Review & Rating
2712 McGaw Ave.
Irvine, CA 92614
Footnotes:1. "Ultra Faucets warrants to the original purchaser that its products will be free from defects in workmanship and materials. All Ultra Faucets are provided with a life time limited warranty...."Note: The term "lifetime" is not defined so, by default, it means the actual lifetime of the buyer so long as the buyer continues to own the faucet. If the buyer moves and takes the faucet to the new house, the warranty continues.
This Company In Brief
Ultra and Virtu are brand names under which Markimex, Inc. sells faucets, vanities and decorative bathroom accessories. The company, founded in 1994 by Chin-Fan Tang, is a distributor of plumbing and heating products, operating out of 40,000 square foot warehouse/distribution center in Irvine, California. Markimex is a distributor and only a distributor. It has no interest in any form of retailing, and does not in any manner cater to the retail customer or do-it-yourselfer. It does not even grant access to its company web site to any but its wholesale customers with a password.
The Ultra faucet line is a little unusual in that it includes faucets for recreational vehicles and motor homes. These are made for Markimex by Chi Liu Enterprises Co. of Chung Ko Village, Taiwan.
It also includes plastic faucets (always identified as "non-metallic" faucets). Plastic faucets have their place. They work anywhere a temporary faucet is needed, or where the presence of any metal in a faucet might cause a problem, as in a laboratory. But, as a general rule, plastic faucets are not permanent faucets and should be avoided for home use.
Neither plastic faucets nor faucets designed for motor homes or recreational vehicles are included in this review or our rating. The rating applies only to faucets made of metal and installed in houses that do not have wheels or move around.
Markimex's faucets are made in China. The faucets are faucets designed in the Chinese factories that make them. They are not exclusive to Markimex. Known manufacturers of Ultra and Virtu faucets as of the date of this report are
- (Xiamen) Goodro Kitchen and Bath a Chinese manufacturer that has just recently begun exporting to North America,
- (Guangzhou) Seagull Kitchen and Bath Products Co., Ltd. of Guangdong, China,
- (Guangzhou) Neon Plumbing Products Co. , China, and
- (Xiamen) Weco Kitchen and Bath Industry Co., Ltd. also from China.
- (Jangsu) L.S.H. Faucet Co., Ltd..
All of these companies are well regarded suppliers of reasonable quality, but inexpensive plumbing and sanitary products. Seagull's customers, for example, encompass almost the entire who's-who of faucet companies selling in the U.S. and Canada including
These are basic Chinese faucets of average quality with Chinese ceramic cartridges. The styling is nothing to write home about. In fact, the "Classic" collection has styling that reminds us of Delta/Moen faucets of the 1960s and 70s — perfect if you are recreating a period kitchen or bath, but otherwise not very interesting.
Chinese faucets rarely display design originality. They tend to be middle-of-the-road and to follow the pack rather than lead it. The goal of Chinese 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. Designs are often adopted from Europe and North America. A design that sells well in these major markets will often be imitated by Asian factories. The lag time is usually 3 to 5 years, so by the time a design appears in a Chinese faucet it is no longer new.
A retail customer can buy an Ultra or Virtu faucet only on line from general merchandisers such as Amazon or Wayfair, from big lumber stores like Home Depot and from specialized plumbing stores like Build.com and Faucet.com. Both Ultra and Virtu have their own web sites, but they are information only. Faucets are not sold trough the sites.
For the price, both faucet lines are a reasonable value, although the skimpy five-year Virtu warranty suggests that Ultra is probably a better buy with its lifetime warranty. We can see them being installed in a little used powder room, or even a laundry, but we would probably not consider one for a busy kitchen or family bathroom. Many of the designs are intended primarily for apartments and for purchase in gross lots by builders — discount pricing for full-pallet orders is available.
The Ultra faucet warranty is much better than we would expect for a discount faucet and meets the North American standard pioneered by in the 1960s. Our major objection in the past was the requirement that any defective part be returned to Markimex for inspection before it will be replaced under warranty. This provision no longer appears in the updated Ultra or Virtu warranties — and to be fair, as far as we know, was never actually enforced by Markimex.
The Virtu warranty is for five years, far below the North American standard. Faucets "must be installed by a licensed contractor". DIY installation voids the warranty — a little catch for the unwary. At no time has Virtu customer service ever actually asked us if a plumber installed a Virtu faucet, but the fact that it is written into the warranty means it could be enforced, so the company lost points for the provision.
The company's web sites are well laid out and easy to use. There are no "Flash"-y promotional graphics to slow things down and get in the way, and the logic of the site is simple to follow. Navigation is a breeze. Both sites are easily the cleanest, easiest to use faucet websites we have seen. If you get lost on either site, it means you must be trying to get lost.
Both sites provide reasonably adequate information about its faucet, but the Ultra site is the better of the. Each faucet listing is linked to a .pdf page of specifications which lists the certifications that apply to the faucet, the finishes in which it is available. There is also a link to the installation instructions, also in the universal .pdf format, often in three languages (English, French and Spanish). An exploded parts diagram and a dimension drawing of the faucet is usually contained on one or the other of the downloads. Where they appear and how much information they contain clearly depends on which manufacturer made the faucet and the graphic information that the manufacturer provides.
We would like to see better imaging. Faucets are depicted in one 3/4 view — not adequate for fully visualizing the faucet. Several views, including images of an installed faucet would be better. Even more useful would a 360° view the user can rotate such as is provided by faucets. There is no identification on either website of the identify of faucet cartridges. We would like to see the cartridge manufacturer identified.
For architects and designers there are no 2d drawings in any common CAD formation, and no Revit models.
The faucets are available on just a few basic finishes. All can be found in chrome, most in brushed nickel and a few in oil rubbed bronze or stainless steel. The finishes available depend to a great extent on which finishes the actual manufacturer of a faucet has to offer. All finishes carry a lifetime warranty on Ultra faucets, 5-years on Virtu faucets.
Ultra and Virtu faucets have lots of competition from other Chinese and Taiwanese faucets, including:
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Ultra faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.