How To Choose Plumbing Fixtures for Your Home

The plumbing fixtures that you choose for your kitchen or bathroom can alter the entire style of the room.  After all, a plain white sink and a ordinary bathtub don't really have a style, right?  Add elegant faucets with a high arch in a polished stainless steel finish.  You now have the beginning of a formal, possibly contemporary, look.  There are many other things to consider when choosing plumbing fixtures, too, such as finish, function and installation method.

  1. Style.  There are lots of faucet styles from which to choose.  In general, those with clean lines and few details will convey a modern look and those with details such as fluting, banding and floral motifs are more traditional.  You can easily tweak either of these two categories to suit your taste by adding custom faucet handles.
  2. Finish.  Most faucets are made of brass, which is then plated with one of four materials.  Chrome faucets are inexpensive, but they come across as rather plain and ordinary.  To lend a bit of style to a chrome faucet, you can purchase one which has been finished with a colored enamel.  Keep in mind, however, that colored fixtures can quickly date a room. 

    Nickel is a step-up from chrome, and can be either brushed, which gives the faucet a muted, burnished glow, or polished, which is somewhat shiny, like chrome.  An advantage to choosing a faucet with a brushed finish is that it doesn't show fingerprints and water spots as easily as a polished finish. 

    Stainless steel is a higher-end choice for faucet material, and like chrome, can be either brushed or not. 

    The final choice in faucet finishes is brass.  Although you can purchase faucets made entirely of brass, it is more often used as an accent on stainless steel fixtures.

  3. Function.  There are six basic types of plumbing fixtures.  They are categorized by use.

    • Kitchen sink.  Faucets which are designed for use with a kitchen sink have a high clearance so that you can fit large cooking pieces underneath them easily.  They may also have a detachable spray head so that you can pull the top of the faucet out to hose down items which might otherwise be difficult to wash.
    • Bar sink.  These are usually a smaller version of the kitchen sink faucets.  They are suitable for a small sink, but may look out-of-scale when paired with a larger sink.
    • Laundry sink.  These faucets are designed for use with large, tub-style laundry sinks.  They usually extend out horizontally by six inches or more, which ensures that the spray is directed toward the center of the sink.  Although somewhat lacking in style, they are quite useful.
    • Bathroom sink.   Bathroom sink faucets are smaller than kitchen sink faucets.  Clearance is not such a great concern here, as you will probably not be placing many large pots underneath your bathroom sink faucet!
    • Bathtub faucet.  These faucets are designed, naturally, for use with a bathtub or whirlpool tub.  You will want to choose a faucet which has a fast flow-rate so that it can fill your tub in a minimal amount of time.
    • Shower faucets.  Once upon a time, shower faucets consisted of a knob which you turned, to control water temperature, and pulled, to control water flow rate.  Nowadays, you can have faucets which control a variety of body jets, with different spray patterns and intensity.  When choosing a shower faucet, be sure it's compatible with the type of shower you wish to install.
  4. Installation method.  Faucets can be either single-handled or two-handled.  A single-handle faucet has a lever, either mounted over the faucet or by itself which controls water temperature and flow rate.  A two-handled sink has one handle for hot water and one for cold water in addition to the faucet.  A single-handle faucet can be easier to use, especially for children or those with disabilities, but a two-handled sink gives you a lot more design options.  When choosing a faucet, make sure that the number of holes it requires matches the sink that you have, otherwise you will have to install new plumbing, also.
  5. Valves.  You can purchase faucets with a washer system, which consists of a rubber disc which closes against a metal seat.  These types of faucets are usually inexpensive, but the disc is more susceptible to wear and tear, which means the long-term maintenance costs may be higher.  Cartridge-style systems use a plastic or brass cartridge instead of a rubber disc, which doesn't wear out nearly as quickly.  Better yet is the ceramic disc type of faucet.  This one works the same as a standard, rubber disc washer system, but the disc is composed of very hard ceramic material, which is virtually indestructible.
  6. Scald protection.  If you have small children, you may want to consider a faucet with built-in scald protection.  With this feature, you can set the maximum water temperature at a safe point, usually about 120 degrees.  No matter how far the hot water control is pushed, the water temperature will never rise above the scalding point.  In fact, some states require that all newly-installed faucets have scald protection.
  7. Temperature control.  If you tire of always trying to find the perfect temperature for your bath or shower, you may want a faucet which allows you to preset the temperature.  You simply adjust a temperature ring to the perfect temperature.  Then, every time you turn the shower or bath on, it automatically adjusts to your ideal temperature.  Of course, you may have to argue with your spouse over what exactly constitutes the ideal temperature!

Always choose a faucet whose manufacturer has a solid reputation.  After all, your plumbing fixtures will likely last for twenty years or more.  Unless, of course, you decide you're ready to change the look of your bathroom or kitchen before then!


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