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Old 11-28-2019, 10:41 PM
ethelbert is online now
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Are Plumbing Fixtures sold by Big Box Stores substandard?

One thing that I have heard many times over the years is that all the big plumbing manufacturers make different fixtures for the big box retailers (e.g. Home Depot) and that those fixtures are not as good (i.e. reliable) as the counterparts that are sold by plumbing supply companies. I had a contractor tell me recently that they had much more plastic in them and that, if he has a choice, he does not use them.

Does anyone know if there is any truth to this?
Old 11-28-2019, 11:10 PM
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I have heard similar things from contractors, and there may be some truth to it for some manufacturers, but I doubt it's true for every manufacturer. It's expensive to produce a version of a product for just a particular type of store. If you have a quality reputation why would you risk it by selling junk at a big box store? Now some retailers, like Walmart, are known to beat up their suppliers to get their prices down, and it would be tempting for a company to lower the quality of products sold to them, but again, why would you risk your reputation?

I know some manufacturers sell different lines of products through different retailers at lower prices, but that's different than selling what appears to be the same thing through different retailers, one is high quality and one being junk. I have built a couple of houses and purchased products from Home Depot and Lowes and never noticed a lower quality than those same products at high-end stores.
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Last edited by dolphinboy; 11-28-2019 at 11:10 PM.
Old 11-28-2019, 11:14 PM
lingyi is offline
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I've heard the same thing and there's lots of discussion about it both yes and no. The way I look at it, stores like Lowes and Home Depot are the KMart and Walmart of the construction world. They generally sell sell low to mid-range products. Looking at Kohler's commercial faucet line, the prices are 2-3X+ more what you'd likely see at the big box stores.

Are they worth it? What is peace of mind worth to you? In our family home, I used to buy the cheapest faucets and just replace it completely when a part wore out. However, the last time my faucet and cheap drain pipe started to leak, I decided to call a plumber and let him deal with it, instead of busting my knuckles and potentially causing damage to the pipes in the wall. Ironically, we sold the house a few years later and I didn't get the full benefit of the better product!
Old 11-29-2019, 09:03 PM
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For what it's worth, big box store sometimes sell products at prices ranging from the cheapest option to a "contractor grade".

I don't know about plumbing fixtures in particular, but multiple grades exist (for example) for outdoor garden/construction hoses.
Old 11-30-2019, 01:03 PM
Squink is offline
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Some are. A decent faucet for which you paid over $100 should last over 15 years.
I've had two such big box faucets fail in that time. Other faucets in house, dating fro 40s or 50s still work fine.
Old 11-30-2019, 03:00 PM
rbroome is offline
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It is fairly easy to check. I believe the yearly change-over for such items is in the spring. At least it is/was around my part of the south. During that time you can go through the parts bins, and presumably the fixtures boxes, and directly compare this year's items to last years. At least for valves the couple of years I have done this, the reduction in component quality is obvious. The barrel of the valve was thinner, the knob was noticeably cheaper, etc. Later in the year when you don't have last year's model to compare with, the part looks OK.

Now the question is whether the new part is functionally lower quality then last years. Perhaps the brass wall of the valve didn't need to be that thick. I can't say-I bought the older valves.
Old 12-01-2019, 10:00 PM
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In my past sales life, I've sold to big box stores as well as Costco & Walmart. It's quite common for manufacturers to sell "de-spec'd products" at those retailers. My companies did it all the time, but we used different model line names and product numbers so there was no confusion on the part of consumers.

The DIY target market is very different than the professionally designed, professionally installed market. It only makes sense you'd sell lower priced, lower quality products to the DIY market.

It's not clear from the OP if you're asking if they sell the same models with different components and different quality at the different retailers. If that's what you're asking, I've never seen or heard of a case where the exact same model or SKU had different specs and prices. Even if they wanted to, I can't imagine how any company could keep inventory straight in their own system with the same model / SKU number.

When the models are too close it can back-fire on a manufacturer: A personal example, I bought an 18V cordless DeWalt drill at Home Depot. I called DeWalt to complain that the bits often dropped out of the chuck. They freely admitted the drill was a different (de-spec'd) model than their "regular" 18V cordless drill. Even though the drill was physically identical to their regular drill, they told me I should have known because: 1) The model number was one digit different 2) The grip on their regular drill was painted back, mine was all yellow.

Their solution: I could upgrade the chuck to their standard chuck for $100. My solution was to return it to HD and never trust (or buy) DeWalt products again.
Old 12-02-2019, 12:49 AM
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I work at a plumbing supply house. I’ve had faucets from box stores brought in. Exact same part number but ours were solid brass with cast waterways while the box store ones were zinc thin plated hollow pieces with tiny copper lines instead.

For toilets, never buy a two piece toilet that comes in one box. Main line two piece toilet tanks and bowls are always boxed separately.
Old 12-02-2019, 11:15 AM
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If this is the case, and the big box stores are just competing on price, and consumers are naive enough to fall for it, where can I as an end-consumer go to get the good stuff? Do plumbing supply stores sell to the public or do you have to be a reseller?
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Old 12-02-2019, 11:42 AM
rock party is offline
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I got a new hose faucet for the backyard and called a plumber to install. It lasted one year. I was hoping I could buy the rubber rings to fix it but no one sold them. HD said it's just cheaper to buy a whole new faucet (it's not because you have to have the new one installed by a plumber usually). My grandmother lived in an old house with the original faucets in the kitchen. Every couple of years my dad would replace the rubber rings inside to stop leaks and that faucet lasted 70 years. I'd like to buy a faucet AND the rubber rings together at the same time so if it does leak it can be fixed (hopefully by me). I asked about this at Home Depot and like I said, they told me just buy new faucets and forget about repairing the old one.
Old 12-02-2019, 11:49 AM
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You can buy parts for Delta faucets. It's been a selling point for them for many years.

I'd buy one from a plumbing supply. Save the literature. It includes the part numbers you can order.

I believe HD and Lowe's sell special made, low cost plumbing fixtures.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-02-2019 at 11:51 AM.
Old 12-02-2019, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
If this is the case, and the big box stores are just competing on price, and consumers are naive enough to fall for it, where can I as an end-consumer go to get the good stuff? Do plumbing supply stores sell to the public or do you have to be a reseller?
In my small city, the two trade plumbing supply houses sell to consumers. The degree of help I get when I am not exactly sure what I need varies, but I get the professional-grade parts.
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:05 PM
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I don't know if they're substandard, but they are a PITA. When I had a problem with my Glacier Bay faucet set, I called Home Depot to try to get detailed information about it. I learned that:

1.) They didn't have, and couldn't provide any technical info

2.) "Glacier Bay" doesn't exist as a company. It's a brand name they stick on the faucets made by a slew of manufacturers for Home Depot. One reason they couldn't provide info was that they didn't even know where and exactly by whom the part was made.

You wouldn't get that with a supplier to a plumbing supply house. It's very much different from what happened when I called about the fittings for our bathtub, which came through a plumbing supply house. No problem getting information, or replacement parts.
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Old 12-02-2019, 01:44 PM
Dewey Finn is offline
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Originally Posted by Crotalus View Post
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
If this is the case, and the big box stores are just competing on price, and consumers are naive enough to fall for it, where can I as an end-consumer go to get the good stuff? Do plumbing supply stores sell to the public or do you have to be a reseller?
In my small city, the two trade plumbing supply houses sell to consumers. The degree of help I get when I am not exactly sure what I need varies, but I get the professional-grade parts.
Absolutely the plumbing supply house I'm most familiar with sells to consumers. And I remember more than once going in their with a valve stem or something else, and asking them for a replacement and having no problem getting support from people who know their stuff. I vaguely remember that some stuff like faucets is available in plastic or cheap metal from Home Depot or Lowes but identical-looking faucets from the plumbing supply house in chrome-plated solid brass.
Old 12-02-2019, 09:40 PM
GMANCANADA is offline
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Plumbing stores are one option, but (at least in my area) they are usually a guy behind a parts counter and you tell him what you want and he gets it.

More consumer friendly are kitchen and bath stores. If you google that you should find something. There are literally dozens in my area. They are specialty showrooms and usually have a wide range of everything from sinks, cabinets, vanities to plumbing fixtures on display and for sale.

You can see all the styles right there, usually in display bathrooms or kitchens they have set-up.
Old 12-02-2019, 09:45 PM
Arcite is offline
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I'm curious, is this phenomenon of the big box stores only carrying low quality products limited to plumbing fixtures and DeWalt power tools, or does it extend to all their products? Light fixtures, electrical outlets, switches, appliances, doors, windows, flooring?

I'm buying my first house soon, so I'll need to know this stuff.
Old 12-02-2019, 10:40 PM
cutman74 is offline
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There seems to be a fair amount of pressure put on all suppliers by "big box" retailers. I have noticed lately, however , that the Makita tools I've purchased in the St. Louis,MO area have been serviceable and extremely durable. This has changed in the past five years. The first kit I purchased from them was definitely sub-standard. The battery charger failed before I had used the tool for a year. At this time, it was cheaper for me to buy a drill/driver and charger, than just to replace the charger. I've been using the replacement and charger for several years now with no decline in performance.
As for the plumbing fixtures and other hardware items; I would definitely stick to the brand names, (Kholer, Pfister, Moen, Delta,). Even then, the quality from the BBS is not what you get from a supply house. Most of the supply house people seem friendly and helpful enough to me. If you walk in with a reasonable idea of what you want and a grasp on what your'e trying to accomplish, they will be a useful guide. Only speaking from my experience,YMMV.
Old 12-02-2019, 10:45 PM
cutman74 is offline
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After reading my previous post, I believe I should clarify.

The newer Makita power tools I'v purchased are far superior to the initial one purchased 5+ years ago.
Old 12-02-2019, 10:53 PM
cutman74 is offline
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I've had very little problems with any wiring devices, or fixtures. Their wire nuts and connectors leave much to be desired though. I prefer a supply house for those. Nothing really compares with a Scothclock wire nut. I don't pay for most of my material out of pocket, so economy could become a factor. I wouldn't trust the push-in type connectors provided with many of the light fixtures sold in BBS. I cut those things off and use wire nuts.
Old 12-03-2019, 01:28 AM
Eva Luna is offline
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When our faucet sprang a leak the minute we moved into our new (to us, but 100-year-old) house, I bought a new one at Costco. The plumber who installed it was actually surprised at the high quality and didn't realize Costco sold anything that high-end. (It was the more expensive of the two they had in stock when I went, mostly because I wanted the tall pot filler.)

I'm sure Costco also stocks lower-end stuff, but apparently I got lucky. I'm hoping that by the time it dies, we will be in a position to do some kitchen upgrading anyway. And it seemed ridiculous to spend a ton of money replacing the faucet to go with the crappy low-end cabinets and sink in any case.
Old 12-03-2019, 02:50 AM
GMANCANADA is offline
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The don't "just carry lower end", but in general big box retailer's listings tend to skew toward lower-end lower-quality (they would call it value-oriented) versus higher end.

The reason for this is that 1) They target unknowledgeable DIY consumers and 2) By and large, they don't provide knowledgable sales staff. As a consumer you must then figure it out for yourself (based on packaging, internet research, asking in an SD forum etc).

In the absence of sales explanation (why product x is worth 30% more than product Y), consumers default to price. Typically not buying the cheapest but not the most expensive, all other factors appearing equal. Since no one is there to explain to you the features and benefits of the higher end product, they simply don't sell as well in those locations. They carry them, just not as broad a selection as the value oriented products.

There are many examples of this when you compare categories like lighting, tiles, plumbing etc. The specialty stores in these categories will tend to carry both a broader selection of manufacturers, and well a a deeper selection of product from each manufacturer and a very wide range of price points.

As someone who has worked in consumer products, I'd say you need to ask yourself: 1) Is there a legitimate difference in quality of components? 2) Is the price & quality difference justified to me given my intended usage of the product? More expensive, higher quality is not always better for you personally.

We renovated our house a few years ago and went with higher priced high-quality stuff since we planned to live there a long time. We're now renovating my late parents house and almost everything is HD or Lowes, we're going to sell the house when we're done.


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