Wolverine Brass Faucets Review & Rating Updated: 09/13/18
2951 Hwy. 501 E
Conway, SC 29526
Footnotes:1. Wolverine warrants the original purchaser that our faucets will be drip-free FOR 100 YEARS and all finishes* to be free from defects in material and workmanship FOR 100 years. This warranty covers replacement of cartridges and finish only and does not include labor charges and/or damage incurred in installation."
This Company In Brief
Wolverine used to make a reliable faucet. Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine, the well-respected plumbing industry trade journal, at one time, rated Wolverine as the most reliable faucet made anywhere. That was years ago, however, and we're not so certain that the products are all that reliable any longer.
As late as 2009 a Wolverine vice president was able to state:
"All Wolverine Brass-manufactured products are made in the United States and to a standard not found in most home centers. This includes our lines of residential and commercial faucets, as well as brass valves, ball-cocks and tubular products."
This is no longer true and has not been true for several years. Wolverine still manufactures its commercial faucets but its residential models are mostly made in China. The Wolverine name is no longer a guarantee of a reliable American faucet and has not been for quite a while.
We are also not happy having to report that the company is disregarding the safety and reliability certification requirements that apply as a matter of law to faucets in the U.S. and Canada. It stopped submitting its U.S.-manufactured faucets for testing by third-party independent laboratories just about the time the new lower lead limits for faucets became effective in the U.S. in early 2014.
We have asked several times for an explanation but all inquiries have been ignored by the company.
Only those faucets made for Wolverine by manufacturers in China are known to have been tested and listed as certified. Faucets must be certified annually, and all plumbing codes in effect in the U.S. and Canada require that faucets have a current certificate in order to be installed in a drinking water system. An uncertified faucet cannot be lawfully used in North America for its normal function of dispensing household water, nor may it be lawfully "distributed in commerce" (i.e. sold or offered for sale) in the United States.
Wolverine maintains that even its non-certified faucets are lead-free. But being lead-free, assuming this is true, is only a part of the certification story. Faucets must also be certified drinking-water safe (i.e. free of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, etc.), mechanically safe and reliable to joint Canada/U.S. standards, and in full compliance with the flow-limits specified in federal law.
Wolverine's non-certified faucets have never been subjected to these tests, so no one actually knows whether or not they are truly safe, reliable or meet U.S. flow restrictions.
Founded in 1896, Wolverine Brass, Inc. was a family-owned enterprise until 2001 when it was acquired by Bradford Equities Management, LLC which also owned Professional Plumbing Group, Inc. (PPG). Professional Plumbing Group is a holding company that owns Plumbmaster, a well-known manufacturer and distributor of pipe fittings and fixtures based in Concordville, Pennsylvania since 1928. Plumbmaster manufacturers its own line of commercial faucets sold under the brand name.
PPG was acquired by Dunes Point Capital in 2013 in a debt-financed leveraged buyout. Dunes Point is a wholly owned subsidiary of White Group Holdings which is funded by Nationwide Insurance.
We hate to see old-time faucet companies fall into the hands of private equity groups, especially in a debt-financed buyout. It almost always means a myopic concentration on increasing profits to pay the debt, and typically results in cost-cutting measures that erode the quality of the brand. It appears that Wolverine has engaged in exactly that kind of ill-advised cost-cutting.
The two lines are in the middle of a process of being consolidated under the Plumbmaster label. Wolverine lost its website, wolverinebrass.com, in 2017. The site now re-directs the reader to the Plumbmaster site. The Wolverine online catalog has been moved to wolverinecatalog.com. The catalog is much the same as it has always been but we wonder how long it will be before the two company catalogs are merged.
Wolverine has a very different business model. It sells exclusively through licensed plumbers. If you want a Wolverine faucet or even a part for a Wolverine faucet, contact your local plumber. He or she is the authorized Wolverine dealer. Even our company, a general contractor, cannot buy a Wolverine faucet except through our licensed master plumbers — something that amuses them to no end.
Plumbers love the brand because they have an exclusive and can set the markup and retail price. A customer cannot call a plumbing supply house and check the price because no supply house sells Wolverine products.
Wolverine claims that because it pays a lot of attention to what plumbers say they need, the company makes products that "make sense". And, because it makes only very high-quality products, it enjoys tremendous customer loyalty. "Ask a Wolverine customer if they would ever use anything else. You will always get the same answer: No!" OK, a little hyperbole here but Wolverine actually makes a very good commercial faucet, not long on style but very long on quality and reliability.
Its residential models are more stylish but of a less certain quality. Most are designed and engineered by Wolverine and use the very good Wolverine cartridge but the company has considerably less control over faucets manufactured in China than it does over those made in its own plant.
Wolverine engineered and patented a ceramic disk valve in 1972, and has been perfecting it ever since. It is one of the few faucet manufacturers to make its own ceramic valves. It's a good one, too. The company uses just two cartridge styles, one for single handle faucets and one for double handle faucets. Every American-made Wolverine faucet made uses one or the other of these two cartridges. This keeps parts inventory to a minimum. Every faucet part is brass and/or stainless steel.
The faucets manufactured in South Carolina are assembled from mostly imported components. The company contracts with overseas manufacturers, mostly in China and Taiwan, for fittings such as stop valves and shower components that are sold under the Wolverine brand but none of these other manufacturers, as far as we can tell, make sink faucets.
Over the past five years, Wolverine has acquired fittings, parts, components and accessories from
- Better Enterprise Co. Ltd. (China)
- Byson International Co., Ltd. (Taiwan)
- CWI International China, Ltd. (China)
- Favor Trading Co., Ltd. (Taiwan)
- Incesa Standard (An American Standard company) (Costa Rica)
- Long Tai Copper Corporation, Ltd. (Taiwan)
- Ningbo Texoon Brassworks Co., Ltd. (China)
- Xiamen R&T Plumbing Technology Co., Ltd. (China)
- Xiamen Sunrise Import & Export Co., Ltd. (China)
- Yuhuang Jinlong Kloe Sanitary Ware Co., Ltd. (China)
- Zhejiang Longda Water Technologies Co., Ltd. (China)
These are the suppliers we know about but there are certainly others. We know, for example, that the company buys from TWI International, a subsidiary of Waxman Industries but we are not certain what it buys. However, TWI supplies finished faucets to other domestic faucet companies, including Symmetrix™ faucets to
The acclaimed 100-year Wolverine warranty is mostly marketing fluff — the headline looks good — it impresses customers looking for a reliable faucet — but, the warranty falls apart in the fine print.
First: Not everything on a Wolverine faucet is guaranteed. Wolverine warrants all of its finishes to be free of defects for 100 years and its cartridges to be leak free for the same century. That's where the guarantee stops. It does not guarantee any other part of its faucets to be free of defects. So if the handle comes loose and cannot be tightened or the spout splits, you are on your own.
Second: The hundred year warranty period is not really for 100 years. The real length of the warranty is for as long as the faucet is owned by its original buyer, or 100 years, whichever comes first. You can bet that the 100 years is not going to come first. The average American homeowner moves every seven years.
Wolverine contracts the manufacture of many of its faucets to Chinese factories.
When Wolverine needed to expand its production a few years ago, rather than making the capital investment needed to enlarge and upgrade its South Carolina plant, the new bottom-line-oriented private equity owners, in a truly stunning example of corporate brain freeze, decided to outsource manufacturing to Asia. Wolverine's Chinese manufacturers include
- Huayi Plumbing Fittings Industry, Co. Ltd., a division of the Huayi Group of affiliated companies that manufacture inexpensive faucets for RONA's
- NCIP, Inc. a company chartered in Taiwan but manufacturing in China. It manufactures four sink faucets for Wolverine's "value" line of Simplicity faucets (See table below) and also supplies faucets to
At one time the company also purchased faucets from Kaiping Longho Plumbing Industrial Co. Ltd., which sells faucets in Asia under the Diablo brand but that relationship appears to have ended.
Moving manufacturing to China may have seemed like a good way to save money in the short run but it was undoubtedly a huge strategic mistake — one that shows an astounding failure to understand the company's customer base.
Wolverine sells to plumbers. Plumbers may be the nation's most conservative group of people, somewhat to the far right of Teamsters and longshoremen. They probably won't take kindly to giving American jobs to China. Once the China connection becomes more widely known among plumbers, we predict they won't be quite as ready to specify Wolverine products, especially as other excellent, American made, faucets are readily available like Right now, we know of no plumber around here who will specify a "China Wolverine" faucet, and we think that attitude will probably spread.
At the present time, most of Wolverine's faucets are still made in South Carolina. But, if you want to be sure you are buying American, check to see where a particular faucet was manufactured before you buy. In the company catalog, American-made faucets are identified by a "WB Manufactured" at the bottom of the page
Some Wolverine faucets comply with the laws and regulations governing the sale and installation of faucets in North America and may be legally installed in any State or Territory of the U.S. or any Canadian Province. Some Wolverine faucets do not comply and may not be sold in the U.S. or installed in a drinking water system in the U.S. or Canada.
Certified Safe and Reliable Only in Part: Only those Wolverine faucets manufactured in China have been tested by IAPMO-RT and certified to meet or exceed every requirement specified in ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1, the joint Canadian/U.S. comprehensive standard for faucet reliability and safety. Only certified faucets may be lawfully installed anywhere in the U.S. or Canada unless otherwise restricted. Check your local plumbing code for confirmation. There are no certification listings on file for Wolverine's U.S.-made faucets.
Uncertified faucets may not be lawfully sold or offered for sale in the United States, nor may they be lawfully installed in any State or Province in North America governed by a plumbing code.
Certified Free of Lead and Other Harmful Substances Only in Part: Only those Wolverine faucets manufactured in China are certified lead-free and drinking water safe. They have been tested and found to comply with ANSI/NSF 61/9, the joint Canadian/U.S. lead-free standard, that prohibits more than a "weighted average" of 0.25% lead in the waterway of a faucet, and requires that a faucet not leach lead into water passing through a faucet in an amount greater than 5 parts per billion. Faucets that meet these requirements also comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and may be lawfully sold in the U.S.
Wolverine's American-made faucets to not appear on any certificate showing that they have been tested by an independent laboratory and certified lead-free. A faucet that is not lead-free may not be sold or offered for sale in the U.S. or Canada. We strongly urge you not to purchase a faucet that has not been shown by independent third-party testing to be lead-free. Lead in drinking water is a known danger to health, particularly of children but also of adults exposed to even small amounts of lead over a period of many years.
Legal in Canada Only in Part: The National Plumbing Code of Canada developed by the National Research Council Canada prohibits the installation of any faucet that has not been tested and certified compliant with the joint Canadian/U.S. standard for mechanical safety and reliability (ASME A112.18.1/CSA 125.1) and the joint lead-free and toxic content safety standards (ANSI/NSF 372 & ANSI/NSF 61).
Only some of Wolverine faucets are listed as compliant with all applicable standards and are legal to install in any drinking water system in Canada.
Only Some Wolverine Faucets Comply With the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act: The U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act requires sink faucets to contain not more than a "weighted average" of 0.25% (1/4 of 1%) lead in the surfaces that may come into contact with water. Faucets that do not meet this requirement may not be lawfully sold or offered for sale in the U.S. or installed in a "facility providing water for human consumption". Some but not all, Wolverine faucets have been certified compliant with this standard by an accredited third party testing organization and, therefore, meet the requirements of the U.S.Safe Drinking Water Act and similar Canadian provincial laws and regulations.
Faucet brands comparable to Wolverine's commercial lines include
Faucets comparable to Wolverine's "made-in-China" faucets include
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Wolverine Brass faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.