Review & Rating
2100 S. Clearwater Drive
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Utility and Commercial Faucets
Footnotes:1. A "faucet", defined as "any metal cast, forged, stamped o[r] formed portion of the Product, not including electronic or moving parts or water restricting components .... is warranted against manufacturing defects for the life of the Product.""All zinc die cast portions of Product are warranted against material manufacturing defects for a period of five (5) years..."The term "faucet",as defined by the company, does not include any moving part, valve, cartridge or faucet finish.2. Covered under the "catch-all" clause that applies to any component not otherwise specified.
This Company In Brief
Chicago might be the best faucet line made. We certainly know of no better. But, Chicago Faucet is also the reigning emperor of un-cool. It is so lacking in style that its very lack of style has become a style of its own. Still, if high style is not one of your requirements and you want a tough, robust faucet designed and built to last your lifetime and beyond, a Chicago faucet may be your wish come true.
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 emperor of un-cool. It is so lacking in style that its very lack of style has become "Chicago-Chic" — almost a style of its own.
But, if you are one of the design-glitterati, a Chicago faucet probably is not for you. Try a good, well-made faucets that emphasize style.
On the other hand, if what you want is a tough, muscular, hardworking, no-frills, blue-collar faucet designed and built to last your lifetime and beyond, a Chicago faucet may be your wish come true.
Chicago faucets started out in the uncompromising environment of busy commercial kitchens where performance and reliability is everything and looks count for next to nothing, and its 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 professional products. Its concentration on flawless functioning rather than style has resulted in faucets that 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.
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 heavy-cast, solid brass faucet and one made with thin-wall brass and lots of plastic. Chicago Faucet makes a faucet for the ages. It will, with reasonable care, outlast your grandchildren's grandchildren.
The company, founded in 1901 by Albert C. Brown it was purchased in 2002 by Geberit AG, a Swiss manufacturer of excellent, high-style, residential sanitary bathwares. Geberit 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.
Chicago tried it, didn't like it, dumped it. Chicago Faucet and high style just do not go together. So, after nearly two decades of ownership by one of the most design-centric bathwares companies in Europe, Chicago faucets are still the staid, conservative designs they have always been — beefy, heavy, beastly tough, and nearly indestructible — but stylish? Nosireebob!
The vast majority of Chicago Faucet'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 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 facility in Michigan City, Indiana.
Chicago also buys many components from overseas sources.
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.
Disk valves for its two-handle faucets are 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 easily identified it as a 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.
Customs records 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.
Foreign-made Chicago faucets include:
These are clearly marked "Made in China" or "Made in Taiwan" on the box and identified in the company catalog as foreign made.
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 itself is not available on the website — or, at least, we could not find it after a diligent page-by-page search.
When we finally did find it, it was 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, it instructed us 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 or where to find Consumer Affairs.
The company's faucet warranty does not reflect the quality of its products, and it's costing the company sales. A comprehensive lifetime warranty backed by good customer support drives sales and promotes repeat customers, something Chicago's bosses have not yet figured out. They should take a lesson from Its 5-star warranty and top-drawer customer service has helped it become one of the two largest faucet companies in North America.
Chicago guarantees its Cartridges for just 5 years, which is truly chintzy. The Chicago faucet Quaturn® and newer ceramic cartridges are much more robust than that. The Quaturn® cartridge needs periodic washer replacement, and this routine maintenance should properly be excluded from warranty coverage. But, otherwise, all Chicago cartridges are lifetime components and its warranty should provide lifetime protection.
The warranty formerly guaranteed the company's electroplated and PVD finishes — "Forevershine" and "hard coat" — 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 truly cannot produce a PVD or electroplated finish that lasts a lifetime, perhaps it should farm out the work out to a company that knows how, like line of high-quality line of faucets. Sigma guarantees its finishes for a lifetime.
Non-moving parts of the faucet — the components least likely to break — are warranted for the lifetime of the faucet against manufacturing defects, unless the parts are made of zinc or a zinc alloy, then the warranty is 5 years
Moving parts — the parts most likely to develop defects — are guaranteed for a wimpy single year.
Chicago's post-sale customer service is competent, handling our purely imagined installation issues with dispatch, and quickly identifying needed replacement parts for our imaginary broken faucets. But, if you expect pleasantries, a little chit-chat and a touch of small talk, you must look elsewhere. Customer service agents are all business, and used to dealing with plumbers rather than homeowners. They can 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 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 and require a lot more machining, which increased the chance of mistakes.
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.
Chicago has a in-depth replacement parts program, so the future availability of parts is not in question. Most components are backward compatible, 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.
Comparable American-made faucets include
Our judgment on the company's faucets 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. Another tip: Don't tempt fate buy buying an Asian-made faucet. They're nice, but not true Chicago faucets.
As for style. It's a Chicago Faucet, for chrissake — it don't need no style.
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Chicago Faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.