|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
Sign of the Crab, L.L.C.
3756 Omec Circle
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
(Below North American Standard)
A designer and specifier of very good to excellent bath faucets, Strom is strong in reproduction fixtures and fittings, especially for Victorian and Edwardian era bathrooms. It sells a vast and varied collection of cast iron and acrylic clawfoot, pedestal and other free-standing tubs, and the water supply and drain fixtures to fit them. It also sells a classic collection of about a dozen sink faucets for the bathroom that fit the Victorian period, but would also
be suitable for any reproduction bathroom through the Arts & Crafts period, including at least one Art Deco faucet that we like very much. The Strom collection is so extensive, varied and diverse that we can say with considerable confidence that if it fits a Victorian or Arts and Crafts bath, Strom probably makes it, and more than one of it.
For more than 30 years, the focus at Strom was solidly on engineering and manufacturing. But, then the company changed hands. Francis E. Strom has been replaced by Larry Harris Jacobs as president. Mr. Jacobs, formerly the sales manager at Strom, has changed the company's direction slightly to focus more on design and marketing.
Strom designs all of its own wares, including its distinctive faucets, while contracting actual manufacturing to Taiwanese and Chinese factories. Techu Mfg. Inc. of Taipei, Taiwan is the primary manufacturer of Strom faucets. Another Taiwan company, Foremost Worldwide Co., ltd. provides its ceramic lavatory sinks and consoles. Strom also buys its wares from China. Linyi Luxing Enamel Co., Ltd. produces its cast iron bath tubs, and Morris Sanitary Ware Co., Ltd. its acrylic tubs. However, other than Deluxe Brassware Co., Ltd. that makes some small components for Strom faucets, all Strom faucets appear to be from Techu.
Strom faucets have always been justly famous for their quality. All are made of solid lead-free brass, formed by sand casting or by forging in steel molds. Sand casting brass is a traditional technology for making facets. A sand mold is made for each faucet, and destroyed in the process, which means a new mold must be made for each separate casting.
Forging is somewhat newer, much faster, and by most accounts produces a better product. Heat softened brass is pressed into a steel mold at great pressure to form the shape of the faucet. Each mold can be used hundreds if not thousands of times, reducing the cost of producing a faucet. According to our resident engineer, forgings normally have less surface porosity, finer grain structure, higher tensile strength, better fatigue resistance, and greater ductility than castings, and are less likely to contain voids. Fatigue resistance and ductility are important to the longevity of faucets which are constantly subjected to changing water temperature which results in repeated expansion and contraction.
After casting or forging, each faucet is machined to its final form on using computer controlled milling machines that ensure absolute accuracy. A forged faucet generally requires less machining that a sand cast faucet, also saving cost. The faucet is then polished to get it ready for finishing.
Strom's impeccable faucet finishes are a big part of its sterling reputation among the retro-reproduction folks (photographs do not do justice to the actual finishes). Its polished chrome and nickel finishes are legendary and its "Supercoat" protective finish for brass fixtures took the "polish" out of brass long before super tough PVD finishes were available. The Supercoat finish was, in large part, responsible for the resurgence of native brass as a faucet finish in reproduction heritage bathrooms in North America. It is a 2 part epoxy, applied electrostatically, and baked on to insure a lasting shine. It is warranted for the life of the product.1 Supercoat has now been trumped, however, by a newer technology, Physical Vapor Deposition or PVD. PVD "brass" finishes, which are actually zirconium, look like brass, but are nearly as hard as diamonds — by some estimates 20 times harder then electroplated chrome.
Strom's other finishes include matte nickel and oiled rubbed bronze. Matte nickel is not guaranteed at all, and oil rubbed bronze is guaranteed until it is installed, then its warranty ends. Chrome and polished nickel are guaranteed for just five years.
Until a dozen years ago Strom faucets used the venerable compression cartridge in its faucets. A good technology, but now severely dated and requiring fairly frequent maintenance. Strom has adopted a quarter-torn ceramic cartridge. This cartridge is nearly maintenance-free and will give many years of reliable service, but if it ever does fail, replacement cartridges are widely available and can be easily replaced in most faucets with simple hand tools without dismounting the faucet.
Strom claims that each faucet is individually assembled and tested in the U.S. The company admits, however, that its U.S. assembly is not sufficiently "transformative" to qualify for "Assembled in U.S.A." status. Usually it is not much more than attaching the appropriate handles (and possibly aerators to achieve a specified water flow rate).
Strom's products are designed to work together. Its tub faucets fit its clawfoot and pedestal tubs modification, and its sink faucets coordinate in style and finish, which saves you (or your plumber) the worry of wondering whether the various fixtures and fittings in your new old bathroom will fit together. They will.
The company's new corporate focus on marketing has affected how it sells its products. Strom was at one time strictly a wholesaler, selling only to plumbers and retailers with an existing account. It is now moving into the mass markets, and sells at least some of its less complex products through Lowes, and increasingly through internet plumbing suppliers. You can even buy some Strom products through Amazon and the Sign of the Crab website. Quite shocking to us old-timers.
However, you are unlikely to find Strom products at a deep discount, no matter where you buy them. Strom enforces a strict price protection policy for internet sales. No authorized dealer is permitted to advertise a discount on the internet of more than 30% from Strom's listed price. This does not mean that a dealer cannot sell at a lower price, it just cannot be advertised for sale over the internet. The policy applies only to internet sales. In a showroom, a dealer can advertise any discount without limit.
There is a legitimate basis for this policy. Many of Strom's products require careful coordination to work together properly. You can't just pick a tub and a tub faucet at random. The professional help needed to make the various pieces fit is available only from a restoration plumber experienced with Strom products or at an authorized Strom showroom. Strom's pricing policy helps protect showrooms from the customer who selects all of his or her products with help from showroom personnel, then buys from an internet discounter. If that goes on for long, it puts showrooms out of the business of selling Strom products, and showrooms are critical to Strom's continued success.
Strom is completely up front about the policy. Nothing hidden or secret about it. The Internet Minimum Advertising Policy (IMAP) statement is available on its web site for all to read.
Strom's 5-year warranty against manufacturing and finish defects is very sub-par for the industry. The standard faucet warranty in the U.S. and Canada is a lifetime warranty introduced by a half century ago. The Supercoat Brass protective finish is, however, "absolutely" guaranteed for as long as the original purchaser owns his or her home But the warranty requires the product to be sent to Strom for refinishing, a process that could take many weeks of being without that particular faucet. Beginning in 2015 Strom's quarter turn ceramic cartridge is also guaranteed for a lifetime. We hope this upgrade is the beginning of a trend that will lead to a general lifetime warranty.
Customer and warranty service is first class, testing at 4.45 out of 5.0 possible points. The Better Business Bureau rates Sign of the Crab A+ in a range of A+ to F, the organization's highest score, based on no consumer complaints in the past three years. Sign of the Crab has been vetted and accredited by the BBB.
Despite the skimpy five-year warranty against manufacturing and finish issues, we view Strom faucets favorably. We would not hesitate to install a Strom faucet in a heavily used bathroom with absolute conviction that it will provide many more than five years of trouble-free service. Strom's is one of the very few faucet lines that StarCraft supports with its own labor warranty. If a Strom 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..
Faucets comparable in style and quality to Strom are also available from Faucets similar in style, but not necessarily in quality, are available from both made in China and Taiwan. Only Restoration Hardware faucets are assembled in the U.S. All of the others are imports.
If you have had an experience with a Strom faucet, — good, bad or indifferent — that you would like to share, please contact us or leave a comment below.