Faucets are among the details that can spell the difference between a moderately successful bathroom design and a truly remarkable one. But forget about choosing a faucet solely on its looks. Functionality, comfort, and durability are key, too.
Compression-type faucets depend on washers to manage the flow. Newer types use other means, such as balls, cartridges, and disks for easier use with less maintenance.
Ball faucets have a rotating ball inside that moves over water inlet holes and permits water to flow, regulates the flow of hot and cold water, and shuts off the water altogether.
Cartridge faucets come in both single- and double-handle configurations. Designed for ease of repair, the flow mechanisms are housed in a cartridge that can be replaced when leaks occur.
Disk faucets rely on a pair of ceramic disks that slide over each other to regulate water flow and temperature. These faucets are typically the most durable and trouble-free.
Although there are no hard-and-fast rules about pairing a vintage-style faucet with a classic sink or a contemporary faucet with a modern sink, in general, the closer the combination of styles, the more pleasing the overall effect. The same principle holds true for other types of bathroom faucets, such as showerheads and tub fillers.
- Traditional designs include crossbar-handle faucets, usually available in chrome or brass. Ceramic-covered lever faucets have a similarly old-fashioned appeal. As an alternative to chrome and brass finishes, you can give a classically styled faucet a more contemporary look with a matte finish such as satin nickel.
- For a more transitional look that combines classic and modern styles, a gooseneck matte-finish faucet does the trick and maximizes space available for hand washing.
- Contemporary faucets usually boast a smooth, minimalist design and a polished finish. Levers that operate water flow are often slim and sleek.
As you shop for faucets, you'll find everything from traditional two-handle models that recall the designs of a century ago to the newest one handle designs that look like contemporary sculptures. Faucet prices start at $60 for the most basic models and run as high as $1,000 or more. Solid-brass die cast parts are a sign of quality, but they often come with steep price tags -- anywhere from $250 to $1,000 or more.
If you're in the market for a less expensive faucet, beware of models with plastic shells or handles. Their price may be attractive, but their durability and resistance to scratches are likely to disappoint.
How to replace a faucet
Want to give your sink a quick and easy facelift? Install a new faucet. Follow these simple steps, and you'll be finished in no time. Before you buy a new faucet, see how many holes are currently in your sink or countertop to determine what style you need. We're showing a common setup of three holes with a 4-inch spread, which is designed for a center-set faucet. You may also see three holes with an 8-inch spread for a widespread faucet, or an individual hole for a single-stem faucet. Once you've brought your new faucet home, gather your tools. You'll need two adjustable wrenches, and a basin wrench, which is made to fit in tight spaces. Before you remove the old faucet, get to know the parts of your new faucet. Most models have mounting nets that secure the faucet to the sink, a lift rod, and possibly, a rubber gasket. Next, shut off the water supply to the faucet. Turn on the faucet to drain the line. To remove the existing faucet, unscrew the mounting nets and disconnect the supply lines from the shut-off valves. Once the old faucet is out, wipe away any residue. Some faucets have rubber or plastic gaskets for the seal. Others require a putty or silicone caulk around the base plate. For this step, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Insert the lift rod and ensure the knobs are in the 'off' position. Now, you're ready to connect everything under the counter. Under the sink, screw the mounting nets to the faucet and tighten them with a basin wrench. Connect the supply lines first to the faucet, and then to the shut-off valves, moving the lines to the back so they're not in the way. Before you turn the water back on, use one adjustable wrench to hold the shut-off valve in place, using the other to tighten the water line. Then, turn the water back on and allow it to run a few seconds to remove air from the supply lines and ensure there are no leaks. When the water is running smoothly, your new faucet is now ready to use.