Thoughtfully chosen faucets add pizzazz to hardworking kitchens. In finishes from shiny chrome to antiqued bronze, faucets sporting either low-arc or gooseneck spouts provide sleek to vintage profiles and patinas that complement new and old-world looks.
Happily, cost doesn't necessarily dictate value, notes a study done by Consumer Reports magazine (consumerreports.org). Researchers tested a variety of faucets and found that most models (except the least expensive) offer tough valves, durable finishes, and lifetime warranties against leaks and stains. The study also found that finishes protected with PVD (physical vapor deposition) are the toughest and most scratch-resistant and that single-lever faucets are the easiest to use, especially when the user's hands are full or dirty.
Kitchen faucets are activated via one or two levers or two X-shape handles or round knobs and are offered in configurations that might include spouts equipped with pullout and pull-down sprays, side sprayers, and soap or lotion dispensers. Some faucets are equipped with sensors that turn water on and off with a touch of a hand.
Installation & Operation
Installation varies, though most faucets are attached through holes cut into the sink. A deck-plate faucet's components are mounted on a single plate; other faucets' components are individually installed in up to five holes. In cases where it's difficult to cut holes in a sink deck, such as apron-style and undermount sinks, wall-mount faucets provide a stylish solution. When replacing a faucet, choose a model compatible with your sink's existing cutouts. Buying a new sink allows you to customize the number of holes to fit your preferred faucet.
How a faucet operates differs by model and manufacturer. Durable, trouble-free ceramic-disk faucets sport a single handle that controls two ceramic disks that slide over each other to regulate water flow and temperature. Cartridge-style faucets, outfitted with a replaceable cartridge housing a flow mechanism, can be either single- or double-handled. Ball faucets have a single handle that rotates a ball that moves across inlet holes to regulate flow. Old-timey two-handled faucets boast compression systems equipped with washers that open and close as handles are turned.
Forms & Finishes
Once you've determined faucet type, it's time to consider form and finish. Bridge faucets, inspired by Victorian Era designs, connect the spout and handles on a raised bar; gooseneck or high-arc faucets stand tall to clean big pots; standard low-arch or straight-spout faucets work well with smaller sink setups. Check that the faucet is proportionate to your sink's size and that the spout reaches as close to a sink's center as possible. Remember that too-tall gooseneck faucets create unwanted splashes in too-shallow sinks, and low-arc faucets might need to be moved to accommodate cumbersome cooking gear.
No matter the basic design, most faucet types include contemporary, transitional, or classic styles. Select a finish that harmonizes with your decor and your cabinet hardware. Easy-clean, durable chrome and stainless-steel faucets are available with polished, brushed, or matte finishes in every price point. Nickel faucets come in brushed or satin finishes and endure best when treated with a titanium top coat. Traditional brass and bronze faucets come in high-gloss, satin or brushed, and antiqued or oil-rubbed finishes. Polished finishes work well in modern and retro designs; antiqued and oil-rubbed finishes further age-old appeal; and brushed and matte finishes adapt to most any style.
Since kitchen faucets are operated more often than any other piece of kitchen equipment, purchase the best model you can afford. Visit a kitchen showroom or home center to try out different types of faucets. Manipulate levers, handles, side sprays, and pull-down and pullout models to see which faucet best complements the way you work.