Friday, February 27, 2009

The perfect faucet

Like any kitchen remodel you pour over pictures from magazines, planning books and your lists of priorities. Doing a "Craftsman" kitchen is no different. This kitchen is not historically accurate for many reasons, for one, its been stripped of the original kitchen cabinets. The first farm sink and it's built in wall mount faucet is only memorialized by the squirrely plumbing that goes up the wall turns around and comes back down again. This leaves me free to build it again with all the mod cons I want in a gourmet kitchen as long as I tie the style back into the rest of the house.

When you see a kitchen on the cover of Style 1900 or This Old House and it has THE most gorgeous faucet your heart skips a beat and you think "I'm going to have on of those". Then you shop around for awhile online and realize that there is no way your going to get a second mortgage in this economy and that faucet pretty much requires that type of investment.

The next best thing, or possibly the better choice, is rebuilding an old faucet that works for the craftsman aesthetic. Since I plan to add a second "prep" sink to my kitchen I need a pair. Knowing that Chicago brand faucets, having been manufactured for the last 100 yrs, are not only very well made but appropriate for a 1924 house, and every part is still available.

I found this great arching goosneck cutie first. And decided it would be perfect.

Then I found it's mate for the prep sink.

After long deliberation Boe and I then chose to go with no chrome in the kitchen at all. All my cabinet hardware is antique solid brass, the vent hood is copper, and most of my cookware is copper. So I started searching for the right faucets in brass. Not just any brass either old brass with a patina to match the cabinet hardware.
Eventually I found them.

I have the deck mount faucet disassembled for rebuilding

Rebuilding one of these is pretty simple compared to rebuilding a carburetor for a late 70's two stroke motorcycle you need to get to work on Monday. However it can still be a bit confusing if your not confident and organized. The two main valves are for sale at most major plumbing supply stores. I doubt Lowe's or Home Depot employees would know what one was if you asked, however Lowe's is officially capable of ordering the parts. It will likely be easier to find a real plumbing supply store. Chicago brand is often used in commercial ie. restaurant or hospital settings so they are probably readily available.

Simply unscrew the handles and escutcheons and replace the whole deal. Unfortunately at $35 each valve it was double what I paid for the faucet. Finding and replacing the rest of the washers and O rings in the faucet took me a bit of hunting through various hardware stores but ran me a whopping 69¢ for the lot at Tacoma Screw.

If you do go this route just be careful to get a faucet that is complete, finding parts other than washers may be impossible. Other brands are rebuildable as well such as American Standard. I have no idea where to locate new valves for them though.

Sign of the Crab sells many fixtures that are cast from the original Chicago faucet molds. I have heard at least one plumber tell me their valves are not as good as the real Chicago ones. They can probably be swapped out fot the real ones though.

Good luck and remember to take deep breaths and count to 10 before smashing anything.

p.s. It is usually best to turn off the water supply before disassembling any part of the faucet.


Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Nice faucet. And for $35? What a steal!

The people who I've talked to had told me that it was impossible to reliably rebuild such things. I guess I need to find new people.

Kurt said...

I got a lot of attitude from one plumbing supplier, and another let me pick through their stock of washers and would not charge me for what I found. I know I have seen "new" valve parts for American Standard faucets but I have no idea who sells them, mostly for lack of looking. I am still on the lookout for a bigger goosneck for the one faucet. I am lucky in that I have regular access to several architectural salvage stores in Seattle. Between Seattle and Olympia there are 6 such stores and I make an effort to stop and look through them regularly.