Ace Hardware vs Home Depot: Similarities and Differences

ACE Hardware
Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images

In most metro areas, you can find both a Home Depot (and other large home centers like Lowe's Home Improvement or Menard's) and several Ace Hardware stores. What's the difference between Home Depot and Ace Hardware? Is one store better for one category of products over the other store? Learn some of the similarities and differences between Ace Hardware and Home Depot stores.

Ace Hardware
  • Franchised

  • 5,200 stores in U.S.

  • Founded in 1926

  • 10,00 square foot average size

Home Depot
  • Corporate-owned

  • 2,300 stores in U.S.

  • Founded in 1979

  • 105,000 square foot average size

Ace Hardware and Home Depot Background

Before Home Depot, people would visit a lumberyard or a hardware store when they wanted to fill the home remodeling materials or tools list. Employees of these lumberyards and hardware stores could be helpful to do-it-yourselfers, but often their focus was directed on commercial customers like builders, contractors, and people working in trades like plumbing and electrical.

Lowe's Home Improvement, founded in 1921, predates both Home Depot and Ace Hardware. But when Home Depot came along in 1979, it changed the game entirely.

Home Depot stores introduced wide aisles, high shelves, and adequate lighting. Large items like lumber and deck boards could live in harmony with small items like nuts and bolts, painting supplies, and masking tape. Thus, a new world of self-serve home renovation supply was ushered in.

Home Depot has had rough spots along the way. In the early 2000s, CEO Robert Nardelli was regarded by the press as taking the retail giant in the wrong direction.

This was the era of "snowblowers on display at Florida outlets, beach chairs on offer in landlocked Kansas, and dozens of organic fertilizers available in stores that needed just a few," as Barron's noted.

During this time, Ace Hardware slowly evolved from tiny corner stores in mostly rural areas to larger stores in metro areas, while still retaining a friendly, local feel.

Ace Hardware's model fits an untapped need, and it's one that seems to be working. In 2022, Ace Hardware expanded to a larger corporate campus in Illinois and opened another 100 new stores.

Ace Hardware Pros and Cons

What We Like
  • Hyper-local

  • Independently owned

  • Smaller stores

  • Easier parking

What We Don't Like
  • Fewer large building materials

  • Poor paint selection

  • Limited hours

  • Poor online presence

Homeowners have rediscovered the joys of the simple hardware store—Ace Hardware. These independently owned stores are the antithesis of corporate mentality.

Ace Hardware stores vary in size, between 3,000 and 15,000 square feet, with a few mega-sized Ace stores encompassing over 150,000 square feet. But Ace considers 10,000 square feet to be an optimum size.

Many Ace Hardware stores have local touches—Lion's Clubs and Boy Scouts and Little Leaguers drumming up support; souvenirs for Abilene, Santa Fe, Albany, Fargo, Weed, or wherever the Ace Hardware happens to be located.

Ace Hardware is local, with stores more centrally located than Home Depot stores, which tend to be in outlying areas. Ace stores have easy parking and equally easy access. With Ace, it's possible to dart in and grab a can of paint or a length of gutter without getting snarled up in mile-long aisles or in giant parking lots.

Staff at Ace Hardware stores are usually easy to find, and they are often friendly and well-versed in all matters home-related.

Home Depot Pros and Cons

What We Like
  • Low prices

  • Good online shopping platform

  • Large building materials available

  • Home delivery

What We Don't Like
  • Outlying locations

  • Massive size

  • Often poorly staffed

  • Some items not found in small quantities

Where Ace Hardware still retains the flavor of the proverbial corner hardware store, Home Depot, with its half-million employees and stores in the United States, Canada, China, India, and Mexico, is the big international player.

Home Depot stores typically have 105,000 square feet of indoor retail space, along with generously sized garden shops. Home Depot offers over a million products through its stores and its web platform.

Home Depot is the place to go for 4,000 square feet of laminate flooring or enough fence panels to encircle your entire property—and to do so at midnight. Ace Hardware is where you pop in during the day for a few cans of paint to refresh that guest bathroom, or for a hammer, pliers, nails, or some safety glasses.

Home Depot and Ace are complementary to each other, not competitors. Home Depot's competitors are Lowe's, Menards, LL Flooring (formerly, Lumber Liquidators), and True Value.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Portfolio’s Worst American CEOs of All Time. CNBC

  2. The Gut Renovation at Home Depot. Barron's

  3. Ace Hardware Building Boom. Memphis Business Journal