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 standard 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.3. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes warranties freely transferable to a subsequent owner unless the company specifically excludes transferability in writing. Signature Hardware has not done so, which leaves the warranty transferable.
This Company In Brief
Signature Hardware is a trading name under which Clawfoot Supply, LLC imports and sells Asian-made faucets, sinks, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, decorative hardware, furnishings and home accessories.
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 e-tailing, selling upscale antique reproduction tubs, faucets and other bath fixtures modeled on those available in the late Victorian Era.
In 2005 the company registered "Signature Hardware" as a legal trading name and ceased conducting business as Clawfoot Supply. The original Clawfoot Supply web site is now redirected to the Signature Hardware site.
The company's faucets and other plumbing fixtures and accessories are private label products, purchased wholesale and re-branded for retail sale under the Signature Hardware name.
The company sells through its own web site and printed catalogs; and through on-line retailers that host third party sellers such as Amazon and Sears (on-line only) as Nottingham Brass — a name that was once a major Clawfoot Supply in-house brand, but which since has been deemphasized almost to the point of extinction. It's web site is closed. It is now just a redirect to the Signature Hardware web site.
Signature Hardware carries not only bath and kitchen fixtures, but also home lighting, and decorative hardware for doors, windows, and cabinets; much of it organized into a series of coordinated collections that can extend even to matching floor registers and air return grills.
The company's chief competitors are
Signature Hardware's Replacement Parts Problem
Signature Hardware is a retailer, and retailers do not usually even try to provide parts and warranty support for faucets. Most do not provide any post-sale product support at all beyond replacing the faucet if it proves defective on delivery or soon after the sale. Those who do try usually fail miserably — for example.
Retailers usually rely on faucet manufacturers for parts and technical support. With North American-based faucet companies, this works well. If you have a problem with a faucet, you call the technical support hot line and get it solved. If you need parts under warranty, the faucet manufacturer provides you with the parts — not the retail store.
If the faucet manufacturer is not located in North America the product support solution gets a little trickier. Major foreign faucet manufacturers that sell in North America sell through a local subsidiary that provides the necessary support for North American buyers.
Certain European and Asian faucet manufacturers have also established service centers in North America to handle back-end support for the retail chains that buy their faucets for private branding. all provide warranty and parts support for the U.S. and Canadian retail stores that buy and re-brand their faucets. These include
The Canadian hardware giant, RONA, which, like Signature Hardware, buys its store-brand faucets from a number of smaller Asian manufacturers, has taken a different approach. Instead of relying on the manufacturers to provide post-sale service, it simply hired a third party warranty service company, Mecanair, to support its Asian faucets. A call to RONA's warranty number connects directly to Mecanair, which stocks and inventories the needed parts.
Unfortunately, Signature Hardware's Asian manufacturers do not maintain parts operations in North America and are not set up to offer post-sale support for the faucets they sell in bulk to Signature Hardware.
Nor is there any possibility of support available from the factories located in Taiwan or Taiwan. If you could find out which Asian company actually manufactured a particular Signature Hardware faucet (and good luck with that since Signature Hardware guards that information like gold at Fort Knox; it's like pulling teeth just to get an admission that the faucets are made in Asia) contacting the Asian manufacturers would be a total waste of time. As far as they are concerned it is up to the Signature Hardware to arrange for product and parts support.
So, a Catch-22 worthy of Joseph Heller's novel of the same name. But, for you as the faucet buyer, a real and possibly insoluble problem if your Signature Hardware faucet fails.
At one time Signature Hardware sold faucets manufactured in Europe and the U.S. including faucets from Sign-of-the-Crab (which at the time were made in the U.S — now they are also made in Taiwan.) Its European faucets included the upscale faucets from England and a few Italian faucet lines. In 2009 it was selling some Franz Viegener faucets made in Argentina. These were all nice faucet lines, well designed and well made, but we have not seen them on the company's web site for a number of years, so these relationships seem to have have ended some time ago. Perrin & Rowe faucets are now sold in the U.S. and Canada by and Herbeau faucets by 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 its faucets are imported. A spokesman for the company told that one reason the faucets are not certified by an authorized testing service for compliance with mandatory U.S./Canadian standards is that a certification listing document would disclose the identities and of its suppliers.
Brett Greenhalgh, the company's chief financial officer, in a private e-mail, characterized the identity of its manufacturers as "proprietary" — not to be shared with the "general public". We, however, are all about sharing with the general public, and after research through customs and import records for the past five years, are entirely confident that Signature Hardware's faucets are manufactured in China and Taiwan.
We have so far identified the following faucet suppliers:
Yuhuan Kingjoy Metal Products Co. Ltd. a Chinese company that also manufactures faucets for Home Product America, Inc., a Canadian importer selling through Costco under theDeluxe Brassware Co., Ltd. (Taiwan); which sells faucet in Asia under its Lolat brand and manufactures the faucets, bath fillers and showers sold byRin Shing Metal Co., Ltd. (Taiwan), also the manufacturer of a few;CAE Sanitary Fittings Industry Co., Ltd. (China) which manufactures for as well as making faucets for Signature Hardware. CAE is known for casting its faucets from DZR brass, an alloy that resists a chemical process called dezincification. Brass is an alloy of mostly copper and zinc. In contact with water passing through a faucet the brass tends to lose its zinc molecules, which over many years can leave the brass weak and spongy. DZR is very resistant to the process, but manufacturing with DZR is a little tricky since very precise temperature control is required during casting and other hot-metal operations to ensure that the brass does not lose is zincification-resistant properties.L.S.H. Faucet Co., Ltd. (China) an manufacturer that has only recently begun selling faucets in the U.S. under its own L.S.H. brand, primarily throughHeshan 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.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
These are almost certainly not Signature Hardware's only faucet suppliers, and the company changes suppliers from time to time, so by the time you read this, one or more of the manufacturers on this list may no longer be supplying faucets to the company.
The collection has been assembled by someone with an eye to coordinating styles, but there is nothing unique or novel about the individual faucets themselves. They are not cutting edge designs.
Asian designs rarely are. They 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. Asian designs are largely adopted from Europe and the U.S faucet styles that do well in the marketplace. It does not take long for a design that sells well in these major markets to be imitated by Asian factories. The lag time is usually 3 to 5 years, by which time the "new" designs are no longer new.
Signature Hardware faucets are these middle-of-the-road, generic Taiwanese/Chinese designs right out of the each manufacturer's They are neither designed by nor created expressly for Signature Hardware
Many of the faucets sold by Signature Hardware faucets are also sold by other importers of Asian faucets. The Signature Hardware Ariza Kitchen Faucet with Spring Spout (image at top), for example, is also sold by
The duplication arises from the fact that the Asian companies that provide their faucets to Signature Hardware sell the same faucets to other importers. Rin Shin Metal Co., Ltd. of Taiwan, for example, manufactures faucets sold by Signature Hardware, which certainly helps explain the striking similarity among the three product lines.
The mechanics of Signature Hardware faucets are about average. While the faucet bodies are typically all brass, handles, baseplates and other ancillary parts are often the less expensive zinc or zinc alloy: ZAMAK. The company's faucet cartridges are generic Chinese, and it is likely that each manufacturer uses a different Chinese cartridge. We could not identify the manufacturer of some of the cartridges we examined, but, as there are literally dozens of Chinese cartridge manufacturers, and most of the cartridges do not show maker's marks and look very similar, that's not all that surprising
We do know that some Signature Hardware cartridges are made by Sedal S.L.U., in China. Sedal has a reputation for making a good quality ceramic cartridge. Others appear to be KGC cartridges manufactured in China by Kuching International, Ltd. — again, not the best cartridge made, but one of reasonable quality. (For more in-depth information about ceramic cartridges, see "Faucet Valves & Cartridges".)
Signature Hardware's lifetime warranty is a recent upgrade from its original 5-year faucet warranty. It covers manufacturing defects. As written, it is one of the strongest among the Asia Importers, which as a group are not noted for strong warranties. Some offer a little as a one year guarantee. It is also a full warranty and not the limited warranty offered by most faucet companies. (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 it is honored by the company. In general, however, we rate the company's post-sale customer service as courteous but relatively ineffective. In our tests, the company's representatives scored poorly in product knowledge, responsiveness and ability to handle our tester's (purely imaginary) problems — a mere 3.1 out of a possible 5. Any score below 3.5 is a failure. Agents were frequently unable to accurately answer our product questions, did not seem to understand the company's warranty, lied about the country of origin of the faucets (It's not Italy and Germany), and misrepresented the faucet's certification status. The most frequent answer we received from Signature Hardware's customer service was "I don't know."
When we tried to order parts for a four year old faucet (within the former 5-year warranty period) we were told that the faucet was no longer in production and parts were not available, nor could the agent authorize a replacement faucet, but she could offer us a discount on any future purchase of a new faucet.
Signature Hardware does not have an organized replacement parts program. Its ad hoc solution to the spare parts problem, according to several customer service agents we have spoken to, is to scavenge parts from other faucets as needed, or, if the faucet is no longer being made, to replace a defective faucet during the warranty period with a "comparable" faucet — with the company having sole discretion over what is and is not "comparable". After the warranty period, you can probably forget about parts unless the company happens to have a left-over faucet from which it can scrounge. In consequence, the odds are very good that if your Signature Hardware faucet breaks there will be no parts to fix it.
On the other hand, on the two occasions we returned a faucet, the return was handled with dispatch and the purchase price credited immediately.
The Better Business Bureau rates the company any 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.
The company's web site is very visual, well-designed and easy to navigate. In a previous test of the site, we found multiple problems with the accuracy of the site search function — especially for multi-word searches. In our most recent test, however, the site search function worked acceptably.
However, the information provided about faucets on the site is not as complete as it should be. In a sampling of faucet pages, we found the technical information section for most faucets contains almost nothing in the way of actual technical information. Often it is nothing more than a dimensioned drawing of the faucet. This is where we would expect to see detailed specifications, certifications, and a parts diagram.
Most of the information required to make an intelligent buying decision is missing. There is no information about the faucet's cartridge other than a mention that it is ceramic. But, there are good, bad and average ceramic cartridges. Knowing the source of the ceramic cartridge can be the difference between buying a lifetime faucet and one that lasts a year or less.
Similarly, there is no information about the faucet's certifications. 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 standards1 in order to be connected to community water supplies, and many state and provincial laws require compliance for the faucet to be sold within the state or province2.
These 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 and mercury. Faucets that do not meet these standards may not be legally installed, and in most cases cannot be lawfully offered for sale in the U.S. or Canada.
At one time the company identified at least some of the faucets on its web site as "UPC Certified" meaning that the faucets had been tested and certified by IAPMO-RT (see more about this organization in footnotes below) as complying with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1. It no longer does so. Likewise, the company as late as 2013 identified many (but not all) of its faucets as low-lead compliant or sometimes "AB1953 lead-free compliant", which means that a faucet had been tested and met the then applicable lead free standards. After January, 2014 when more stringent nationwide lead free standards required by the amended Safe Drinking Water Act began to be enforced, we no longer could find these claims on the company web site.
But, Signature Hardware customer agents have assured us as by e-mail recently as April, 2016 that all Signature Hardware faucets are "certified lead-free, period". We doubt this claim, however, for the simple reason that we can find no certificates issued by IAPMO-RT or any other authorized testing organization showing that Signature Hardware5 faucets are in compliance with either ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1, ANSI NSF 372 or ANSI/NSF 61.
We initially searched for Signature Hardware's faucet certificates 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 was for another company — not Signature Hardware. When we pointed that out, the company refused to provide any more certificate numbers.
In January, 2015 we received a letter from Brett Greenhalgh6 who identified himself as the Chief Financial Officer of Signature Hardware. The letter restated the company's claim that its faucets are certified as complying 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 again 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, cannot be secret. Listing certificates are, by definition, public documents, the purpose of which is to permit plumbing code officials and the general public to verify that a faucet is indeed certified safe and reliable by looking up the brand and model of the faucet in the list maintained by the certifying organization. There is no such thing as a secret list. Such a list would defeat the goal of the open disclosure of testing and certification results.
There is also no such thing as anonymous certifications. 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. A company cannot certify a faucet under an alias or fictitious name. Nor can one company certify another company's faucet unless the second company's name is 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.
As of the date of this review, none of the seven organizations7 authorized to test and certify faucets for the U.S./Canadian market list Signature Hardware or Clawfoot Supply faucets as being tested and certified. We know that because we carefully searched the listing data base at every single one of these organizations, then confirmed our findings with a follow-up telephone call.
Faucets from a faucet company that does not have a listing certificate in its own name on file are not certified faucets. Faucets that cannot be shown to be certified by an independent agency as complying with both the safety and reliability standards of ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 and the lead-free requirements of ANSI/NSF 61/9 may not be lawfully installed in any water system subject to a plumbing code in North America, all of which require that faucets be tested and certified as complying with these standards1. All of North America is subject to a plumbing code. There is usually a state- or province-wide plumbing code supplemented by individual county and municipal codes. If a county or town does not have its own code, the state code applies.
Certification is particularly important for faucets are made in China where lead poisoning has reached epidemic proportions3 and where the government has not established any lead safety standards and deliberately downplays the enormous risk to children 4 from lead in consumer products. Because the presence of lead cannot be detected from merely looking at a faucet, extensive testing is required leading to the certification of the faucet as lead free. This is precisely the certification that Signature Hardware has failed to obtain.
Imported Asian faucets comparable to those sold by Signature Hardware include
We have to give Signature Hardware a big thumbs down because 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. and most Canadian Provinces or install in any drinking water system 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.
If you do decide, however, to buy a Signature Hardware faucet, demand a listing certificate showing that the faucet fully complies with ASME A.112.18.1/CSA B125.1, and with ANSI/NSF 61/9. These are often separate documents. The minimum requirements for a listing certificate are that it must
Be aware that Signature Hardware often passes off a manufacturer's certificate as its own. The fact that a manufacturer makes some certified faucets does not mean that the faucets it sells to Signature Hardware are in that category. Only if Clawfoot Supply or Signature Hardware is identified on a manufacturer's listing certificate as an "additional company" can you be sure that the manufacturer's listing applies to Signature Hardware faucets.
Do not rely on certification marks such as "UPC" that may be stamped into or imprinted on the faucet. According to IAPMO-RT, the certifying organization that owns the UPC Shield trademark, Signature Hardware faucets are not certified and the company is not authorized to impress the mark on its faucets. For an explanation of the various certification marks that may appear on faucets, see Keeping Faucets Safe.
If you actually do manage to pry a listing certificate away from Signature Hardware (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 verify its bona fides.
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.