Faucets online vs plumbing showroom

joyce_6333August 6, 2010

I've searched for this on the forum, but couldn't find an answer. (not sure the search engine always works)

I met with the designer the builder recommended at the kitchen/bath showroom yesterday to pick out all the plumbing and fixtures for the kitchen and 3 baths in our new build. I didn't get any high-end stuff, mostly middle of the road, and no vanities or counters in the bid. I got the quote today, and it's nearly $10,000. I'm a bit in shock. I asked the designer yesterday if Moen faucets and sinks puchased from Home Depot or Lowes were the same as the ones she sells if the part # was the same, and she said absolutely not. She said they make two different grades,and the stores sell the lower quality.

I also went on-line today, and I can easily save 30-40 percent off her quoted prices at Faucets Direct. And right now Faucets Direct has free shipping plus an additional 10% off the listed price. I called the builder and asked his opinion about buying on-line, and he frowned on that. Told me he's had trouble with parts missing, etc. And then the plumber wouldn't warranty it. I've built several custom homes, and I've never had a plumber warranty anything. So I'm confused on that statement.

What is your opinion? Thanks for the advice.


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I bought plumbing fixtures from Faucet Direct. Nothing was missing. Everything came on time. The equipment performance is warrantied by the manufacturer. Faucet Direct is responsible for sending all the parts you order. The plumber or contractor is only responsible for the installation. I did have a problem with the first plumber installing valves upside down. The contractor was responsible for correcting that.

Bottom line: save your money and order from Faucet Direct, unless your contract (not your contractor) requires that you purchase from that showroom.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 10:16PM
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I agree Faucets online are great. I even ordered the wrong grouhe valves and they took them back no problem. You need to tell your contracter you will order the parts to save money and ask if he has an issue with it. I would think they shouldnt. His labor cost is where he makes his money. I had a job where it was bid out at 10k as well, I did all the labor and the material cost was only 4.5K. But then again I have the skill and tools. I am not as quick as they would be and dont have no one to call when things go wrong.....but like you I can save on so much on ordering from online stores.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 11:32PM
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I had a similar situation. I bought from FaucetsDirect.com and was actually very impressed with them. My items arrived much faster than I expected. Everything was fine. I placed four or five orders from them for the various plumbing fixtures I needed and was happy every time.

I was also told that the products would not be the same if I ordered from one of the chain stores, but couldn't understand how the model number would match. (I've seen products that actually have a different model number and then it makes sense that they would be a lower grade.) I ordered a Kohler cast iron tub and purchased various sinks and a toilet from Home Depot and everything is top quality. I think this is a half-truth that is being spread because the prices are so much more expensive elsewhere. Also, many contractors actually do make money from the materials, if they purchase them for you (even if they pass their discount along to you). I had one contractor give me the receipts and found out later he actually paid a lower discounted price. I guess they build something in for ordering and picking up the items for you and dealing with any problems, but it's good to know this ahead of time so you don't feel deceived.

My advice, save your money where you can.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 8:20AM
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When we built 14 years ago, this was a BIG bone of contention with our plumber. We actually got into a huge argument with them because we wanted to order online and he said no way because he swore that we would get the wrong stuff. This, IMHO, is a racket with plumbers who simply want to make money off the materials. They actually will often charge you more in labor to put in a more expensive faucet because they say it's to cover their costs should they damage the faucet and have to replace it.

So, we compromised by me giving them a complete list of everything I wanted in all the rooms. I then gave them the online pricing as well and said I wanted them to match this. They did end up doing that for me because they get fixtures at discounted rates and I'm sure they still covered their costs.

When they had to come back and replace the p.o.s. Moen that failed in the first year in our kitchen with a new Grohe, I told them I had the faucet already and I would just pay them labor. They never said a word because my original list was completely perfect for the parts I needed for the first plumbing install (I had called every manuf myself to ensure a complete list).

I will never hire a plumber again who insists where I get my materials. As long as you have the numbers for the parts you want, it doesn't matter where you buy the parts. Regarding stores like HD or Lowes, I have found that they carry the lower-end lines of well-known brands. It simply isn't prudent for them to carry expensive items for the do-it-yourself crowd. But if they have the brand and product number you want, there is no way the manufacturer made a cheaper version with the same number. If you are in doubt, call the manufacturer and verify it.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 9:48AM
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I realize my post above was about buying from a plumber (not showroom) vs online but it struck a nerve from the past with me!

More on topic, recently, I found a local showroom that matched my online prices for some plumbing fixtures (mostly Toto toilets). I think many are doing that now. I encourage you to do that if possible because if everything is purchased online, where would we go to actually see products?

In this economy, you shouldn't have any problems getting a showroom to match your prices. If that designer won't match your prices (and she's lying about the grades being different for the same product number), then take your business elsewhere and just TELL your builder you won't deal with an establishment that gives out faulty information and won't deal with you on price.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 9:54AM
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Thanks everyone for the great advice. One more question.....did you order your larger items from faucet direct, too? Tub, toilets, etc? Do they come pretty well packaged?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 10:41AM
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I only bought plumbing from FaucetDirect.com, all the faucets, valves, etc. One of the toilets I purchased from a local plumbing supply store that had what I was looking for in stock at a great price. I bought a tub from one of the design showrooms, only because they had it in stock and matched Home Depot's discounted online sale price.

Susanelewis makes a good point about Home Depot and Lowe's carrying the lower end lines of brand names. However, you can special order higher end items too. It just takes a few weeks for your order to come in. I've ordered many items through Home Depot that weren't carried in the store.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 11:55AM
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I won't order a large item like a toilet or tub online. The last 2 Toto's were price-matched by a plumbing store. I simply faxed them the documentation and they matched it. I did have to pay tax, but it was a small price to pay for the security knowing that if it was cracked or the wrong item, I could simply drive it back there and it would be up to them to take care of it.

Our last Toto was surprisingly packaged minimally. Perhaps it was because the store inspected it before we got there, but I could not imagine it being shipped to my home in that condition. There are some items that simply aren't worth the risk to me if you can get the same price.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 8:42PM
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If it's the same model #, it's the same product. Period. End of story.

However, I do have to defend plumbers who charge a bit more for them to supply the product. Unless you are extremely well versed in plumbing products, it's easy to make a mistake in ordering, say for a shower. For instance, you need the thermostatic valve. The thermosatic trim. The transfer valve. The transfer trim. The rain head. The hand shower. The hose. The wall bar. The wall bar brackets. The shower arm. And all of those are sold separately and have to all be ordered correctly for your particular piping type and in your particular finish. There are a lot of choices out there, and you have to be sure that everything will work together. Paying your plumber to select the correct configuration and the time spent to order it and pick it up isn't money "wasted". Part of the reason you pay a professional is his knowledge base. You're not just paying him for the exact 5 hours that it takes to install all of the above. You're paying for the product to be correct and on site ready when he is to begin the job. If you order all of the above yourself and misorder something, well you've just paid a minimum $100 trip charge and a week's worth of down time waiting on the right part to show up.

Also, when a professional installs a product that he's sourced from his local plumbing showroom, the plumber generally will act as the point of warranty and return that defective leaky faucet to the showroom and put in your new one. Generally, if it's under a year, he'll do that with no additional labor charge. If you supply the faucet and it's defective, you'll have to contact the manufacturer for replacement parts or buy a replacement model and pay new labor for repair or replacement. That "insurance" is also part of what you pay a professional to do a job rather than DIYing.

And yes, it should be more expensive to install a $1500 faucet than a $100 one. If the plumber damaged it, you'd want him to replace it, right? So, he charges you $300 for that install vs. a $100 install for the customer with the less expensive faucet. If you don't want to pay the additional costs, then well, sign a waiver saying that you'll replace the faucet if he damages it or choose a less expensive model or DIY the more expensive model yourself. Don't dictate his labor rates to him though. It generates ill will, and having a pissed off undercompensated plumber on your job is a really bad idea!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 12:24AM
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Wow, live_wire_oak must be the plumber in our area that I argued with!

I don't disagree with him on every point but definitely do on some points. Why should I have to pay more to install an expensive faucet because he may damage it? An install is an install...period. Isn't that why trades carry insurance? To me that is simply bunk and a way to make more money on the job. Sorry, but that plumber won't work in my house.

I do agree that if you want the plumber to do the job of ordering everything and ensuring that all the pieces go together correctly you need to pay him for his time. However, most plumbing manufacturers can do this for you on the phone, give you the correct numbers and ensure that you have everything you need. As I stated, I'm an example of that procedure working just fine. But, you do run the risk of the plumber having to return at YOUR cost because you don't have everything he needs to complete the install. So it's a risk.

Last week I had an electrician wire my new Panasonic bathroom fan. They knew up front I had the fan and the switches. Because it had a heater, I had to have a 20amp circuit wired already plus the correctly rated switches. I had done my homework, had what I needed and everything went well. There was no stipulation up front that 1) if you don't buy that fan from us we won't install it, 2) because it is an expensive fan and we could drop it, we are charging you a higher hourly rate. They just asked one question....are you sure you have everything you need at the site for the job? I ran down the list and they said they would be out at 2pm.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 10:09AM
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My contractor actually encouraged me to purchase my bathroom fixtures on-line. He said that he couldn't do better even giving me his contractor discount. I have placed two orders from faucetdirect.com and couldn't be happier with my experience. Great prices, incredibly fast delivery and everything came beautifully packaged and in excellent condition. I ordered all my faucets, fixtures, toilet, medicine cabinet and pedestal sink from them. Their customer service is also excellent. They have live ontime reps and so you just type your questions and they send back the answers in minutes. I know this sounds like an advertisement for the company, but I don't think you should get pulled into those expensive plumbing stores that charge outrageous prices. I did go to those stores to view everything (I did all Kohler) and would not recommend you ordering anything you don't first see at a store. I can't comment on faucetdirect's return policies since I did not have to return anything. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 10:26AM
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Attygirl, did you ask the plumbing stores to match your online prices from faucetdirect?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 11:25AM
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I'm a thrifty consumer married to a general contractor, so I see both sides of this issue.

- Absolutely, you get much better prices online -- often, even better than the contractors get from their suppliers. Why? Because most contractors are small clients also. And most online sellers don't even stock the parts -- just order them from the manufacturers and have the manufacturer ship them to you. THEY are the big customers...

- Are the parts inferior? Sometimes - especially at the big box stores. But the part numbers are usually ever-so-slightly different. At the online plumbing stores? Usually not, but again, check the part numbers carefully. I have seen some Home Depot-grade parts being sold online as if they were plumber-grade parts.

- Do you get the wrong parts or have missing parts? Sometimes. Especially if you order the wrong parts or not all of the parts you need. I say that not to be snarky -- but because often it's very difficult to tell what 'all of the parts you need' really are. Does the shower system include the valves or just the trim? What about the overflow or drain stopper for the sink? What if your sink is carved stone, so 1.5" thick? If your plumber or contractor orders the parts and gets the markup, these are HIS problems -- problems he'll usually avoid because he knows enough to avoid them. But if you order online to save a few bucks, and you've got wrong or missing parts, both you and your contractor suffer -- and he's not getting paid for it.

If I had to use a contractor other than my husband, I'd tell him I planned to buy my own fixtures online, and ask him to include in his bid, a few hours of his time to review my purchase orders for completeness and suitability.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 3:19PM
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I did not ask the plumbing store to match my online prices. Tear down on my bathroom begins next week so I sure hope I ordered everything that I should have ordered. The people at faucetdirect were very helpful and talked me through the ordering process. I will let you know how good their suggestions actually were once my job gets started.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 7:59PM
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Sweeby, that is a perfect compromise. I would not have any problems paying a plumber a few more dollars to oversee my online order.

attygirl, I'd be interested in knowing about your experience. Lately I've been doing the pricematching at stores but I see some more faucet purchases coming up.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 10:57PM
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Beware of efaucets! I just wrote a post about them under a different question.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 8:21AM
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joyce_6333 when I buy, at the physical store, I tell them gently what price range I'm looking for: it includes something extra for their being physically there for me. With an internet company you have no hold when things don't go well. With a physical store you do. Also, at the physical store you get to have a real bond, not a bond with someone who give good phone.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 8:58AM
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I don't necessarily agree that just because you are face-to-face with a person that you get good service. That is true for any industry. Although I prefer to do my shopping at local stores, it is not because of anything other than I want to encourage their business so I can physically see products and yes, if something goes wrong with a LARGE purchase (toilet, tub) I can haul the thing back to them and let them ship it back to the manufacturer.

I have had many experiences with brick-and-mortar stores whose service is far less pleasant than dealing with online companies. If you are the type of person who does need that physical contact, then shop the stores for that reason, but don't expect that they will provide you better customer service because of it.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:53AM
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I don't agree that being face-to-face with a person means that you get good service.
Me too.

I always look for the right people first.
Sooner or later I find them.
I want to see products, and to see who is advising me.

I don't expect that they will provide anything good, simply because of their having a physical store or showroom.
That is true for any industry.

If anyone hoped for an easy answer... it looks like they didn't get it.
Anyone who wants good service is always well advised to go hunting for the right parties.
It might be that the nearest store is the answer.
That sometimes happens.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 12:16PM
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I can attest to the superior service at FaucetDirect. My contractor actually sat at my computer and placed some of the plumbing fixtures orders for me. When he had a few questions about certain parts, he just called them and got exactly what he needed. The items came quickly and correctly.

I also purchased a vanity from them -- for which I had some problems with delivery. I think my vanity was lost in transit some where and I was very upset because it was the only one that I could find -- any where online or off, that I liked and wanted. They did finally locate it, shipped it and gave me the vanity at no charge due to the situation. They were quite wonderful about it and they did the right thing.

I think they are one of the best online retailers out there. And yes, I have used them since after my re-model for some additional hooks and small items.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 4:53PM
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I ordered just about everything for my bathroom from faucetdirect.com: tub, toilet, faucet, sink, towel rings, etc. Everything was Kohler and was exactly the same item as at other stores. I had it sent directly to my contractor so he could examine it upon delivery and store it until ready for use. With his additional discount it was by far the cheaper than HD, Lowes, Feguson, etc. Plus i got free shipping. Shipping was quick too. I think i received everything in about 2 days. Everything was perfect expcet one of the robe hooks was broken. I called them and they sent a new one immediately and i didn't even have to send back the old one (since it was only $13). Overall they can't be beat: great prices,great customer service, fast and free shipping if you purchase a certain amount.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 3:39PM
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Sherrie Moore

Got to say I love faucetdirect.com: I Called August 13th and spoke with Joshua and he helped walk me through all that I needed. Gave me his direct email if I had any questions or further needs. I ordered all the plumbing supplies needed for the main hall bath redo: tub, sink, toilet, faucets, shower supplies to do a separate handheld, tub and overhead, and all appropriate roughins,drains, etc! Today the final items arrived...August 20th. Everything looks perfect.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 5:13PM
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Another happy Faucetdirect.com customer. I bet I saved a few thousand dollars by purchasing from them!

I called once or twice and got very helpful advice. One showerhead was damaged and they overnighted me a new one (I did not upgrade to overnight shipping, they just did it.)

Everything was in original packaging, without dents or scratches. I bought Grohe, Ginger, and Hansgrohe products from them.

I paid the plumber for an hour's consultation before I placed the order. My contractor encouraged me to buy everything myself, which I did. I got a lot of discounts, too, even from local companies.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 10:47PM
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collins design

I haven't read the whole thread, but wanted to chime in with our experience if this helps anyone:

I had a big order: soaking tub, Toto toilet, two lav faucets, tub faucet set, shower faucets, valves, and hand shower, etc.
I put the list together and priced it out locally, plus sent it to four large online places (including Faucet direct, I think) for their bids. I went with the second-to-lowest because their customer service and response time to my inquiries was excellent. It was a several thousand dollar order, and the online places were within a couple hundred dollars of each other. Since one place offered free shipping on everything (including the tub!) I asked the others to match that and the one I chose did. (It was ebuildersmerchant.com)

The toilet and tub came delivered freight...straight from the manufacturers and very well packed. Some other things also shipped direct from the mfg, some came from the supplier's warehouse. All arrived very timely and well-packed.

I was extremely pleased with the transaction and saved something like 50% off the local costs!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 3:31PM
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wow, great thread. I spent a few hours today with a very helpful guy at our local plumbing parts store. He was very helpful and really took his time to explain all kinds of things to me...and because I'll have a big order he said there would be discounts. My GC has told me over and over to order from faucetsdirect for the price savings. But now I'm torn about what to do. Do I ask the store guy to match the online prices and is there much hope of that? I'm also somewhat pressed for time with our project starting in 2 weeks, haven't bought anything yet and I work full-time. Help! What is the best, most time efficient and yet cost effective way to buy all these toilets, faucets and such???

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 11:55PM
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Leslie, here's what I'd do (and have done in some cases): go online and price out all the items you're going to order, or at least all the big ones. If you qualify for free shipping, make sure you have that showing (e.g. print out your shopping cart showing $0.00 shipping if it isn't otherwise prominently displayed somewhere). Then go into your local store and tell the guy you want to get a final price quote so you can make the decision to finalize your order. Tell him he mentioned discounts, but you want to see how much it all comes out to. And mention that you were looking online to try to get an idea of what the prices would be, but you're hoping his price will be in the same neighborhood so you can order from him.

And then see what he does. He may say, "let me see what pricing you found," sit at his computer and compare that to his pricing, and tell you he can match the pricing. Or he may immediately backpedal and tell you he can't match online prices because he has the overhead of a brick-and-mortar operation, or that you aren't getting the same quality items ordering online, or some other excuses. When I shopped a local dealer, he did the former -- took the pages I had in my folder (I made it clear I had researched the pricing, but didn't wave the sheets in his face) and matched the online pricing within a few bucks in every case.

Now, in my case, buying locally means that I have to pay 6% sales tax, which I'm not charged if I buy online. (Technically, we should be voluntarily declaring our tax-free purchases and paying the state a 6% use tax, but no one does this.) I decided that I'd be willing to pay that difference in order to support the local business. I'd have been somewhat lost without his knowledge -- brands I didn't know about, pieces I didn't know about -- and seeing a wide range of products in his showroom, and so I tried to rationalize that it's worth a little more in sales taxes to support the local merchant.

That all being said, when I did place the order for our first bathroom through the local dealer, and it wasn't all completely smooth going. I found out that for some manufacturers, they only place orders once a week or when they hit a minimum dollar threshold, so we lost some days I wasn't anticipating. And then they didn't notify me that some items were backordered from the manufacturer. I couldn't check my order status online; I had to repeatedly call the dealer to ask someone to check. When I found out after a week or so that my tub was going to be delayed three more weeks, and had my contractor breathing down my neck because it was going to delay a lot of work, I ended up canceling that item with the local dealer because I found it online, in stock and available for same-day shipping, so I got it within a week. (Despite what some have posted here, I used eFaucets for that order and a few other items in the past six months, with absolutely no problems.) And I had to go back to the local dealer (more than 30 minutes away) to pick things up several times as items came in piecemeal over a period of several weeks.

So when it came time to start ordering items for our second bathroom, I decided that with the knowledge I had gained during the first rounds of shopping and procurement, that it was going to be easier for me to order online, and that's what I did. I got all my Hansgrohe shower hardware from Ira Woods, an online site that isn't mentioned much on this forum but is often recommended in the Kitchen forum. Sink, faucet, toilet, light fixture, dimmers, doorknobs, etc. were all ordered online, from various online sites.

One other thing I'd like to mention. You said you're starting in two weeks. You need to ask the local dealer and/or any online retailer what is in stock, and when you will receive each item. Many online sites say "in stock" but actually don't have real-time inventory data feeding their web site. Some just say "in stock" for everything, whether it ever is or not. Don't assume it'll be okay; get on the phone, or live chat support, and ask them to specifically check what's in stock and when you will get it. (I did this just yesterday with our final batch of bathroom accessories; I found two online sites which said "in stock" for the five items I was ordering, but actually didn't have all the items in stock, and I ended up splitting the order between two different sites.) If you're inclined to buy from the local dealer, ask him to check with his warehouse/distributors/manufacturers to be able to give you actual shipping dates rather than generalized estimate (e.g "usually ships within one week"). In my experiences just having done two bathrooms, you'll be lucky to get all your materials within two weeks -- but it depends a great deal on the manufacturers and product lines you're buying, as I'm sure some more popular items are readily in stock at warehouses.

Also, for your own sanity and stress reduction, be sure to find out from your contractor exactly what he needs when. He may tell you, for example, that the shower trim/diverter and showerhead won't be needed for a month, but the thermostatic valve is needed when he begins work in two weeks. Or that the toilet isn't needed until near the end of the job, but the tub is needed at the beginning. So a delay in shipping some products may not be any problem at all, but your contractor can tell you. Depending what you're doing in your bathroom, there may be some things you need early in the process which you aren't aware of without asking. (For example, I was caught unprepared when my contractor told me he needed the shower drain near the beginning of the shower construction; now that I've seen how a shower is built, I understand why, but it just wasn't on my radar until my contractor gave me a heads up. It turned out that the drain we chose consists of a frame and the actual metal drain which sits inside the frame; the frame was available immediately, and that's what the contractor needed immediately to build the shower bed and tile, while the metal drain had a four week lead time, which worked out fine because it wasn't needed until after the tile was done.)

And yes, this can all become rather overwhelming, especially while working full-time! I'm just finishing nearly six months of work on the gust bath, an addition, and a master bath, and I can't wait to be able to devote my full attention back to my "day job". ;)

-- Eric

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 7:11AM
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We just finished our master bath remodel and bought all fixtures from Faucet Direct. We purchased Grohe and Hansgrohe items for the sinks and shower, and Ginger towel bars. They had the best prices and amazing customer service. Everything arrived on-time (earlier than anticipated, actually) with nothing missing or damaged. I compared prices to Home Depot and they were astronomically higher at HD, it was crazy. For instance, the Grohe Freehander shower head at Faucet Direct is $389, while it is around $500 at HD.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 12:17PM
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Just to follow up: I ordered all my bathroom hardware, faucets, pedestal sink, etc from Faucet Direct. I had posted that the online help rep. was invaluable in talking me through the order(s). Well everything apparently was ordered that needed to be ordered EXCEPT for a rough in valve for the shower. In a paniced moment last week I called Faucet Direct and they ordered the necessary part. When I went on-line later I saw that it clearly stated you needed the valve when ordering the shower faucet & trim. I just missed it, and the person online never mentioned that I needed the part. So...yes you save a lot of money ordering online but you have to go over your order very, very carefully. Read all the fine print and make sure you order all the plumbing that is associated with the item. (For example, a pedestal sink also requires a P-trap.) By the way, the part arrived in two days and my plumber was able to complete the job without any delay.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 8:15AM
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attygirl-If you order online from faucetdirect.com, any time you add something to your basket that needs an additional part, a box pops up. It shows all the additional parts that are required and you have to select one of the following options:

1) Do you want to add the additional items to your cart? YES


2) NO. Proceed without adding the required items.

It is quite foolproof.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 1:53AM
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Wow, thanks for all the great advice, Eric/jacobse, your lengthy response was exceptional. Thx much for taking the time. I'm going to call my GC today to re-review the to buy list to get clearer on deadlines and then dive in!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 8:41AM
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