|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
444 Highland Drive
Kohler, WI 53044
(Exceeds North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
A privately held, family owned and operated U.S. manufacturer of an enormous line of very good to excellent kitchen and bath fixtures since 1873, Kohler has been a consistent innovator in the plumbing and sanitary-wares industry. Kohler is one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of plumbing and sanitary products, with twelve North American factories. Just under half of Kohler's 33,000 world-wide employees work in the U.S.Faucets are an integral part of the Kohler kitchen and bath line, ranging in style from ho-hum but very reliable to very stylish (and still very reliable). Kohler makes over 200 different faucets, not including variations possible by changing handles and finishes.
One summer day, in 1883, John Michael Kohler, an Austrian emigrant and the proud new owner of the Sheboygan Union Iron & Steel Foundry, took some glass powder and sprinkled it on an iron horse trough from the company's product line that had been heated it to 1,700°. The resulting "enamel" coating was so tough and durable that he featured the horse trough as the centerpiece of his next product catalog, with a small footnote that read: "When furnished with four legs, will serve as a bathing tub."
It was not an overwhelming success as a horse trough, but as a "bathing tub", it became the foundation of an American plumbing empire that is now well into its second century with world-wide scope and annual revenues of over $6 billion.
A privately held, family owned and operated U.S. manufacturer of an enormous line of very good to excellent kitchen and bath fixtures since 1873, Kohler has been a consistent innovator in the plumbing and sanitary-wares industry. In 1911 Kohler introduced the alcove bathtub with integral apron. This is the tub design that dominates American bathrooms today. By the 1920s, Kohler had become the third largest plumbing products company in the U.S. after Delta and Moen.
Kohler is still one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of plumbing and sanitary products, with twelve North American factories. Just under half of Kohler's 33,000 world-wide employees work in the U.S. The enterprise is actually a related group of companies that sells bath and kitchen products, furniture, tile, fabrics, generators, even chocolates, and own resort hotels and golf courses, including the original St. Andrews course in Scotland.
Kohler has had repeated labor unrest over the past 100 years. A 1934 a labor strike at Kohler's Wisconsin plants turned violent, resulting in two dead and 43 injured in clashes between Kohler strikers and "special deputies" hired by the company to protect the plant from vandalism. The National Guard was called in to restore order. A 1954 strike lasted six years (the longest major strike in U.S. history) until the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Kohler has refused to bargain in good faith and ordered reinstatement of 1,700 union workers. A third strike in 1983 lasted just a few weeks. In 2015 the company was struck a fourth time, this time for 31 days.
Faucets are an integral part of the Kohler kitchen and bath line, ranging in style from ho-hum but very reliable to very, very stylish (and still very reliable). Kohler makes over 200 different faucets, not including variations possible by changing handles and finishes. (We started counting Kohler faucet variations one day, but gave it up as a bad idea when we reached 340. The actual number is probably much higher).
Unlike its major competitor, — a company that has been disected, dismembered and reconstituted as an entirely new company under Japanese ownership — Kohler is still the same company it was in 1873 — although it has gone through a few name changes since the Sheboygan days. It is still owned and managed by the Kohler family, and still very much an American company that manufactures products in the U.S. for distribution world-wide. Herbet Kohler, Jr., the company's visionary CEO since 1972 stepped down on June 1, 2015 and was succeeded by his son, K. David Kohler, the fourth Kohler to lead the company.
Most Kohler faucets sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S from parts made in the U.S., but also in other countries, primarily China. In the past 24 months, Kohler has imported faucet parts from Nanchang Kohler Co., Ltd., Beijing Kohler Ltd., and Shanghai Kohler Electronic Ltd., all, as you might have surmised, Kohler subsidiaries in China. Kohler has reportedly invested over $70 million acquiring and updating Chinese factories to service the giant Chinese market for upscale faucets, but also to provide faucets and faucet components to other parts of the world. It also imports components from Sunspring Metal Corporation of Taiwan and China for its Kohler Sanimex factory in Mexico.
At least some of its ceramic cartridges are purchased from Anton Tränkle, GmbH & Co. KG, a German company that makes superior ceramic cartridges, but only single function, stem cartridges for two-handle faucets. These are rapidly being replaced by Kohler's proprietary UltraGlide® cartridges. Kohler calls these the "next generation of faucet technology", and they are.
One of the disks is coated with what is probably diamond-like carbon, a material nearly as hard a diamonds (hence the "diamond-like" in the name), and very slick for easy operation without any lubricant between the discs. Advanced engineering and precise manufacturing keeps water away from the metal parts of the cartridge, a feature that Kohler calls Dry Stem Technology. This design eliminates mineral buildup and leaking around stem seals — the weak point in most cartridges. The cartridge has been tested through four million off/on cycles — eight times the industry standard.
For mixer cartridges used in single handle faucets, Kohler uses cartridges from Hydroplast S R L, and Italian manufacturer of good to excellent ceramic cartridges also used in faucets made by faucets.
Some of Kohler's faucets are entirely foreign made and imported as finished units. Kohler Sanimex, S.A. De C.V. in Monterrey, Mexico has recently begun assembling Kohler faucets from Chinese made components for the North American market. Kohler India Corporation Pvt Ltd manufactures faucets in India for the Indian market. Kohler announced in 2015 its plan to expand this enterprise into an export hub to supply faucets and other sanitary ware to the U.S., Canada and China. We have not seen any of these faucet in the U.S. as of the date of this report. (But, if you have, please contact us with the information.) The Kohler plant in Nanchang, China specializes in manufacturing high quality faucets using the latest technologies in a state-of-the-art facility. Its faucets are sold mostly in China, where Kohler is a major presence, but also in the U.S., Canada, France, India and many parts of the rest of Asia. So, to get an guaranteed American-made or -assembled faucet, read the box for its country of origin.
Kohler makes faucets that other companies don't, for designer looks that other companies cannot match. Need a ceramic bathroom sink faucet to create that unique bathing experience? Kohler makes one (the Vas®) in colors to match its sinks or in white with a hand-painted design in Imperial Blue inspired by the Yung Lo reign of the Ming dynasty. Beat that, American Standard!
Kohler, wisely, has avoided the very low end of the faucet business that requires a lot of plastic and zinc parts. It is actively pursuing the high end bath ware market, and cleverly too, by providing architects and designers with CAD images that make it easy to specify Kohler products.
Be aware, however, that the Kohler products sold in some home centers such as Menards, Lowes and The Home Depot may not be Kohler's regular product line. They are private models made just for the home centers and may not be of the best Kohler quality. (See The Model Game for more information.) A plumbing supply house is your best option for main-line Kohler products.
If the incredible variety of the Kohler faucet collection is not enough for you, or you absolutely must have a designer's name attached to your faucet, then try Kohler's upscale collection of faucets, sinks, bathtubs, showers, bath furniture and accessories.
In 2015 Kohler Co. was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency with a Watersense® Sustained Excellence Award for the third year in a row. Kohler is the only three-time winner of the award.
Kohler is one of the very few faucet lines that StarCraft supports with its own labor warranty. If a Kohler faucet breaks during its warranty period, you will get the parts to fix it, and a plumber to do the work at no cost to you.
U. S.-made faucets comparable to Kohler include
If you are thinking about buying a faucet, look at Kohler instead. You will get with the same or better quality for about the same price with a better warranty and legendary customer support.
If you have had an experience with a Kohler faucet, — good, bad or indifferent — that you would like to share, please let us know. And, don't forget to comment, below.