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Price • Origin
Made in U.S.A.
Most Chicago Faucets are made or assembled in the U.S.A.
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Chicago Faucet Company
2100 S. Clearwater Drive
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Warranty Score: ★★★★★
We have never heard of, nor do we know anyone who has ever heard of, a defective Chicago faucet.
Chicago might be the best faucet line made. We certainly know of no better. But, Chicago Faucet is also the reigning king of un-cool. It is so lacking in style that its lack of it has become a style statement of its own. If you are one of the design-glitterati, a Chicago faucet is probably not for you. But, if what you want is a faucet that is designed and built to last the rest of your life and beyond, and not something that merely looks cool, a Chicago faucet is your wish come true. These faucets started out in commercial kitchens and the residential versions still show that solid heavy-duty commercial breeding. In fact, most of Chicago's business is still commercial. Its residential faucets are unmodified or slightly modified versions of the company's commercial products.
Heft a Chicago faucet and you will find out why the faucet industry considers weight the universal gauge of quality. At a strapping 9 pounds or more, a Chicago faucet is a behemoth, and what a real faucet feels like. Pick up an faucet for comparison and you will immediately understand the difference between a true solid brass faucet and one made with thin-wall brass and lots of plastic. Chicago Faucet makes a faucet for the ages. Its unique Quaturn® compression cartridge was invented over 100 years ago. The cartridge was revolutionary then, and is still one of the best compression cartridges around.
The company, founded in 1901 by Albert C. Brown, makes kitchen, bar and prep faucets for the home, but its main business has always been faucets for commercial kitchens where performance and reliability is everything and looks count for next to nothing. It has historically concentrated on flawless performance rather than design, and its faucets are more than a little "industrial". Of course, "industrial" is now "in" as a preferred look for kitchen faucets, so the world has caught up with Chicago's style rather than Chicago trying to make its faucets stylish.
Chicago Faucet was acquired in 2002 by Geberit AG, a Swiss manufacturer of excellent, high-style, residential sanitary bathware which is growing a strong presence in the U.S. residential bathroom market with its cutting edge fixture designs and technologies. The acquisition was applauded by some, us included, as heralding a new era of high-design Chicago faucets as Geberit exported some of its style finesse to its new acquisition.
It didn't happen.
The company tried it, didn't like it. Chicago Faucet and high style just do not go together. So, after more than a decade, Chicago faucets are still the staid, conservative designs they have always been — beefy, heavy, beastly tough, and nearly indestructible.
The vast majority of Chicago's manufacturing remains in the U.S. According to the company, over 1,700 products manufactured by Chicago Faucet are qualified under the Buy American Act (BAA), which requires qualifying products to contain at at least 50% U.S.-made components. (Not all of these are faucets, however). Products that do qualify are identified in the company's online catalog.
It's wholly-owned foundry, Starline Manufacturing, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of the few permanent-mold brass casting facilities remaining in the U.S. It has won recognition from the City of Milwaukee for its exemplary environmental practices. Chicago contracts with Duffin Manufacturing of Elyria, Ohio, to manufacture Quaturn® cartridges and precision turned brass faucet parts. Final assembly, packaging and shipping take place in Chicago's Michigan City, Indiana facility.
However, Chicago also buys many components from overseas sources.
The company gets its the ceramic disk valves for its two-handle faucets from Anton Traenkle GmbH & Co KG, a German manufacturer of excellent products. Traenkle is neck in neck with Flühs Drehtechnik, GmbH for the title of world's best ceramic cartridge. Flühs (spelled "Fluehs" for English speakers), may have a slight edge, but it's a paper-thin margin.
Chicago's new 2300 ceramic cartridge for its single handle mixing faucets is supposed to be hush-hush. A Chicago Faucet spokesman refused to identify the manufacturer of the cartridge, calling it a "trade secret". From visual inspection, however, we believe it to be nothing more exotic than an off-the-shelf Kerox cartridge. Kerox, Kft, located in Hungary, has an excellent reputation as the "go to" mixing cartridge for European manufacturers of high-quality faucets — and we think this a good choice; certainly nothing to be secretive about.
Electronically controlled valves for Chicago's "touchless" electronic faucets are from A.u.K. Muller & Co. KG, another German manufacturer with a world-wide reputation for flawless products. In addition to turnings made in the U.S. by Duffin, Chicago buys turned brass parts from from Lota International, a very large Taiwan-owned Chinese manufacturer of precision brass turnings for the faucet industry.
Customs records also show faucet component imports from Tonpan Enterprises Corporation, a Taiwan-based broker of primarily Chinese products and Chang Yi Shin Enterprise Co., Ltd., an electronic faucet manufacturer in business for over 50 years. Chang Yi makes parts for other manufacturers as well as a highly regarded electronic faucet under its T.A.P. brand name.
Chicago Faucet buys a few finished-in-the-box faucets, from Globe Union Industrial, and NCIP. Globe Union is a large Chinese manufacturer of faucets and faucet components that also sells the line of mid-priced faucets, fixtures and accessories in the U.S. NCIP is a well-regarded Taiwanese manufacturer known for its quality products. It makes faucets for in addition to the faucets it manufactures for Chicago Faucet.
Foreign-made Chicago faucets include:
• 420 series series of several 4" centerset lavatory faucets, with and without popup,
• 430 Single-handle kitchen faucet,
• 431 8" single-handle kitchen faucet, and
• 432 8" single-handle kitchen faucet.
The Chicago Faucet warranty is almost impossible to find. Many pages on the company's web site refer the reader to the warranty, but the warranty is not available on the website. We finally found it buried at the back of installation instructions that were packed with a faucet we bought for testing, and even then the warranty statement does not appear to be complete. For "complete" warranty details, the reader is instructed to contact Chicago Faucet, Consumer Affairs in Des Plaines — no telephone number listed. We called Chicago's customer support to find out the "complete warranty details", no one had any idea what we were talking about.
Cartridges are guaranteed "for the lifetime of the faucet", which is good, but does not include rubber or plastic parts. Chicago takes the position that the replacement of these parts is routine maintenance. The Chicago faucet Quaturn® cartridge requires periodic washer replacement, but it's newer ceramic cartridges should never wear out a washer or o-ring. If it does, there is something wrong with the cartridge. Chicago should distinguish between these two types of cartridges in its warranty.
The Chicago Faucet warranty formerly guaranteed "Forevershine"and "hard coat" finishes for the lifetime of the faucet, and all other finishes for five years. Now all finishes are warranteed for just 5 years. Most other American manufacturers guarantee PVD and electroplated finishes for the lifetime of the faucet. There is no reason not to. These are very tough finishes. If Chicago actually cannot produce a lifetime PVD or electroplated finish, perhaps it should farm out the work out to a company that knows how to do so like American Faucets and Coatings, manufacturer of the line of high-quality line of faucets, which guarantees its PVD finishes for a lifetime.
Post-sale customer service is competent, handling our purely imagined installation issues with ease, and quickly identifying needed replacement parts for us. But, if you expect pleasantries, a little chit-chat and a touch of small talk, you need to go elsewhere. Customer service agents are all business, and used to dealing with plumbers rather than homeowners. They can sometime be brusque, even rude, with what they consider foolish questions. We give Chicago Faucet customer service a A- for competence, and a chilly D for civility.
On the plus side, Chicago scored well for consistent high quality over a our look-back period of ten years, for sourcing from component suppliers with good to excellent reputations, and for doing much of its own casting in house using permanent molds. Most casting uses temporary sand molds, which produce castings that are not nearly as precise.
The company's choice of cartridges for its faucets is also a clear plus. All of its cartridges are some of the best made anywhere.
Most components of Chicago faucets are interchangeable, so replacement parts are available for products as far back as 1913. So, no matter how old your Chicago faucet may be, you can still get parts, and odds are you will still be able to get parts in 2113.
Comparable American-made faucets include
Our judgment is that we would, without hesitation, buy any U.S.-made Chicago faucet for even the busiest kitchen, while cursing the fickle gods of commerce that Chicago does not also make bathroom faucets. Tip: get the wrist blade "hospital" handles for easy operation even when your hands are covered in cake batter. As for style — it's a Chicago Faucet — it doesn't need style.
If you have experience with Chicago faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or leave a comment, below.