Chicago Faucet Company Review & Rating Updated: 07/10/21
2100 S. Clearwater Drive
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Footnotes:1. Essentially only the shell of the faucet is guaranteed for the life of the product. Anything that moves restricts water flow or is made of zinc has a 5-year warranty as does any faucet finish. This includes cartridges and aerators.2. Covered under the "catch-all" clause that applies to any component not otherwise specified.For more information on interpreting faucet warranties, see see Understanding Faucet Warranties.
This Company In Brief
We have never heard of, nor do we know anyone who has ever heard of, a defective Chicago faucet. Chicago Faucet might well be the best faucet line made. We certainly know of no better.
The company is, however, the reigning emperor of un-cool. Its faucets are so lacking in style that the very lack of style has become a style of its own. If high-style is not one of your faucet requirements and you want a tough, robust faucet designed and built to last your lifetime and beyond, a Chicago faucet may be your best choice.
Do not count, however, on much warranty support. Chicago Faucet is primarily a manufacturer of faucets for institutional, hospitality, and industrial use, and its warranty reflects this commercial orientation in which warranty support is usually for a very short term. Its warranty is generous for commercial faucets, but far below the standard limited lifetime faucet warranty for residential faucets in North America — just five years on the moving parts of a faucet, including cartridges and valves, and all finishes.
Chicago Faucet is the reigning emperor of un-cool. It is so lacking in style that its very lack of style has almost become a style of its own.
If you are one of the design-glitterati to whom style is everything, a Chicago faucet may not be for you. Try a good, well-made faucets that emphasize style.
On the other hand, if what you want is a tough, no-frills, hardworking, broad-shouldered, blue-collar beast of a faucet designed and built to last your lifetime and beyond, a Chicago faucet is your wish come true.
Chicago Faucet started out in the uncompromising environment of commercial installations where performance and reliability is everything and looks count for next to nothing. Its residential versions still show that solid, sinewy commercial breeding. In fact, most of Chicago's business is still commercial. Many of its residential faucets are unmodified or slightly modified versions of the company's commercial and industrial products.
Chicago makes commercial faucets for restaurant and cafeteria kitchens, laboratories, even mortuaries. It also manufactures drinking fountains, specialty faucets for hospitals, valves for public urinals, shower systems, and manual and automatic faucets for public restrooms. Only a few of these are suitable or adaptable for home use.
Chicago's concentration on flawless functioning rather than eye-catching design has resulted in faucets that are more than a little "industrial". Of course, industrial is "in" these days, so the world has caught up with Chicago's non-style rather than Chicago trying to make its faucets trendy.
Heft a Chicago faucet and you will find out why the faucet industry considers weight a universal gauge of quality. At a strapping 7 to 12 pounds and 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 thick-walled, heavy-cast, solid brass faucet and one made with thin-wall brass and lots of plastic. Chicago Faucet makes a faucet for the ages that will, with reasonable care, outlast your grandchildren's grandchildren.
The Chicago Faucet Co., founded in 1901 by Albert C. Brown, the inventor of the Quaturn™ faucet valve, was purchased in 2002 by Geberit AG, a Swiss manufacturer of excellent, high-style, contemporary residential sanitary bath wares. 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 many, 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, hated it, dumped it.
Chicago Faucet and high style just do not play nice together. So, after nearly two decades of ownership by one of the most design-centric bath wares companies in the world, Chicago faucets are still the staid, conservative designs they have always been — beefy, heavy, beastly tough, and nearly indestructible — but stylish? Nah!
Chicago faucets intended for use with drinking water are cast from a patented lead-free brass that the company calls ECAST®. Faucets made with ECAST brass are identified in the Chicago Faucet catalog and on its website.
But, while Chicago faucets are brass, they are not "all brass". Some parts of most faucets — parts not subject to the stress of water pressure — are made from zinc or a zinc-aluminum alloy. Zinc is not as robust as brass but in ancillary parts of the faucet such as handles and baseplates, it works equally well at a lower cost. The use of zinc in non-pressurized parts is a standard industry practice that does not affect the quality of the faucet.
Its wholly-owned foundry, Starline Manufacturing, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of the few permanent-mold brass-casting facilities remaining in the U.S. Most casting uses temporary sand molds, that produce castings that are not nearly as precise and more at risk for casting errors, They also require a lot more machining, which further increases the chance of mistakes.
Duffin Manufacturing of Elyria, Ohio, manufactures Quaturn® cartridges and precision turned brass faucet parts. Final assembly, packaging, and shipping take place in Chicago's assembly plant in Michigan City, Indiana. Company headquarters in Des Plaines, Illinois houses product design, development, testing, and prototyping.
View a video produced by Chicago Faucet showing is domestic manufacturing and finishing process.
Not every part of a Chicago faucet is made in the U.S., however. Chicago buys components from foreign sources.
It gets some turned brass parts from a very large Taiwanese-owned Chinese manufacturer of precision brass turnings for the faucet industry.
It buys brass castings from Ostnor ABB, Sweden's largest producer of bathroom fittings and,it orders a variety of components (not all for faucets) from Greatness Sanitary Industrial Co. a Taiiwaniese manufacturer, and Tonpan Enterprises Corporation, a Taiwan-based broker of primarily Taiiwaniese products.
Zinc castings are supplied by Sunspring Metal Corp., Ltd. of Taichung, Taiwan. With a large factory in Taiwan and two more in China, Sunspring is considered one of the world's premier sources of zinc products. It is the largest buyer of zinc in the world and a major supplier of zinc faucet components and fittings to the industry including such diverse manufacturing companies as
Although Sunspring owns a U.S. subsidiary, Sunspring America, Inc. in Henderson, Kentucky, it does not appear that any of the products supplied to Chicago Faucet originate in the U.S.
Electronically controlled valves for Chicago's "touchless" electronic faucets are from
- A.U.K. Muller & Co. KG, a German manufacturer with a worldwide reputation for faultless products,
- Swiss Sensor AG, a Swiss manufacturer of electronic components,
- Group Celec, a French company manufacturing in Ningbo, China, and
- Chang Yi Shin Enterprise Co., Ltd., an electronic faucet manufacturer in business in Taiwan for over 50 years.
Chicago's imports are not limited to parts and components. It buys all of its single-handle faucets already made and in-the-box from NCIP of Taiwan. These include
- The 420 series of 4" centerset lavatory faucets, with and without pop-up drain assembly, and
- The 430, 431, 432, and 434 series kitchen faucets.
NCIP is a well-respected faucet manufacturer known for its quality products. It also makes faucets for
Faucets made by NCIP are clearly marked "Made in Taiwan" on the box and identified in the company catalog as foreign-made. We think these are excellent faucets that will give a long-term faultless performance, but they are not true Chicago faucets. If you want a real Chicago faucet, get one made in the U.S. of A.
Chicago installs a variety of specialized cartridges in its faucets to accommodate the varied requirements of its commercial customers. Some cartridges limit water temperature to avoid scalding, some are plated in tin or silver for specialty laboratory applications, others meter the flow of water or shut off automatically. None of these features would normally be of interest to a homeowner.
The usual cartridges for residential faucet buyers would be Chicago's no-frill Quaturn™ compression cartridge and its basic ceramic cartridges.
The Quaturn cartridge is made in the U.S. by Duffin Manufacturing, a Chicago Faucet subsidiary. It is the modern incarnation of Chicago Faucet's venerable quarter-turn compression valve invented by the company over a century ago as an alternative to the valves of the period that often required several turns to open and close. In its day it was revolutionary, and in many ways still is.
Compression valves have one drawback compared to the newer ceramic cartridges. They have a seat washer that over time wears out and has to be replaced. It wears out very slowly these days due to advances in the durability of the materials from which it is made. But it will wear out eventually. In a busy commercial kitchen, it may need to be replaced yearly. In a home kitchen, once every three to five years is usually enough.
Despite this minor nuisance, compression valves like the Quaturn remain extremely popular in commercial kitchens where the ease of replacing the washer outweighs the minor burden of having to replace it fairly often. The kitchen in a busy restaurant cannot shut down for a day or two waiting for a replacement ceramic cartridge to arrive by FedEx, it needs to be able to get a faucet working again right now, and replacing the compression washer — which typically takes about 10 minutes and uses parts that every plumber always has tucked in his or her toolbox — usually does the trick.
In home use, the Quaturn cartridge lasts forever — and that's no exaggeration. As long as the washer is replaced regularly, the cartridge just keeps on keeping on. In over forty years in the remodeling business, we have never had Quaturn cartridge fail. In fact, we have never even heard of a Quaturn cartridge failing. (If you have, contact us. We'd like to know what happened.)
Replacing the washer in a Quaturn cartridge is easy — requiring no special tools and well within the ability of even a modestly talented DIYer who can wield a screwdriver without doing bodily harm. The washers are available at any hardware or plumbing supply store and Chicago Faucet has a printable instruction sheet on its website that offers step-by-step instructions for removing the cartridge to replace the washer.
But, for those homeowners for whom having to shut off the water and partly disassemble the faucet to install a new washer every once in a while is more of a nuisance than is wanted, Chicago also offers ceramic cartridges that need no regular maintenance.
Ceramic cartridges for two-handle faucets – called "stem cartridges" or "headworks" – use a pair of nearly indestructible ceramic discs instead of a washer to control water flow. There is nothing on a ceramic cartridge to maintain and nothing that can be repaired. The solution for a failed cartridge is to replace it. Its lifespan is between 10 and 20 years.
The chief cause of ceramic cartridge failure is mineral build-up from hard water. (Which is why in high mineral localities a compression cartridge might be a better choice. Quaturn cartridges are not bothered by hard water or much of anything else.)
Chicago's stem cartridges for two-handle faucets were formerly made by Anton Traenkle GmbH & Co KG, a German manufacturer of excellent ceramic products. But, Chicago has recently changed suppliers. The new provider is Sedal S.L.U., a technical ceramics company chartered in Spain but manufacturing in China at two facilities: Sedal Technical Ceramics in Jiangmen and Sedal Kaiping. Sedal is well-known for its mixing cartridges for single handle faucets, less well-known for its stem cartridges. In fact, so far as we know, Chicago Faucets is the only U. S. company to use stem cartridges from Sedal. It is not considered one of the best of the world's ceramic cartridges, but it is a solid, reliable performer.
For a better understanding of the types of faucet valves and cartridges and how they affect faucet functioning, see Faucet Valves & Cartridges.
Chicago's single-handle faucets made by NCIP use the 2300 ceramic mixing cartridge. Like the stem cartridge installed in two-handle faucets, a mixing cartridge controls water volume. Unlike the stem cartridge, it also controls water temperature – which is why it is often called a dual-function or two-function cartridge. Temperature mixing occurs inside the cartridge itself, not inside the faucet as is the case with two-handle faucets.
The 2300 cartridge is supposed to be very hush-hush. A Chicago Faucet spokesman adamantly refused to identify the manufacturer of the cartridge, calling it a "trade secret".
Trying to keep secret the source of a cartridge, however, is usually futile. Most of the better cartridges have characteristics that make them readily identifiable and our plumbers had no trouble identifying the manufacturer as Kerox, Kft, located in Hungary. Kerox has an excellent reputation as the go-to mixing cartridge for European and American manufacturers of high-quality faucets. Its list of customers is virtually a who's who of premium faucet manufacturers including, among others.
Why Chicago would want to keep this cartridge a secret is mystifying. Most companies that use top-drawer cartridges trumpet the fact far and wide to bolster sales. There is a rumor floating around, however, that Chicago is considering a move to Sedal for the 2300 cartridge in the near future.
According to its finish chart, Chicago Faucet offers 13 different faucet finishes. Most are special-purpose finishes like clear epoxy, polyvinyl, or tin-plate – finishes designed for specialized commercial and industrial uses. Only two of Chicago's 13 finishes are suited for home use: polished chrome and an unpolished chrome – what Chicago calls "rough chrome". Rough chrome is indeed rough. It is a utility finish suitable for laundry rooms, but probably not for your kitchen or bath unless rustic is your preferred motif.
In the not too distant past Chicago faucets were available in a polished nickel finish and a few in native brass. No longer. The company does not offer special or custom finishes, so polished chrome is all there is.
The finishes are . Finishing is done at Starline Manufacturing in an automated, computer-controlled multi-step electroplating process. Chrome does not adhere well to brass, so faucet parts are first plated with nickel which binds well to brass. Three coats of chrome are then plated over the nickel resulting in a heavy-duty finish that can withstand the unceasing abuse of a commercial environment. Starline has its own water treatment plant to ensure that wastewater from the plating process poses no hazard to the environment. It has won recognition from the City of Milwaukee for its exemplary environmental practices.
For more information on the types of faucet finishes and their advantages and drawbacks, see Faucet Finishes.
We had trouble even finding the Chicago Faucet warranty. It is on the website but buried in Terms and Conditions, and even Terms and Conditions was difficult to find. (To make it easier for you to find, we have linked Terms and Conditions here. Scroll 'way down to the nearly the bottom of the page.) A warranty is also packaged with Chicago faucets usually in the faucet's installation instructions. But, this warranty may differ from the website warranty.
The Chicago Faucet warranty violates the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. §2301 et seq.) in a number of respects. Magnuson-Moss is the federal law that sets minimum standards and regulations for consumer warranties that every seller of consumer products is required to follow. Some of the immediately obvious defects in the Chicago warranty are the following:
- The multiple different warranties violate the "single document" rule. [16 C.F.R. § 701.3(a)] A consumer product may not have competing warranties. If there are multiple warranty documents with divergent terms, the terms most favorable to the consumer from each document must be given effect.
- The language of the warranties is sometimes vague and contradictory, violating the rule that requires warranty information to be "disclosed in simple, easily understandable, and concise language." [16 C.F.R. § 701.3(a)] One objective of Magnuson-Moss is to make warranties understandable by the average consumer.
- Even our volunteer lawyers had trouble deciphering the warranty in a few places. Among its other problems, it contains the longest single unbroken paragraph we have ever seen in a product warranty — 435 words. We know of product warranties in which the entire document contains fewer words.
- The website warranty ends with the terse and mysterious phrase " ". Some package warranties end with " ". These clauses again violate the "single document" rule. A warranty must be self-contained, stated in a single document. Restrictions may apply, but they have to be clearly identified and disclosed within the single warranty document. References to restrictions or limitations outside of the warranty are simply void and given no effect under Magnuson-Moss.
- We contacted customer service, by the way, to get the "complete warranty details", but no one had any idea what we were talking about.
Upon analyzing the substance of the warranty, it is immediately clear that the Chicago "limited lifetime warranty" on faucets is much less than it first appears.
The commonly understood term "faucet" is redefined in the warranty. It no longer means the entire faucet, but just the shell of the faucet – the body and (sometimes) the spout. The "life of the product" part of the warranty applies only to the shell and possibly to the finish on the shell, the warranty is unclear about this coverage. Almost everything else on the faucet is guaranteed for five years including
- the finish (except possibly the finish on the shell),
- any moving part,
- any part made of zinc,
- any part that "restricts" water flow including some cartridges (see below) and the aerator, and
- all or almost all replacement parts.
Electronics are guaranteed for three years. (This is pretty much the industry standard at the moment, so three years is not a problem.) Plastic cartridges (including the 2300 single-handle mixing cartridge) or any parts of metal cartridges that are not metal (i.e. plastic, ceramic, or rubber) are guaranteed for just one year. (We are not at all sure how it can be determined whether a cartridge failure is due to a defect in a metal or non-metal part without a cartridge autopsy.)
For a seller of residential faucets, the warranty would be an embarrassment, The standard residential faucet warranty in North America guarantees every part of the faucet "for as long as the original buyer owns the faucet" — the so-called "lifetime" faucet warranty. Chicago Faucet, however, is primarily a manufacturer of commercial faucets. Commercial faucets get much heavier use and a great deal more abuse than residential faucets and short-duration warranties are standard. Indeed, as a commercial warranty, the Chicago Faucet warranty is uncommonly generous.
As a residential warranty, however, it is substandard. Chicago solicits residential customers, so it should provide a competitive residential warranty that takes into account the lighter use and relative lack of abuse of faucets in a residential setting. This may require a separate warranty for residential buyers.
For lack of a competitive residential warranty, we scored Chicago's warranty at "far below standard".
For more on de-mystifying faucet warranties, see Understanding Faucet Warranties.
Chicago's post-sale customer service is competent, and technical service more so, handling our purely imagined installation issues with dispatch and quickly identifying needed replacement parts for our imaginary broken faucets.
There are a few problems, however. None of our test e-mails was answered the same day it was sent. Some were answered the next day, some in two days, others were never answered. Technical support is not as forthcoming as we would like about the features and components of its faucets, declining to provide the information requested. Of course, we ask questions that the typical consumer probably would not ask, nevertheless, we think the company should be a little more open about its faucet products.
We grade Chicago Faucet post-sale service an A+ for knowledge but only C+ for helpfulness. The Better Business Bureau has not rated Chicago Faucets. This usually means that the Bureau has never received a complaint about the company. The company is not BBB accredited.
Chicago Faucets has an in-depth replacement parts program, so the future availability of parts is not in question. Most components are backward compatible. Replacement parts are available for products as far back as 1913. So, no matter how old your Chicago faucet may get to be, you can still get repair parts if you need them. And, that's not very likely.
The company's faucets are fully certified compliant with every standard required by law.
Chicago Faucet scored well for consistently high-quality over our look-back period of five years, doing much of its own casting in-house using permanent molds, its own machining, and in-house finishing. It sources from component suppliers with good to excellent reputations. The company's vertical integration gives it total control over faucet quality from initial casting to final inspection and shipping, and it shows in the unmatched quality of the faucets made in the U.S.
The company's choice of cartridges is also a plus. Kerox makes one of the best mixing cartridges for single-handle faucets available, and Sedal, while not regarded by most in the industry as a first-class cartridge, is reasonably robust. The remarkable Quaturn cartridge, however, is the icing on the cake. No one else has it.
Post-sale product support is adequate and replacement parts are likely to be available no matter how long a faucet is owned. There are only a few companies that can provide replacement parts for any faucet made since it opened its doors. Chicago Faucet is one of the few.
The sole negative is the company's comparatively weak warranty. It dropped the company's rating down a full point. With a better warranty, the company would probably score 7-9 overall. It also toppled Chicago Faucet from any consideration as a "Best Value Faucet" in our bi-annual survey. With a decent warranty, Chicago would almost certainly end up as a finalist and possibly even the "best value" in a mid-priced faucet made in the U.S. Chicago Faucet can do much better than its current warranty. It needs to comply with Magnuson-Moss and provide longer and stronger warranty coverage for its residential customers.
Faucets comparable in quality and made or assembled in the U.S. or Canada, most of which are much more stylish but perhaps not quite as sturdy, include the following:
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 and have little hesitation installing an NCIP-made faucet in a main bath.
Tip: Forget relatively delicate and failure-prone electronic "hands-free" faucets. Get the wrist blade "hospital" handles for easy operation with wrists or even elbows even when your hands are covered in cookie dough or foundation makeup.
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Chicago Faucet, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.