14 DIY Facts About Home Depot

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Walk into any Home Depot store in the world and you’ll be confronted with a cavernous, sprawling inventory of virtually anything you’d need to make your property more comfortable. Founded in 1978 to satisfy the increasing numbers of hammer-wielding do-it-yourselfers, the company is currently the world's largest home improvement retailer, with 2200 stores in North America. Have a look at some structurally-sound facts about the franchise, apron flair, and how the circus lent them their distinctive orange glow.  

1. The first Home Depot stores were filled with empty boxes. 

When Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank were abruptly fired from their managerial spots at the Atlanta-area Handy Dan hardware chain, they decided to experiment with discount, bulk-volume pricing under their own banner: the Home Depot. While the first few stores to open in Georgia were up to 60,000 square feet, the two didn’t necessarily have enough stock on hand to fill them up. Instead of looking at empty rafters, employees stacked empty boxes and paint cans on the upper-tier of shelves, where no customer could reach them. To drive home the warehouse aesthetic, Marcus and Blank also sped around stores on forklifts after hours, slamming on the brakes to create skid marks.   

2. The Home Depot orange color scheme came from circus tents. 

Home Depot’s signage is so synonymous with orange that the color is the first thing people say when asked to play word association with the company. But there was no calculating psychology behind the selection: The company gravitated toward the color because early signage was made from discarded circus tents. They even trademarked orange when it's specifically presented as a backdrop in advertising home goods.

3. Home Depot couldn't pay people to come into the store.

Home Depot

As marketing strategies went, it was fairly pedestrian: Marcus and Blank stationed their kids at the exit door of their first store during its grand opening in 1979 and had them gift shoppers with a dollar as a way of saying thanks. But by 6 p.m., so few customers had stopped in that the kids were now out in the parking lot offering free money to anyone who would step inside. After consumers became familiar with their selection and instructional clinics, Home Depot grew successful enough to put Handy Dan out of business.  

4. Home Depot once employed Olympic athletes to boost morale. 

Up until they canceled the program in 2009, Home Depot employed Olympic athletes from the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico in an effort to support amateur athletics and boost employee morale. Olympic hopefuls got part-time hours with full-time pay and benefits so they could continue training; if they won medals, they were encouraged to show them off to other employees in an effort to motivate them to go for their own (store-oriented) goals with more enthusiasm. The athletes were even able to draw a salary when they were on the road for qualifying competitions. For the 2000 Games, more than 100 entrants were Depot employees.

5. Home Depot workers can customize their apron. 

Not all of the store's omnipresent vests are orange. Some workers, including military veterans, have customized their apparel to better reflect their personalities. The company also encourages employees to write their names in longhand—they ditched white name tags decades ago.

6. There's a Home Depot store closed to the public. (But not to Ant-Man.)

Film productions shooting in Fayetteville, Ga.'s Pinewood Studios have perks beyond personal assistants: The property is also home to the country’s only private Home Depot. Open to cast and crew members only, the store primarily stocks lumber, screws, and other common set supplies. (The company was attracted to the idea that films spend about 30 percent of their multi-million dollar budgets on construction.) So far, so good: Marvel Studios has filmed a number of their big-budget films at Pinewood, including 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame.

7. Home Depot got in big trouble once over allegations they weren't promoting women.

The chain was among the stores swept up in a wave of gender-discrimination lawsuits in the 1990s alleging unfair promotion practices. According to the New York Times, Home Depot paid an $87.5 million settlement to workers on the West Coast who argued the store kept women at checkout stations and off of the floor, thus removing any potential for advancement. While the company didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing, it also agreed to reform internal policies on promoting women in their workforce.

8. Home Depot might let you haggle on that chainsaw. 

While "haggling” sounds like something JK Rowling dreamed up, in the pre-Internet world of retailing it was the term used for trying to talk a shopkeeper down on a price. Elevated to a kind of conversational art form—sighing, weight-shifting, and condescending chuckling optional—it’s largely disappeared. But because e-tail prices frequently undercut physical stores, Home Depot is among the chains that may discount their price by as much as 10 percent after matching a competitor. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

9. Home Depot tried opening convenience stores. 

Mike Kalasnik, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing dollar signs in trucker pills and expired milk, the company entered the convenience store market in 2005 by setting up gas stations next to four of their Nashville, Tenn. locations. Despite ambitious plans to open 300 such footprints over the next several years, they only managed to launch six before deciding to focus on other growth areas.

10. Home Depot aprons can be dangerous. 

Every Home Depot ground troop is issued a customary orange apron for easy identification and to keep concrete dust from ruining a perfectly good Van Halen shirt. But despite the utilitarian nature of the uniform, the aprons aren’t always appropriate. In 2003, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined a Denver-area location $5000 for incidents relating to dress-related injuries. In two instances, associates lifting heavy items got them inadvertently caught on the smock, leading to a loss of balance and shoulder injury, respectively. Employees who spoke to OSHA complained of its “kangaroo” pockets, which are loose enough to catch corners of major appliances. The company subsequently allowed workers to take the aprons off when loading rental equipment.

11. Wanna know what they carry in those Home Depot apron pockets? 

Probably lots of loose nails, cell phones, and assorted grit. But when former military man Robert Nardelli took over as CEO in 2003, he required that employees keep something else in their pouches: a copy of How to Be Orange Every Day, a 25-page booklet with breezy tips on how to better service visitors. “Every person, penny, and product counts” was a typical recitation. Nardelli resigned in 2007. In his pockets: a severance package worth $210 million.  

12. Home Depot has its own font. 

Osseous, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The store’s distinctive brushed typeface used for pricing on shelves is exclusive to the store. Named HOMER in honor of their mascot, Homer D. Poe, it may not be quite as functional as Times New-Roman, but the slightly smudged edges are reminiscent of an afternoon paint job.

13. A cat lived in a Home Depot for 13 years. 

Putting to shame all of the performance artists who have filmed in IKEAs and people camped out in Walmart lots, an alley cat named Depot can probably claim the record for most time spent living rent-free in a retail location. As of 2014, the feline has been lounging around a South Carolina Home Depot for 13 years, greeting customers and spending much of her time luxuriating in the garden department. After word circulated the store might evict her because she kept setting off security alarms, online protests led a company spokesperson to declare Depot had tenure. Said one customer to local news outlet WTOC: "I'd get rid of management before I'd get rid of the cat."

14. One Home Depot was hosting a rattlesnake.

Not all of Home Depot's squatters are adorable. In August 2019, a customer in a Saint Clair, Pennsylvania store was surprised by a rattlesnake in the gardening department. While management summoned wildlife officers, the snake helpfully barricaded itself in a cashier enclosure. No one is sure how the snake got inside.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.