When we hear the term "knockoffs," we typically think of designer clothing and jewelry. However, the realm of counterfeit parts and materials has found its way into virtually every level of the building trades. Given online access—and the certain anonymity that the online world provides, these poor-quality items increase the risk of failure and ultimately threaten a builder's reputation. From the plethora of fake tools and substandard drywall to the decorative and supportive hardware used throughout the home, there is a rapidly growing counterfeit contingent. Why is this important?
When it comes to the hardware you're using on your projects, you need to know that you're getting the actual hardware you know and trust. Buying knockoffs is easy, and the number of places to buy them is skyrocketing. However, the problem with this hardware is that you cannot be sure of the durability, finish, strength—and how it will perform and last over time. For example, what will it be like after a couple of 1000 duty cycles in terms of hardware action?
How can you minimize the chances you’re getting knockoffs?
In addition to wanting to build with quality parts, the downside of knockoffs that are "less expensive" is that they aren't. When you send someone back to change a part out because there was a failure, or it was beginning to wear, the hardware was making noise, or the finish was coming off—that's an expensive callback. Even more critical, it can be a real hit to your reputation as a contractor, builder, or finish carpenter.
It's also important to consider that appropriate testing is a common step for your manufacturer of choice. Untested or undertested products are common in building products—and of course, especially in knockoffs. They potentially threaten the public and the contractor who purchases them. Testing and proof of compliance should be available for parts that warrant it. There are an increasing number of codes and standards in place for builders. Know them, adhere to them, and choose manufacturers that follow suit.
Let's use the Sugatsune SLS-ELAN as an example. This heavy-duty part easily supports the weight necessary for safety. Would you trust a knockoff in its place? Imagine what could happen if this part was not up to par.
Recently, we came across a knockoff of Sugatsune’s ML-ZN80 Push to Open Door Latch from a manufacturer in China. So, we checked it out. When the cheaper alternative product arrived, its poor finish alone signaled that it was an inferior product. Side by side, they appeared to have the same dimensions, but the casing of the knockoff product had scratches, paint defects, and die marks not found on the genuine Sugatsune part. When releasing the push latch of the knockoff version, the arm stuck in the closed position requiring 2 or 3 tries to get it to throw the arm open. We also noticed that the contact point of the magnet was 2/5 the size of Sugatsune’s push latch.
To uncover any performance issues, Sugatsune performed durability testing of the two parts verifying that the knockoff product was significantly inferior in performance. The pull force of the knockoff was weaker, and had a difficult time holding the door closed after 500 open and close cycles. The performance was even worse in cycle testing, where it broke at only 16% of the number of cycles that the Sugatsune part consistently met. Can you imagine the headaches clients could face if a reputable builder used a part like this only to save a few dollars?
The industry is responding with technological advances to protect genuine parts. Physical products are starting to be protected and tracked by blockchain records and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) microchips. With this data, it's possible to create simple apps for contractors to determine whether what they are using is genuine. Our advice, take the necessary steps to ensure that you are purchasing a manufacturer’s genuine part and remember the old saying, you get what you pay for.