Bathroom faucets are available in a vast selection of styles, finishes and designs to fit all types of washbasins, bathtubs and showers. From basic and inexpensive models to the most sophisticated and elegant, the options in bathroom faucets have grown tremendously in recent years.
The mechanisms have also changed: single-control faucets (with a single lever and spout) help prevent scalding by delivering water at an even temperature and have gradually come to replace traditional two-handle faucets. Manufacturers are continually seeking ways to develop and improve products to suit our modern lifestyles.
UNDERSTAND YOUR NEEDS
Faucets are valves that deliver water to a sink, washbasin or bathtub. They mix hot and cold water in one of two ways.
Single-handle (also called single-lever or single-control) faucets have garnered a large share of the market in recent years. Water flow and water temperature are controlled by moving the single lever handle up and down, and to the left and right, respectively. This type of faucet is ideal for anyone with reduced grip or physical disabilities, since the water volume and temperature can be controlled easily with one hand.
Two-handle faucets have two separate handles – one for hot water and one for cold water – and a common spout. Water flow and temperature are controlled by turning both handles, which allows for accurate adjustment.
A valve mechanism inside the faucet controls the hot and cold water flow. This mechanism can take the form of a compression washer, a washerless cartridge (reliable and easy to maintain), or ceramic discs (requiring virtually no maintenance).
The style of the sink or bathtub will have a significant influence on choice of faucet. A clawfoot or freestanding tub will require a wall-mounted faucet or a freestanding, floor-mounted model; a tall vessel sink will call for a faucet with a high-arc or gooseneck spout. The type of mounting surface is also an important factor to consider. Some materials, such as glass or marble, are difficult to drill holes in, which means if you are updating your bathroom you will need to use the existing mounting holes. Ideally, faucets and sanitaryware should be chosen at the same time.
Faucets come in three styles for mounting: single-hole, centre-set and widespread.
As their name suggests, single-hole faucets require just one hole for mounting on a sink, bathtub, countertop or wall. They have a spout and usually one handle (but sometimes two) on a single base. Originally designed for kitchen sinks, these faucets have been adapted by the manufacturers, who now offer a range of models for bathrooms.
Centre-set faucets have a base plate that supports the handle or handles as well as the spout. Centre-set, single-handle faucets require just one mounting hole, whereas two-handle models require two holes with a spread of 4". These faucets are either deck or wall mounted.
Available in both contemporary and traditional styles, this type of faucet is becoming increasingly popular. On a widespread faucet set, the hot and cold water handles and the spout are each installed separately, which requires at least three mounting holes. Models with a separate hand spray will require four holes. The centrespread (distance centre to centre between the two outside holes) generally varies from 8" to 20", although some models, called "mini-widespread", have a smaller, 4" spread. Slightly more expensive than centre-set faucets, widespread faucets offer more flexibility in terms of mounting options.
The handle allows you to adjust the water temperature and the flow rate. When choosing a faucet, it's important to consider the ergonomics of the handle, or how it feels in your grip. There are three types of faucet handles:
Faucets for tub/shower units may also have a third lever to divert the water from tub filler mode to the shower, and vice versa.
The most prominent part of the faucet, the spout is either cast onto a part of the faucet body or an integral part of the whole faucet body (which makes it easier to clean). The three most common shapes of spout are:
Classic: Usually straight or with a slight curve
Waterfall: Also called an open waterway spout; creates a waterfall or cascade effect.
Low-arc or high-arc: Curves downwards in an arc; a high arc leaves more room under the faucet and is ideal for vessel sinks. This type of spout may be fixed or swivel, depending on the model.
Hand shower or spray
The hand shower or spray is a flexible hose, with or without jets, which connects to a shower head or to certain types of bathtub faucets, in the absence of a shower. The sprayer is usually made of the same material as the faucet, or it may be made of plastic, which does not conduct heat.
The aerator injects air into the water, which reduces the flow while increasing the pressure. It can reduce water consumption by half. Aerators are not available on all models of faucets – they cannot be fitted on waterfall spouts, for example, which have open ends.
The body or base holds the faucet to the sink, countertop or even the wall. Most lavatory sinks and bathtubs on the market come with pre-drilled faucet holes. However, sinks made of solid-surface materials and vessel sinks do not have such drillings, leaving you the choice of where to place the faucet. Faucet holes are always spaced at 4" or 8" centre and have a 1½" diameter. Bathroom sinks and tubs can have up to four holes. When replacing a faucet, check the number of holes on the existing sink, counter or tub, as well as the centrespread, in the case of a faucet with a base plate. If the faucet does not have a base plate, the centrespread can be adjusted as desired or needed.
The drain plug is the water drainage system that is activated by a rod usually connected to the body of the faucet. This plug or stopper may or may not come with the faucet, depending on the model.
Faucets are sold either individually or as a set (lavatory and tub/shower faucets, for instance). Faucets come in a vast array of finishes, including combinations of metal with glass, clear or coloured plastic, imitation wood or other materials.
Faucets are made of solid brass or a zinc and brass alloy.
Solid brass is durable and corrosion resistant; however, a solid brass faucet may be more expensive than an alloy equivalent. Zinc alloy is relatively durable but the faucet must be replaced when the plating wears off.
Manufacturers offer a vast array of faucet finishes to suit all bathroom styles. Take care to match the finish of your new faucet with that of existing fittings and sanitaryware. While finishes vary from one manufacturer to another, the following finishes are the most common:
Other features to consider
Thermostatic mixing valves, available on single-lever faucets, regulate water temperature to prevent scalding or suddenly cold water, for example, if someone flushes a toilet or puts the washing machine on while another person is showering. Pressure-balance mixing valves maintain constant water pressure.
Temperature memory systems allow you to set a preferred temperature and keep it constant. The temperature and water flow mechanisms are separate, making this an especially practical option for showers or baths.
A maximum temperature limit safety feature, set when installing the faucet, determines the maximum water temperature in order to prevent scalding.
Some models of faucets are equipped with motion sensors. Commonly used in public washrooms, these faucets are becoming increasingly popular on the residential market, especially in homes with children or people with reduced mobility.
High-tech electronic devices are now available which allow water temperature and flow to be adjusted by remote control.
Controlling water flow helps to save water and therefore to cut hot and cold water consumption costs. Faucets for tubs, showers or tub/shower units must have a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gpm (9.5 L/min). Some models deliver 1.75 gpm (6.6 L/min).
An automatic shut-off mechanism will turn the water off whenever the faucet it is not in use, simply by blocking the water supply. When the faucet is turned on again, the temperature does not need to be readjusted. This system also keeps water consumption to a minimum and prevents overflow or flooding caused by leaving a faucet on.
If you are renovating or upgrading a bathroom, it's easier and less time-consuming to install the same type of faucet as the one being replaced. In other words, choose a faucet with the same number of holes and the same centrespread as you have already – likely to be either 4" or 8".
Faucets can be deck-mounted on the rim of a sink or bathtub, or an adjacent surface. In this case, the plumbing is connected underneath.
Wall-mounted faucets are fastened to the wall, with horizontal plumbing connections and the pipes running through the wall.
Freestanding bathtubs or sinks may have floor-mounted or freestanding faucets. In this case, the piping is visible and the rough plumbing runs through the bathroom floor.
Once the rough plumbing (water supply and drainage pipes) are in place, it is relatively easy to install a bathroom faucet.
The main installation steps are as follows:
If you are fitting a brand new bathroom, bear in mind the following:
To install a faucet you will need an adjustable wrench, an Allen key or Phillips screwdriver, sealant, Teflon tape, and a damp cloth.
Faucet maintenance can be summed up as follows:
Most types of gaskets and cartridges can be found in stores, but if you are unable to find the part you are looking for, the faucet manufacturer should be able to supply it.
Replacing gaskets and cartridges is a simple process that can be carried out with regular tools. The screws to dismantle a faucet are easily accessible; they are usually concealed under a decorative plate or behind the handle cover.