Joel is a history-loving hobo who travels, usually on foot, across the United States. He is always homeward bound but never quite there yet.
Will Home Depot Cut Lumber For You?
If you googled the process of getting plywood cut at Home Depot (or even Lowe's for that matter), you would find an endless list of complaints and warnings about why you should not have them cut your plywood. I, on the other hand, have pleasant experiences using their service. It’s all about the approach.
If this is the first time you're using their free cutting services or you are new to shopping at a big-box lumber store, the process may seem intimidating. You may feel unprofessional or a bit overwhelmed because you're out of your comfort zone. Don’t be! With the right preparation, you can get what you need and end up with a successful project using custom cut wood from Home Depot.
What Is Home Depot's Cutting Policy?
Most of the stores who provide wood-cutting services have policy guidelines posted. It states a few things:
- The accuracy of the cuts are not guaranteed.
- The first two or three cuts are free. Beyond that, there is a charge for additional cuts.
The person cutting your wood will likely point the policy out to customers who are belligerent and, in most cases, will be glad to offer the reasons why the policy is in place. Here's what you might overhear them say:
- “Sir, this saw cuts all kinds of wood all day long. It is meant to cut wood down so that it easier to handle and fit inside your vehicle.”
- “Ma'am, this saw cuts all kinds of wood all day long. The blade we use is for multi-purpose cutting, not fine cuts.”
- “Sir, this saw cuts all kinds of wood all day long. I’ll get close, but it gets knocked out of alignment pretty easy.”
On the other hand, this same associate can and will make perfect cuts, not charge you extra for extra cuts, and, in some cases, offer you a discount on your material. It’s all about the approach.
1. Be Patient With the Wood-Cutting Associate
Believe it or not, the biggest key to getting plywood cut correctly is your attitude. Keep in mind that the associate who operates the saw usually doesn’t want to do it. The store is usually understaffed, the workers have a long list of things to do, they just cleaned up a mess a rude customer left for them, and now you have shown up.
Every day, employees get customers who try to monopolize their time, aren’t prepared with dimensions, demand perfection, and insist that cuts beyond the equipment's abilities or beyond company policy be made.
How to Approach an Employee to Get Custom Lumber Cuts
- Be respectful from the start, and the end result will be better than expected.
- Take the time to prepare and establish a relationship with the associate cutting your plywood. It will more than pay for itself down the road.
2. Prepare for Your Visit to Home Depot
Do your homework. For my cornhole project, I needed four pieces of plywood, each measuring 2’ x 4’ with the grain all running lengthwise. And yes, I knew right from the start that I would end up with pieces 1/16” smaller than that because of the thickness of the saw cut. Here's what I did.
- I got out a piece of paper and drew a simple cut plan. In this case, I drew a piece of plywood and laid out where I wanted the cuts and added the dimensions.
- However, my homework was not yet complete. Before I left for the store, I grabbed two other important things: a tape measure and a pencil.
Why Should I Bring My Own Tape Measure or Pencil?
I never borrow a tape measure or pencil from a store associate even though most of them carry them and will lend them out. The main reasons are because of accuracy and respect. The tape measures they have are usually jostled around and dropped many times throughout the day. This means the hook end is usually bent or the inside/outside variance is worn. An inaccurate tape measure can throw your project off by as much as an eighth of an inch.
On the matter of the pencil, it's seldom you will find a lumber associate that actually carries a pencil. Most people carry pens or permanent markers because pencil points break, and sharpies are a mainstay of various other tasks they perform.
3. Take Note of the Time
Know that timing is everything. If your schedule allows it, the best time to arrive at Home Depot is after 9 am and before 3 pm.
- Before 9 am is the busiest time for contractors.
- After 3 pm, it also gets busy with general homeowner traffic.
Another great sweet spot is Sunday in the morning or late afternoon. Generally, these are the slower hours, and sales associates are more likely to be relaxed and not feel rushed when it comes time to serving you in the cutting section.
Run Through This Checklist Before Heading Out to Home Depot
- Research the project
- Know what plywood to get
- Grab the cut sheet, tape measure, and pencil
I’ve done this so many times before that I have developed a routine. It doesn't just help me get my plywood cut. I also save time and know I'll get the best service and cuts. The remaining steps may seem a bit detailed, but there is a method to my madness. Just trust me and try for yourself!
4. Choose a Cart
Yay, you’ve arrived! Park near the contractors’ entrance. This is the closest entrance to the plywood and the easiest place to load after you are finished. As soon as you get out of your vehicle, scan the outside of the building for a shopping cart. No, not just any cart—choosing the right cart does make a difference to the person who will be cutting your plywood.
Yes, some stores have carts inside the store. The problem is that it can be hit or miss depending on the time of day or level of traffic. You can take a chance that there is an available cart or save a step and grab one now.
What Cart Is Best for My Lumber Needs?
- Flat Cart: Great for sheet goods, bulk lumber
- Platform Cart: Great for heavy bulky items
- Lumber Cart: Great for dimensional lumber, pipe, and sheet goods
- Standard Shopping Cart: Great for general shopping and supplies
You can see what to look for in the reference photo above.
What's the Right Answer?
The right answer is the lumber cart. Why?
- It makes the task of loading the panel saw much easier. It turns a two-person job into a one-person job.
- The height of the cart is close to the height of the panel saw. This makes loading easier and reduces the risk of damage.
5. Load Something in the Cart
Sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it? Trust me because it works! Why?
You grabbed the right cart and you are ready to go get your plywood and get it cut. However, what if you pushed your cart into the aisle and then walked away to inspect the lumber choices? You turn around and find that your cart has mysteriously disappeared! Now you are back to square one—unless you reserve your cart.
By simply placing an item on the cart you choose (such as a 2'x4'x8'), you are essentially reserving your cart. Simply return the wood before you check out.
6. Select the Wood
The smart thing to do is to know what you want before going shopping. Nowadays, the internet makes it pretty simple. For my cornhole project, I wanted a piece of 0.75” plywood that was good quality, flat, and able to be painted without the grain showing through. With only a couple clicks and keywords, I was able to go to the Home Depot website and not only find what I wanted but also the following:
- Where to find it
- The current price
- How many were in stock
- Reviews of the lumber quality
I also did the same with Lowe's just to compare pricing. Once I determined the store where I wanted to buy my wood, I printed out a copy of the listing. It turned out that Home Depot was almost a dollar cheaper on that particular day. I also printed out the Lowe's price for a reason you will see later.
Armed with my cart, my 2'x4', tape measure, pencil, cut sheet, and printouts, I went directly to the plywood aisle. Knowing how hard it is to pull a bulky sheet of plywood into my cart without damaging it, I brought along a friend to help me.
There are signs posted all over the place and overhead announcements stating that associates will be happy to help. Usually, I plan on them not being as free or willing to help as the more likely scenario. From time to time, I am pleasantly surprised when an associate jumps in. In my experience, this happens more frequently at Home Depot than at Lowe's.
How to Choose Your Wood
- Be picky about your wood. You do not have to take the top sheet. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Even though it may seem like extra work, put the sheets you don’t want back on the rack.
- On the other hand, you may find that the first sheet has some damage but won’t affect your current project. In many cases, being willing to take this sheet will get you a discount of up to 70%, especially at Home Depot. The trick here is to point out the damage to an associate—as part of their cull process, lumber associates are empowered to discount damaged merchandise.
Before you get your plywood cut, it's important to do some measuring and marking. Unless the cut is very simple, like cutting the sheet in half, I usually push my plywood on the cart to the drywall tools area.
- I get out my tape and pencil and mark exactly where I want the cut(s). I do not rely on the cut person. By marking the cuts, you take away the guesswork and eliminate the possibility of miscommunication.
- After marking the cut points and double checking my measurements, pull a Drywall T-Square from the rack and literally draw the full length of the cuts. It may seem to be just a bit overkill, but it eliminates the guesswork. This is a very important step.
How to Mark Your Lumber for Cuts
If you are concerned that an associate will stop you, don’t worry, they are used to it. In fact, you will find many of the good ones doing the same. The right thing, of course, is to put the T-Square back when you are done. If you don’t already have one, buy it! They are relatively inexpensive, and you'll find it invaluable for future projects.
With all of that being said, the time has come! We are ready for the cutting to begin! Push your cart to the panel saw.
7. Find a Cutting Associate
Finally, we made it to the saw! We are prepared, have our cuts marked, and are ready. All we need is someone to do the cutting. There used to be a time that cut stations had a call button—nowadays, it's not as likely. If there is a button, push it. Then push it again if you don’t get help in a reasonable amount of time. If there is no call button, one of three things will happen next:
- All of a sudden, you feel like you are in a ghost store. All of the associates you saw earlier suddenly vanished.
- Pinch yourself. Perhaps you are the one who vanished, and the associates you see don’t seem to see you.
- You must be pretty good looking as associates come running to ask if they can help.
If you find yourself in the third situation, you are good to go!
If you're in the second situation, simply pretend to start doing the cut job yourself. Doing so will instantly make you visible as associates don’t want to get caught letting a customer mess with off-limit equipment. Also, the saw is usually locked-out and requires a passcode to start in most cases because of liability issues.
If you're in the first situation, leave your cart at the saw and find an associate. Don’t go too far because the further you walk away, the less likely the associate is to be qualified. If you can’t find someone, go to any cashier. They will make a call directly to the person on duty or make an overhead announcement.
- This works especially well at Home Depot, as one of their goals is to offer excellent customer service. The corporate management takes it very seriously, and the last thing store managers want is to get a customer complaint about bad customer service. A lot of their reviews are based on customer satisfaction, which directly affects their bonuses at the end of the year.
Hopefully, you did not have to resort to the last scenario. Even if you did, the end result will be that you have your cut person in place. Time to get it done!
Like I said earlier, I’ve done this a lot. Many of the lumber associates know me by name and don’t even question or challenge my approach. After all, I know their name and submitted their name to corporate for excellent customer service experience. As a result, the associates have been rewarded and are pleased to see me, knowing that I have the power to put bonuses in their pockets.
8. Get the Best Cut From the Wood-Cutting Service
To get the best cut possible, follow these four tips to make it happen.
- Help load the sheet into the panel saw. At the very least, hold the cart so it doesn’t roll while the cut person transfers the wood. After the cut is made, help them remove the cut pieces.
- Talk about your project and show them your drawing. The cutting associate may or may not be interested in why you need this particular sheet of plywood cut, but tell them regardless. This serves two purposes: it empowers the cut person to share their experience with the project and it transfers ownership, at least partially, to the success of the project.
- Ask for vertical cuts only. The accuracy of the panel saw is generally best for vertical cuts. The ripping of the plywood in horizontal cuts tends to be off due to inexperienced operators who don't keep the board flat to the saw. The cut may start out correctly, but by the end of the cut, the board will slip, resulting in measurements that are skewed. Plan your cuts. Most projects, if planned correctly, can be done with mostly vertical cuts if the cuts are made in the right order. Don’t hesitate to request the cutting sequence to follow your cut plan. For example, in my cornhole project, I ask that first the board gets cut in half so that I am left with two 4’x4’ pieces. From there, I ask that both of those pieces get flipped and get cut in half again. This allows for all vertical cuts and saves the operator from having to reposition the saw head.
- Be patient. Most associates carry a phone and are expected to answer it even when they are with a customer. If they are trained properly and if it is an internal call, they will explain that they are with a customer and will call them back later. If they receive an external call, they will respond to a simple question, transfer the call to another associate, or explain that they will call them back when they are finished helping their current customer. You may also find that other passing customers will interrupt the cutting process to ask for directional guidance or with simple questions. Again, be aware of busy times, try to avoid the rush hours, and be patient.
9. Check Out
Good job to both you and the cutter! But the adventure isn’t quite over… Don’t forget to thank him or her! After doing this two or three times, they will remember you and anticipate your presence on your next visit. Now, it's time to walk away and pay for the materials. After that, go back to your shop and finish your project!
Your Check Out List
- Is the price of the plywood identifiable to the cashier? Save yourself and the cashier the hassle of calling for a price check. Sometimes, cut plywood can make it hard for a cashier to know what the product was before it was cut. If in doubt, get the cutter to write down the SKU on a piece of paper and initial it.
- Check your receipts and know what your bill should be before you leave. Mistakes happen, and it is easier to fix the problem before you pay than after.
- Ask for loading help if you need it at point of check out. Most projects, especially after being cut down, are easy to load. If your project is large, however, an extra set of hands would be helpful. Let the cashier know as they have a button that will automatically send out a page for loading assistance.
10. Shop Savvy
This isn’t really a step as much as it is helpful firsthand advice from someone who knows how the system works. If you are anything like me, I don’t have a money tree growing in my backyard. I try to spend my money wisely everywhere I can. Some of the tips below may also work for you. Even if just one of them helps, the pennies you save will certainly add up. Perhaps it will pay for your gas going to the store or allow you to buy one more tool!
- 5% Off: Both Home Depot and Lowe's will give you a 5% discount if you have and use their credit card. Ask for it! For my cornhole projects, I spend an average of $65. With the 5% savings, I save $3.25, which pays for my gas.
- 8% Off: This is basically paying before I buy. I watch for gift card discounts on sites like eBay and Amazon. Yes, it does take a bit of web surfing, but when I find a gift card offer, I calculate the total cost savings and use it. I end up saving about 8% on average after shipping and processing. On a $50 dollar gift card, I end up saving four dollars.
- 10% Off: Price match plus 10% off. This is the reason I always check current prices before I buy something. If Lowes's price is cheaper, I will print out their current price and take it to Home Depot. Home Depot will match their price and take an additional 10% off. One time, I found that Lowe's was cheaper on a piece of plywood. I printed it out and showed it to the cashier. They in turn gave me the price match and 10% off. On one piece of plywood, I saved over seven dollars!
- 10% Off: Both Home Depot and Lowe's offer 10% discounts, and both follow similar policies. There are certain guidelines to follow. Check their respective websites for details. The great thing about these discounts is that if you follow the guidelines, the discount applies to your total purchase.
- 70% Off: Yes, you read that right! I don’t use this method too often, but I do use it. You see, Home Depot has a policy called cull. If a sheet of plywood or lumber is damaged, the rule of thumb is to discard it or reduce it by 70%. Their process is to place it on the cull cart and let people take it on a first-come-first-serve basis. However, lumber sales associates are very liberal when it comes to discounting lumber. The trick here is to make the deal before you ask for it to be cut and make sure that the damage will still work for your project. If you see a piece of plywood or lumber you can use even with the damage, ask the associate for a discount. They are authorized to mark it down 70%.
- $5,000: The odds of this are slim, but some people do get it. You can win a $5,00 gift card. When you check out at Home Depot, the cashier will ask you or point out to you about the customer service survey. Do it! Every time you respond to the simple survey, you are entered into their quarterly drawing. I’ve checked it out, and people do win. I'm still waiting for my turn.
- Email Offers: If the cashier asks you if you want to sign up for email, do it! No, they will not spam you. They will send you special offers, additional discounts, and notifications of special buys and free events. You can always delete them later if you want, but this is a great way to take advantage of even more savings!
Steps to the Best Cuts
The steps I've shared are actually quite simple and easy to implement. My most recent experience reaffirms that the process works. For example, I am in the process of building cornhole games to give away as gifts and for profit. I use good 0.75" thick cabinet grade plywood, which is expensive. The design I use results in no waste—if, of course, the cuts are accurate.
I come back to my studio satisfied and will continue to buy not only my plywood from Home Depot, but also the nuts, bolts, and tools I need in the future. This is, after all, what Home Depot wants. They don’t make money on the plywood or the labor involved in cutting it. They make their profit on the accessories and add-ons. A well-managed store will bend over backward to sell me a carriage bolt or, better yet, a new jigsaw. Enjoy using this method to create great do-it-yourself wood projects!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions regarding wood-cutting services.
1. Does Home Depot Cut Pressure-Treated Wood?
In the past, pressure-treated lumber contained some pretty nasty chemicals that could lead to bad physical effects if ingested. You should not burn or consume even the more recent varieties of pressure-treated lumber.
Yes, Home Depot will do one or two cuts of pressure-treated wood for your convenience. If you experience any issues while you're in the store, feel free to ask for a manager so they can straighten it out for you.
2. Does Home Depot Cut Crown Molding?
Yes, they can do straight cuts (no angled cuts) for you. Home Depot also offers a table saw that you can use yourself to cut the molding. Then, if you need help, you can take it to the back for assistance.
3. Does Lowe's Cut Plywood for Free?
Lowe's has a wood-cutting service that is fairly similar to what Home Depot offers. They have a panel saw and typically offer the first two cuts for free.
4. Does Menards Cut Plywood for Free?
Menards will cut lumber but not plywood. Policies vary by store, but most locations seem to charge up to two dollars for a cut. They will also only make convenience cuts, meaning they will only cut your lumber so it can fit in your car.
Questions & Answers
Question: Will Home Depot cut plywood with a jigsaw for a customer?
Answer: The official answer would be no, however, depending on the store management, there is a level of freedom that is granted to their employees to "do what it takes" to ensure a repeat customer.
It is all about attitude and qualifications. Home Depot employees are trained to get involved with a customer and understand the project that they are trying to accomplish. You would be surprised how many overqualified craftsmen work there for various reasons. If you find an employee who is the "go to" guy and ask for additional help, like jigsawing, they will make it happen. This is also a good way to connect with a well-connected handyman or helper for a bigger project.
There are also many other little-known secrets in the aisles like free pipe cutting and threading, free re-keying of locks, free deck, fence, and garage designs with blueprints, etc.
Its good to get to know the store manager, they are eager to help. Their salary depends on it! Their customer satisfaction program works well and is an important part of Home Depot's philosophy.
Joel Diffendarfer (author) from Jonesville on January 06, 2021:
Jeesh, Lovegoodyu, when I worked there, you were exactly the patron I would cater to.
Lovegoodyu on August 12, 2020:
As a petite woman who took up fixing a tiny house and finding myself repeatedly going to Home Depot asking for help, this article is extremely detailed and helpful! It helped me make sure I plan well prior to getting to the store, and knowing exactly what I want, and talk to the associate to get what I wanted! Thank you very much!!
Steve on August 08, 2020:
This is by far the best and most informative set of instructions I have ever read on how to approach a project and how to deal with store employees. Thank you.
Shelley on March 23, 2020:
That is the best instructions i have ever read. Cant wait to go pretend im gonna cut my own wood. Thanx.
Bill on November 30, 2019:
I generally tip the associate about $5-$10 depending on how many cuts. At least $5 and then roughly $2 per cut.
John Cowart on June 13, 2019:
After reading this excellent article I went cheerfully to my local Home Depot to get a piece of 2'X4' 3/4 exterior plywood for a shelf project. I needed cuts to end up with a piece 16 1/2" X 26 1/2". The associate I found and asked for help from informed me he couldn't make that kind of cut and could only cut in 12" increments. Even foot measurements, that is......
When I asked why he said that's what "corporate" wants. I left a rude message for corporate and left. Next stop is Lowe's to see if I can be polite enough to get some help of this sort. I just didn't have the patience to seek out and talk to a "manager."
Pete on May 26, 2019:
Great article ! Great Advice! Thank you.
R on May 25, 2019:
You won't get pressure treated lumber cut in California.
Jason on May 08, 2019:
Are the saws big enough to cut it lengthwise making two 2'x8' ??
Jason from Indianapolis, IN. USA on April 22, 2019:
@ Reality Check,
If you have that much trouble with HD employees cutting your plywood, couldn’t you fib and give them dimensions with 1 inch extra? You can always take them home or to worksite and measure, remeasure, then measure again. Once you are sure, shave off your extra dimension. If the saw is 1/2” off, then you should have a 1/2” excess.
RealityCheck on April 17, 2019:
What a dream article. HD employees are some of the worst in the retail industry, and have ruined many, many cuts on the simplest, easiest, and most basic cuts. Even had a assistant store manager "swear" he could compensate their radial saw that is a full 1/2" off. He did a test cut first on junk wood, and STILL ruined a basic straight cut. This is only one of hundreds of examples I have personally experienced at HD stores all over the midwest. HD corporate will ALWAYS state they do not/will not make precision cuts; which to them means cut to exact length. It does not matter how patient, polite or helpful you are with any HD employee- their panel and radial saws are for general heavy construction cuts only and the employees are the worst.
Missy on March 20, 2019:
Nicely Written with all the photos and all but I must ask are you paid advertising mouth for Home Depot or why did you totally Bash Lowe’s every chance you got? From their pricing to their employees. Perhaps you live in a poor area and have a bad store near you but where I live I’ve NEVER had a bad experience at a LOWES!! And I can’t say the same about Home Depot! I do shop at both weekly and do many projects and both have cut wood for me. I prefer paint from Lowe’s. HD never gets the colors right. I’ve bought appliances from both. Both were great but Lowe’s did go above and well beyond in that dept when I had a small complaint - actually check this out! The frig I bought, I read that if there was a little nipple in the plastic on the corner of the door lining from where they insert insulation they were prone to crack. So I told the manager I did not want one like that. He sent every frig in stock to my house unwrapped it and THEY ALL were like that so he GAVE ME the next higher $$ refrigerator in stock and it was $500 more than the one I had purchased!! How is THAT for customer service????!!!!!
I had trouble getting Home Depot to take back a $100 life time warranty garden hose that blew out in less than a month with a receipt!!
So let’s talk WOOD, nuts and bolts too while we are at it!!
Thanks for the article. I’m all for opinionated people but there’s a limit to when it turns into looking more like a paid for ad by the other team and meant to slam the competition and that’s just disgusting!!
Jack Reagan on January 02, 2019:
Will Home Depot cut MDF into multiple pieces into varying shapes for a subwoofer box?
mary on December 22, 2018:
I just used Home Depot and they did all my cutting for some garage shelves. I had 2x4's cut to 6.5' and 17" cleats cut. I had a plan and was just going to bring the extra bits home but the associate was helpful enough to use these bits instead of buying an extra board as i had planned. I came back later in the day after the supports were up and had them rip a sheet of plywood down to 20" widths and leftovers. I only drive a RAV4 so it needed to fit on the passenger side. Both associates were very helpful.
Regan Kemper on November 13, 2018:
This was just the information I needed today! I need to make a screen for my compost. I have no problem screwing the wood together and stapling wire on the frame but I have never used the table saw and I don’t want to wait on a family member to have time for my little project. Now, thanks to you Joel, I know how to prep and I won’t worry about people muttering “She thinks they’ll cut stuff for her? Where does she think she is, the deli?”
And I love the focus on just being nice. We should all realize, like it or not, Home Depot and Lowe’s are our generation’s Tom Thumb’s Lumber. My dad always asked Sherm if he could cut something for him. He was polite. I understood that was how you treated people. And you didn’t have to feel like a jerk if you saw Sherm’s wife at the Shopsmart or sat near the family at church.
ppfw on September 24, 2018:
Thank you for this!
Steve Warren on September 22, 2018:
Another great way to save money on projects if you're going to Home Depot for supplies is to write reviews (take pictures and record a YouTube video as well if you have the time) on the products you purchase at Home Depot. Now you may be scratching your head right about now (probably why I'm going bald on top) thinking "How does that save me any money?"
Well here's the tie-in! Home Depot has this incredible program called Home Depot Seeds. With about 40 products reviewed ranging from screws to a battery-powered lawn mower, I got an email from Home Depot Customer Service inviting me to join their Seeds reviewer program. Of course I happily went to their site and registered my Seeds account immediately!
That was May 2013 and since then, every month I've gotten to select 5 products (4 normal + 1 premium) in addition to the numerous "bonus campaigns" (bargain under $10, cleaning supply, appliance, insulation, etc). Adding up the approximate value, which isn't easy when some of my selections aren't marketed in the Chicagoland area where I live, as of Sep 2018 I've received about $35,000-$40,000 of product.
Better yet, I didn't have to return any of the products after reviewing them either! Their terms for the program do state that vendors can request product be returned after being reviewed during a period of 6 months after shipping the product to the reviewer. I've not heard of anyone having to return product though through this program.
The big #1 rule for the program though is that the products you request are yours, and yours alone. Meaning you can't sell it, trade it, transfer ownership of it or in any way allow another person not in your household to take possession of the product. If you don't want a product at some point, it has to be destroyed.
Granted with items like insulation, large appliances, HVAC equipment (I have 2 tankless electric water heaters from Seeds) that are "permanently installed, they don't expect you to demolish your home if you move. Just consider them abandoned when you sell your home, unless of course if you love your appliances and take them with you to your next home!
Joel Diffendarfer (author) from Jonesville on September 08, 2018:
A very good point, Brandon! Yes, I especially agree with "marking" your factory edges and labeling parts as you go. It does make a difference when you get back to your home. When I update and revise this article, I will certainly make that a talking point. Thanks, Joel.
brandon smith on September 05, 2018:
I get wood cut at home depot all the time, mostly to fit into the back of my 4runner. One thing that I feel this article is missing, or maybe I overlooked it, is the fact that lumber has straight edges to start. Utilizing these edges to their best extent requires more work by the associate, of which I always offer a helping hand. Its also smart to mark these edges so that when you are home, you know off the bat which is straight/square.
Rick on July 25, 2018:
This is a really well informative and well written article.
Joel Diffendarfer (author) from Jonesville on July 07, 2018:
Thank you, Sharon! Your attitude is an excellent example of excellent customer service and, excellent customer interaction. You rock!
Sharon on July 06, 2018:
Joel, Thanks so much for this article. You have saved my project. I needed 8 foot length of 1/4 x 4 inch plywood in order to try to upgrade some hollow core closet doors, and was turned away at Lowe's and at a local lumbar company before finding your article. I ventured out to Home Depot this morning (Williston, VT), chose the correct cart from the parking lot (thanks), loaded my plywood myself (thanks), and approached the young guy in lumber with a smile (waiting for him to complete a conversation with another customer, of course)...and asked for four inch cuts of the entire piece. He apologized, stating that he could only cut to 12 inches, but happy to do four inch cuts until the piece was 12 inches. Score. I simply had to get another piece of plywood for the additional pieces. Which I did, or course, in order to help this guy out. The sign above the station said that the first two cuts were free, additional cuts 50 cents. When he was done, I thanked him and asked how to note the additional cuts when I approached the register...he stated, "it must be your lucky day. The cuts today are free!" Thank you, thank you for a very practical article that has made my day. And thanks to the staff in the Williston VT store as well.
Doiturself on June 28, 2018:
buy a quality circular saw and learn how to use it. you get what you pay for. do expect quality on free cuts.
Anneboxstore on March 11, 2018:
All the advise so accurate and true. I didnt even work in lumber but because they knew I could run the saws, I was called there often. And a line always did form. So I was away from my department for long time while the theives robbed away.
JtCoverdale on February 05, 2018:
I don't know much about woodworking but sometimes I have something simple in mind I want. I think, "I could make that if I had all the pieces cut to size." So an online search for "Will Home Depot cut wood by requested measurements?" landed me here. This article is very helpful.
I'm still confused about "ripping" though. I knew it was a cut that a store may not do. A vertical cut in my mind would be with the grain and considered "ripping." A horizontal cut, against the grain, is how they want to cut it. It seems like I have vertical and horzontal mixed up -LOL.
Also, with plywood does it even matter? Aren't its layers made with the grain going both ways? I have more to learn that's for sure.
Thanks Joel for writing this good artical. Thanks for helping me to learn. ~Janet
Bonnie on November 11, 2017:
You must be joking. I never even got a chance to speak with the guy who does the cutting. I left complete instructions with the service department to cut 20 shelves out of a sheet of maple plywood that cost me $50. When I went to pick it up I was horrified at the edges that were so badly chewed up that I couldn't use them. I asked the manager, who I know because I used to be a merchandiser for this store, and he told me that's they way it comes out with plywood. I also spoke with another floor person, who I also know and he told me it all depends on the blade. I would not recommend getting anything cut at Home Depot.
Jason from Indianapolis, IN. USA on October 23, 2017:
This is very helpful. I appreciate the detailed steps and strategic approach. FYI, for simpler cuts like cutting in half to fit smaller sedans, the contractor entrance to Home Depot has electrical outlets outside. At least this is true at my nearest Home Depot. You could bring a circular saw or portable jobsite table saw and cut it yourself. I brought my angle grinder once when purchasing steel rebar. I cut it and put in my Corolla and drove away.
ElectroSawHQ from San Francisco on September 19, 2017:
Excellent article! Thank you for the tips. Going to try it out for sure in future projects. Only who has been struggling to get a proper cut knows what you´re talking about. Now, I hope it won´t be so frustrating.
Meghan Davis on September 10, 2017:
You are awesome, thank you for the cutting 411. I appreciate it! I am about to venture into the land of "plywood bending" for a project with school. You helped quite a bit!
Ni3 on September 07, 2017:
This article was a great help. Thank you.
Stephen on September 07, 2017:
Designing two exterior doors for my daughter. Will need plywood sheets cut to standard door size. This wii be my first use of the HD cutting service. I truly appreciate your article!
James on September 03, 2017:
Awesome article, you just helped me get my game plan ready for tomorrow. Thanks!
Marisa on August 24, 2017:
This is a great article thanks! You know H.D. sells precut corn hole boards? http://www.homedepot.com/p/PureBond-1-2-in-x-2-ft-...
KW on August 17, 2017:
THANK YOU! As an employee at one of these stores, people can be so unappreciative of what our day is like. Every time it gets hot or cold, people want us to cut them 40 pieces of insulation foam panels because they are too cheap to buy the pre-cut kits. They don't realize how horrible it is when you're off the sales floor for two hours to provide free labor for a customer. We are entitled to say no to project cuts. The panel saw is only meant to be used to cut lumber down enough to fit it in a vehicle. However, we all WANT to help. Within reason. Don't bring me moulding and ask for precision cuts that are smooth. And for 42 of those cuts. A project that big warrants you finding a friend with tools or buying some of your own. I don't enjoy doing the big projects for teachers either, the only reason I do is because I know how much they spend out of pocket for their classes and they need to catch a break whenever possible, but rarely are they prepared and never do we see them mark the wood first. Marking it first saves us SO much time, headache, and money! I always want to do the right thing for my customer, but we also have to do the right thing by our store. Often you are covering your sister departments and I just can't dedicate all my attention to one persons project, especially if they aren't willing to pick it up later. Thank you for understanding what we deal with on a daily basis and for teaching people how to be a great customer! I think people tend to forget, if you are a bad customer, you should not expect good customer service. ;)
M on July 26, 2017:
I just went to HD and used the lumber guy's name, told him what I was doing, and he cut my plywood for free!!! Thanks for the tips!!!
Suzy on July 23, 2017:
Really appreciated your lumber cuts tips. I had a great experience thanks to your advice.
Cindy on June 19, 2017:
This was very helpful. I am a young woman just starting to experiment with diy projects. There are many projects I'd like to take on, but I often dont have the equipment to make the necessary cuts (maybe some day I'll invest in a table saw, but first I want make sure I at least have some talent for diy & am not all thumbs so to speak). I had heard that Home Depot provided wood cutting service, but I've been hesitant because I am not knowledgeable about building materials or carpenty and was unsure how to go about utilizing the service.
After reading this article I know (generally) what to expect which gives me much more confidence to tackle the problem.
For beginners such as myself, I have found that approaching employees/service professionsls from a place of humility goes a long way. In my experience, people generally want to help others; but they also want to be respected and appreciated. So be honest about your inexperience and your need for their assistance. When I approach a staff member at say Home Depot, I usually say something like: "Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you, this is my first time working with xyz and I need some help." I explain the project and the questions I have and then ask "is this something you could help me with?" (If they cant help you they'll at least set you up with someone who can). In this way I acknowledge the person's superior expertise in this subject and create a tutor/student dynamic. relationship between the two of you. The result is usually a very helpful interaction with most people going above and beyond to share with me their expertise and assist me with my project.
That being said, research and prepare as much as you can before you go to buy materials. Employees usually want to HELP you, not design the project for you (they will not appreciate being asked "how do I build a bedframe?"....although I bet some will still try to help you. )
Rich on May 08, 2017:
Nice article! Thanks...
Gary on April 10, 2017:
I like your article very much. It's not only very practical and helpful, but also full of cheerful insights. Very much appreciated.
RTalloni on March 18, 2017:
This is a top notch guide on getting those cuts done right and the article is chock full of super tips. We've been doing a two phase major home addition project…huge DIY undertaking. Everything you offer here is valuable info, and yes, for all the criticism the stores get, those employees who do such a good job in spite of their workloads deserve special thanks.
Paul Martin on November 21, 2016:
I want 4.5 inch cuts on 4x8 1/4 inch plywood. The Home Depot associate said that they only do 12 inch horizontal cuts. I am making a faux shiplap wall and a website describing the DIY project said that they had the cuts done at Home Depot.
David Carmer on November 21, 2016:
Excellent advice. I've done most of these things myself, but I had never thought to go borrow a T-square right off the shelf. Great.
Tom Parsons on October 16, 2016:
Great article- you know the experience well. I have cut wood at both big boxes, going on for a few years now. The first thing I tell people is that it is a rough saw- not finish, there may be chips at the cut and the saw is a little out of square-all true. I, now hold the number of cuts to 12 ( store policy), unless you are willing to come back later to pick it up. Here is why. I have seen people get $700 worth of lumber and even though they were warned, watched a fellow employee cut it on a busy Sunday for 3 hours. Only to have the customer refuse to pay. In the cull pile it went. For teachers, I have made 80-90 cuts for her students projects(for free), while stopping for other customers cuts in the process- if the floor was covered. The last straw for me doing these large cut projects (for non-teachers) was when a couple came in to recreate a bed frame they had seen someplace else, but did not want to pay for. They made it seem like a few cuts, and then proceeded to have me correct their design and make dozens of cuts that took me off the floor for two hours and caused the store to be kept open after close. I realized that this was taking customer service too far.
Your suggestions and methods would work well. We are always trying to do many things at once, but cutting and selling that wood is important- there just has to be reasonable limits. The reason someone may stand there for a while is that the employees know, if they do go to cut wood, then a line forms and they are stuck there for all cutting, till finished. This causes missed breaks and lunch. The saws are not set up with accurate attached tape measurements to make things faster, either. If you go to the register and have a page sent out for the saw, someone will show up faster. I have worked construction, roofing, home repair, security, EMS and others, and I will say, the Lumber dept is one of the most difficult jobs I have worked. The amount of walking, lifting and work is immense. Feet, back and even hernia issues abound for those that stick it out-it is the red headed step dept and everything is heavy and dirty. I have seen people transfer out in two weeks because they could not hack it. I went through 4 sets of shoes in one month, to find a pair that allowed me to not hobble so bad to my car at the end of a shift. But, I really enjoy the job, research and helping customers. However, even coming from a 5Star/5Diamond training background, I still have to remind myself, smile - at the saw , you are helping the customer with their project and the store with sales. So if people followed your advice and are reasonable, the saw area can be a good place to interact and conclude a project before the register. Instead of a never ending time sucking level in Dante's inferno where someone never sees the light of day and time stands still.
Susan on September 08, 2016:
Excellent article! Thank you for the time you put in to writing it .... just for other people. You are thorough and wise.
Yesttel on July 09, 2016:
Well, thanks to you I think I have my project set up for tomorrow.
Andmilin on June 26, 2016:
Joel - Thanks for this detailed post. I'm a DIY rookie on my way to Home Depot and was intimidated about buying lumber let alone having it cut before reading this post. I'm feeling great now. Thank you!
Sandy on June 02, 2016:
Home Depot didn't answer the phone so I went online and got all my questions answered by your article - even as to why they didn't answer (busy time of day - I'll cut them some slack). Now I feel prepared to go get my plywood and have it cut. Thanks so much!
Jeremy on November 13, 2015:
Awesome! Thanks for the tips. Going to try it out at Home Depot for my weekend project.