Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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A rumor about inferior faucets at big box retailers

There's a rumor out there that the faucets purchased at plumbing supply stores are superior to faucets purchased at big box home improvement retailers, such as Home Depot.  Just ask any plumber about this, and they'll probably tell you it's true.

Here's how the story goes: a homeowner contacts a plumber to have a new faucet installed, which they've already picked out - a Delta Addison faucet they saw at Home Depot's web site for $349.  The plumber will install the faucet, but won't give any type of warranty on the faucet, because it's an inferior product compared to the faucet the plumber would get from their plumbing supply store.  If the plumber provides the faucet, it will cost a lot more money - the list price at Delta's web site for the Addison faucet is $514.45.

Leaking FaucetThe plumber goes on to explain that the faucets provided by a plumbing supply store are superior; while they may look identical, the 'guts' of the same faucet are of a higher quality when they come from the plumbing supply store, and less prone to failure.  For this reason, the plumber will only warrant the faucet that comes from the plumbing supply store, for a much higher price.

Reality Check

I've heard this repeated so many times, from so many sources, that I decided to do a little calling around.  I called and spoke with reps from Kohler, Delta, Moen, American Standard, and Price Pfister.  They all flat out denied this claim.  They say there is no difference in faucets that go to different retailers.  They're all the same.

American Standard said that the drain assemblies they ship with some of their lav faucets that go to plumbing supply stores will be made of metal, while the faucets that go to big box  stores will be made of plastic.

I suppose it's possible that all of the manufacturers were lying to me, or that the reps I spoke with don't actually know what their talking about... but how likely would that be?

In the plumber's defense

So why would a plumber claim that the faucets at plumbing supply stores are superior if the manufacturers don't agree?  I'm not sure.  Maybe it used to be that way.

At any rate, I have no problem with a plumber giving a warranty on the faucet they get from a supply store, but not a big box retailer.  If a faucet goes bad and it came from a plumbing supply store, the plumber can bring the bad faucet in and swap it out for another, or easily obtain replacement parts if something goes bad.  If the faucet came from a big box retailer, not so.  While many faucet manufacturers have liberal lifetime warranties on their faucets, a leaking faucet can mean waiting around for the manufacturer to ship a replacement piece.  If the kitchen faucet is leaking, who can wait around for replacement parts to be shipped?

Also, when a faucet comes from a plumbing supply store, the plumber has presumably marked up the price of the faucet.  This markup helps to cover the cost of a repair visit.  It's essentially the price the homeowner pays for a warranty.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 31 commentsReuben Saltzman • November 08 2012 02:40AM

Comments

Not heard that rumor but good to know...and always good to know what warranties are supported.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 6 years ago

Hi Reuben, we suspect your investigation is correct and either the plumbers is taking a markup or is not knowledgeable.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) almost 6 years ago

Reuben, Hadn't heard this ourselves, but the plumbers really haven't had the opportunity.  I've either switched out the faucet myself, or had the faucet already purchased and ready for the plumber to install.  Bill

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) almost 6 years ago

Good to know.  As far as  problem items- Home Depot has never given me a hard time returning anything.  They hand you your money back or credit your charge card with a smile.  It's almost embarrasing because you feel you want to justify the return.

Posted by Barbara Tattersall, GRI (Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan (Keene,NH)) almost 6 years ago

Reuben: This rumor was accepted as fact in my BNI group. I think your explanation on the warranty makes a lot of sense, as well. Thanks for clearing a few things up.

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) almost 6 years ago
Reuben, thanks for posting your analysis. As a owner of a company that rehabs houses, I have seen no quality difference in plumbing supplies from the box stores. We have been told the same thing regarding the quality of major household appliances, but do not know whether it is factual. Thanks again.
Posted by Michael Arras (Chavis-Mosely Realtors, LLC) almost 6 years ago

HA!!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Looking carefully at the photo I am impressed by the dual nature (multi-task is today's word) of this ingenious spigot.  No spray hose is necessary.  Again, I am impressed.

And plumbers think that's right and are probably trying to do a good job overall.  However, your comment about the "mark up" is true, and basic retailing.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Great Reuben, i was always told that and not by a plumber by contractors...like that you put this to rest.  Personally I rather have my plumber take care of it since i'm all thumbs!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

I've never had the actual plumber warranty any product. They do get parts wholesale from supply houses, so it is more likely that they mark them up to add a little profit to their job. That $350.00 faucet at Home depot might only cost them $275.00 at a plumbing supple house. So if someone is installing 3 new faucets, a plumber is looking at making 3 x $75.00 = $225.00 more dollars on that job if he can supply materials.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) almost 6 years ago

I'm a car guy who works a lot on cars and this is just like my Mercedes mechanic who told me I can't get parts cheaper than he could when I KNOW I can.  My mechanoc gets $110 an hour for labor, that's a decent buck.  Plumbers get paid a decent buck too these days between labor and service call fees.  They should not be able to mark up genuine factory parts to re-sell to cusomters at 20-30%+ markups on top of what they charge for labor IMO.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 6 years ago

Products sold at the big box stores must meet a price point. How do you suppose manufactures accomplish this?

Here's my faucet story.

I inspected a house with a well. The buyer wanted the full gamut of water tests done including lead. She even had a lead inspection of the entire house. The lead inspector took a lead in water test from a different faucet than mine. His came back clean, mine was contaminated. The difference, my sample came from a new faucet bought from a big box store. 

Something to think about.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Not everything that glitters is gold and today the way they package and produce things everything looks premium but doesn't last or perform worth a darn and faucet's come under this statement. I have bought the "bargain" and it isn't one...

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 6 years ago

MADE IN CHINA JIM!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Jay, YEP!

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

It was probably in the solder on the inside of the assembly.  We changed that in 1993, and they have not.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

The best is to be aware of the product. Compare the product carefully. I suppose there are some manufacturer that would change their specification for big box retailers. Just like the electronics sold during Black Friday, they may sound cheap but their specification may vary a little. Buyer Beware!

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) almost 6 years ago

My experience is that the big plumbing supply houses often have more expensive faucets that the big box stores can't afford to sell.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Good info and you may also be right that "it used to be that way"

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

I'll bet it's simply a matter of the plumber making a little extra through the mark-up on the product they sell.

Posted by Bryan Robertson, Broker, Author, Speaker (Intero Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Plumber probably gets a whoolesale discount through the plumbing supply store, so they are making a little extra.  They probably hate big box retailers who discount.  Any plumbers out there?

Posted by Gary Frimann, REALTOR and Broker (Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates) almost 6 years ago

Reuben, 

Interesting.  I had not heard that.  However, since the big box stores are always looking to be extremely price competitive, I could believe they would offer lower price offerings.  Having said that, I would believe an Addison to be the same product from Delta no matter where you bought it.  

BTW, just installed one of those Delta Addisons.... nice choice.

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) almost 6 years ago

I have found that the big box stores plumbing supplies jusst don't seam up to par.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) almost 6 years ago

Thanks for this information.  I have been told the same thing several times.  I'm gong to print this out and keep it handy the next time they tell me something like this.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 6 years ago

I'm glad you brought this up because I've heard it too and it a crock.  I've come to the point where I buy the product beforehand and leave it in the house for the plumber to install.

Posted by Morris Massre, Real Estate Instructor Broward County Florida almost 6 years ago

Reuben, I am told the exact same thing from a few plumbers. I always wondered about it.  

Now I have had an issues with some shut off valves I bought at the box store. I had one split on me and start to leak. No biggy just a bad one.

Then about a little over a year later I had another split on me in the exact same place. This time is caused a pretty good leak in my bathroom. I took them back and the return clerk  who knows me by face told me that they had quit carry those specific shut-offs due to a casting issue. Lucky me that I had bought those.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Sally & David - I'm especially a big fan of Delta.  They have excellent warranty support.

Bob - I still have to cut a faucet open one of these days.

Liz and Bill - I actually just heard about this for the first time about two years ago, and I started asking around after that.

Barbara - I know exactly what you mean.  I feel the same way sometimes!

Anne - funny.  Lots of plumbers all of the country preach this.

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Michael - my BS meter was pegged when I first heard this, and I feel the same way when I hear stuff like this about appliances, tools, etc.  Why would manufacturers do this but not tell anyone?

Jay - don't you love that faucet/sprayer combo?  Having spoken with a number of plumbers about this, I've come to the same conclusion as you; they really believe this.

Ginny - Thanks.

Jeff - me neither :).   I think you're right on with your analysis, except the consumer ends up paying a lot more than $350 for a faucet from a supply house if HD sells it for $350.

Justin - Personally, I have no problem with the markup... but just call it what it is.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

James - volume.  When you have a small shop that will buy 50 a year, they're going to pay a lot more.  The buyer for Home Depot is going to get a much better deal when they guarantee they'll sell 10,000 of these faucets each year.

I'm sure Jay is right about the 'Made in China' part... but my point is that if you obtained that faucet from a plumbing supply store, I'm sure it would come from the exact same factory.

Richie - man, you're not kidding.

Mike - I'm going to take a pair of faucets apart some day to prove this.

Charles - you're definitely right about that.  The big box stores can't afford to have those super-expensive faucets ripped off, either.

Russell - I can't think of any other reason for so many plumbers preaching this as fact.

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Bryan - and a little ignorance on their part, probably.

Gary - no doubt.

Michelle - I'm a big fan of Delta faucets :)

William - have you ever compared two faucets side by side, one from a plumbing supply store and one from a big box retailer?

Joan - Let me know if you get any resistance.

Morris - good stuff :)

Don - bad times!  What kind of valve was it?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Volume sure, but not that big of a difference. Here's another example, You no longer find Pella windows in the big box stores. Why? They were asked to hit a price point which they could not do without compromising quality. They decided to no longer sell in the big stores. I got this straight from a Pella rep. Like I said, companies have to hit a price point or they can't sell it in the big box store. You can't do it on volume alone, you have cheapen the product. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

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