Signature Hardware Faucets
Review & Rating
2700 Crescent Springs Pike
Erlanger, KY 41017
Footnotes:1. The term "lifetime" is not defined, which means it would be given its common English meaning: the actual lifetime of the original owner.2. The warranty does not state that an original receipt or other proof of purchase is required to make a warranty claim but typically it would be.
This Company In Brief
Clawfoot Supply, LLC is a corporation that trades as Signature Hardware selling imported faucets, sinks, tubs, and other fixtures as well as accessories, furnishings, lighting and home decor items from its office/warehouse complex just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The company's products are private label products, purchased wholesale from suppliers in India, Indonesia, China, and Taiwan and re-branded for retail sale under the Signature Hardware name.
Signature Hardware is a trading name under which Clawfoot Supply, LLC imports and sells faucets, sinks, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, decorative hardware, lighting, furnishings and home accessories imported from Asia: primarily China, Indonesia, India, and Taiwan.
Founded in 1999 by Kentucky natives Mike and Matt Butler, Clawfoot Supply was one of the successful specialty web retailers at the dawn of the age of internet retailing, selling upscale antique reproduction tubs, faucets and other bath fixtures modeled on those available in the late Victorian Era.
Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. is the largest distributor of residential and commercial plumbing supplies, pipe, valves and fittings in the U.S. through some 1,350 store locations.
It sells primarily to the trades but is increasingly reaching out to consumers, especially over the internet.
Founded in Australia as an engineering company, it has morphed into a multi-national distributor of plumbing fixtures, fittings, pipes, and supplies to the professional market. It has 47,000 employees in 22 countries.
The company has been wholly owned by UK-based Ferguson PLC since 1982. The U.S. is its largest market, accounting for 84% of its trading profit.
Ferguson PLC was known as Wolseley PLC until 2017 when it renamed itself "to align the group’s name with our most significant brand in our largest market" according to CEO John Martin.
It retained the Wolseley name in Canada where, operating as Wolseley Canada Inc., It distributes plumbing, HVAC. waterworks and fire protection products through supply stores in nine Provinces and operates retail showrooms under various trade names including Kitchen & Bath Classics, Vague & Vogue, TAPS Bath, and Wolseley Studio.
Ferguson has been on an expansion tear over the past five years, including the purchase of 13 companies in 2017, with little evidence of slowing. It is financing its expansion, at least in part, through the sale of its struggling Scandinavian subsidiary, Stark Group, in 2017 and its earlier sale of the building materials company, Silvan Kaeden A/S.
After decades of selling only to trade professionals in North America, it is aggressively reaching for a larger share of the DIY and homeowner market, primarily through acquisitions of internet-based retailers, as the expansion of private buying groups cuts into Ferguson's sales to builders and contractors. Buying groups allow trade professionals to bypass distributors like Ferguson and negotiate directly with suppliers for lower prices.
In addition to Signature Hardware, Ferguson has added Build.com, a web-based seller of home improvement products, and Build.com's specialty sites: eFaucets.com, Faucets Direct, Lighting Direct, and Lighting Showplace to its growing roster of internet companies.
It has also developed a catalog of private label faucets to supplement the national brands it has sold for decades. These include its own brands of in-house faucets that include to which it has now added the Signature Hardware brand.
In 2005 the company registered "Signature Hardware" as a legal trading name and ceased conducting business as Clawfoot Supply. The company was purchased by Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. in 2016. Ferguson is the largest distributor of residential and commercial plumbing supplies, pipe, valves and fittings in the U.S. and Canada (as Wolseley Canada Inc.) through some 1,600 locations (See sidebar).
Signature Hardware's faucets and other plumbing fixtures and accessories are private label products, purchased wholesale in Asia and re-branded for retail sale under the Signature Hardware name. It sells primarily through its own website, through online retailers that host third-party sellers such as Amazon, Wayfair, and Houzz. amd on Ferguson's other internet sites that specialize in home improvement products such as Build.com.
The company sells not only bath and kitchen fixtures but also lighting, bathroom furniture and accessories, home decor products, and decorative hardware for doors, windows, and cabinets, even range hoods, much of it organized into coordinated collections that can extend even to linen, bedding and air return grills.
Signature Hardware's chief competitors in the North American market are
- VTB, Inc. trading as Vintage Tub & Bath, which sells many similar products including its private label line of faucets, showers, tubs, and accessories.
- Northern Central Distributing, a retailer, and distributor of its own private brand
- an English internet retailer that sell faucets in the U.S. and Canada over the internet from its base in Lancashire.
At one time Signature Hardware sold faucets manufactured in Europe and the U.S. These included faucets from Sign-of-the-Crab (which at the time were made in the U.S; now they are made in Taiwan.) and upscale European brands: from England, and a few Italian faucet lines that seemed to vary from year to year.
In 2009 it was selling some Franz Viegener faucets made in Argentina but that relationship was short lived.
We have not seen any of these premium brands on the company's website for almost a decade. Herbeau Creations of America, Inc.
Prior to 2010 when most of its suppliers were still European,the company routinely identified the country of origin of its faucets.
It no longer does so.
In fact, Signature Hardware goes to extraordinary lengths to conceal the actual manufacturers of its faucets and the countries from which the faucets are imported. A spokesman for the company told us in response to an inquiry that Signature Hardware "deems" the identity of its manufacturers to be "proprietary" information not to be shared with the general public.
We, however, are all about sharing with the general public. After research through customs and import records for the past five years, we are entirely confident that Signature Hardware's faucets are manufactured in China and Taiwan.
We have identified the following faucet suppliers:
- Jiangsu L.S.H. Faucet Co., Ltd. (China) an manufacturer that has only recently begun selling faucets in the U.S. under its own
- Taizho USA Ngdian Import & Export Co., Ltd. (China); an export broker. Typically brokers handle exports for small faucet factories, but we have been unable to identify the factories.
- Yuhuan Kingjoy Metal Products Co. Ltd. (China); a company that also manufactures faucets for Home Product America, Inc., a Canadian importer selling through Costco and at online hosting retail outlets such as Wayfair under the
- Duratak Co., Ltd., (Taiwan) a manufacturer of brass faucets, primarily for the bath.
- NCIP, Inc., a Taiwanese manufacturer of brass faucets that also manufactures faucets for
- Elite Plumbing Fixture Co., Ltd. (Taiwan); a manufacturer of brass faucets that also makes faucets for
- Rin Shing Metal Co., Ltd. (Taiwan), also the manufacturer of a few
These are almost certainly not Signature Hardware's only faucet suppliers, and the company changes manufacturers from time to time. In the recent past, it also purchased faucets from:
- Deluxe Brassware Co., Ltd. (Taiwan); which sells faucets in Asia under its Lolat brand and manufactures the faucets, bath fillers and showers sold by was a Signature Hardware supplier until 2016.
- CAE Sanitary Fittings Industry Co., Ltd. (China) which manufactures for ended its relationship with Signature Hardware in 2016.
- Heshan Khone Sanitary Ware Technology Co., Ltd. a Chinese manufacturer that sells its own Zhien and Khone brand bathwares in China, including several faucets on which it has received Chinese design patents, has not manufactured for Signature Hardware since 2015.
By the time you read this, Signature Hardware's lineup of faucet suppliers may have changed again. In fact, we expect it to become more aligned with simply to reduce complexity in Ferguson's supply chain.
The collection has been assembled by someone with a talent for coordinating styles but there is nothing unique or novel about most of the individual faucets themselves.
Asian designs tend to be middle-of-the-road and to follow the pack rather than lead it. The goal of Asian faucet manufacturers is to sell as many faucets as possible, which means keeping their designs well within the mainstream to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. Few design adventures take place in China or Taiwan. Most designs are largely adopted from Europe and the U.S. faucet styles that have sold well in the marketplace. It does not take long for a successful design to be imitated by Asian factories. The lag time is usually 3 to 5 years, by which time, of course, the "new" design is no longer new.
Signature Hardware faucets are largely these middle-of-the-road, generic Taiwanese/Chinese designs right out of each manufacturer's They are neither designed by nor created expressly for Signature Hardware.
- The Signature Hardware Portnoy Kitchen Faucet is manufactured by L.S.H. and appears in its web catalog as the LH 88502B2 Spring Kitchen Faucet;
- The angular and dramatic Willis widespread waterfall lavatory faucet was designed by Kingjoy and appears in its catalog as a port of the KJ806 series of lavatory faucets;
- The Vivian retractable wall-mount pot filler is made by Rin Shing and appears in its catalog as the PF-35 pot filler; and
- The Crisscross widespread bathroom faucet is made by NCIP and identified as the T80945 Crisscross Widespread faucet in the NCIP
There are always exceptions, of course. Some of Signature Hardware's more expensive faucets feature design that is both interesting and novel. One example is the hand-sculpted Goss touchless faucet in bronze shown above. This is definitely a faucet we have seen nowhere else but its unusual features may well attract the same buyers that admire faucets.
Many of the faucets sold by Signature Hardware faucets are also sold by other importers of Chinese and Taiwanese faucets. The duplication arises from the fact that the companies that provide their faucets to Signature Hardware sell the same faucets to other importers.
Rin Shing Metal Co., Ltd. of Taiwan, for example, manufactures faucets sold by Signature Hardware, which certainly helps explain the striking similarity among these product lines. One important difference is that the faucets sold by these other companies are certified while Signature Hardware faucets are not.
The mechanics of the faucets are about average. Faucet bodies are typically stainless steel or brass but handles, baseplates, and other ancillary parts may be cast out of less expensive zinc or zinc/aluminum alloy: ZAMAK. This is a very common feature of discount faucets (and some premium faucets). Zink and ZAMAK do not have the strength of brass but are safe to use where that strength is not needed and do not affect the durability of a faucet if used judiciously. Its use saves a few bucks on the cost of the faucet.
The company's faucet cartridges are generic Chinese, and it is likely that each manufacturer uses a different Chinese cartridge. We could not identify some of them but we are fairly sure that some Signature Hardware faucets contain ceramic cartridges made by Sedal S.L.U. Others appear to be KGC cartridges manufactured by Kuching International, Ltd. and Quore cartridges made by Ningbo Wanhai Cartridge Technology Co., Ltd. All of these are made in China. They are widely used by Asian manufacturers of faucets destined for export to Western markets. None is the best ceramic cartridge made but they are good enough to last five years or more with reasonable care.
We did not find any of the better Asian cartridges such as those made by Geann Industrial Co. in Taiwan or any of the premium European cartridges like the Kerox Kft ceramic cartridges made in Hungary. But since we have not examined every faucet sold by the company, we cannot swear that some of its faucets are not equipped with these better cartridges. (For more in-depth information about ceramic cartridges, see "Faucet Valves & Cartridges".)
As many as ten different finishes are available including polished chrome, stainless steel, brushed nickel, polished nickel, polished brass, antique copper, oil rubbed bronze, dark antique bronze, black, and matte black.
Not every faucet is available in every finish and the finishes that are available vary by manufacturer. Almost all faucets are available in chrome, most in brushed nickel and some in oil rubbed bronze and polished nickel. The remaining finishes are available on a few faucets. The company charges a premium for some finishes which is added to the base cost of the faucet. Any added expense for a finish is clearly shown on the website.
All finishes of the faucets we examined were electroplated except black and matte black which are powder coatings.
Powder coatings are essentially very durable paints. Dry pigments are sprayed onto the faucet, then baked at about 400°F to set the coating. This causes the powder particles to melt, flow together and bind to the metal of the faucet. The result is a tough finish, more durable than most liquid paints but not nearly as robust as PVD coatings or electroplated metal finishes. Powder coatings will chip and scratch with rough handling, and the damage is not usually covered under warranty. These finishes are falling out of favor as PVD is coaxed by engineers into reliably producing the colors and finish effects that were once available only as powder coatings.
The company does not offer the newer technology Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) finishes. PVD finishes are very hard (Rockwell HRC-80+, Vicker HV-2600+), about 20 times harder than plated chrome, and so resistant to staining and corrosion that they can easily withstand even very harsh household chemicals, and (for you seaside dwellers) salt-laden air. Washing with a mild detergent periodically to remove surface soiling and watermarks is all the maintenance that is required. PVD coatings are now the preferred faucet finishes for residential use. Some companies, such as have used nothing but else on their faucets for a number of years.
The Electroplated finish, however, is usually good enough. It has been the most common type of faucet finish for over 100 years and is still most often used even by upscale faucet manufacturers. It has been many years since "China chrome" could be scraped off with a fingernail. Chinese electroplating is as good as any in the world. (For more on faucet finishes, see Faucet Basics, Part 5: Finishes and Coatings.)
Be careful when matching antique copper or oil rubbed bronze finishes. These are seldom the same from manufacturer to manufacturer and the different shadings can be quite obvious. If possible, buy faucets and accessories from the same manufacturer.
To extend its catalog of faucets, Signature Hardware often buys its faucets without handles, then attaches handles to a base faucet as the product is ordered. This permits the company to reduce the number of faucets in inventory while still offering its customers a variety of different appearances in the same base faucet.
Signature Hardware's lifetime warranty is a Ferguson upgrade from its original 5-year faucet warranty. The warranty covers "manufacturing and mechanical" defects. We rate it as "meeting or exceeding" the standard North American warranty, putting the company in good company with the likes of all of which offer warranties (combined with exceptional warrant claims service) that exceed the North American standard. The warranty protects the original buyer only and is not transferable to a subsequent owner.
It is a full warranty, not the limited warranty offered by most faucet companies. A full warranty gives the buyer more protection, including the additional guarantees provided by each state's implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for purpose. (For an examination of the difference between the two types of warranty, see How to Win the Warranty Game).
The warranty has been in effect for just a short time, and we do not yet have much information about how well warranty claims are handled by the company. In general, however, we have found the company's post-sale customer service as courteous and effective. It includes actual plumbers on staff to answer technical questions. We know of no other company that provides this sort of service. We rated it 4.2 on a 5 point scale. Anything above 4.0 is acceptable. The only down mark was for long wait times that at times exceeded 20 minutes. Anything over 3 minutes is unacceptable. We should note, however, that these long wait times, while fairly common two years ago, have improved in recent months.
As part of our tests, we return faucets to judge the effectiveness of the return process. The returns to Signature Hardware were handled with dispatch and the purchase price credited immediately. Be aware that for faucets that are not damaged or defective you will not be refunded any of the original shipping charges and will pay the return shipping. If you live in Alaska, Hawaii or Canada, also be aware that shipping charges can be substantial, sometimes equaling or exceeding the cost of the faucet. Always get a shipping estimate from customer service before ordering.
The Better Business Bureau rates the company an A+ on a scale of A+ to F for satisfactorily handling consumer issues. The company is BBB accredited which entails an extensive vetting and an agreement to adhere to very high business standards.
Signature Hardware is a Marketeer and Marketeers do not usually have an organized replacement parts program that maintains an inventory of parts for current and discontinued faucets. The company's ad hoc solution to the spare parts problem, according to several customer service agents to whom we have spoken, is to scavenge parts from other faucets still on the shelf as needed, or, if the faucet is no longer being made, to replace a defective faucet during the warranty period with a "comparable" faucet.
We expect this to change under the stewardship of Ferguson Enterprises. Ferguson is a master of replacement parts, and we expect that mastery to be transferred to Signature Hardware.
The company's website was redesigned in 2014 by Magento Commerce as an advanced e-commerce platform. It is very visual and easy to navigate. The company sells primarily through its own website, so we would expect it to be exceptional, and we were not disappointed.
The produt search feature is robust and uses fuzzy search logic. If you mistype a word, it will often find the item anyway. You can filter searches by faucet type, handle style, price and so on to narrow the initial result set. The filters work correctly.
Non-product searches in the site's knowledge base such as on terms like "warranty", "returns" and "terms of service" were also effective, pulling up the results we expected. However, there is no obvious way to tell whether the search box appear on a page is linked to product search or the knowledge base, which can lead to some frustration when a search on "returns" products several pages of miscellaneous products from heat registerss to mailboxes.
In a sampling of faucet pages, we found the descriptive information provided for most faucets to be reasonably adequate. Under a heading "Technical Information" there are links to .pdf documents that can be downloaded to supplement the description. For most faucets there include installation instructions and what is called "Specifications". The specifications, however, are usually nothing more than a measured drawing of the faucet — nothing in the nature of actual detailed specifications. But, the faucet descriptions are detailed enough that further detailed specification is probably redundant.
For most faucets, several images are provided showing different views of the faucet often in different finishes making it easier to visualize the faucet from all angles and in several finishes.
The installation instructions are easy to follow, well-illustrated, and comprehensive. Our plumbers rated the installation of our test faucets as Very Easy on our four-point scale: Very Hard to Very Easy. For some faucets, the installation instructions include an exploded parts diagram. Others do not have the diagram, which is very useful if you ever have to order repair parts.
There is no information about a faucet's cartridge other than a mention that it is ceramic.
These are mostly economy and mid-priced faucets in the $100-$300 price range. But, Signature Hardware has added a number of faucets in the higher price ranges in recent years, up to nearly $700 for some manual faucets and over $3,000 for one touch-free automatic faucet — one of the most expensive automatic faucets we know about.
Faucets are an important part of drinking water systems in North America, and every part of a drinking water system is strictly regulated at all levels of government: local, state and federal. All plumbing codes in effect in Canada and the U.S. require faucets to meet certain basic standardsNote 1 in order to be connected to community water supplies, and state and provincial laws require compliance for the faucet to be sold within the state or provinceNote 2.
The basic faucet standards and the tests to be used to confirm compliance with the standards are set out in ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 which establishes the joint U.S./Canadian requirements for the safety, integrity and mechanical reliability of faucets, and ANSI/NSF 61/9 which specifies the North American "lead-free" and drinking water safety requirements including tests for toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury. Faucets that are not certified compliant with these standards by an independent laboratory may not be legally installed in a drinking water system in the U.S. or Canada.
In addition, U.S. law also requires certification that a faucet meets the water flow limits imposed by the U. S. Energy Policy and Conservation Act. An uncertified faucet cannot be legally "distributed in commerce", which means that it cannot be sold, offered for sale, advertised for sale or delivered in the United States.Note 3
We initially searched for Signature Hardware's faucet certificates when we first reviewed the company in 2011 but did not find a single one. So we asked the company for its listing file number(s). Each certificate has a file or registry number, making it easy to quickly find a listing. Our request was met with a series of evasions, half-truths, and delays for most of three years. During that time, the company identified just one file number — and it turned out to be a certificate for another company. When we pointed that out, the Signature Hardware refused to provide any more file numbers. Its customer agents, however, continued to assure us as by e-mail that all Signature Hardware faucets "are certified…, period".
In January 2015 we received a letter from Brett GreenhalghNote 4, the Chief Financial Officer of Signature Hardware. The letter restated the company's claim that its faucets are in compliance with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 and with the lead-free and drinking water safety requirements of ANSI/NSF 61/9 but once more declined to provide the company's listing certificates. He stated:
"We have these certificates and provide them to legitimate customers. We do not post them publically [sic] nor do we carelessly distribute them. These certificates contain important supplier information that we deem to be proprietary. Publically [sic] posting these certificates would publish our supply base to our competitors, which we elect not to do."In other words, "We have the certificates but they're secret.".
Listing certificates, however, are not secret. They are published in online databases maintained by each authorized testing organization. If a certificate exists at all, it is a public document and we will find it. If it is not in one of the public databases, then it does not exist.
As of the date of this review, none of the seven organizationsNote 5 authorized to test and certify faucets for the U.S./Canadian market list Signature Hardware or Clawfoot Supply faucets as being tested and certified. None of the seven have authorized Signature Hardware to use its trademarked certification symbols. We know this because we carefully searched the public database at every single one of these organizations then confirmed our findings with a follow-up telephone call to ensure that we had not missed anythingNote6.
A valid listing certificate must clearly show the company name, brand name (if different) and the model number (or name) of the faucet being certified. It must show a date indicating that the certificate is current, and clearly identify the standard or standards to which the faucets listed in the certificate are being certified.
A company may not certify a faucet under an alias or fictitious name. Nor may one company certify another company's faucets unless the second company's name and models are added to the certificate. The certificate then becomes a multiple-company listing for two (or more) companies: a "primary" listing company and one or more "additional" listing companies.
It is hard to fathom why Signature Hardware persists in its claim that its faucets are certified in the face of overwhelming evidence from immediately available public sources that they are not.
It must be some sort of risk-reward calculation that concluded that the risk of not complying with the laws and regulations requiring certification is outweighed by the cost of compliance. But, if that's indeed the case, the company needs a better calculator.
For just one of the required certifications — the certification of flow rate required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act — the penalty for non-compliance is $440.00 per day for each uncertified faucet offered for sale in the U.S.Note 7 As of the date of this report, Signature Hardware offered about 300 basic bathroom sink and kitchen faucetsNote 8 for sale on its website. None of these is certified, so the penalty risked is $132,000 per day. Assuming that the average faucet has been offered for sale for 100 days, the cumulative penalty risked as of today would be just over $13 million. We suspect that the average faucet has been offered for sale for a lot longer, probably closer to 5 years or 1,826 days.
The U.S. Department of Energy is underfunded and understaffed for the enormous job it is charged with doing, including enforcing this regulation, and it has been criticized by its own inspector general for lax enforcement but it eventually gets around to everyone. No matter the cost or inconvenience of certification, the benefit of not certifying cannot possibly outweigh a penalty that could be very costly.
And, that's just one of the possible penalties for selling uncertified faucets, there are many more. Selling unapproved faucets in California, for example, can result in a $2,500 penalty for each sale and another $2,500 if the faucet is then installed in California. In Georgia, selling an uncertified faucet is a criminal offense. So, there is quite a bit of risk entailed by not following the laws that regulate faucets. (For more information, see Faucet Basics, Part 3: Keeping Faucets Safe & Reliable.)
Imported Asian faucets comparable to those sold by Signature Hardware include
Signature Hardware faucets are made by well-regarded manufacturers and supported by a strong warranty and capable customer service. Were the faucets certified the company would ordinarily be due a fairly high rating. Unfortunately, however, they are not certified, so we have to give Signature Hardware a big thumbs down. Its faucets do not comply with the laws and regulations of the U.S. or Canada and are not legal to sell in the U.S. or in most Canadian Provinces. They are not legal to install in any drinking water system anywhere in North America.
If you are in the market for an inexpensive Asian-made faucet, another of the suppliers listed above would be a better choice. All sell faucets that are known to be certified safe, reliable and lead-free and authorized for use in U.S. and Canadian water supplies. They may not all be good faucets but they are at least safe faucets, and legal to sell and install.
Be aware that Signature Hardware is not above pulling a little sleight-of-hand in which it passes off a manufacturer's certificate as its own. How this works is illustrated by the experience of one of our readers. She requested a listing certificate for the Shannon Widespread Bathroom Faucet showing that
"…this particular faucet is lead-free. I have little children and I want to be as safe as possible."Signature Hardware customer service responded: "Here's the certification for the item: http://pld.iapmo.org/file_info.asp?file_no=0003814."
If you follow the link you will find a listing certificate for Rin Shing Metal Co. Neither Signature Hardware nor Clawfoot Supply appears on the certificate and the faucet model, "Shannon," is not listed in the certificate.
Since not all of the Asian manufacturers that make Signature Hardware faucets certify their products to U.S./Canadian standards, this ruse will not work in all instances. And, even if a manufacturer certifies some of its faucets, there is no guarantee that only those certified faucets are supplied to Signature Hardware. So a manufacturer's listing certificate can never substitute for a Signature Hardware listing certificate.
Do not rely on certification marks that may be stamped into or imprinted on the faucet (See "Faucet Listing Certificates", sidebar). None of the certifying organizations that own these marks has not Signature Hardware faucets or authorized the company to impress the UPC mark on its faucets." (For more information on certification marks used by each testing organization, see Faucet Basics, Part 3: Keeping Faucets Safe & Reliable. )
If you actually do manage to pry a listing certificate out of Signature Hardware that shows the company as the owner of the certificate (and good luck with that, even if you are what Mr. Greenhalgh describes as a "legitimate customer"), e-mail us a copy. We'd like to see what an actual Signature Hardware listing certificate looks like. We have been trying for most of a decade to get one.
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Signature Hardware faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.