Big box store vs. Supply house products

We are often asked why it is that plumbing fixtures at the big box stores are less expensive than similar fixtures from a plumbing supply house or plumbing professional. The short answer is that the fixtures are not the same. These fixtures fall into two categories; store brand and “name brand” made specifically for big box store fixtures.

First and foremost, stay away from store brand. The quality is always questionable, but this is not the most important reason to stay away. These store brand fixtures are often put out for bid meaning the lowest bidder (normally some company overseas) produces the product for a short product run. When the product run is over, parts and technical literature are no longer available. If you call the manufacturer about the product they will tell you to call the store you purchased the product from. If you go to the back to the big box store, the guy that works paint, plumbing, and electrical will look at you like you have three eyes and tell you to call the manufacturer.

The “name brand” big box specific fixtures are difficult to determine. Often times the manufacturer will make a similar faucet, water heater, toilet etc. specifically to sell at a big box store. These fixtures carry similar warranties but are made from inferior materials. The easiest way to identify these fixtures is by their model number. The number will not match their commercial grade counterpart. The reason manufactures make inferior quality fixtures to sell at big box stores is to meet the price point requirements of the big box store. Material that is metal on the commercial grade fixture may be plastic or pot metal from the big box store. It is common to see custom finishes such as brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze significantly less expensive at the big box store. This is a sure sign that the finish is artificial. A commercial grade fixture will always be the real thing. Oil rubbed bronze is really made from bronze and is not just a cheap painted on finish. Porcelain toilets and sinks at the big box store often have slight cosmetic defects. If one were to look closely at a toilet for example, they will often find patches on the underside of a toilet or inside the toilet tank. The big box stores buy these “one offs” at a discount and they are not the same quality as commercial grade products.

If you do chose to purchase a fixture from a big box store, ask about the warranty, specifically what do you have to do in order to get the fixture repaired or replaced under warranty? Find out if the fixture has to be returned to the store for warranty replacement or repair as is often the case. Use a water heater for example; do you have to bring the water heater back to the store if it starts to leak in 2 years? Is that something that you are qualified/prepared to do? Do you have a way to transport the water heater back to the big box store? Will they take your word that it is damaged or do you first need to pay a plumber to verify the water heater is damaged? Big box stores are notorious for offering long warranties that they will almost never have to honor because very few individuals are willing to do what it takes to get warranty service.

These lesser quality fixtures have their place too. We understand that some customers are on a budget. Other customers may not be overly concerned with the life expectancy or quality of the fixture. However, if you are looking for a product that will last, it will be worth it to spend the extra money to purchase a commercial grade product from a plumbing professional. If you have ever remodeled your kitchen or bathroom, you know how inconvenient it was not to have a kitchen sink or a toilet in your master bathroom even for a day. Do you really want to go through all of that again in a few years due to inferior products? Spend the extra money and do the job once!

Call Scotto’s Plumbing for all of your fixture replacement needs!