Lowe’s averages around 112,000 square feet plus another 32,000 square feet dedicated to outdoor garden center space.
If we do the math, The Home Depot has about 241 million square feet of indoor retail space and 55.6 million square feet of outdoor garden space. Lowe’s clocks in around 245 million square feet indoors and around 70 million square feet of outdoor garden center space.
Most Retail Space: Lowe’s (international), The Home Depot (in the U.S.) — both by a hair
Most Associates: The Home Depot
Lowe’s vs Home Depot Customer Service
The Home Depot slogan is “How Doers Get More Done.” Lowe’s goes with “Do it right for less. Start at Lowe’s”. As such, both stores focus on both repair and maintenance as well as Pros and advanced users looking to build or renovate homes. Consequently, both Home Depot and Lowe’s stores house large quantities of lumber, roofing, siding and trim, and appliances where customers can load up pallets worth of materials.
Want to get help and advice with your plumbing project? You might luck out and get a Home Depot associate who formerly worked in the trades. However, you may also simply find someone without a ton of practical experience who can merely point you in the right direction.
Compared to Lowe’s, however, I’ve personally found The Home Depot to employ more knowledgeable associates when it comes to plumbing and electrical. That’s helpful if you’re looking to get your hands dirty on a project and need a nudge in the right direction. Of course, that doesn’t mean your area might not yield the opposite effect—after all, people are unique across the country.
In terms of sheer volume, The Home Depot has many more associates per square foot—and that matters when you’re looking for a helping hand. I’ve certainly walked the aisle in both stores without finding anyone in the immediate vicinity who can answer a question.
Best Customer Service: The Home Depot (based on volume of employees)
Another huge differentiator between Home Depot vs Lowes centers around which power tool brands they sell in-store. This can lead to serious favoritism if you run on a particular manufacturer or brand. If you’re like me, you like to keep an eye out for tool deals and sales. Check out which manufacturers each home improvement chain sells in their physical stores (abridged list of power tool and outdoor product brands):
Lowes Tool Brands & Manufacturers
- EGO Power+
- FLEX Tools
- John Deere
- Kobalt Tools
- Metabo HPT
Home Depot Tool Brands
- Cub Cadet
- John Deere
- Klein Tools
- Milwaukee Tool
- Ridgid Power Tools
- Yard Machines
We feel the need to mention, however, that both Lowe’s and Home Depot feature free “ship-to-store” options. This dramatically increases the number of manufacturers and products you can purchase from each. You can’t deny the convenience of walking into the store when you need something, however—and you aren’t as likely to walk out with a tool that was on sale if it isn’t present in the actual store. When comparing Lowes vs Home Depot, Pros and homeowners alike tend to stick with brands they already like and use.
When we compare Lowe’s vs Home Depot we notice that DeWalt shows up in both, but adding TTI brands like Milwaukee, Ridgid Power Tools, and Ryobi instantly gives THD a lead on the most popular tools. Add to that Makita, Cub Cadet, and Toro—and you start to see Depot take a decisive lead.
On the Lowe’s end, their tactical placement of Metabo HPT gives them an advantage in the pneumatic nailer category, and FLEX 24V Tools have certainly made a stir in the industry—particularly with their Founders Lifetime Warranty. On the outdoor power equipment side, EGO alone gives you a great reason to shop at Lowe’s. They consistently show up in our best lawn mower and best cordless leaf blower review articles and roundups.
Most Popular Brands: The Home Depot
Lumber and Building Materials
If you want or need lumber or building materials, Lowe’s has really caught up to The Home Depot in many respects. Both The Home Depot and Lowe’s decidedly go after the Pro tradesman and local builders and remodelers looking to make a run to the store for much-needed supplies. Both stores have even gotten more competitive in the areas of lumber, siding, and roofing materials. Presumably, they have leveraged their suppliers and volume discounts to achieve this.
Recently, we’ve also seen a shift in Lowe’s where they are doing a much better job of stocking inventory—global supply issues notwithstanding. It’s not uncommon to walk into a Lowe’s store and see pallets and pallets of building materials and stacks of lumber readily available for purchase.
As such, we’re in a toss-up regarding who provides better building materials at this point. The Home Depot remains the choice for Pros when they need something on the fly to complete a job, while Ace Hardware remains a great place for picking up those smaller pieces you need for landscaping, painting a room, a doing a plumbing or electrical repair.
Building Supplies and Materials: TIED
Wrapping Up the Lowes vs Home Depot Debate
As we like to say—we love competition. In the Lowes vs Home Depot debate, which store is better depends on a lot of factors. We happen to have both stores nearby, so having the ability to quickly get to either lets us take advantage of the strengths of each retailer.
If you like checking out the latest tool deals, then you likely favor the store that carries your favorite brand. Aside from that, check out which store in your area has the most helpful (and knowledgeable) employees—that could really help the next time you work on a DIY project.