Frequently Asked Questions
Please scroll down to find questions of interest to you.
1. Tell us about Vintage Plumbing, how it was started, and how it is operated?
Is there a real store we can visit in person? Vintage Plumbing began when we bought a nice Crane pedestal sink that was listed in L.A.'s Recycler free private party classified advertising paper back in 1973. That pedestal sink went into the guest bathroom of our Granada Hills CA home, along with an original pull chain toilet (with an embossed bowl) and some nice nickel plated brass accessories. Friends saw that "Victorian" bathroom, and some of them wanted to do the same thing in their houses, so we began to search for fixtures like what we had found. The hobby began. Over the next 35 years, we made many trips to the east and midwest, visiting the big architecural salvage shops, and flea markets, and getting to know most of the people in the salvage business who have an interest in bathroom fixtures. We sold and worked on fixtures for people that own Victorian and Arts and Crafts homes in most of the Los Angeles environs including Carroll Avenue, Bungalow Heaven, the West Adams District, Long Beach, and many others. Our company was featured many times in Bedroom and Bath magazines, the Summer 1999 issue of Renovation Style Magazine, Period Homes, Old House Interiors, and the Old House Journal. We had a display in several antiques malls in the LA area over the years, incuding the The Yellow Barn in Van Nuys, Santa Monica Antique Mall, and we had a freestanding store on Cahuenga Blvd in North Hollywood for a few years. People learn of Vintage Plumbing by word of mouth or find us in an internet search. We set up our "store" on the World Wide Web in 1999, and there is no brick and morter store. In 2017 we moved to central Virginia and continue to buy and sell on a much smaller basis. Tell us by email what you are looking for, and we will reply with photos and description if we have it.
2. Does Vintage Plumbing take credit cards? How do I pay for a purchase? Sorry but we do not take credit cards in the way that a normal business would. To do so would add more operating cost that we do not want to take on. We accept payment by personal check, or any bank check, Post Office Money Order or you may use Paypal to pay us. We have a Paypal account and you are welcome to use that. So, we will accept payment by any credit card through Paypal and we also gladly accept personal or company check, or USPS money orders. 3. We have a Hall Mack Medicine Cabinet with Side or Top Lights, and the Plastic cover Lenses are damaged or lost. How can we get replacements?
These replacement parts have not been available for years. So now you either have to discard the cabinet for a replacement you might find, or else improvise. I call it MacGuyver it. The old plastic lense that covered the bulb box was a formed piece of plastic, probably rectangular shaped. I suggest you check hardware stores, craft stores or hobby stores for a piece of flat opaque plastic, with some thickness to it. Figure out the shape and size you need for your lense, and then cut your plastic, form it by bending over a square table edge, perhaps heat it on the bend with a hair dryer to make it hold the shape. And then fit it into the space on the cabinet.
It can be done pretty easily, but will take some crafty creativity. There is no other solution.
4. Tell us about Sitz Bath tubs and Foot Bath tubs.
Foot Bath tubs and Sitz Bath tubs were specialty fixtures in the same genre as Bidets. Bidets were sold in the USA at the turn of the century, but only very rarely. Foot and Sitz baths, while still rare, were much more common in upper class American homes. The Sitz bath, or a Seat bath was made in the shape of a chair with a raised back, lowered and rounded bottom, and sides to rest the arms on. The operating hardware was standing valve and drain hardware roughly half the size of the set that would mount on a normal bathtub. These fixtures came in enameled cast iron with claw legs or pedestal as well as solid porcelain with base moulded on or on individual pedestal like "legs". They were roughly 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet square and maybe 18" tall in back. Elaborate models had hardware on both sides that operated not only the fill spout and drain mechanism but also a "wave" feature up high on the back and even a douche feature that shot a geyser up from the drain fitting! Later models of Sitz and Foot baths were made that attached directly to the back wall, and the hardware often was mounted in the wall, like the hardware on late 20s and 30s bathtubs.
To best understand the purpose of this fixture, one has to understand the American culture regarding bathing 90-120 years ago. Bathing was widely feared as unhealthful or else felt to be unnecessary so many people didn't. Those that did bathe did so occasionally in the bathtub, if they had one. Showers were largely unheard of except as a device that might be found in an athletic facility like a health club. Yet, water was and still is believed to have restorative and recuperative powers. Think of the Fountain of Youth...... People would take a needle and shower bath like we might use a sauna today, for therapeutic purposes. And hot water might reduce hemorrhoids (note- I'm not an MD- this is not medical advice!). So, for upper class or wealthy people who lived in finer homes in urban areas and who bathed more routinely that rural folks, specialty plumbing fixtures were available to be used for unusual bathing purposes. Bidets were not widely sold in America at this time, but Sitz baths were not all that uncommon in better homes and mansions. People could rest their posterior sections in about 8" of water through the use of this chair shaped and sized bathtub. Water could then work its magic.
The Foot Bath tub was an even smaller tub that was flat across the top and barely large enough to fit two size 13s. They had the same rolled rim and claw feet or pedestal of a normal bathtub and the same half size standing hardware to operate. To use this tub, the ca.1900 bather would pull the bathroom stool up, sit down and immerse his feet in the bath tub. Some things haven't really changed much.........even in 2010, it is still very soothing to soak worn out feet in a tub of hot water! This tub was also described in early trade catalogs as a babies tub, as it would also have been useful to bath a small child, if you could get him to hold still!
And speaking about babies tubs, there was an even more strange and extraordinarily rare fixture called a "Baby's tub". This is an actual side-fill bathtub about 32" long mounted on a pedestal sink like pedestal so that the rim is 28" above the floor. We have seen only one of these in almost 40 years of collecting (we had it). It had to be a fixture that very few people could justify spending money for.... Today any one of these fixtures would find limited use but certainly would add greatly to the authenticity of a restored ca.1900 bathroom.
5. Lots of magazine articles talk about using antique fixtures in period bathrooms and kitchens. Tell us if antique fixtures are practical to use and maintain. Are Vintage Plumbing fixtures guaranteed to work properly?
Old original fixtures are appearing more frequently in the better restoration design magazines such as Renovation Style, Old House Interiors, Old House Journal, and Period-Homes. Old original fixtures are extremely well made and when properly restored, will function exactly as they were designed, which is to say very well, BUT with idiosyncracies that are not always found in modern fixtures. The technology of water flow and waste disposal have improved over the last 100 years and new fixtures generally operate better and with fewer problems than old fixtures. Old fixtures tend to have lots of joints that can develop leaks. And when parts wear out or are damaged on a 80-110 year old fixture, you can't just run to your local Lowe's or Home Depot for replacements. So, the answer is yes, old fixtures, just like an old stove or an older classic car, will require special maintenance considerations.
And no, we do not guarantee our fixtures to work. Only your plumber can guarantee that. What we do guarantee is that anything you buy from us will come complete with all necessary parts so that when properly assembled with necessary packings, washers and seals, all of which can be provided by any plumber, they will work. In other words, we will not sell you a tub that is missing a leg, or that has the cleats on the bottom broken off so the legs will not attach. And if you buy a shower fixture, it will not be missing parts of its valves or some other part rendering the fixture useless.
Any antique fixture bought from us will always have to be assembled and installed by a plumber or competent handyman, using common plumbing techniques and washers, packings and seals, to ensure that the fixture works properly and does not leak. We always encourage our customers to only have their fixture installed by a plumber who appreciates the artistry, rarity and the value of real authentic antique fixtures so that the proper level of care will be afforded so as not to damage the finish or the parts.
6. The faucet and drain hardware on my tub stands outside the tub, with only the spout sticking into the tub. There is no overflow hole in the tub. The hardware looks dreadful and the valves leak and my plumber can't get them to stop. He says I should chuck out the hardware, and buy reproduction fittings. What should I do? Names of good plumbers willing to work on original old bath fixture hardware.
Chuck out your plumber! And replace him with a competent plumber who is sensitive to maintaining the integrity and details of an antique house! There must be a plumber around who has been in the business a few years that is willing and able to work on old hardware to make it function as it was designed. Try your phone book and look for advertisements that says something like..."In business since 1947". Chances are that company might have experience with and an interest in maintaining original old residential plumbing fixtures.
My personal favorite type of "plumber" for repair of old plumbing fixtures is a semi-retired, good old-time handyman, who likes to do plumbing work. Find this type of craftsman by asking owners of old houses, or inquiry of historical neighborhood societies.
7. The standing hardware on a 100 year old tub (or 90 year old cast iron pedestal sink) has never been removed. What are the secrets of getting the hardware off the tub (or sink) without wrecking the hardware or the bathtub or sink?
Removing standing hardware from an old tub (or a cast iron sink) takes patience, care and couple of tricks. First thing to do is install some shutoff valves in the water supply lines to the tub, so you can shut off the tub, without shutting off the water to the whole house. Next, start to remove the various components of the valve/waste set. The easiest way to do this is to use a handheld propane torch to carefully heat the nuts holding the valves and the vertical drain pipe to the tub. When the nuts are warm (not red hot), use a smooth jaw wrench to loosen the nuts. You should use heat to warm the fittings before attempting to unscrew them. Trying to do it cold will only result in mangled and destroyed fittings. Brass is soft and will expand if heated. And will crush in a second if leaned on with heavy steel tools before being heated. Don't learn this lesson the hard way!
WARNING! Be careful with the torch. Heating the cast iron fixture even just slightly will cause the porcelain enamel coating to pop off, wrecking the fixture and could put an eye out! If the fixture is china, it will crack if you get it hot. Isolate the heat on the brass fittings, and use a piece of sheet metal or something else fireproof to shield the china or enameled fixture itself from the heat.
The Hot and Cold valves are attached to the main water manifold with two nuts about 1.5" in size. They are also attached to the water supply lines with similar nuts. Remove the valves from the manifold and the water supply lines. Then loosen the large nut that is holding the horizontal drain line to the "Tee" at the bottom of the vertical waste pipe. Again, warming it helps. You should have already lifted the stopper tube out of the top of the vertical waste tube. This is done by turning either left or right and pulling up. Note that the stopper tube has a large hole or holes near the top of it, under the pull knob fitting. Those holes are the "overflow" feature of your tub. This is the overflow that you did not think your bathtub or foot tub had!
If your hardware set has a removeable back strap on the manifold, remove it and save the screws. This allows you to remove the vertical waste tube. Many manifolds are a solid ring. In this case you must unscrew the top collar of the vertical waste tube, so you can pull the whole tube out of the manifold. Now, to get the manifold and spout out of the tub takes care and patience so as not to damage anything. The way to do it is to heat the nut holding the spout into the tub. The nut is on the outside of the tub, screwed up tight against the outside wall of the tub. Sometimes there is very little space between the edges of the nut and the manifold, and you might need a thin jaw wrench. You must loosen the nut carefully. Spray penetrant onto the threads. We cannot overemphasis the usefulness of heating these parts before attempting to disassemble. Loosen the nut as far back as it will go. Now, push the manifold into the tub, to break the bell spout away from the porcelain enamel finish. The manifold is held into the hole in the tub with plumbers putty that has turned to cement. Sometimes you need to dig into the hole around the manifold spout pipe and get some of the old putty out of there so you can wobble the manifold a bit, so it will break away from the wall of the tub. Once the manifold is loose from the tub, you can grab gingerly around the circumference of the bell spout with a large pair of pliers, preferably with the jaws covered with tape so as not to mar too badly, and turn counter- clockwise. The spout should spin off. Heat will make this easier, as will some WD 40 sprayed onto the threads.
The hardest part to remove is usually the drain fitting in the bottom of the tub or sink. To remove it, turn the tub upside down on a moving blanket to get access to the drain "shoe" fitting. Now, use a fine hacksaw blade to cut the old rubber washer out that is between the tub underside and the top of the shoe. Cut gingerly all around the fitting, to create a space between the bottom of the tub and the top of the "shoe". You will know you have cut the whole washer out when you start to see minute brass specks in the "sawdust" debris. When the washer is all out of there, shoot some penetrant into the threads in that space. Now, use the torch to heat the shoe. When it is warm, stick a length of pipe in the drain tail to use as a handle and get leverage to turn the shoe off the strainer tail counter- clockwise. First turn left and right slightly to get the WD40 or Liquid Wrench to migrate into the threads of the shoe. Hopefully, the strainer stayed put in the drain hole which allowed you to spin the shoe off. With the shoe off, use a tiny drill bit in your drill motor to drill many tiny holes into the plumbers putty all around the drain strainer tail. Once you have made some space in the drain hole by drilling out some of the putty, lay a piece of wood on the tail and whack it with a hammer a couple of times, and it should fall out. Your hardware is off your tub!
8. Is it possible to install a shower on our 1905 bathtub that has standing drain and supply hardware outside the tub, with handles up above the rim? The spout is round bell shape and mounted low inside the tub.
Unless you are real creative, it is not possible. Showers to be used as an add-a-shower device attached to an antique tub are easy to find from sellers of reproduction or retro bath fixtures and normally cost in the $400-600 range. But they are all made to be used on a claw foot tub that has the normal faucet and drain/overflow set-up, which is to say, a small mixer faucet mounted in two holes 3 3/8" apart at the upper part of the straight end of the tub. With the larger overflow hole right under the faucet.
There is no way to actually operate a shower apparatus off a set of standing valve and drain hardware, unless the hardware was made to be used in conjuction with a shower when it was new. In such cases, there were "Tees" coming off the water supply lines beneath the tub H and C valves. The "Tees" routing water over and up, either through holes in the tub rim or behind the rim, to the shower fixture mounted on the wall above the tub. See the large Wolff tub on our bathtubs page with the shower over it. There is a solution though and that is to hang an exposed shower over the tub, and have the water and the valves to run the shower be completely independent of the hardware for the tub. This type shower would have two or three of its own control valves and handles, with its own dedicated water supply lines either coming up from the floor or out of the wall above the tub. At the top of the shower set up is a large head and either a round or rectangular curtain ring from which the shower curtain hangs into the tub. Like all showers, this type of shower is not easy to find, but at Vintage Plumbing we sometimes have an example for sale.
9. Tell us if a reproduction faucet set can be installed on our pedestal sink that has a standing waste unit in a 2.5" hole in between the faucet holes, and no overflow in the basin? Will we then have an overflow?
The short answer is no, you cannot replace the original hardware with new or reproduction hardware and have an overflow. To have an over flow in an early sink where there is none cut into the china or iron of the basin itself, you must use the original "standing" or vertical waste (or drain) tube that may or may not have a spout incorporated with it. There is (or once was) a stopper tube standing inside the vertical waste tube. This is the part that has the knob (usually china) that says "lift for drain" or "waste" on it. There is a hole near the top of this inner tube just beneath the knob collar, that is the overflow for the sink. If you remove your original drain assembly and replace it with a new, reproduction or later style center spout set, you will lose the overflow feature.
The way to go is to retain the original center spout if it is there, but buy a new widespread faucet set for its Hot and Cold valves. Try to find a set that has handles and trim that you like. Do not use the center spout from the new set. Rather, install the new valves, and hook them up to your original spout unit. If the waste stopper tube is missing from your original spout unit, try to find a replacement from a place that sells antique bathroom fixtures.
10. My bathtub has a faucet/waste fixture that is marked Hoffman & Billings of Milwaukee WI. My plumber, who routinely works on old fixtures, said the faucet is a "fuller-ball" set-up. The parts looked badly corroded and unuseable. Are there new parts that exist for these old "fuller-ball" shut off systems?
Well, yes and no. We have not been able to locate any new fuller-ball washers for about 20 years, but I still have a stash of them that I use to restore fixtures like yours. What is a fuller-ball faucet or shut-off? Back in the 19th century and early 20th century, plumbing fixture makers produced several different types of valves to control water flow. The compression valve was the most common, but there was also fuller-ball work and automatic closing valves like the Daugherty valve, and others. Fuller-ball work was very common and is still found today in some old original installations. The way it worked was the handle was attached to a stem that had an eccentric shape on the end inside the valve. The stem was essentially a cam shaft that hooked into a rod that had an acorn shaped rubber ball washer on the end. The rubber ball is the "fuller-ball". When one turned the handle, in either direction, the ball would seat or unseat against an orofice inside the valve which stopped or allowed the flow of water. The correct handle on a fuller valve will always be of the baseball bat style (usually solid brass but sometimes china or even ebony), never the cross handle. The problem with "fuller" work was that the rubber ball gets old, hard and mis-shapen and then ultimately starts breaking apart. As water flows by the mis-shapen washer, the brass seat inside the valve gets damaged and irregular. The seats are not relaceable like those in the better compression valves. So the fuller valves were determined to be problematic and impractical and eventually went the way of the dinosaur.
11. How can I get light yellow stains out of the enamel finish on my bathtub. Also there are black scrape marks on the rim of the tim that will not rub out with any cleaner I can find. Finally, how do I remove mineral deposits from the enamel near the drain?
To get your tub nice and white, get a can of Zud from the hardware store. Comes in a little can like Ajax or Comet. Get a box of green abrasive pad (synthethic steel wool) from the market. Get a piece of 320 and a piece of 400 Wet/Dry sandpaper. Fix up a bucket of soapy water using liquid soap for dishes. Wash the tub inside thoroughly with the soapy water. When it is good and wet and sudsy, sprinkle the Zud in the places where there is staining. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Use the green pad to rub the stain spot gently with the Zud. This should remove the stain. Do this on all the places where there is discoloration. Wash out the whole inside of the tub again with the dish soap and rinse and dry.
If there are still a couple of stubborn spots, use the fine sandpaper, wet from the soap bucket, and sand the spots gently. First the 320# then the 400#. The 400# or even 600# is used to repolish after the 320# is used to get the stain out. The fine paper will get all marks and stains out, especially black marks and abrasions that will not come out any other way. Wash those spots again with the dishes soap, rinse and dry off.
To remove mineral deposits that adhere to the enamel finish of the tub, especially around the drain, use a new single edge razor blade and gently scrape the area. This will remove the hard water deposits. Then scrub as described above using the Zud, and follow up with the fine sandpaper for final cleaning. Wash, rinse and dry when finished. A sharp razor blade can also be used to scrape away drips and streaks of paint that can be found along the edges of your tub or kitchen sink.
12. About 25 years ago I saw a small paper back book that featured an original plumbing trade catalog inside. It was filled with information on antique plumbing fixtures. It was a wonderful little book that I would like to find again. What was it and where can I get a copy?
The book you are talking about was called 'The Well-Appointed Bath' Authentic Plans and Fixtures from the Early 1900s, with introduction by Gail Caskey Winkler, published in 1989 by the Preservation Press. It is a paper bound book, 10" x 8 1/2" 125 pages. It has an excellent historical overview of plumbing through the ages, and a fascinating discussion of fixtures from the mid 19th century through the 1930s. But the meat of the book is two fully reproduced sales catalogs, one being the J.L. Mott Iron Works 'Modern Plumbing' No. 8 catalog from 1914 and the other is Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. 1935 'Planning your Plumbing Wisely'. The Mott company is one of the best known early manufacturers of high quality plumbing fixtures. The 1935 Standard book displays the introduction of color in the decoration of bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Both books are filled with illustrations of bathroom designs and all the fixtures that were available to those who wished to buy the latest in modern sanitary technology and design. The Well Appointed Bath is a fabulous resource for people who want to learn about period plumbing. The tricky part is finding the book now. It only had the first printing and has not been available new since around 1990. We at Vintage Plumbing will sell a used copy when we have it for about $75. Inquire if interested **Note- As of January 2021, we have a few copies available**
13. Tell me about the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company, now called American- Standard. Standard Sanitary merged with The American Radiator Co. When did that happen and what do you know about this great American company?
From The Well -Appointed Bath, 1989, Preservation Press, Gail Caskey Winkler and Charles E. Fisher III.: American Standard is the result of successive mergers by a number of companies. The oldest was Ahrens and Ott Mfg. Co of Louisville KY, which began producing cast-iron soil pipes in 1857. The Standard Mfg. Co of Allegheny, PA., founded in 1870, was originally a maker of enameled cast-iron stove ware, but was making bath fixtures by 1888. In 1887, a Standard employee named Edward L. Dawes left to start up his own company with William A. Myler called Dawes & Myler Mfg Co. in New Brighton PA. By 1893 Dawes & Myler were producing enameled cast-iron bathtubs exclusively. In 1899, Ahrens & Ott, Standard Mfg Co., and Dawes & Myler merged with six smaller companies to form the Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co which became a major producer of enameled cast-iron bathroom fixtures. China or ceramic fixtures were not a part of Standard's production until 1929 when the firm acquired the Thomas Maddock's Sons Mfg. Co. of Trenton NJ. That firm had it's origins in 1873 when a pottery painter from Staffordshire England named Thomas Maddock became a partner in a Trenton NJ pottery that was the first in America to produce heavy sanitary ware such as toilets, bathtubs and sink bowls. Also in 1929, the Standard Sanitary Mfg Co. formed a partnership with the American Radiator Co. of New York City under the name American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation. Later, the name was shortened to American-Standard. Today, people will find old rolled rim bathtubs that are marked on the bottom with the name Standard Sanitary Mfg Co and A & O Works or D & M Works or SW. The SW stands for Standard Works (factory) and AO Works (Ahrens & Ott factory) and DM for Dawes & Myler factory. The different works or factories still carried their old names, and even produced their own catalogs, but all the fixtures were produced under the Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co label.
14. "Reporcelainize" or Re-enamel or Refinish a Bathtub or Sink? I have a Standard cast iron sink dated 1931. It's a double sink -- one side deeper than the other. Do you know where (in the northeast) I can get the sink reporcelained? I'm not sure of the difference between re-enamel and reporcelain, except I know that the porcelain coating is fired on at high temperatures.
In my opinion, re-enameling would be a new fired-on porcelain enamel coating. "Reporcelainizing" is the commonly used term for refinishing done on old bathtubs (and sinks) that involves washing down the old enamel coating with acid to etch, filling chips, and spraying on a "miracle" or epoxy paint coating. Lots of bathtub refinishers do this process, and in my opinion it is worthless for long term use of the sink or bathtub. The finish is not durable and will not last, especially on a sink that is subjected to rough usage. As for re-enameling, only one company in the country will do it and that is Custom Ceramic Coatings in Lenzburg Illinois and they do NOT do a satisfactory job. They apply modern porcelain enamel material in a too thin coating, and the resultant finish is horrendous. I just had a customer out here in LA who sent a kitchen sink back there last year. The shipping was expensive, the job took over 6 months, and when the sink came back the finish was horrible. Extremely rough and irregular. Old enamel was different than todays enamel, lead based, and laid on 3/8" thick, and it covered all the imperfections in the old rough castings. New enamel is much thinner, not lead based, and more like powder coating. All the roughness in the casting shows through. See the underside of your sink to see how rough the cast iron is. All that is covered under your old enamel finish. It would not be under a new one. This is why bathtubs refinishers always say you should not sandblast off the old finish before "reporcelainizing". They need the old finish as a base surface to paint onto.
The good news is you should not even be considering refinishing your double laundry sink as others in good useable condition are still easily found. No point to waste money on refinishing a fixture that you can relatively easily find in good useable, original condition.
15. Tell us about a second pedestal sink in the bathroom of our 1920s Craftsman 4 square master bathroom. The pedestal is a little taller than the regular sink. The basin is square, very small, and only has a cold-water tap.
I recently bought an ensemble of 1929-30's bath fixtures from a lady who pulled them out of the master bath of a mansion in TX, and there was the main large sink, in this case a console on brass legs, and also a tiny little sink that was mounted on a side wall of the bathroom. This was not a pedestal sink, rather it was a wall mounted sink, but it has the same name as your pedestal sink and it served the same purpose. It was called a "dental sink" and was of course used for brushing teeth. This was apparently very common in better homes after the turn of the century to have a small dental sink in the bathroom. Most of my catalogs from the teens and newer show a dental sink available. Apparently, the thinking of the day was that it was unhealthful to wash one's hands and one's mouth in the same fixture, hence, a separate sink was placed in the master bathroom of better homes.
16. My toilet bowl has the name John Douglas written on the rim, and Gloria inside the bowl. Did John Douglas have a problem with Gloria, or else why is her name written inside the toilet? What do you know about this company?
The John Douglas Co of Cincinnati OH was one of the great 19th and early 20th century American plumbing manufacturing companies, that probably went out of business in the depression, like so many others. It was first established in 1887. The company's trademark was the moon in crescent and the logo "The best is cheapest", and the label markings on a Douglas toilet are among the best ever seen on old antique toilet bowls. Usually the company name is written in large stylized lettering on the back or front rim surface, or the logo is at the back near the seat hinge holes, and the model name is down inside the bowl under the back rim. The ladies name Gloria had some significance to the company founders, but I have yet to determine what it was. They seem to have been a water closet (toilet) company first and foremost since their catalogs start out with information on toilet sets and the very high quality of their wooden tanks. The largest part of their catalogs is devoted to toilets. But they also made everything else for bathrooms and kitchens including Bathtubs, Showers, Kitchen sinks and brass work. Some of the other Douglas toilet models that were most common were called Royal, Favorite, Leader, Excelcius, Yale, Empire, Capitol, and Avon. These bowls date from around 1900 to the mid twenties. One antique bath fixture legend that is popular is that the slang term for the toilet, "the John" comes from the company name,,,,The John Douglas Co. I have never confirmed it though and have no way to know if that is true. My feeling is that it probably is not true, but who knows?
17. I live in a nice house from 1941, and the shower valves are completely stripped making it impossible to stop my shower from dripping. The only shower valves I can find are 8 inches from valve center to valve center, but my valves are 6 inches from center to center. I'm trying to replace the valves without cutting into my 1941 pink bathroom tile that I can't find replacements for either. So... Do you have valves 6" apart that would go inside a wall? Do you have 1940's pink bathroom tile that might be close to what I'll end up having to replace?
Also, see next question below........
You have a dilema faced by many people that own houses from the 30s-40s, 50s. There are no replacement fixtures that match what you have. The new stuff has different dimensions, and when the new stuff was designed, the makers did not care that some people would want to retain their old fixtures and retain their old tile, and not rip it all out when there was time for repairs to be made.
There are two ways to go, and I tell this to many people that write me with the same dilema.
Tear all the old out and replace with new that resembles the old. Tile and fixtures. This is what most plumbers want to do. It is cheaper and faster than restoration.
Or, nurse your old fixtures back to health with careful repair and restoration like one would an antique car. This takes time and more money, and a plumber willing to help. When the antique car is in need of retoration, you can send it to the scrap heap and get a nice shiney new one, or you can take it to a restoration shop and have it restored, or you can do it your self.
Antique bathrooms are in many ways more difficult that cars because the fixtures are buried in the walls, and in most cases the replacement tiles are not available.
But if you take the shower valves all apart, there are tools that can be used, if you can find a plumber still willing and able to do it, that can resurface the seats (while still in the wall). And the valves can then be rebuilt. If the brass valve parts are not available, there are specialists like me who can get them remade by custom machining.. So that is it. Sorry there is no magic solution that would be easier than this.
18. We live in an historical house in Greenfield, Indiana and it has a beautiful Art Deco Standard Sanitary Mfg Co bathroom ca.1935. The bathroom is all original, except the toilet, but the valves all drip. Only the sink shut off valves still function as they should. Any advice and or estimates you could give me about repairing or replacing the hardware, restoring the tub, and replacing the toilet with an old one would be wonderful.
You have a beautiful bathroom there that dates from 1930-1935. Whoever remodeled the original bathroom at that time put in the best fixtures available, made by the Standand Sanitary Mfg Co, (SSMCo) of Pittsburgh. See my FAQs above for discussion about the American-Standard Co. and the one right above for this dilema in general. Yours are top of the line Art Deco fixtures and fittings. And the fittings are fully rebuildable and restoreable.
But it will be a serious undertaking that will take some time and some money. The faucets made by SSMCo were called Re-Nu because the internal parts including the seats are renewable. The stems and the barrels that contain the seats will come right out of the valve bodies and can be replaced with new parts. And all the trim parts, Hex shaped cones or escutcheons and handles can be stripped of original chrome, polished and replated.
The key to this process is two things, either a very handiman hubby, or a very competent and willing plumber and me. You need someone willing and able to take your valve components apart without destroying your fixtures and/or the parts, and me for getting the replacement internal parts and getting the plating work done for you.
In all likelyhood the restoration of your existing plumbing might cost almost as much as the replacement of all your existing plumbing. But the replacement job would be done much faster. The upside of restoration is you preserve all your period details i.e, all the fixtures, hardware and tile.
If you want to embark on restoration, you will want to read through my FAQs for discussion about removing parts, and you will want to decide who among the plumbers you have had out might be a candidate to do the sensitive and patient job of disassembly and reassembly. Keep in mind that your plumber might tell you that he will do the restoration job, then the first day that he is alone in your house he might destroy some vital piece or another of your original fixtures which will then require that you switch to the remodel job. You really must be confident that your plumber is really patient and sensitive to maintaining the old, and willing to work long term on a job that will not be done in a week or even a month. I would take your bathroom on one fixture at a time, and take it slow and easy. Your house and this bathroom is worth taking time, up to a year perhaps, to get it restored and shiney again.
As a place to start, you would fix up your sink that really needs little work. You do not need to take the hardware completely off the sink, unless you want to. Just burrow down into the valves from the top, removing the handles, followed by the escutcheons, and then unscrewing the bonnet nuts that look like the valves on your Hot side of the shower or tub fixture. Just squirt some WD40 on the valve internal parts, and use an adjustable wrench to unscrew counterclockwise the internals of the sink H and C valves, You will see that the innards pull out and can then be replaced.
Once you restore your sink, then you can go to the shower/tub, and do the same thing. I do not need the rough plumbing in the wall here on my workbench. It can remain where it is in your wall. Just run your new copper supply lines to the tub and shower fixture, and then open up each valve one by one from outside the wall and Re-Nu it.
As for the tub, you can try to restore the finish by polishing. I can walk you through that. And I can also get a matching toilet for you.
All of this can be done, but you need a good solid professional plumber willing and able to work on old fittings, with an eye towards restoration, not removal and replacement. You can usually find such craftsmen through historical house societies.