Wolverine Brass Faucets Review & Rating Updated: 09/13/18
From Imported Components
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."
This Company In Brief
Wolverine Brass is a domestic faucet company that sells only to plumbers. At one time it manufactured all of its faucets in South Carolina. But, over the past few years, it has exported an increasing amount of its manufacturing to China and Taiwan.
Wolverine 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.
Wolverine has a reputation for making 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 all Wolverine faucets are 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 assembles some faucets in the U.S. using mostly imported parts and components. About half of its faucets are manufactured in China and Taiwan. The Wolverine name is no longer a guarantee of a reliable American-made faucet.
Founded in 1896, Wolverine Brass, Inc. was a family-owned enterprise until 2001 when it was acquired by Bradford Equities Management, LLC. Bradford also owned Professional Plumbing Group, Inc. (PPG), a holding company that owns Plumbmaster, a well-known manufacturer and distributor of pipe fittings and fixtures based in Concordville, Pennsylvania since 1928.
PPG was in turn acquired by Dunes Point Capital in 2013 in a debt-financed leveraged buyout. Dunes Point is a private equity firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of White Group Holdings which is funded by Nationwide Insurance.
Debt-financed buy-outs almost always result in a myopic concentration on increasing profits to pay the debt, and typically result in cost-cutting measures that erode the quality of the brand. It appears that PPG management has engaged in exactly that kind of ill-advised cost-cutting.
Several major changes have resulted from the change in ownership. Wolverine expanded its catalog to include a broader range of residential faucets to complement its traditional commercial offerings. Rather than expanding is domestic manufacturing, Wolverine contracted for most of these new faucets in China and Taiwan.
Wolverine is in the 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. For a time the Wolverine online catalog was moved to wolverinecatalog.com. It has now been merged with the Plumbmaster catalog in which Wolverine is just one of several brands listed.
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 long on quality and reliability.
Its residential models are more stylish but of a less certain quality. They are made in China and Taiwan and are of no particular design distinction. The styling is typical of the hordes of Asian faucets flooding North America. But, they have been modified to accept the very good Wolverine cartridge, which puts them a step ahead in quality over the usual Asian faucet.
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 three cartridge styles, one for single-handle faucets and two for double handle faucets. Every Wolverine faucet made uses one or the other of these cartridges.
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
Wolverine's Asian faucet manufacturers are
- Huayi Plumbing Fittings Industry, Co. Ltd., a division of the Huayi Group of affiliated companies that manufacture inexpensive faucets for RONA's
- NCIP, Inc. Taiwanese company. 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.
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 against any defect that is not a finish or does not cause a leak. 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.
At present, about half 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.
Wolverine stopped submitting its U.S.-manufactured faucets for testing and certification by third-party independent laboratories in 2014, just about the time the new, much stricter, lead limits for faucets became effective in the U.S.
To be legal for installation in the U.S. or Canada, faucets must be tested and certified at least annually. An uncertified faucet cannot be lawfully used in North America for its normal function of dispensing household drinking water.
Faucets comparable to Wolverine's "made-in-Asia" faucets include
Keep in mind that while many of these faucets include good cartridges, many do not, and very few contain cartridges comparable in quality to Wolverine's proprietary cartridges. So, while you may pay more for a Wolverine Asian-made faucet, you are also getting more.
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.