Bathrooms Bathroom fixtures in store

Published on April 27th, 2017 | by Henri

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Best places to buy bathroom fixtures

Q.  We are going to renovate two bathrooms in our house this spring. I have several questions regarding purchasing fixtures for the job.

The plumbing supply house offered to give me a 20% discount if I bought the fixtures—toilets, sinks, faucets and tub—from them rather than through my plumber. When I discussed this with my contractor, he said that he usually prefers to let the plumber provide the fixtures, that way if there are any problems, it’s the plumber’s responsibility. “It’s one phone call,” he said. Instead of me having to call the plumber and the supplier if something goes wrong.

I’m having trouble giving up that 20% as it’s not insignificant. Any suggestions?

Also, the plumbing supply place steered me towards “contractor” grade fixtures rather than the “retail” grade that I could buy at a big box store. Again, there’s a considerable price difference on, for example, what appears to be the identical model of toilet.

The toilets in these bathrooms have never worked properly (never used a plunger before I moved into this house, which was built in 2004, now I’m an expert from weekly practice), which is part of the motivation for the renovation. So, I want good quality toilets and plan to buy the top-rated ones by Consumers Digest. I’m prepared to spend extra if the guts for contractor ones are better than big box ones.

So, is the plumbing supply house right about the grades? Is it worth the extra dollars? And can I be selective in what I get at the big boxes because, really, can there be that much difference between a contractor-grade sink bought from a plumbing supply place and what appears to be the identical make and model bought from a big box store? There’s a 56% price difference.

Thank you so much for your advice.

A.  Your contractor has a legitimate point, but if you are willing to take the risk of having to deal with the plumbing-supply house if you experience a problem with one of the fixtures, don’t give up on the significant discount. The likelihood of having a problem with new fixtures is small.

The plumbing-supply house is effectively offering you the discount they give contractors who then sell you fixtures at full price. This contractor discount is the buffer contractors have to handle any problem that may surface, and it is important to them.

The term “contractor-grade” does not mean that fixtures are the top of the line. It generally means that the fixtures are the type builders building speculative houses (known as spec houses), as opposed to building custom houses, choose to avoid pricing houses too high. Plumbing-supply houses also carry top-of-the-line fixtures.

If you choose to buy your chosen fixtures from big box stores because they are considerably less expensive, you may be buying a lesser quality product specially manufactured for these stores. I am not sure that you can be assured that they are the top-of-the-line you are aiming for. Moreover, if something goes wrong, you may be facing a huge hassle dealing with such huge organizations. It is best to keep in mind “Buyer Beware.”

For objective ratings of the products, you should check “Consumer Reports,” rather than the similarly named “Consumers Digest.” Here is a description from Wikipedia: “Consumer Digest magazine has no subscribers and does not actually test the products they present their ‘Best Buys’ awards to. Instead, companies pay Consumers Digest for the right to promote their products as ‘Best Buys’. They rely on consumer confusion of their name with the well-known Consumer Reports magazine, published by the nonprofit organization Consumers Union. Consumers Digest Communications is a privately owned, for-profit business entity.”

Consumers Union’s Consumer Reports is, as described on their website “an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world.” Consumer Reports does test the products they rate.

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