1. Handle options. A faucet handle should feel good to the touch. Whether luxurious or slickly machined, it should be easy to maneuver and the action should feel firm.
2. Solid-brass construction. Brass is desired for its toughness under extreme temperatures and other adverse conditions. A quality brass fixture will generally outlast less-expensive faucets that are made with plastic internal components.
3. On the wall. For a distinctive look that frees up your countertop, go for a wall-mounted faucet above your sink. Once commonly seen, it still looks terrific and helps avoid grimy buildup, which happens around the base of sink-mount faucets.
4. Easier how-to. Installing a new faucet has become one of the simpler do-it-yourself projects, if you stick with mainstream brands. Often, the most difficult part is removing the old faucet. Once that's done, installation takes only a few minutes, a wrench, and some plumber's tape. Some models even have snap connectors that eliminate the need for tools or tape.
5. People's choice. Bright and durable polished chrome has long been a favorite kitchen faucet finish.
6. Cleaner H2O. Faucets with built-in water-filter cartridges are convenient and add peace of mind. Look for filters that remove high percentages of lead, chlorine, and other contaminants. Most filtering faucets have a switch to easily change from filtered to unfiltered water.
7. Compression faucets. These days, few of us want this type, which relies on the compression of little rubber washers to stop the flow of water. Washers are prone to leakage, requiring frequent repair.
8. Ceramic-disk valve. This is a reliable choice. Two ceramic disks control water flow: One disk is stationary; the other moves to block or open water flow. The disks form an airtight seal when locked against each other.
9. Instant tea. When you want a cup in a hurry, you'll never regret splurging on a faucet that delivers instant hot water. These units are plumbed under your sink and dispense hot water on demand through a small, dedicated faucet.
10. PVD technology. Major manufacturers now finish faucets employing Physical Vapor Deposition, a high-tech process that protects metal surfaces from wear and corrosion. PVD binds coatings to metal, giving faucets an always-untarnished surface.
11. Go for the old. If your house begs for authentic fixtures, vintage faucets are available through antiques stores and architectural salvage outlets. Closely inspect old pieces for metal integrity and mechanisms still in working condition. Or, for old-design faucets in new castings, scan such Web sites as www.vintagetub.com and www.vandykes.com.
12. Pullouts. Forget that wimpy side-spray attachment: One of the hottest trends in kitchen faucet design is the pullout faucet. The faucet's spout is actually a hose that can be pulled out and set to a soft stream for light tasks or a high-pressure spray to rinse plates.
13. Professional equipment. For serious dishwashing, get commercial gear. Restaurants use towering high-arch faucets equipped with long, snaking, metal-clad hoses. Wands have triggers, or install a toe switch for hands-free working.
14. Secondary sinks. Any busy kitchen sink can use a second source of water, whether it's a food-prep sink or a bar sink to serve an adjacent dining area. When you have two faucets in one kitchen, keep styles the same or similar.
15. Pot fillers. These secondary faucets are real labor-savers for the home chef. Mounted on the wall behind the cooktop, they also send the message that you're no novice. Look for models that extend to reach both front and back burners.
16. Price of admission. You can spend $50 or less at entry level, or part with $500 or more at the high end. Familiar polished-chrome models are the least expensive.
17. Old-world. Finishes in oil-rubbed bronze, wrought iron, and hammered copper are a natural for vintage-look kitchens with dark woods. Once the exclusive province of specialty plumbing manufacturers, these elegant yet durable finishes are now widely available to consumers.
18. Precious metals. Stainless-steel, brushed-nickel, and satin finishes are the fastest-growing segments of the faucet market. These finishes hide water spots while putting a stylish sparkle into the sink area.
19. Matte chrome finish. A matte chrome finish that mimics aluminum is gaining fans among consumers. Architect and product designer Michael Graves recently chose this finish for inclusion in a splashy line he developed for Delta Faucet Co.
20. Escutcheon plate. This decorative plate serves as a faucet base while covering unused faucet holes in the sink. You would use one of these plates, for instance, if you were replacing a two-handle faucet with a single-lever model.
21. Call in the pros. When the countertop changes along with the faucet, you might want to call in a pro installer. There's little margin for error when drilling through counters.
22. Have it your way. We're used to getting burgers any way we want them. Why not faucets? Find a shape you like, then pick a finish.
23. Epoxy finishes. Colored epoxy finishes offer a nonmetallic alternative. Choose from white, biscuit, almond, black, and other colors that blend into most kitchens.
24. Brassy. Polished brass is an upscale favorite, but the raw metal can be hard to keep shiny. Look for models guaranteed not to corrode, tarnish, or discolor.
25. Never forget. No. 1 on your to-do list when changing faucets: Turn off the water supply before beginning your project. Or prepare for a lesson you don't want to learn.