Warranties, Lifetime and Other – What do They Mean?

Warranties can be confusing things. In the plumbing industry “Lifetime” warranties have become fairly common and products may boost of such warranties as a way of establishing value. As with so many things it’s the details that make the difference.

A lifetime warranty may read something like this “A Limited Lifetime Warranty is provided on all mechanical parts to be free from manufacturing defects in material and workmanship under normal use for as long as the original purchaser owns their home” (from Grohe America). That is fine but what does it mean?

BainUltra 20 Year Warranty

First let’s look at the part that says “…manufacturing defects in material and workmanship under normal use…”  Sounds clear right? But what does the word “defect” mean? How is it different from damage or mis-use? Typically a defect happens in the manufacturing process rather than something that happens in the field. So, for example, a faucet that comes out of the factory with a dent in the spout is defective. A sink with a deformed drain opening is defective. A pull-out spray hose that collapses and cuts off the flow of water is defective. In all these cases it was either something that happened in production (a dent or poor machining) or a material failure (collapsed hose) that caused the problem.

Now let’s say you purchase a toilet, take it home and open the box to find the bowl cracked. Is that a defect? I would say no, that is damage; could have happened in the truck from the factory or in the warehouse or in the consumer’s car. Even so, I feel confident in saying that most stores would replace it at no charge. But what if you waited two months before you discovered the problem; will the store still replace it? Maybe, but after two months a store may say that it has been out of their hands for too long, that it is damage and you must purchase a new one (after all they don’t know how many times it has been moved around or how it was stored).***

On the other hand what if you got a stainless sink and discovered that the mounting hardware had been poorly packed and had been loose and scratched up the sink in transit? I would say that was a defect because the workmanship of the packaging was not sufficient to protect the product. In other words a defect usually traces back to either a problem with the materials or the workmanship during production and not with the way the product was handled after leaving the factory.

Notice the warranty language also refers to “for as long as the original purchaser owns their home”. Manufactures have gotten stricter about this in the last few years by requiring one to have an original receipt to obtain warranty service. Something to keep in mid when filing receipts.

So now you know a little bit about “defects” but there is a lot more you need to know about warranties. When someone says there is a lifetime warranty, and even if they show you language like what I have quoted here you should still ask a couple of questions. Specifically, is that the complete warranty, who do I contact if I have a problem and what does the manufacturer do to correct a defect? In the next couple of posts I will talk about warranty terms and conditions, how to get warranty service and how defective product is handled by various manufacturers.


***In addition, if this item was shipped from a remote vendor it may be deemed freight damage for which you will need to make a claim with the shipping company.

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