I had my mind set on a cast iron tub, given the age of the house. I had selected several from the Signature Hardware website, when a friend who had bought an acrylic tub from them said I should go to their showroom. At that point I didn’t even know they were a local company. I learned of them from watching many HGTV shows that use their products.
Most important for me was getting a tub that would allow me to fully extend my legs, something I could not do in the tubs of my old house. I was so focused on length, that I did not take into account width and it turned out all the cast iron tubs were narrow, I felt trapped sitting in them. The showroom person pointed out the acryllic, Renlo model, which comes in various lengths, but the 70″ happened to be on display. It was perfect, wide and long and its style I thought would fit. While the house is old my master bath was a new creation in it. I worked hard to replicate the 1st floor bathroom, but I felt free to “design” this space. Plus I knew it would be difficult getting a cast iron tub upstairs. I was swayed.
Signature Hardware, from the showroom, will sell returned merchandise, its been so long I forgot the exact term they used. Another person had ordered the 67″ version with a chrome overflow and drain, but cancelled the order before delivery. Since the drain had already been attached it was sold at a discount, 40% off if my memory serves me. I had not planned to do chrome fixtures, but could live with it for the savings. I didn’t jump right away because the 70″ fit so good; even leaning back my knees did not need to bend. I left, called my father, to share my findings.
Since he had been studying my plans his first question was are you sure you have room for 70″. I went to the house (this was pre-drywall, amazing) and measured where I thought the linen closet door would swing. He was right. I called the next day and paid for the discounted tub. They stored it for a month before I had to take delivery. That tub stayed in its box, which i put on wheels so it could be easily worked around by the drywall crew, until I laid the tile in that area. 18 months after purchase its connected and I enjoyed my first bath.
Lights dimmed, music playing, it was freakin’ awesome. Exactly as seen in my mind’s eye almost two years ago.
Distraught does not begin to describe my mindset when I accepted the realization that my vision for my shower with the Signature Hardware Shower system would never materialize. At the start of this project I wanted that shower to be a steam shower, but the cost of the unit was three times the cost of the shower system, so I settled on what my friends coined “the human car wash”. One single function spray does not a car wash make, so I decided to research steam units again. Fortunately I had already made the decision to completely enclose the shower, to keep the steam from the water in, so I knew one hurdle was down without any additional cost.
Build.com has been my go to website for a lot of the items in my house, so I started there. They had several brands: Mr. Steam, SteamSpa, Steamist, ThermoSol, and Kohler. With that list I started looking for reviews of systems on the Internet and consistently Mr. Steam and ThermoSol were popping up. Then I stumbled across a ThermoSol company video. There was a statement in the video “employees are empowered to help the customer” that really jumped out at me. I decided to go to their website to learn more about their product. Not really knowing what I would need I clicked on the word “Consultation” on their website. They provided your choice of 4 phone appointments of various lengths. I selected Steam Shower, a 30 minute, speak with a ThermaSol Specialist to discuss the features of a ThermaSol steam shower.
I got to select a day, time in step 1; I selected early afternoon the following day. Step 2 was your contact information and details on the size of your shower, and an opportunity to share any details. I was fresh off the callous phone call with Signature Hardware where I was told they were severing business ties with me, so my details centered around the disppointment with the performance of their system. I provided links to some of my post. Approximately two hours after I hit confirm appointment my phone rang and it was a representative from ThermaSol, but not just any representative. It was Mitchell Altman, the CEO. He read my comments and pulled my appointment out of the cue as he wanted to personally handle my situation. The man brought me to tears, this time of joy.
Following the call and on that same day we must have had a dozen back and forth emails. Some well past his business hours. As promised he sent me a document with installation instructions. I’d read some, have a question and email him. The man responded back in minutes each time. I sent him pictures behind the wall, in the shower with measuring tapes, so he could see heights and distances of locations where his instructions said equipment should go. In the end he said his unit could definitely be installed, I had only one major hurdle. Could I get a 60 amp service line up to the master bathroom. My God send electrician, Mr. McGhee came over the next day. He looked at my panel, determined I had space, and he studied routes to pull the line upstairs. I have two options, but bottom line was yes, he could get a 60 amp line up to the shower.
I shared that news in another email with Mr. Altman who then sent me a package quote. With Fifth Third turning down my equity line application (due to finding no value in the collateral and for the house still being under construction) the ability to paint my house this year was doubtful, but I still have some funds I was going to allocate towards replacing the pillars out front. I thought that would help improve the curb appeal in the short term. Well I don’t live outside and I shower every day, so right now I’m strongly leaning towards reallocating those funds and moving forward with the ThermaSol system. You’ll have to keep checking back for the final outcome.
The shower glass is installed. Ryan’s All Glass did an awesome job. It took six visits over the course of almost three weeks. Visit one was the measurement. He was able to confirm, what I suspected, one piece of glass to cover the entire back wall was not going to fit up the stairs.
I was going to need two pieces, but he measured so the break of the wall was in line with the top of the door leading into the shower. He assured me it would look seamless and would give better eye appeal doing it that way. It was also going to double the install time as he’d have to come and measure for the top piece and the triangle above the door after the door and bottom pane had been installed. I had no argument with that rationale. He told me it would take 7-10 days for the first round of glass to come in. I got the call within 5 days.
Trip 2: I was given a two hour window with a 30-minutes out call time. They actually had to wait on me to arrive. My main installer, that was there for every visit was Jerry. He was accompanied with different younger crew members each time. It was cool watching a senior tradesman impart his knowledge to the younger crew. Goal for day one was set the large piece for the back wall and the stationary piece for the entrance.
One piece of tile, that stuck out slightly from the others near the top of the glass, caused them to not be able to set that piece. It would need to be returned to the shop to be grind down. With that piece safely back into the van they turned their attention to installing the large piece of the back wall. Ryan states they are the only company in Cincinnati installing bracketless shower systems. A bead of silicon is what holds the glass in place.
Trips 3 and 4: The entry side was the focus, both the stationary piece and swinging door. They can only silicon one side, so they returned the next day briefly to remove the bracing they had installed, silicon the inside, and take the measurements for the triangle above the door and top piece of wall. In and out in under an hour. I loved the efficiency in which they worked. I was told I could use the shower officially the next day, Saturday Oct. 12. I was still dealing with installing the body sprays, so that didn’t happen until the 13th.
Trip 5 and 6: The remaining pieces of glass had arrived and the largest crew, four or five were involved to get it installed. Jerry would not let me stay and watch this process for safety reasons (in case they dropped the glass), so I only got after pictures. They returned on the 25th to caulk the inside and with that my shower enclosure was complete. Definitely one of my best contractor experiences on the project.
It turned out beautiful, exactly as I imagined it would and the gentleman that did the original measurements was absolutely right about matching the break to top of the door. The pieces of tile you see missing in some of the photos are a result of my decision to remove the Signature Hardware body sprays altogether. They will never perform to a standard befitting the rest of the shower, so I didn’t even want to look at them. I started the process while waiting on the remaining pieces of glass to come in. I’ll go in detail on that decision in another post, but needless to say its a shame Ryan’s great work could not have been the culmination of the shower project.
This was the second time I used Ryan’s. They installed the small piece of glass I needed to keep water from splashing to the floor when I installed the Grohe body sprays at my old house. The force from those sprays is what I thought I was going to get, NOT even close. Clearly not all body sprays are created equal. The woman that bought my house also used them to install glass railings, removing the old wood spindles I grew up with. I loved what she did and wish I had thought of it while I lived there. It really brought a modern vibe to a 70s house.
Turns out the time and money I spent re-configuring the plumbing for brass fittings needed to gain the 1/2 inch I needed to connect the body sprays was unnecessary because Signature Hardware sells one with a 1″ thread length; the extra 1/2″ the originals lacked. After seeing how weak the water flow was I decided to look for others on Build.com, who now sells their product. I was looking at every brand that had a design I felt would match the rest of the system, hoping it wouldn’t be one of theirs. More important than style I was searching for a female thread longer than what I had. Needless to say I was shocked and pissed to find it in their product line. Their customer service rep and plumbing expert Tylor both told me they had nothing. Instead of ordering 4 from Build.com I bought one direct from Signature Hardware and picked it up from their Crescent Springs warehouse. I wanted to be sure it would work before buying three more.
What the online picture and specs did not show was, what I now know is called a limiter, not aerator. The original unit didn’t have one and was weak, so I assumed this would be worse. I went back to the showroom. Their clerk told me when they started selling in CA they had to modify their product to meet the state’s regulations and even he didn’t like what they did to the water flow from their units. He told me I could remove the part with a special tool, which I do not own. I asked him if he could remove it for me and he did. His statement, however resonated with me when I thought back to the master sink faucets that had the low flow and it made me wonder if that was the problem with this shower unit.
I got the part home, released the blocking, removed the brass fittings, push the elbow up to the wall as for as it could go (the easy peasy I thought I had before), reconnected the blocking (all by myself as two people weren’t needed) and connected the new spray. No leaks and the force was better than the original, not as good as the Grohe unit I had at my old house, but I could have lived with it. My expectation was for Signature Hardware to discount the additional 3 units due to the pure aggravation and unnecessary expense they subjected me to, but that is not going to be the case. In light of all the defective products I’ve had to deal with their only saving grace was their customer service and now I don’t have that.
That is one level of my disappointment, but the other is the functionality of the entire system. The diverter at my old house allowed you to run the two body sprays, the shower head, or both. The force from the body sprays was so strong I had to install a piece of glass to keep the water in the tub. When I ran all three units together (two body sprays and shower head) the strength diminished some, but I still enjoyed a true water massage.
That is FAR from true with the Signature Hardware diverter. The top knob allows the rain shower head, wall shower, or hand held to operate while the body sprays operate solely off the bottom knob. The wall or rain shower head with the body sprays is what I was looking forward to in this massive shower I created.
Since I got the leaks stopped and I could live with the force of spray from the unit I bought, I decided to try running the system with the sprays and shower head. The water force reduced dramatically from all units. Complete devastation, a turn of events I never expected. The body sprays are completely useless. This honestly trumps the disappointment I have from Roland Hardwood on my kitchen floors. I hung the blue table cloth to allow the water to show better.
I’ve been sending pictures to their support email since Oct. 4 as when I call my request to speak to a manager goes unfulfilled. The day I picked up the body spray, a woman named Kim finally called me back as I was walking out of their showroom. I don’t think that was a coincidence. She said she had reviewed the emails and all the notes from my calls, but seemed focused only on chastising for not following their installation instructions (I admitted that when I called them for help, not of my doing) and that I had purchased the products in March of 2018, so no longer eligible for return (never asked to return them). I went off on her and she hung up on me.
This morning I sent pictures similar to above to their support and then called their corporate office Ferguson. I got a sweet young lady that let me vent and share emails and photos and she pledged to get me help. The help came in a call and email from Megan L, Customer Relations Manager, at Signature Hardware who acknowledged knowing of my call to their corporate office.
They are severing business relationship with me because of my abusive and unprofessional communications with their employees. I am to have no contact with their customer service department or showroom staff. I am only allowed to deal directly with her on warranty issues as they will stand by their products. She implied that the problems I’ve had with their products was due in part to my not using professional installation, something that is written in their manuals. She brushed off all the defective parts as not typical of the quality of their products while stressing each time I had issues they addressed with warranty replacements or free merchandise. While I may not be happy with how the unit functions, the unit functions properly, regardless of any experience I had with other products. I should expect diminished capacity with all sprays operating.
Once Ryan’s All Glass finishes installing the glass for the shower I will hire a plumber to connect their tub and tub filler and disconnect the body sprays altogether. When I have the time or money I’ll either try to remove the five pieces of tile impacted by the sprays myself or pay someone to do it as I will never be able to enjoy that shower if I have to look at them every time I use it.
In almost two years of working on this house, only two contractors have brought me to tears of frustration; Roland Hardwoods and now Signature Hardware. They have no worries about me contacting their customer service or entering their showroom. Without question the biggest regret of this project was giving them my business.
UPDATE: Signature Hardware has filtered my review of their products from their website. The issues I spelled out were shared by other negative reviews that were accepted.
During my plumbing rough-in inspections the City inspector told my father we had installed the fittings for some of the shower fixtures wrong. He said when I got ready to install after the tiling they’d stick out way too far. My father studied the installation instructions for my Signature Hardware Exira Shower System in great detail. After accounting for the tile, cement board, and thinset he felt this elbow would fall about 1/2″ short from the desired location. We bought extension to make it longer and had that in place. We took the inspector’s advice, removed the extensions and reinstalled the drop ear elbow fitting by itself per his suggestion.
Move forward a year, tile is in and none of the body spray fixtures can attach because all the fittings were recessed too far back. My father was right, the inspector wrong. Now what to do. Believe it or not I’m not mad at the inspector and he’s not the reason I’m not showering upstairs. He was very helpful throughout the rough-in process and if not for his suggestion to create a crawl space behind my master shower, so I could access the plumbing if needed, I’d be tearing out drywall and/or tile right now.
The true blame lies with Signature Hardware. When the connections didn’t meet I called them immediately to see what suggestions they had. They had none, stating that is why they give specific instructions on where to mount fittings. I was told my only recourse was to reset the plumbing once I shared I had access to it from behind. She pointed out that if the body sprays weren’t in the proper location that the diverter probably wasn’t either. The inspector didn’t have any issue with it’s location, just the body sprays, so as soon as I hung up the phone I raced upstairs to install the diverter. The face plate fit perfect. I thought I had dodged a bullet until I placed the last handle. It stuck out by about a 1/2″.
Once again I had been given another defective part. Clearly the stem for the top knob and bottom were two different lengths. I sent these pictures to Signature Hardware and they accepted blame, AGAIN, and provided me with a free replacement cartridge and instructions on how to replace the part. For those that have not followed this journey this was not the first defective part from them. This was actually the second diverter. The first was mis-threaded and leaked during the rough-in testing. They replaced it. I got bad aerators in both master bath sink faucets (get to the video at the bottom of Blue Is My Favorite Color post), a defective toilet with missing parts, defective porcelain sink, and mis-threaded tub drain for the 1st floor bath and master sink. They are super friendly in replacing the defective parts, but enough is enough. Their stuff cost too much to have such a poor quality control check.
It was a relatively easy fix, although I had to buy a deep socket to remove the defective piece which clearly was too long. With that repair done I turned my attention to the body sprays. I crawled into the crawl space and was able to feel with my hand that there was a gap between the cement board and wood that the fitting was screwed to. I thought, easy, peasy…..free the wood, push the fitting forward, anchor the wood again, done.
With the pex attached the fitting still wouldn’t meet the fixture. Per my father’s calculation over a year ago it was about 1/2″ short of the their required set back. I called Ferguson Plumbing (owner of Signature Hardware), went to Keidel Plumbing, and my father scoured the Internet trying to find a pex 1/2″ elbow with a longer head. It doesn’t exist. So I put fault back on Signature Hardware. Why design a fixture with such a short thread length. They could easily have made the length a 1/2″ longer. If the industry fitting only extends 5/8″ and cement board is 1/2″ and tile is 3/8″ minimum plus your thinset, clearly there is not enough margin to successfully attach directly to the fixture.
I racked my brain trying to come up with options. I purchased straight 1/2″ pex fitting, which allowed for the fixture to be attached, but because it couldn’t be anchored I couldn’t acheive a tight fit and the knob moved around. In the end I resorted to purchasing the same fittings we installed a year ago (not the piece in center). It added almost 3″ in length to capture the 1/2″ needed, but also created two new possible leak points due to the added connections. Unfortunately I didn’t reach this conclusion before the shower glass door was installed. I didn’t have access to the inside of the shower for two days.
Friday, Oct 11 was the first day I regained access. I was determined to have all the fixtures connected , but I still had one big obstacle and that was this was a two person job. I needed someone on the outside to tell me when the fitting was at the right location. Thankfully my neighbor Paul took a break from his own house project to come over and help. I got the body sprays set, so he can return home and then spent the rest of the evening reconnecting the pex pipes. About 10 pm I reached the moment of truth, ready to turn on the water.
The two bottom body sprays leak. I cry uncle and will call a plumber at this point. But before doing so I will contact Signature Hardware because even if they didn’t leak, I don’t like the force of the stream they project, it’s weak, nothing like the force of water the body sprays I had at my old house. The wall shower head is weak too, very disappointing. Remembering the bad aerators from the sink faucets I decided to to remove the aerator from the shower head and the difference is night and day. So if the aerator wasn’t bad and a weak stream is their expectation, I will operate mine without the aerator or replace the unit altogether.
I did officially take my first shower Saturday night. Despite all the issues with the fixtures the space is the sanctuary I thought it would be. The texture of the tile under my feet is exactly how I hoped it would feel, almost massage-like, and not remotely slippery. The position of the rain shower head is spot on as I can sit on the bench and have the water hit the back of my neck and cascade down my shoulders feeling the stresses of the day wash down the drain. Not planned, but I love the halo affect created by the shower light reflecting off the fixture too. The wall shower, with the stronger force, is at the perfect height. The original 6″ shower nipple that came with the unit I replaced with a shorter, 3″, nipple to gain more height. The hand sprayer will be perfect for washing the dogs and I’ll be able to sit comfortably while doing so.
I truly regret not putting in a steam shower unit (cost overruns, so I gave that up), but once the last two pieces of glass are installed by Ryan’s All Glass the shower will be completely enclosed to keep the steam from the water inside. It got pretty steamy without, so I can’t wait to share the post of their completed work and my shower experience with it fully enclosed.
Ryan’s has been awesome to work with thus far even giving me stainless still screws and a drill bit I used for mounting the hand held spray rod and eventual heated towel warmer. When their work is complete I will be able to install the tub and I’m hopeful I will have no issues with the final uninstalled Signature Hardware fixture. With the tub installed my master suite and an entire floor of my house will be complete. Let the final inspections commence.
With the tub reglazed and moving into a house without a functioning kitchen or bathroom it was time to crack the whip on the 1st floor bath. I had to resume working on the tile around the tub so that I could at least take baths.
Since a few days had gone from when I started the walls, when I went to resume I quickly noticed that the tiles on the long wall were not lining up with the shower head wall. The bottom row is the only row I had to cut to size and at some point I did not pay close enough attention to keep them aligned. The American Olean 4×4 had built in spacers, loved that about them, but I knew if I didn’t correct alignment by the time I got to the top my chair rail tile wouldn’t line up. Thankfully I had bought 1/8″ spacers, so I used them to slightly widen the space until the corners lined up again; four rows with spacers meant I was 1/2″ off. So fortunate to catch that when I did.
The first real challenge I had was the soap niche. I had never done one, but YouTube and a few visits to look at tile shop displays was all I needed to feel comfortable with moving forward. Planning the location of a soap niche is very important. I purchased pre-fabricated soap boxes for both showers, which had to be screwed to the joist before the cement board. I measured up approx 22″ from the tub, which is where I thought five, whole pieces of the 4×4 plus the 2×6 bullnose border would fit. Missed it!
First, the tile actually measured 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and I didn’t know before I started that the bottom row would not be a whole piece, so I actually needed a 3″ wide border. I was stymied for a couple of days until I had another one of my MacGyver visions. I had initially bought the wrong cove base, but hadn’t returned it yet. It was 4×6 with a bullnose, so I cut it down to the 3″ I needed. The mitered corners were easier to measure and cut than I thought they’d be. 10 days after moving in I took my first bath; no more inconveniencing friends and former neighbors.
Once I got passed the soap niche and tub area I turned my focus back to the floor. I had grouted the white area, but not the black as I wanted to do it with the soap niche. In hindsight I should have chosen a neutral grout color, like gray, and used it on the floors and walls, but noooooo my mind/vision was fixed on black on black, white on white. Before I could apply the black I had to use my Dremel tool to clean out the grooves where the white grout had gotten into the wrong areas. I was on my hands and knees for hours. After getting all the areas cleaned out I vacuumed and applied blue painters tape around the edges in hopes that would be enough to stop the black grout from bleeding into the white areas. Theory and reality did not match on this occasion. When I pulled off the tape the “rug affect” looked like a hot mess and I cursed myself for thinking I could pull that off. At least the soap niche turned out alright.
Fixing the bleed over was more hours on my hands and knees using my Dremel tool to clean out the black. In some areas I had to mix more white grout to touch up, but amazingly, given my amateur status, the “rug affect” was a success and I could turn my attention to finishing the rest of the walls. All tile work was completed on January 8, over three months from the day I started.
My birthday gift to myself was going to be the completion of the bathroom by installing the toilet and sink. Unfortunately my Signature Hardware hardware fixtures, purchased in Spring of 2018 did not allow that to happen.
I started with the sink. I really wanted a console sink, but I decided to be prudent given the master bath extravagance and save the $400. I got the pedestal base in place and set the sink on top and placed it against the wall. It did not lay flush. I thought for sure it was my tile job, so I pulled out my leveler and it was not the wall. The sink was defective; there was a hump in the middle.
I turned my sites to the toilet only to find that one of the two tank bolts were missing. I was PO’d. So much for that birthday gift. I called Signature Hardware, had to send them the pictures and video above to prove the sink was defective, but once received they agreed to replace the sink. Fortunately for me I live about 15 minutes from their warehouse, so I didn’t have to wait for delivery. I returned it myself and was told they had to open four boxes before they found one that was flat across the back. Apparently they had gotten a bad batch from their manufacturer. I got a new pack of tank bolts too. This cost me another week. When I was able to work on the bath again I started with the toilet. Easy, peasy, I had it connected in about 30 minutes, flushed it once all was well. Back to the sink. I had to connect all the faucets parts first and as I was working on that, the toilet started to run. Long story shortened they sold me a toilet that had been returned/defective. That was why there was only one bolt originally.
I am now beyond PO’d. My track record with my Signature Hardware fixtures up to that point was not good. I had already dealt with two bad drains, two bad aerators, the sink, missing bolts, and now a defective toilet. There customer service with each call was stellar, they always replaced parts quickly and without question. For my inconvenience with the sink they refunded me 10% of the purchase price, a whopping $21.99. In a previous blog I had talked about ordering sink faucets with the wrong reach that they would not let me return, so needless to say I wanted a manager to explain how I got a returned toilet. I wasn’t overly irrate, but I listed all the issues I have been having with their products and shared I had never had problems like these when purchasing from Home Depot or Lowes and that they were supposed to have a high end product. I told him I regretted ever buying from them and that I feared connecting the fixtures in the master shower (the only items of theirs left to install – 10.16.19 update the master shower system is a complete disaster).
He asked me what he could do to make me happy, as my experiences weren’t a true reflection of their workmanship and quality. He opened the door and I burst through it. I asked for the console sink I really wanted and he gave it too me with no hesitation. I’d rather have things work right out the box as the time lost, translates to money lost, and the value of the console doesn’t equate. It took another two weeks before my schedule allowed me to put everything in, but on February 9th I had a fully functioning bath.
The towel rod, and toilet paper dispenser are American Standard TR Collection and the sink and shower faucets are American Standard Hampton Collection all ordered from Build.com. The original tub filler that came with the shower set I had to swap out for a longer one, Delta 7″, as when I filled the tub about half of the stream went directly into the overflow due to its cup design. That also came from Build.com. Next to Amazon that is my favorite online store to shop for my house.
Trying to be a more positive person is something I’m seeking on this new journey, so that is the inspiration behind my decor. It is a tribute to all the positive people that have come into life keeping me sane and motivating throughout this restoration journey. The wall paper that line the shelves in the closet and the back of the medicine cabinet is called Dream Big from Wayfair.com. The shower curtain, filled with motivational quotes and hooks, double sided so curtain and liner don’t share a hook, were great finds from Amazon. My other accessories: soap dispenser and trash can came from Bed, Bath, while the paper hand towel dispenser and linen like paper towels came from Amazon. All complimenting my black and white color scheme. I may have mentioned this item in an earlier blog about the electric, but I absolutely love my exhaust fan/light. Purchased from Build.com the fan comes on automatically whenever it senses humidity in the room.
I still need to touch up some areas with paint, hang the doors and medicine cabinet, but the functionality is complete. Of all the things I’ve done in this house, I think I’m most proud of this bathroom. My goal was to restore it to its original look and I think I accomplished that. I see the flaws, but I also marvel every time I walk in it amazed by what I accomplished with no assistance. I actually tell myself I’ve done good. I’m giddy, excited, to get the medicine cabinet complete. It will be an inspired by DIY/HGTV project with salvage material. Check back often to see the COMPLETELY restored bathroom.