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2712 McGaw Ave.
Irvine, CA 92614
(Below North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
Markimes, Inc., is a distributor of plumbing and heating products that sells its private brand Ultra and Virtu faucets, primarily through its associated dealers. The faicets are made in China by several well-regarded factories. These are basic faucets of good quality with Chinese ceramic cartridges. The styling is nothing to write home about. The designs are typical of Chines-made faucets, available from dozens of other importers of Chinese faucets (see list below). For the price, however, Ultra and Virtu fauces are a reasonable value.
Ultra and Virtu are brand names under which Markimex, Inc. sells faucets and decorative bathroom accessories. The company, founded in 1994 by Chih-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 faucet line is 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 our rating, above. 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. They are 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:
All of these companies are well regarded ODM/OEM suppliers of reasonable quality, but inexpensive plumbing and sanitary products. Seagull's customers, for example, include
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. 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 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 better than we would expect for a discount faucet, but not quite up to the North American standard pioneered by in the 1960s. Our major objection is the requirement that any defective part be returned to Markimex for inspection before it will be replaced under warranty. This is wholly unnecessary in the digital age of clear, high resolution, smart phone photos. Moreover, it often costs the company more to inspect the defect than it would to just replace the part. So, it's just plain dumb, and the provision cost the company in our warranty rating. Without it, the company's warranty would score as average. With it, the brand scores below average.
The Virtu warranty is 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. However, at no time has customer service ever actually asked us if a plumber installed a Virtu faucet.
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. Each faucet has attached to it a .pdf page of specifications which lists the certifications that apply to the faucet, the finishes in which it is available and other no-nonsense, useful information a plumber will generally look for. It makes selecting a suitable faucet very easy.
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.
Ultra and Virtu faucets have lots of competition from other Chinese and Taiwanese faucets, including: If you have had an experience with a Ultra faucet, — good, bad or indifferent — that you would like to share, please drop us a note or leave a comment below.