Whether your bathroom is a carefully crafted space dedicated to pampering or a beautifying closet that serves only one purpose, it needs a faucet. Finding the right one for the space is important, but given the abundance of styles and options, this might be a proposition to try.
Whether you are planning a kitchen remodel or a bathroom remodels, a faucet is an essential element that faithfully delivers hot or cold water on demand. However, we hardly notice them until they start leaking or it’s time to buy another one.
So it might surprise you that today’s faucets perform better than ever, are feature-rich, last longer, and are easier to install. This faucet buying guide will help you narrow down your faucets to find one that fits your home in function, style, and price.
1. Basic Faucet Functions
What’s in the faucet? Almost every faucet has three basic elements: the control, the spout, and the sprayer.
Whether it’s two handles or a lever, the faucet control activates the water, switches between hot and cold, and mixes the two temperatures. Controls can even be hands-free or touch-sensitive.
2) Nozzle and Body
The spout and body of the faucet determine the appearance and function of the faucet. Spouts can be low and out of the way, or long-necked, high, and arched to better accommodate colanders and cauldrons.
Popular finishes such as chrome, nickel, and stainless steel complete the look.
Features once considered extras, like sprayers, are now commonplace on more modern faucets. Valuable for filling large pots and cleaning dishes, sprayers are sometimes integrated into the spout (pull-down or pull-out) or set aside, on a sink apron or countertop.
2. Faucet Type
What types of bathroom faucets are there in the market? Which can you use and where will it go? On the countertop of the dresser? Directly on the sink deck? on the wall? How many holes are available for the faucet? Knowing which ones can be installed easily, which ones require extra work, and which ones won’t work in your bathroom is key to saving time and eliminating confusion.
- NICEMOCO faucets are easily recognized by their “one piece” design which includes two handles on the deck plate. They’ve long been a standard in most bathrooms (although their popularity appears to be waning), and are perfect for small sinks and tight spaces. These faucets require three holes in the sink or mounting surface; the distance between the handles is 4 inches (measured from the center of each hole). If you are replacing a center faucet, it is usually best to use another center faucet, a “mini spread” faucet, or a single-handle faucet with a faceplate (to cover the unused hole).
- Widely available faucets require three holes and typically have their handles set at 8″, but adjustable models can accommodate distances up to 16″. Given their wide spacing, these faucets do not use a faceplate; the spout and handle are mounted separately. If you have more sink or counter space and like the look/operation of a two-handle faucet, an all-purpose model is for you.
- Minispread (or “mini-widespread”) faucets are the centers and widespread faucets have a baby thing. Using the same dimensions as centerpieces (4 inches between centers of handles), but eschewing deck boards in favor of individually mounted handles like widely available faucets, the Mini Spout brings a modern touch to any small space.
- Single-lever faucets are one of the most common bathroom faucets, along with center faucets. They usually only use one hole and can be designed with a small footprint (covering only a single hole) or with a wide deck to cover any unused holes on the sink deck/countertop. Some models will have the spout separate from the handle, thus requiring two holes.
- Wall-mounted faucets are most often associated with kitchens but are also increasingly appearing in bathrooms. They can be used anywhere, but these faucets are best suited for container sinks (or even pedestal sinks) that sit above the counter, given the height of the faucet relative to the top of the counter. Wall-mounted faucets almost always have two handles and generally follow the widely used spacing convention for faucets of 8″ fixed centers, or adjustable centers for smaller or larger spacing.
- Pro tip: Wall-mounted faucets require more measuring and planning than other options. You want to make sure the spout extends well over the sink and is in a comfortable position for your various daily activities. Consider the angle of the spout outlet, the height of the spout, and the height of the sink walls: depending on the strength of the water stream – and hand position when washing – the splash may wet the floor/countertop.
- Vessel faucets are taller than most faucets and usually have only one handle. Sometimes called “tall spout” faucets, they are tall enough to accommodate a vessel sink that sits on the countertop. You need to make sure that the faucet not only flows off the edge of the sink but also in a visually pleasing way; a faucet that is only 1 inch from the sink may look and feel awkward (depending on the angle of the water).
In addition to sink type and sink configuration, it’s important to consider how the faucet will be installed, the number of handles required, and the type of sprayer you prefer.
1) Deck-mounted, deck-mounted or wall-mounted faucets
The deck-mounted faucet is contained on an integrated faucet bracket. The controls are tight and tight. However, the cluster design can make cleanup more difficult.
Counter-mounted faucets move the faucet over the sink apron, tucking it back onto the countertop behind the sink.
This frees up more sinks. Deck-mounted faucets cost more overall and require additional countertop fabrication expenses.
Wall mounted faucet
A wall-mounted faucet behind the sink gives the kitchen a chef-centric, professional feel and frees up the sink and counter.
However, these faucets tend to cost up to 30% more than other fixtures and require professional installation. Also, most wall-mounted faucets do not include sprayers. The sprayer needs to be mounted on the countertop.
2) Single Or Double Handle Faucets
Single-lever faucets have a control, usually a lever, that can be tilted to mix hot and cold water. The single handle is perfect when you need to quickly turn on the faucet effortlessly.
While sleek and modern, single-lever faucets can slow you down as you try to achieve the ideal temperature.
Double Handle Faucet
The two-handle faucet is simple and classic. This type of faucet rarely fails because it has no mixing cartridge.
But the controls are spread out and take up more sink apron or countertop space than a single-handle unit.
3) Pull-down, Pull-out, or Side Spray
Pull Down Sprayer
The pull-down faucet sprayer converts from an arched fixed nozzle to a hose sprayer simply by pulling down the nozzle tip.
Pull-down sprayers are great for filling large plant pots and are best for large farmhouse sinks. But sometimes, the sprayer won’t retract fully when the counterweight gets stuck on an obstacle under the sink.
A pull-out faucet sprayer is similar to a pull-down faucet, except that the sprayer is pulled directly forward toward the user.
Pull-out faucet sprayers have a lower profile, which means they are less prominent on the sink. They also have a long hose that reaches all areas of the basin. But they don’t work well in large pots, and they usually don’t retract like pull-down models.
Side sprayers fit into holes in faucet bases, sink backsplashes, or drilled holes in countertops.
Side sprayers are flexible. But they do take up extra countertops, sink aprons, or mounting plate space.
3. Counterbore Configuration
The sink’s pre-drilled holes—the number and configuration—are an important factor when choosing a faucet.
Always consider the number of holes in your sink and their configuration. If you are replacing the faucet and keeping the existing sink, the configuration must match. But if you’re planning to replace your sink, that’s less of a concern, since you can buy a new basin to match the configuration of the faucet.
TIP: Since the deck may cover the hole configuration of the sink, look under the sink cabinet to count the holes.
Counter-mount or wall-mount sink faucets are suitable for sinks that do not have pre-drilled holes.
Counterbuilders drill holes in countertops, and builders drill holes in backsplashes.
2) A Hole
All the hoses for sinks with one hole come from below, in one bundle. Faucets for this type of sink have controls on the body of the faucet.
3) Two Holes
Two-hole sinks have a main sink faucet assembly that receives water through one hole. A sink sprayer or soap dispenser can be inserted in the second hole.
Tip: If you have a two-hole sink and don’t need the second hole, it can be easily covered with an inexpensive round plastic dish that is mixed with the sink material.
4) Three Holes
Three-hole sinks are common because they allow the user the flexibility to add two handles and a faucet without using a countertop to cover up unwanted holes. However, almost every “single-hole faucet” includes a deck plate to cover the two extra holes, if you prefer the style and currently have a three-hole sink.
5) Four Holes
Four-hole sinks are also common because the sink sprayer can be set aside rather than clustered with the rest of the sink controls.
4. Installation Type
The following are installation types.
1) New Sink (or new countertop)
- If the faucet is part of a brand-new bathroom sink installation, the world is your oyster. Limited only by your own budget and design considerations, you only need to ensure compatibility between the mounting surface (sink countertop/countertop/wall), the sink itself, and the faucet.
- Faucets to install on sink tops or new countertops should be purchased before the sink/top is purchased – this allows you to specify the number and location of pre-drilled holes Prior to receipt, contact the manufacturer directly about the mounting surface. While some materials can be modified at home, it’s best to have a new sink or counter ready to use as soon as it arrives.
2) Current Tank
- If you’re not looking for anything different, just replacing your faucet can be a breeze: just match the type, size, and number of holes available, and voilà!
- If you’re looking to make more drastic changes to your previous faucet, you’ll need to consider the number of holes available on the mounting surface: if your dream faucet needs fewer holes, you’ll need to have a deck or you’ll need to find the right faucet hole cover or escutcheon.
- Pay close attention to the dimensions of deck boards, escutcheons, and hole covers: depending on the sink/vanity installation, they may be awkward to install or create a “no clean” gap between them and the wall.
- If your new faucet requires more holes, you’ll need to consider how easy it is to add them to the mounting surface. Be aware that some sink and counter materials may be difficult to modify without specialized equipment/expertise, and such modifications may void the warranty.
PRO TIP: If you are adding/replacing a countertop-mounted faucet, check the faucet specs! You need to look for “Finished/Maximum Deck Thickness” – as long as your countertop is at or below this thickness, the faucet should be fine. The standard size for countertops is 1″ to 1-1/2″; most faucets accommodate up to 1-1/2″ (some go beyond that). Consult the manufacturer if the countertop is too thick for your desired faucet to find out if the Faucet Shank Extension Kit will work with your model. Depending on the counter material, some pros will drill or chisel a larger hole in the underside so that the original shank can be used.
- Unless the bathroom was built specifically for wall-mounted faucets, installation can be more challenging than counter-mounted faucets. If the studs on the wall are in the way of placing the faucet where you want it (almost always on the centerline of the sink), you may have to move them. An access panel (or at least a shutoff valve/stop) should also be installed under the sink or on the other side of the wall for easy access and repairs.
- Watch out for the exterior walls! People in cold winter climates are advised not to install wall-mounted faucets on exterior walls because of the increased risk of freezing of water supply pipes there. While there are several ways to go about this—insulation, heat cables, windbreaks—consider the risks before proceeding.
- Bathroom faucets are often easier to size than kitchen faucets, but there are some unique considerations to keep in mind. Namely, there are cabinets and mirrors over the bathroom sink. While most tub faucets are shorter, models with higher arcs are becoming more popular. If you’re interested in a taller faucet, measure the vertical distance between the mounting surface and any cabinets or mirrors above, and how far they stick out of the wall – is there room for the faucet? Will it prevent the use of the cabinets, or will it be a distraction at the bottom of the mirror?
- Observe the reach of the faucet (how far the spout extends from the base) and the angle of its outlet. Measure the distance between the faucet mounting point and the centerline of the sink—does the spout extend far enough, or will your hand brush against the back of the sink? Are you comfortable with where your hands are while washing your hands? Most importantly: Will water splash out of the sink? Water from the faucet should never touch the side or front walls of the sink, especially if it is coming out at an angle.
- Consider the habits of yourself and others who use the faucet regularly – for example: how high do you like to raise your hand while rinsing? Have you ever washed items in your bathroom sink (a high-arc faucet or swivel spout helps)? Will children be able to use the faucet and will they be able to grasp the handle for safe operation (not just pushing with fingertips on toes)? ADA-compliant and easy-to-use faucets (and sinks) will benefit the youngest, the elderly, and those with limited mobility.
5) Precautions For Faucet Installation
Do you install the faucet yourself or have a contractor or plumber do it for you?
If you’re looking to DIY, it’s good to know that snap-on hose fittings and easy-to-install faucet mounts are now standard on many models. For these faucets, most fittings are installed by hand and should take about 30 minutes to install.
A plumber or contractor can also help install the faucet, especially if it is necessary to run the water supply line from the home water system to the sink area.
5. Put Up
To choose the best faucet, you need to have an understanding of its inner workings. The faucet’s material of construction and its valve or cartridge type is a true sign of quality.
- Metal alloys: When you see “metal construction” on a package, it may not be as good as it sounds: this usually refers to something called Zamak (or Zamac), which is a zinc, copper, A low-grade alloy of magnesium and aluminum. Often chromed or brass-plated, these zinc-alloy faucets are an upgrade from plastic faucets, but should only be considered for the tightest of budgets. Get ready to replace those faucets ASAP.
- Plastic: Plastic faucets should be avoided. Not only are they cheap, but they’re often “cheap” – expect plastic faucets to have a shorter lifespan than other options, especially in hard water areas where the internal components degrade much faster. The only exception is the newer PEX-based faucets, which utilize the internal PEX waterways to completely eliminate the threat of lead (lead can still be legal at up to 0.25% by weight). These PEX faucets usually have a metal body, which is usually better than regular zinc alloy faucets.
- Brass: Still the standard, still (usually) the best. An alloy of copper and zinc, solid brass faucets have a solid reputation for quality and durability. Don’t confuse them with brass-plated faucets, which hide inferior alloys underneath. Although a solid brass faucet costs more than the options above, it is a better and longer-lasting investment.
- Stainless Steel: The only truly lead-free option besides plastic, stainless steel is also highly resistant to corrosion. Robust, high-quality stainless steel faucets complement the finest solid brass models. Make sure you only focus on Type 304 stainless steel, which is a higher quality steel that contains more chromium and nickel than other types of steel.
1) Valve/Filter Type
Compression and ball valves were once the primary means of controlling water flow from faucets, but the industry has largely moved away from them in favor of superior spool technology.
- Standard cartridges are mostly made of brass or plastic (often both). They seal tightly within the faucet body or its handle; the flow and/or mixing of hot/cold water is controlled by the opening or closing of different spaces within the cartridge depending on the position of the handle. It’s true that the best faucets won’t use this basic element, but these are still huge improvements over compression and ball faucets.
- Ceramic disc cartridges use ceramic discs that move against each other to control temperature and flow (almost all faucets that use them are single handles). In addition to their exceptional durability (many ceramic cartridges are backed by a lifetime warranty) and superior performance, ceramic disc faucets have the added benefit of being surprisingly easy to operate: just a gentle quarter turn opens them.
6. Handle and Function
The following are handle and function.
1) Handle Type
The choice of handle type is important, based on decisions about style and comfort: after all, it’s the part of your faucet that you touch most often.
- Knob handles were common on older faucets (remember those acrylic behemoths?) but are usually only found on economy faucets these days. They can be a challenge for small children and adults with weakened hand/wrist strength.
- Cross handles are an attractive option, especially in traditional designs. Unlike knob handles, cross handles are finished for a better fit (some even use porcelain to great effect). Often easier to operate than knobs, but they can still cause problems for some users. However, they are the easiest type to turn with wet hands.
- A lever handle may refer to a two-handle faucet whose lever can only be turned (like the knob and cross) or a single-handle faucet with a turn-and-lift handle (probably the most common type today). These are the easiest handles to use and are usually the type of handles found on ADA faucets.
- Joystick handles are similar to single-lever levers, but are usually thinner and move slightly differently (though just as easily). Joysticks are most commonly found in modern/contemporary bathroom designs.
- Touch activation and touchless/motion activation: These technologies are relatively new to the residential market and allow for more convenient and hygienic faucet control. Some models have a handle to set the water temperature that acts as a manual operation, others have a control box under the sink. These faucets require power — batteries or a nearby outlet, depending on the model. Metered taps, which are activated at the push of a button and remain open for a given period of time, may also be considered part of the range, but are most commonly found in commercial settings.
2) Special Function
- Some faucets come with a drain assembly (applicable models include a lift lever for sink filling), and some don’t: Just be sure to read the listing and packaging carefully so you know exactly what you’re getting. Drains, lifters, and plugs can be purchased separately, often with matching finishes provided by the faucet manufacturer (although in many cases third-party finishes are sufficient to match the drain trim).
- WaterSense is a highly successful EPA program to reduce water waste. WaterSense-certified bathroom faucets have a maximum flow rate of 1.5 GPM and are independently tested to ensure high performance. Choosing faucets with the WaterSense label can save water and money – and might even qualify you for local rebates.
- Anti-scald is a good idea in most situations, but especially when it comes to young children, the elderly, and people with limited mobility. Protection is necessary if the person using the faucet reacts quickly, operates the faucet handle, or cannot easily discern the water temperature by hand. Unfortunately, the ADA guidelines don’t address scalding, so don’t assume that the ADA-compliant faucet you want includes a scald-prevention device (usually a handle stop that prevents the handle from moving too far on the hot side).
- If you can’t find the right faucet with an anti-scald function, you can install a thermostatic mixing valve under the sink. These valves mix cold and hot water to a user-defined temperature, which is then delivered to the faucet. You need a 2-outlet valve so cold water can still be delivered to the faucet.
- ADA compliance means the faucet meets standards for handle placement and operation (as well as metering the minimum length of time the faucet remains open – 10 seconds) so that it can be used by people with disabilities. ADA faucet handles (usual levers) require no grasping and can be turned with minimal effort. To meet ADA requirements, they must be installed over ADA-compliant sinks but can be used anywhere a particularly easy-to-operate faucet is required.
- Pull-down/pull-out shower faucets are fast becoming a must-have in the kitchen and can be used in the bathroom as well. Often touted as a convenient option for cleaning and watering plants, you may find more use for the integrated sprayer. While bathroom sprayers may not be used as much as in the kitchen, you should still look for ones that use braided nylon or stainless steel for longevity.
7. Types of Faucet Finishes
Brushed metals such as stainless steel, bronze nickel, or matte black can hide fingerprints. Chrome and gold tend to leave fingerprints, but wipe off easily.
- Stainless Steel: Timeless matte stainless steel gives the faucet a soft brushed metal look.
- Nickel: Nickel finishes are slightly less lustrous than stainless steel and have a warm, neutral tone that complements other colors in the kitchen.
- Chrome Plating: Faucets with a chrome finish are highly reflective and have a smooth, mirror-like appearance.
- Bronze: Bronze has a traditional oil-rubbed look and works well with off-white, gray, and tan paint colors.
- Black: Black is a universal color that goes with just about anything, so a matte black finish faucet can complement all types of kitchen layouts and decors.
- Gold: Gold finishes are trending again. They come with warmer undertones, a departure from the glitzy golds of decades past.
8. Faucet Cost By Type
|Pull down faucet:||$60 – $1,100|
|Pull-out faucet:||$55 – $800|
|Single faucet:||$25 – $800|
|Double handle:||$22 – $800|
- The finish is largely a personal choice, but there are some practical issues to consider as well. Got a toothbrush mess at home? Toothpaste splatters are more prominent on dark surfaces. If you have hard water, these deposits will also burst against a darker background. Fingerprints and water spots tend to stand out on chrome and other shiny surfaces – if these things bother you, consider a light matte finish.
- If you’re not a frequent/compulsive cleaner, you should probably avoid ornate designs with grooves and deep cutouts. As with dark finishes, problems like soap scum, toothpaste splatter, and water spots will be magnified.
- The most durable finish is still good chrome, but manufacturers have made great strides in the quality of finishes over the years. If you need the most durable finish but standard chrome isn’t to your liking, look for a PVD finish. Physical Vapor Deposition uses vacuum pressure and electrical charges to create unrivaled surface treatments.
- Most cleaners aren’t your friend (there are exceptions) – but the manufacturer’s cleaning advice is! If you can’t find anything on the paperwork or on their website, you can never go wrong with a homemade soapy water and/or vinegar solution — and if you’ve never used them, you’ll be amazed at how well they work. Try to use only soft cloths, non-abrasive sponges, or paper towels when cleaning. While some may scoff at this “harmless” cleaning technique, doing it on a regular basis (rather than removing a month’s worth of grime with industrial chemicals) is better for both the faucet and the environment.