The complaint about pitting hardware is perhaps the most perennial our industry has. It’s one that never seems to go away, and is a popular gripe among home owners who have bought doors in the past few years.

And the reasons for the industry’s frustration are more than justified. So, with the rise of stainless finishes, is the industry at risk of falling out of love with polished finishes altogether?

Seemingly impossible problems

The industry has had a problem with polished hardware for a long time for a number of reasons. The main irritant being it’s constant habit of pitting and tarnishing well before the length of the guarantee is reached. No matter what coatings or testing the hardware goes through.

You can imagine the disappointment from both the installer and home owner. Imagine purchasing a high-end, bespoke entrance door, north of £1500. That home owner is buying into the prestige of the purchase and the product, the quality of the door, the service and back up from the installation company. Then, a few months down the line, that once gleaming, glinting polished chrome letter box, door handle and door knocker are now covered in unsightly and frankly ugly pitting spots and marks that washing just won’t clear. The prestige and novelty, like the finish on the hardware, gets eroded.

There is then a cost incurred on the installer and the suppliers of that hardware as the company then has to attend the problem as an after-sales call. The staff responsible for that after-sales call costs, as does the replacement hardware. Not only that, but the reputation of the installer and indeed their suppliers become tarnished each time they have to replace the hardware on a door that was sold on the back of prestige and it’s high-end position in the market place.

So, in recent years, the industry has seen a clear push towards the stainless and brushed end of the hardware market in an effort to reduce call-outs and after-sales services caused by pitted polished hardware.

Is stainless the future?

There’s no doubting the rising popularity of stainless and brushed hardware in both the installer and home owner corners of the market. It’s not only a contemporary finish, but it is being increasingly chosen by installers in the belief that they may provide a longer term solution to rapidly pitting hardware. It could decrease after-sales calls and ensure the home owner remains happy with the final finish of their door.

To a degree, this is true. A quality stainless finished door handle should last longer than a polished door handle. But the clue to stainless is in the name: stain-less. This doesn’t mean stain-proof. Just like all other hardware, if it’s not looked after or even cleaned once in a while, then of course it is going to suffer because of it.

Stainless door hardware can still pit. So for installers and also fabricators choosing to go down the stainless route with the aims of reducing service calls and improving hardware reliability, then they should be prepared to tell home owners how to look after their door hardware. It’s not a difficult task, hot soapy water should keep it looking in tip top condition. But if left for a long time for dirt and oxygen to do it’s business, then it’s going to require something with a bit more elbow grease.

The industry has turned to stainless in an attempt to find a solution to an age old problem. But it could only work if common sense and education of the maintenance of these products are passed on to the home owner.

A question of quality

The route of this problem in my eyes is down to price, and what we as an industry are prepared to pay for our hardware.

Much of what we use is made in China. Simply down to unit costs. Everyone knows that 10,000 handles made in China will be cheaper than 10,000 handles made in Europe. But I think everyone also accepts that the price paid for that unit value is a lesser quality. It’s not all bad, the stuff made in China, but in some corners of the market there really is some dross.

I still maintain that hardware made here in the UK, or at least in the leading European nations, say Germany, Austria or the Scandinavian regions, would still produce a better quality hardware suite. And in all honesty, I think if it could be proved that European made hardware would solve a lot of the common problems with existing hardware, fabricators, installers and indeed home owners wouldn’t mind paying that bit extra for better hardware. After all, a few quid here and there for better, longer lasting hardware isn’t going to lose a sale for the installer.

Are you using stainless finishes as standard? Have you ditched polished finishes? Will there ever be a solution to the pitting problem? All thoughts on this topic are welcome via the comments section below.

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