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Thread: Do faucets with ceramic valve worth the price?

  1. #16
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking valley faucets

    Jimbo, I totally forgot about Valley faucets....


    They actually took the Delta Patent and improved on it somewhat.....
    in many ways they were tougher than the Deltas.

    their are many many valley faucets still working great since
    the mid 70s around here in very hard water.....

    the only problem with them was their marketing, and I believe
    that they are now out of business, correct??

    Or I just dont see them around here much.

  2. #17

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    I would take a delta over any brand out there. They are very easy to work on and replacements parts are available anywhere.

  3. #18

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    Delta is a time proven product name and definitely trusted. You can find Glacier Bay in Wal-mart with ceramic valves... three things sell me... price, good looks and brand name. I'm not one to go to a designer to pay them to tell me that something looks good.... I ain't totally blind. IMHO... the old standards in the plumbing industry are all good and dependable... delta, kohler, american standard, price fister, and even moen. Most of the time I can hardly see any rhyme or reason for the wild price differences.

  4. #19

    Default

    There are a number of factors that determine the market price for faucets, but rather than throwing out generalizations, take a look at the specifics of the California vs. other brands.

    For the purposes of this comparison, let's use the most common California faucet, one I've installed plenty of : the Venice Series ($280 street price) vs. the Moen Monticello and the Delta of your choice (although the previous posters were all referring to the Delta single-control "ball-type" models.

    The California faucet has a classical styling from a standard pattern that has been copied from the high end (Dornbracht) to the low end Wang-Fu chromed plastic big box specials. Stylistically, you could get something that looked similar from $50 to $1100, so why buy the California?

    The plating is excellent. The base metal is brass. Many others (like your Delta) are zinc-aluminum alloy castings (Zamak). Sometimes this is referred to as "white" or "pot" metal. The advantage is that it's cheap to die-cast the parts, much more so than casting and/or machining brass. The cross handles of the California faucets are individually machined and silver soldered in place so that they don't come loose (like the Rafael ones used to do). Fit and finish of the California products I've worked with I would rate a 9 out of 10.

    Let's talk about those valves. Yes, the Californias use ceramic valves. And Ceramic valves can be damaged, but it's unusual. The material is so hard that it's self-cleaning, and impervious to just about anything mineral in your water. If you try to force the thing shut on a gob of solder, yeah, you could possibly damage the insert or cartridge, but that's more your plumber's fault than a design flaw. Ceramic valves are not expensive in and of themselves, the $60 A/S Cadet had a ceramic valve, so you do the math.

    Some faucets have failure "modes". Time to mention that Moen Monticello. That faucet was offered with porcelain lever handles originally, so the cartridge had a coupling on top that was designed to break away. Unfortunately, they broke a bit too easily and I had many callbacks replacing them. Moen did provide replacement parts for free, but I had to pay for the labor. Not a big deal if you can do it yourself, but if you have to call a plumber just once you've effectively doubled the cost of that faucet.

    And that brings us to Delta- and why I decided to "butt into" this thread. While it's true that most plumbers love Delta, ask yourself if that's a good thing for YOU, the consumer! Why do the plumbers love Delta?

    a) Faucets are cheap and common enough to be worthwhile stocking a few.
    b) Replacement parts are cheap and already on the truck if not in toolbox.
    c) Plumber makes more money from you for his effort if he doesn't have to go get parts (since he already has them).

    He's going to charge you his $150 or whatever for the service call regardless, and it's easy to change a Delta cartridge- it takes me about two minutes flat, and most of that is getting the little setscrew out of the arm.

    Now, let's do the actual math, assuming you paid actually $600 for your antiqued copper, was it? California faucet vs. $200 for a big-box cheapie. Chances are that finish in the latter is clear polymer powdercoat over a copper plated zinc base (lifespan roughtly five years befrore it starts blistering) and let's assume the much better California only has a lifespan of 15 years. Also, we'll assume the compression stops or nylon stops in the cheapie faucet never fail within it's lifespan. So, just on finish, and adding in the labor costs, over 15 years:

    California: 600 + 150 install /15 years = $50 annual cost
    Cheapie: 200 + 150 install + 200 + 150 replacement (5yr) + 200 + 150 replacement (10yr) = $70 annual cost FOR AN INFERIOR FAUCET!!!

    In other words, you just paid 40% more for a faucet that doesn't look or feel as good as the better quality product.

    I have been a renovator for 20 years, had an office in a plumbing showroom and sold plumbing fixtures for 8 years, and owned my company for 12 years. I specialize in bath remodeling, and the MOST COMMON mistake I see my customers make is to buy a similar looking, inferior quality product. If you are doing a bath in your basement, maybe a Price-Pfister is right for you. But if you are building a $30K bathroom and pick a Delta Monitor because your plumber recommended it, you are not budgeting adequately for your fixtures. And even for a middle-to-low end bathroom, cheaper initially does not always mean cheaper in the long run, as demonstrated above.

    So, your plumber may recommend Delta for your kitchen sink faucet, but you may well find he owns a Hansa. If you aren't interested in learning about the types of faucets and the myriad of manufacturing types and finishes that determine the final price, find somebody you trust that sells a variety of products to assist you. Contrary to the overtone of some of the above threads, your interior designer was probably NOT ripping you off, but providing you valuable insight as to how you could get close to the $$$(Dornbracht) style and quality for a $$(California) price. Oh, and I'd say I'm impartial except I ran across this thread while ordering Californias- for MYSELF.

    Note that some faucets use other valves as someone noted above, for example Harrington is built on Grohe Valves and Sheryl Wagner is famously (or rather infamously) built on Chicago compression stops. If you know this you can order replacement parts in the future from the valve manufacturer, otherwise order a spare cartridge "just in case"- it'll save you headache later in the event that one leaks.

    But make no mistake about it, a cheap faucet doesn't save you money in the long run unless you are selling your house. Quality of the Californias is very good, exceptional when you account for the price. Nobody above mentioned this, I assume from their comments that they don't have experience with this particular brand. By their argument, everyone should buy a Hyundai and then go out to dinner with the money they saved over (insert brand of your car here if you don't have a Hyundai). This might work for some people, but if you consider the extended cost of ownership or you have an eye for quality or an appreciation for the tactile feel of a good lavatory faucet, this might not be the best plan for you.
    Last edited by Will_Holding; 12-26-2006 at 04:48 PM.

  5. #20

    Default

    There are a number of factors that determine the market price for faucets, but rather than throwing out generalizations, take a look at the specifics of the California vs. other brands.

    For the purposes of this comparison, let's use the most common California faucet, one I've installed plenty of : the Venice Series ($280 street price) vs. the Moen Monticello and the Delta of youre choice (although the previous posters were all referring to the Delta single-control "ball-type" models.

    The California faucet has a classcal styling from a standard pattern that has been copied from the high end (Dornbracht) to the low end Wang-Fu chromed plastic big box specials. stylistically, you could get something that looked similar from $50 to $1100, so why buy the California?

    The plating is excellent. The base metal is brass. Many others (like your Delta) are zinc-aluminum alloy castings (Zamak). Sometimes this is referred to as "white" or "pot" metal. The advantage is that it's cheap to die-cast the parts, much more so than casting and/or machining brass. The cross handles of the California faucets are individually machined and silver soldered in place so that they don't come loose (like the Rafael ones used to). Fit and finish of the California products I've worked with I would rate a 9 out of 10.

    Let's talk about those valves. Yes, the Californias use ceramic valves. And Ceramic valves can be damaged, but it's unusual. The material is so hard that it's self-cleaning, and impervious to just about anything mineral in your water. If you try to force the thing shut on a gob of solder, yeah, you could possibly damage the insert or cartridge, but that's more your plumber's fault than a design flaw. Ceramic valves are not expensive in and of themselves, the $60 A/S Cadet had a ceramic valve, so you do the math.

    Some faucets have failure "modes". Time to mention that Moen Monticello. That faucet was offered with porcelain lever handles originally, so the cartridge had a coupling on top that was designed to break away. Unfortunately, they broke a bit too easily and I had many callbacks replacing them. Moen did provide replacement parts for free, but I had to pay for the labor. Not a big deal if you can do it yourself, but if you have to call a plumber just once you've effectively doubled the cost of that faucet.

    And that brings us to Delta- and why I decided to "butt into" this thread. While it's true that most plumbers love Delta, ask yourself if that's a good thing for YOU, the consumer! Why do the plumbers love Delta?

    a) Faucets are cheap and common enough to be worthwhile stocking a few.
    b) Replacement parts are cheap and already on the truck if not in toolbox.
    c) Plumber makes more money from you for his effort if he doesn't have to go get parts (since he already has them).

    He's going to charge you his $150 or whatever for the service call regardless, and it's easy to change a Delta cartridge- it takes me about two minutes flat, and most of that is getting the little setscrew out of the arm.

    Now, let's do the actual math, assuming you paid actually $600 for your antiqued copper, was it? California faucet vs. $200 for a big-box cheapie. Chances are that finish in the latter is clear polymer powdercoat over a copper plated zinc base (lifespan roughtly five years befrore it starts blistering) and let's assume the much better California only has a lifespan of 15 years. Also, we'll assume the compression stops or nylon stops in the cheapie faucet never fail within it's lifespan. So, just on finish, and adding in the labor costs, over 15 years:

    California: 600 + 150 install /15 years = $50 annual cost
    Cheapie: 200 + 150 install + 200 + 150 replacement (5yr) + 200 + 150 replacement (10yr) = $70 annual cost FOR AN INFERIOR FAUCET!!!

    In other words, you just paid 40% more for a faucet that doesn't look or feel as good as the better quality product.

    I have been a renovator for 20 years, had an office in a plumbing showroom and sold plumbing fixtures for 8 years, and owned my company for 12 years. I specialize in bath remodeling, and the MOST COMMON mistake I see my customers make is to buy a similar looking, inferior quality product. If you are doing a bath in your basement, maybe a Price-Pfister is right for you. But if you are building a $30K bathroom and pick a Delta Monitor because your plumber recommended it, you are not budgeting adequately for your fixtures. And even for a middle-to-low end bathroom, cheaper initially does not always mean cheaper in the long run, as demonstrated above.

    So, your plumber may recommend Delta for your kitchen sink faucet, but you may well find he owns a Hansa. If you aren't interested in learning about the types of faucets and the myriad of manufacturing types and finishes that determine the final price, find somebody you trust that sells a variety of products to assist you. Contrary to the overtone of some of the above threads, your interior designer was probably NOT ripping you off, but providing you valuable insight as to how you could get close to the $$$(Dornbracht) style and quality for a $$(California) price. Oh, and I'd say I'm impartial except I ran across this thread while ordering Californias- for MYSELF.

    Note that some faucets use other valves as someone noted above, for example Harrington is built on Grohe Valves and Sherly Wagner is famously (or rather infamously) built on Chicago compression stops. If you know this you can order replacement parts in the future from the valve manufacturer, otherwise order a spare cartridge "just in case"- it'll save you headache later in the event that one leaks.

    But make no mistake about it, a cheap faucet doesn't save you money in the long run unless you are selling your house. Quality of the Californias is very good, exceptional when you account for the price. Nobody above mentioned this, I assume from their comments that they don't have experience with this particular brand. By their argument, everyone should buy a Hyundai and then go out to dinner with the money they saved over a Honda. This might work for some people, but if you consider the extended cost of ownership or you have an eye for quality or an appreciation for the tactile feel of a good lavatory faucet, this might not be the best plan for you.

  6. #21

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    Wil_ thanks for your post! Any time a customer wants a high end faucet I'm just as eager to comply as when he/she wants a bargain basement deal. It has amazed me to see the cheapest plastic faucets available installed in brand new multi million dollar houses. Biggest differences between "us" plumbers and showroom salesmen... is that "we" are plumbers. It's nice to be able to give the customer a choice...but I've been on a few thousand calls and have done all the standards...never seen a "California" faucet... I guess they have yet to infiltrate the ghetto.

  7. #22
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Default

    I have two Moen Dialcet single knob (pull on/turn for temp/push-button diverter) shower/tub faucets installed in my house in '65 and they are still working fine with cartridges replaced in about 1990. I would replace them but I would have to tear out at least one tiled wall. They are heavy brass bodies.

    I had two single lever american standard lavatory faucets installed in '65 and they lasted until about 1996 when one of them sprung an unrepairable leak. They were both replaced with Price Phister single lever. PPh gave me a free replacement when the body/shell of one exhibited finish corrosion. Just a call and they sent a new faucet.

    I am on my third kitchen faucet which is a Price Phister that has been in use for about 15 years. The original was American Standard and the second was a Delta. The Delta was one of those "Big ball" models that never seemd to work smoothly.

  8. #23
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default faucets

    when you talk about California faucets, you did not mention that for a long time, and maybe still, they were a Price Pfister faucet with expensive trim.

  9. #24

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    I recently had a siezed cold water faucet that contained rare and expensive parts (Broadway, Old Dominion for those of you in the know.). The ceramic parts were fine, but considerable oxide had built up and seized the mechanism. I disassembled the parts and put them in a shallow bath of CLR and water (mixed 1 part CLR to 4 parts water) and put them in an ultrasonic bath. After 20 minutes of cleaning I rinsed and dryed all parts and reassembled the cartridge. In this case I did not replace the O-rings as they looked fine. (They are apparantly 12 yrs old.) It worked flawlessly. Often the ceramic parts are just fine in such cartridges and a good cleaning is all that is needed to restore their function. You can purchase an ultrasonic parts cleaner on **** for less than $30. Well worth the money for cleaning small parts.

  10. #25
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Default final word on ceramics..?

    What would the final verdict on the ceramics be?
    If not too expensive--the technology is better in general...is that what I'm hearing from you guys?
    I'm doing bath remodel soon.

    Mike

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