|Source||Rating • Price • Origin • Business Model||Warranty Analysis|
9805 Clark Street
Montreal, QC H3L 2R5
Warranty Score: *****
Organized in 1986, Aguabrass, Inc. is a Canadian importer of faucets and kitchen and bath accessories for sale through authorized dealers in Canada and the U.S.
The company imports good to very good, mostly designer faucets from well-established Italian and Taiwanese faucet manufacturers. The faucets are organized in two collections: Modern and Classic.
The Modern collection is very contemporary, showing faucets that are minimalist, stark and angular. Its Classic collection is more relaxed and traditional. The faucets are usually part of a broader body of faucets, showers, tub fillers, and accessories. In some cases coordinating architectural and cabinet hardware is available to finish off the look. Most of the faucets are stunning, none are blah.
Its chief Italian faucet suppliers are IB Rubineterie S.p.A. and Rubineterie 3M S.r.l. generally known as Treemme, and its Taiwanese suppliers include Horng Lai Industrial Co., Ltd. (Geo, Teo and Zara 4" lavatory faucets) and NCIP Inc. (Tapas and Pulmi faucets).
Aquabrass is a Marketeer, not a Specifier. It imports and sells faucets designed and manufactured by other companies. Its business model is one used very successfully by other Marketeers such as Rohl and Lacava. It enters into agreements with Italian faucet manufacturers to become the exclusive North American distributor of the manufacturer's faucets. There are hundreds of excellent boutique faucet manufacturers in Europe, and most of them are looking for a low-cost entry into the giant North American market. Aquabrass provides that entry with a minimal investment by the manufacturer. In return, Aquabrass gets the exclusive right to sell some very stylish, high-quality faucets in the U.S. and Canada.
Although the company frequently refers to its designers, in fact it has no designers. Its faucets are actually designed by the overseas companies that make the faucets it sells. The designers that it features on its web site work for the manufacturers, not for Aquabrass. They include some award-winning product designers and architects such as such as Maurizio Duranti, Giulio Iacchetti, and Andrea Galmarini for IB Rubineterie and Danilo Fedeli, Giancarlo Vegni , Gianluca Belli, Marco Pisati, Rémi Théberge and Oco Studio for Treemme.
Most of the faucets sold by Aquabrass are for sale outside of North America under other model names. For example, the distinctive Aquabrass Stilleto faucet (shown above), designed by Giancarlo Vegni for Treemme, sells in Europe as the Hedo faucet. The Bridge series of faucets, designed by Treemme designer Rémi Théberge, is sold to the rest of the world as the Bridge Mono collection.
Aquabrass supplies many of the faucets offered by Canadian sink manufacturer Julien, Inc., which then sells the faucets under its own, completely different, model names.
Despite the fact that Aquabrass neither designs nor manufactures its own faucets, the company does deserve kudos for creating a collection that includes some very contemporary and interesting faucets. Some have no parallel in North America.
As with all Italian faucets, the valves are ceramic disk cartridges, and from our examination, very good Italian cartridges which the company backs with a lifetime warranty. We have not examined the company's Taiwanese faucets, but presume that the cartridges must be at least adequate as they are also backed by a lifteime warranty.
Aquabrass offers all of its faucets in what it calls standard finishes which always includes polished chrome, and usually brushed nickel. The web site often incorrectly identifies the standard finishes available for a faucet, so you will need to download and display the .pdf format "specs" page for each faucet to see the actual standard finishes — a somewhat cumbersome process. The available standard finish depends on which manufacturer makes the faucet. Some faucets offer black or white powder coating as a standard finish, most do not.
The company also offers nineteen custom finishes. These are supposed to display on the company web site at Custom Finishes. but we could not get them to display using a Mozilla browser. So we tried it with Internet Explorer. Still no joy. There is, of course, not only an additional charge for custom finishes, but a longer lead time while the faucet is custom manufactured.
The company web site has been completely redesigned since our last review, but is not yet finished. In fact, it seems that for as long as we have known about Aquabrass, its web site has been under some degree of construction. Many of the English language pages display in French, a lot of the proposed pages are "Coming soon...", and its site search function is primitive, and only works sometimes.
The Aquabrass warranty is below standard for North America. The faucets, including cartridges, are warranted for the lifetime of the original owner, as are the the company's standard chrome and nickel finishes. But, custom finishes are warranted for just five years. We don't know what the problem is with custom finishes that makes Aquabrass uncomfortable enough that it felt it could offer only a five-year warranty, but, obviously, something.
The warranty does not comply with some of the basic requirements for written warranties enforced in the United States, and many of its restrictive provisions and disclaimers would, consequently, probably be found to be invalid by a U.S. court.
Aquabrass makes warranty replacements or repairs inconvenient and cumbersome. To get a repair or replacement under warranty, the defective faucet has to be boxed up and returned to Aquabrass "for inspection" at your expense. This is true even if the problem is the cartridge, which ordinarily can be replaced without the bother and expense of uninstalling the faucet. The original receipt "must be made available", but evidently does not actually have to be sent in. The process seems designed to deprive you of the use of the faucet for several weeks while Aquabrass takes a look and decides whether to repair the faucet, and then goes ahead with the repairs or replacement as needed. How long can you get by without a faucet?
Compare this unwieldy, overly cautious procedure to the simplified Moen or Delta/Brizo process of getting replacement parts under warranty to better understand the difference between first class and other class warranty service.
You should very carefully consider whether you want to go through this amount of hassle to get warranty service when making a buying decision about an Aquabrass faucet. The 5-year warranty on custom finishes and the unnecessarily complicated warranty claims process caused us to downgrade the company's warranty score from standard to sub-standard.
On the plus side, however, the consumer experience with this company has been good overall, and the Italian faucets are reasonably priced for good to very good quality well-styled European faucets. The faucets themselves have very few problems, and the customer support is capable, and bi-lingual, although hard to reach. The customer support e-mail address, but no telephone number (but, see above) is published on the company web site. Plumbers report that some of the faucet models are a little fussy to install, but no serious installation issues. We judge the faucets to be a good value and worth consideration by those looking for a mostly Italian-designed faucet that is reasonably priced with North American warranty and parts support. Keep in mind, however, that some Aquabrass faucets are from Asia, and sell for what we consider a fairly high price for Asian-made faucets.
The Better Business Bureau has no file on Aquabrass, which typically means that it has received no adverse reports about the company, a very good thing. But, it also means that the company is not a business that has been acredited by the BBB, which is not so good.
Aquabrass faucets are certified by CSA Group as compliant with all U.S. and Canadian standards for faucets. Most Aquabrass faucets have a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute, which is the European maximum flow rate. American buyers are used to the faster 2.2 gallon per minute flow rate allowed in the U.S., but the difference will not be noticeable to most users. The faucets are also certified to be lead free as defined in the Safe Drinking Water Act as of 2014, and comply fully with U.S., Canadian, California, Vermont, Maryland and Louisiana lead-free standards.
Imported faucets comparable to Aquabrass include Gessi, Julien, Lacava Design, MGS Progetti, Paini (La Toscana), Rohl, and The Whitehaus Collection. Comparable American-made faucets include Brizo, California Faucets, Kohler, Phylrich, Newport Brass, Sigma, Sonoma Forge. Watermark, and Waterstone.
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Aquabrass faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us.