Review of Problems with Bristan Easyfit Kitchen Taps

The Exploding Tap Problem

In 2014, Bristan, the UK's largest tap manufacturer, released a nice new range of Easyfit kitchen taps. As a professional plumber, I fitted 21 of these over a 15 month period. Unfortunately, after about a year, some of the taps started 'falling off' in an alarming manner that convinced me these taps pose a flood risk to people's homes. To understand why Bristan need to recall their entire Easyfit range of kitchen taps, follow the story here…

Problems with Bristan Easyfit Kitchen Taps - Overview
A shorter overview of the problem and what to do (6 mins)
5 October 2016

I began speaking to Bristan's customer services department in July 2016, after two of my customers had called me to report their taps 'exploding', with a water fountain appearing suddenly in their kitchen and water bouncing off the ceiling. Although it was simple enough to reattach the taps, I was concerned that the problem might reoccur, and it was clear to me that there must be a flaw in Bristan's design. Bristan, on the other hand, were blaming the problem on installer error. Being confident that I had installed these taps correctly, I was unconvinced by their argument. I tried to persuade Bristan to send out an engineer to investigate the problem taps. After a month had gone by and they still hadn't sent out an engineer, I published my first video. I emailed the link to my customers, asking them to watch it and then to call Bristan. This worked, and Bristan sent their engineers out to a number of my customers with Echo or Monza Easyfit taps. These were the models that I had so far had a problem with.

Problems with Bristan Easyfit Kitchen Taps - Part 1:
A video explaining my concerns to my 21 Easyfit customers (11 mins)
8 September 2016

Although Bristan had started replacing my customers' Echo and Monza Easyfit taps, I was left concerned about the other Easyfit models that I had fitted, such as the Cinnamon and Tangerine. It led me to analyse the Easyfit design in fine detail in order to work out why the grub screws which secure the taps were working loose. I wanted to understand whether it was a problem with only certain models, or one that was common to the whole Easyfit range. I also started investigating whether other plumbers had reported similar problems. In doing so, I came across a thread on the UK Plumbers Forum, from which it became evident that plumbers had been reporting this problem to Bristan since 20 January 2015. Having found that, I lost sympathy for Bristan and decided it was time to call their bluff. So I published Part 2.

Problems with Bristan Easyfit Kitchen Taps - Part 2
With Bertie's help, I investigate the reasons why Bristan's design is flawed (24 mins)
19 September 2016

My analysis, as presented in Part 2, indicated that the design flaw was in the way the grub screws press into a bevel on the tap base. Analysing the force of the bevel on the grub screws, and resolving it into horizontal and vertical components, it became clear that the horizontal component has a tendency to work the grub screws loose. This would not be a problem if the pressure were a constant, since friction in the thread would be sufficient to prevent loosening. Unfortunately, pressure drops every time the tap is turned on, and there is a sharp pressure pulse whenever it is turned off as pressure returns to static mains pressure. This pressure pulse has a 'hammer effect' on the grub screws. Over a period of months or years, even if the grub screws are tightened properly by the installer, this hammer effect gradually works them lose.

It is also possible that movement of the tap levers or swivelling the tap spout has a knock-on effect on the grub screws.

An unfortunate aspect of the design is that failure occurs suddenly and catastrophically. When the grub screws begin to loosen, there is no slight leakage to warn that a problem is developing. Instead they fail suddenly and without warning, resulting in a water fountain in your kitchen, with hot and cold water bouncing off the ceiling.

The taps most commonly fail when being used and turned off, in which case the home owner is present and able to turn off the mains, which limits the likelihood of serious fooding. However, as well as these taps posing a flood risk, they also pose a scalding risk. One's natural reaction is to dive under the sink, locate the internal stop cock, and turn off the mains immediately. While water is bouncing off the ceiling, there is a risk of scalding from the hot water jet as you do so. If your internal stop cock is located under the kitchen sink, it is safer to turn off the outside stop cock at the water meter. In their panic, most people won't think of that. Furthermore, the same pressure pulse that occurs when you turn the tap off also occurs whenever any other mains tap or appliance turns off. So when the dishwasher or washing machine is running, for example, that pressure pulse and hammer effect occurs whenever it closes its mains inlet valve. Consequently, there is a risk of the tap failing at night or while the home owner is out, resulting in a serious flood. If your kitchen floods, even if it is on the ground floor, water ingress will cause units to swell, damage to flooring, electrical damage, and damage to plasterboard in the walls. Damages could amount to tens of thousands of pounds.

The design flaw in these taps relates to the design of the base and grub screws which are features common to all models within the Easyfit range. Consequently, I believe the entire Easyfit range is affected, and in my opinion should be recalled.

Having exposed a flaw that was common to all Bristan's Easyfit kitchen taps, I felt it was appropriate to suggest ways that Bristan might fix the flaw. In Part 3, I first of all assess the design changes that Bristan made for their 2016 models, and I then explain how I think they might fix the flaw. Given that plumbers have been talking to Bristan about the problem since January 2015, and Bristan still hadn't come up with a redesign that fixed the problem, it seemed that Bristan's design engineers needed some help.

Problems with Bristan Easyfit Kitchen Taps - Part 3
With Bertie's help, I offers suggestions as to how Bristan might fix the flaw (51 mins)
3 October 2016

The 2016 base redesign

The taps I fitted had the original design of Easyfit base, with a V-shaped cutout. At about the beginning of 2016 Bristan redesigned the base, making it a full-circle without the cutout, and making the bevels symmetrical. In my opinion, these changes addressed 2 out of 3 serious flaws in the previous design. Firstly, by making the base symmetrical, they addressed the possibility of them being installed back-to-front and the grub screws not engaging with the bevels in the base. Secondly, by removing the V-shaped cutout and making the base a full circle they improved the seal around the base so that water pooled around the tap body could no longer trickle down and rust the flexible hoses underneath.

But did they address the 3rd and most serious flaw - that of the grub screws working loose over time, and the tap body exploding off the base? From correspondence I have received over the last few years from various people with Easyfit taps, it is clear that the 2016 base redesign significantly reduced the occurrence rate of their taps exploding, but did not eliminate the problem entirely. It seems that the fully circular base (without a V-shaped cutout) provided a more solid foundation to the tap body. Perhaps swivelling the tap spout and the physical strain of turning the tap levers had less of a knock-on effect on the grub screws. The relatively small number that did still fail were perhaps caused by the gradual effects of water hammer when turning the tap levers on and off.

The pictures below were emailed to me by plumber Steve Kemp who experienced this problem of an Easyfit tap exploding in October 2018. The tap body shows a tap code of HS0416, indicating that the tap was manufactured in April 2016. The base is the 2016 type, with the symmetrical design and no cut-out. One of the interesting things about this example is that the grub screws had not noticeably loosened. Instead, the gradual hammer effect of water pressure had caused the grub screws to plough grooves through the bevels in the base. There is no way that Bristan could reasonably blame this failure on 'installer error' which has always been their favourite dodge when confronted with this problem of their 'exploding taps'.
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The 2018 base redesign

Bristan made further slight changes to the design of the base in 2018. The photos below show examples of taps that have failed despite having this latest base design.

The first set of photos were taken by plumber David Lockey of a tap that exploded in December 2019. The base code JL1218 indicates it was manufactured in December 2018, and you can see that this 2018 base design has deeper circular holes instead of bevels for the grub screws to screw into.
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The next photo, supplied by Jules Madjar, shows another failed example of the latest base version. In this case you can clearly see the groove where the grub screw has ploughed through the brass above its locating hole.
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Bristan's 'Easyfit FAQ'

Another development is that Bristan have published an 8-point 'Easyfit FAQ' in defence of their taps. They explain their reasons for the 2016 base redesign, "Once we were made aware of incorrect installation and the potential flood risks this could have caused our customers we revised the design of the Easyfit base". They then explain their reasons for the 2018 redesign, "Since then other amendments have been made to increase finished product stability and also further reduce any potential install errors". This is an interesting admission that their previous models suffered stability issues, a clear reference to the problem of their taps exploding off their bases. They also say, "the base has been further modified with the grooves being replaced by 4 custom sized holes, ensuring a tighter fit and reducing the ability even further of the grub screws being able to work loose". So they admit that in some cases, with the original and 2016 designs, the grub screws were able to work loose. Since the 2016 base was symmetrical, such failure could not be explained by the base being installed back to front, as was possible with the original design.

Despite such admissions, other parts of the same FAQ deny there is any need for those earlier models to be recalled, which I find somewhat irresponsible. If they acknowledge that there was a stability problem and that in some cases the grub screws were able to work loose, even with the 2016 redesign, and that such a failure might flood your house, it seems unreasonable that Bristan are happy to leave your house exposed to such risk. Instead of offering a recall they say, "With almost all occurrences of Easyfit tap base issues or taps popping off from the bases, we will arrange for field service engineers to attend and complete full assessments of the product installation and root causes". What comfort might that be if your house has been flooded?

The evidence I have supplied above demonstrates that even with the latest base design there are cases where the grub screws still work loose and the taps pop off their bases. That said, it does seem that such cases are now quite rare. In point-4 they claim, "We have not been made aware of any current problems with Bristan Easyfit Taps". Given the above evidence and the communications these tap owners and their installers have had with Bristan's customer services, this is either a blatant lie or Bristan haven't reviewed their FAQ since they originally published it.

In point-8 of their FAQ, Bristan claim, "Our latest Easyfit bases, following detailed and extensive design modifications, have removed the ability for it to be installed incorrectly". Although I cannot recommend that anyone install an Easyfit tap, from a plumber's perspective this is certainly a welcome statement in that if you fit their current models you can no longer be blamed for any failures that do occur.

They also claim, "Since the launch of the Easyfit taps, we have only received less than 0.2% returned that are classed as a manufacturing fault". I have no means to deny or verify this statistic. Their intended point is that the risk of their taps failing is very small. What I find interesting is that, having vindicated the installer (except where installers of the original design fitted the base backwards), they are now suggesting that failures may be attributed to occasional manufacturing defects. Personally I doubt that. The reality is that failures are due to a flaw in the Easyfit design. However, Bristan don't want you to know that, because if it is the design that is at fault then every Easyfit tap they have ever made is flawed and is a potential flood risk. And in that case, the responsible thing for Bristan to do would be to announce a full recall.

The intended benefit of the Easyfit design is that fitting and replacement should be slightly easier compared to a normal tap. The unintended consequence is that it introduces a serious flood risk to your home. Even if such failure is now quite rare, the added risk still massively outweighs the potential benefit. The benefit is to the installer, saving him a couple of minutes installation time compared to a normal tap. The Easyfit design offers no obvious benefit to the homeowner, and instead exposes their home to an added risk that is unnecessary and avoidable. If the tap explodes during the night or when they are out it could cause thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds' worth of damage.

So for peace of mind, I would recommend that anyone with a Bristan Easyfit kitchen tap should have it removed and replaced by a different brand. Previously, I recommended that homeowners regularly check the tightness of the grub screws, and await Bristan's announcement of a recall. However, such a recall now seems unlikely unless they are forced to by some kind of class action, or by having something like BBC Watchdog expose the problem more publicly. So at this point I can only recommend that Bristan Easyfit taps should be removed.

To be honest, it doesn't really surprise me that Bristan have chosen not to recall their Easyfit taps. I understand that they have sold several million of them since their introduction in 2014. A full recall would cost Bristan at least £100 per tap, so the overall cost would run into the hundreds of millions of pounds. As a private limited company I'm guessing that would bankrupt them. What really surprises me is that they are still selling them. If they had any sense, they would surely have come up with a new design by now, and quietly discontinued the whole Easyfit design. The longer they continue to sell them, the more likely it is that one day the problem will bite them in the bum!

Bristan's 'Easyfit FAQ' is a welcome vindication of the installer, who Bristan previously always blamed for their tap failures. But it is a let-down for the consumer who is expected to accept the risk posed by an Easyfit tap in their home, with no likelihood of a recall.

A better design from the 1810 Company

In August 2018 another British company, the 1810 Company, launched a clever new design of kitchen tap that they call the Q-Fit design. This achieves all that was intended in the Easyfit design, without exposing your home to any added risk. You can buy their QFit Courbe Kitchen tap from heatandplumb.com. The 1810 Company kindly sent me one to try out. Check out my review video below:

Install of a Q-Fit Kitchen tap from the 1810 Company
September 2018

What kitchen taps do I recommend?

Although I am frequently asked this, I am reluctant to recommend any specific tap, simply because there are lots of good taps out there, and what any individual likes is very much a matter of personal preference. Just avoid Bristan, as the issues highlighted in my videos are unique to their range. Brands like Cooke and Lewis, and Deva are decent - search for ‘kitchen mixer taps’ at diy.com (B&Q), or screwfix.com or toolstation.co.uk. If you can afford to pay a bit more for a top quality brand, then Franke are excellent if you want a twin lever tap, or Grohe if you prefer a single lever design. If you search on Amazon for 'Franke kitchen mixer taps', or 'Grohe kitchen mixer taps', you can often find them at very reasonable prices. A general search on Amazon for 'kitchen mixer taps' will return results for lots of cheaper brands, but many of them are hit and miss in terms of quality. Franke and Grohe taps use the traditional horseshoe-clamp-and-backnut design for securing a tap to the sink. Except for the occasional moan and groan from a plumber with a bad back, this design has survived the test of time and there's nothing wrong with it. The 1810 Company's QFit tap is another option if you don't mind paying a slight premium for the QFit feature of the design.

On a practical detail, if buying a Franke tap, note that the flexible tails they typically ship with are M12 x 1/2" x 250mm length. This may be shorter than the tails on your original tap, so the copper pipework may need extending slightly. If you're employing a plumber to install your tap, that shouldn't be a problem, but it might throw you a bit if you're planning to install it yourself. If you're buying a Grohe tap, the tails are usually 450mm length but sometimes with a 3/8" connector instead of 1/2". So it is worth ordering a pair of 15mm to 3/8" reducers, just in case your plumber doesn't have a pair in the van.

Have you been affected by an Easyfit tap failure?

If your answer is 'yes', I hope it was just a case of mopping up afterwards and that it didn't do serious damage to your kitchen and house. What do you do if it has? Here are some recommendations:

1) Do not have the tap body refitted to the base, except as an emergency fix until you can arrange for the tap to be replaced. Once it has failed once, it is more likely to fail again. When they fail, the grub screws tend to plough a bit of a groove through the bevels in the base, making a repeat failure likely to happen again quite quickly.

2) Take close up photos of the base and tap body, including the code on the tap body. Especially if the tap failure has caused damage to your floor, kitchen units or anything else, these photographs could become important evidence for obtaining compensation from Bristan. Expect Bristan to try to fob you off, and that you will need to present the facts clearly and firmly.

3) Read Bristan's Easyfit FAQ in order to familiarise yourself with their current policy on these taps. Note especially what they say in point 8, "Our latest Easyfit bases, following detailed and extensive design modifications, have removed the ability for it to be installed incorrectly". Then contact Bristan's customer services on 0330 026 6273. Their favourite fob-off line has always been to blame the failure on 'installer error'. According to their own published statement this is no longer a valid argument. In point 4 they state, "With almost all occurrences of Easyfit tap base issues or taps popping off from the bases, we will arrange for field service engineers to attend and complete full assessments of the product installation and root causes". Insist that they do this, and that they compensate you for the cost of a new tap (of your choice) and for any damage caused. Bristan will most likely want to fit a replacement Easyfit tap. But if you have already experienced one of these failing, you are unlikely to have confidence in them fitting another. So they must compensate you with a tap of your own choice of equivalent value, including labour, and for any damage the tap's failure has caused to your home. If significant damage has been caused, it is likely they will tell you to claim on your home insurance. In several cases they have offered to pay for the insurance excess. The truth is that your insurance company is more likely to compensate you than Bristan, and this may be your best option. But then you have a claim on your insurance resulting in subsequently higher premiums. Plumbers have been raising concerns about these taps since early 2015. It is not right that Bristan continue to sell them regardless and expect you and your insurance company to pick up the tab for their flawed design. A full recall would cost Bristan several hundred million pounds and possibly bankrupt them. While I understand them trying to avoid that, the least they should do is to fully compensate individual customers affected, without you having to fight for it. If they had any sense, they would throw money at you rather than try to fob you off with lame excuses.

4) If they don't fully compensate you, it may be worth contacting BBC watchdog with details of your case. In 2020 the BBC announced that Watchdog was being axed as a standalone show, but would instead become a segment incorporated into the One Show. So it is possible they may still show interest in your story with a view to future episodes. You could also write to WRAS, the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme, who are responsible for having approved Bristan's Easyfit taps. Bristan's Easyfit taps are not 'fit for purpose', and it is important that their approvals are not renewed when they next expire. Don't expect WRAS to compensate you or offer you feedback, but present them with clear evidence of what has happened and ask them to raise the issue directly with Bristan. By doing so, if you help remove these taps from sale you may help others avoid similar damage to their homes in future.

5) If necessary, and if your damages are less than £10,000, you could submit a small claims court application against Bristan.

The Annoying Dribble Problem

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If you read reviews of Bristan's Easyfit taps, another problem that irritates people is the annoying dribble problem. The tap nozzle contains an aerator with holes in it, intended to give a neater and more shapely stream of water. After you turn the tap off, water that is left in the downward section of the spout has a tendency to dribble out somewhat randomly, often several minutes later. This is because Bristan's aerators contain slightly larger holes than the aerators of most other brands. Consequently, surface tension is insufficient to hold back that small amount of water left in the spout.

Unlike the Exploding Tap Problem, this is not a serious flaw that is likely to flood your house. Nevertheless, reviewers have been reporting it as an issue of annoyance ever since Bristan introduced its Easyfit taps in 2014. Most other manufactures have an active enough quality control department that they would have flagged this issue and rectified it long ago. In Bristan's case, their apparent indifference to customer feedback begs the question as to whether they actually have a quality control department!
Designed and written by Hamish Erskine
© 2016 Hamish Erskine
hamish-the-plumber.com
Email: info@htp.com
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