It may not be wise to dedicate yourself to a particular brand.

There are two kitchen appliances that I always associate with the plumbing industry - the dishwasher and the food waste grinder. You may call the food waste grinder the garbage disposal or garbage grinder. That's all right, the plumbing codes and standards choose to use the term "food waste grinder" for whatever reason.

Both the dishwasher and the food waste grinder are extras in the kitchen. Very few plumbing codes require a food waste grinder to be installed, and I am not aware of any plumbing codes that mandate a dishwasher. While this is the case, both appliances have become very commonplace. Furthermore, both appliances are regularly requested in existing homes or dwelling units not having them.

A common question facing the plumbing contractor is "Which model or brand is the best to install?"

While this seems like an easy question, it can actually get you into a lot of trouble. I used to always watch my father suggest "KitchenAid" whenever asked about a dishwasher. There were no other brands he would recommend. For a while, I thought the only quality dishwasher out there was KitchenAid.

Now, if your customer goes out and buys a KitchenAid, and the dishwasher breaks down, whose fault do you think it is? You are probably saying KitchenAid's. But in your customer's eyes, you are at fault. You are the plumbing contractor that recommended the unit. If you don't know what dishwashers to recommend, how do you know what to recommend in plumbing?

Brand X

One of today's problems is the number of models and various features available for a dishwasher. You can go from bottom-of-the-line, low-end dishwashers, to one with all the bells and whistles. The prices also are all over the place. Many plumbing contractors still recommend units by brand name. Others have gotten away from naming brands to buy, and have resorted to naming units not to buy. Still, others identify problems to watch out for on any unit.

I owned a KitchenAid at one time. Quite frankly, it was a good dishwasher. We got the normal 10 years of life out of the unit. I also owned a bottom-of-the-line GE dishwasher. While it was against my principles to buy the stock builder's model, we had just moved into our new house and were broke. Rather than a large debt, we purchased the bottom of the barrel. Actually, the dishwasher was quite good. It was sturdy, washed the dishes just fine, and lasted eight years.

When it finally quit, I decided it was time to buy the top of the line - a super deluxe Bosch dishwasher. The unit cost almost $1,000. It had everything. And boy, could it wash the dishes. The big selling feature is that it is the quietest dishwasher on the market. You can run the thing and nobody knows it, even if you are right next to it in the kitchen.

It didn't take long for the headaches to begin with this great wonderful Bosch unit. Within six months, the electronic controls went bad. Fortunately, it was under warranty. The repairman said the replacement controls where an upgrade from the original controls. They lasted about nine months. Here we are, three years later, replacing the electronic control piece for the third time. The new service repairman's comment was, "Oh, I change these all the time. Their controls are a piece of junk. They save a few pennies by making it cheap and they constantly fall apart."

Cheap! I paid almost $1,000 for this dishwasher. When I checked with my friends who owned the same dishwasher, they all had changed the same controls. So, I called Bosch to complain. They said they knew the control was replaced a lot and they have tried to beef it up. I would think that a control should be able to operate on a daily basis.

The bottom line? I should have spoken to the repair guy first. That isn't bad advice to give to your customers. They tend to know which units hold up, and which ones are being repaired. By the way, my father also used to say to be careful with electronic controls, they don't hold up as well as manual controls. I should have listened.

Appliance Authority

How about food waste grinders? This is an area where plumbing contractors tend to be passionate about a particular brand. I have watched heated battles over In-Sink-Erator vs. Whirlaway, or one brand against the next.

During one particular discussion, I found a major problem with the argument. One plumbing contractor was speaking about an In-Sink-Erator model that had a 1/2-horsepower motor. The other plumbing contractor was discussing a Whirlaway that had a 3/4-horsepower motor. I had to stop the discussion and say, "Time out. A unit with a 3/4-horsepower motor cannot be compared to a model with a 1/2-horsepower motor. That is like comparing apples and oranges."

I have since realized that this is often the case with food waste grinders. Plumbing contractors forget to mention the horsepower of the motor. The higher the hp, the better the unit.

I personally prefer a 3/4-horsepower motor food waste grinder. I wish all of the manufacturers had that as the smallest unit. Of course, these units can grind anything that happens to fall into it.

So, rather than emphasizing manufacturers, you might also want to point out the differences between the hp rating of the motor. That makes your customer better informed when it comes to selecting a food waste grinder.

For a bit of information, everyone I have suggested going to a 3/4-horsepower motor on the food waste grinder has thanked me. Their normal comment is that it has a lot more guts than the last unit they owned. This is nothing more than upselling intelligently.

Whatever you do, don't get caught overselling a particular brand. If it doesn't work out, they will blame you, as well as the manufacturer. Leave the options available for your customers when it comes to selecting these two kitchen appliances.