Faucets are a necessity in every home, from the richest to the most modestly priced. In a newly constructed home, faucets are a feature over which to "oooh and Aaah". In the previously owned home, they can be a nightmare about to happen. Usually, the first thing to break is the faucet. What to do? Replace it, of course. But what kind and what price? Should you choose a shiny faucet with an inexpensive price tag? Or the more expensive one with the dull pewter finish?
In choosing the right faucet, all that glitters is not chrome or brass. That pewter look-a-like just may be a fake. If you go by the lowest price, you may be purchasing plastic. If the finish of that intermediate priced faucet is polished metal, are the inner parts metal or plastic? These are the questions that must be answered, otherwise, you may have to replace that faucet again and again. For the life of an average home, that low price can add up to hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.
What separates the good faucet from the cheap faucet is the quality of the materials. I love to save money, but I have learned the hard way that quality first will save money through longevity. Shopping for faucets these days is a lot like shopping in the cereal aisle. The choices are endless and confusing. It is better to show up at the home improvement store already knowing what you want, what you are willing to pay, and what quality you are willing to accept. Here are some things to consider before you buy/
Solid Brass: Solid brass metal is heavy and durable. If you choose solid brass it may be the last faucet that you will ever need. Solid brass is especially recommended for hard water areas, where corrosion of lesser metals is a problem. Brass is quite expensive, but it is the best investment. If you love that shiny look but hate to polish, choose one of the finishes that block out oxidation. The average price is $150.
Brass and Chrome Plated: The keyword here is "plated," meaning coated or laminated, but not really brass. Usually, the inner metal is die-cast zinc alloy, which will corrode once the plating has worn off. It will eventually need replacement. The average price is $70.
Die-Cast Zinc Alloy: Faucets with die-cast zinc alloy bodies are less expensive but fairly durable. When the finish wears off, it too will corrode. The average price is $75.
Electroplated Chrome on Brass: For those of us seeking a middle ground, this is a good choice. The finish lasts a long time, and the inner parts are made of solid brass. The combination of price versus durability is hard to resist. The average price of $100.
Plastic: Run as fast and as far away from plastic faucets as you can. They break again and again, and you will be replacing them forever. They look so shiny there in the box, but they are not worth the price, and they have little or no durability. The average price is $50.
Handles: There are many styles from which to choose. Consider who will be using the faucet. In a house with small children, it is recommended to buy a single-handled faucet for safety's sake. Usually, the handle is left in the warm, not hot position, protecting the child from accidental burning. Single handle faucets are also recommended for the elderly or those with disabilities.
Wall Mounted Faucets: Once common in the American kitchen, wall-mounted faucets are making a comeback. Although rather odd to look at, these faucets have a lot going for them. Tall pots fit under them with ease, and clean-up is easier since you avoid that grimy build-up that is typical of sink-mounted faucets.
Spray Nozzles: No longer is it necessary to pull out the side spray nozzle, which seems to make a career of getting caught in some unseen world under the sink. A pullout faucet is a hose within the faucet, which can be pulled out, on a whim, or when you need to reach the far corner in the sink.
Old World Finishes: With old homes being restored and new homes styled to look Victorian, nothing beats old world style faucets. If your choice is wrought iron, hammered copper, or oil-rubbed bronze, your local home improvement center has the old-world style for you. No longer the arena of specialty plumbing experts, you can purchase the perfect old-world style faucet of your dreams, follow the instructions on the package, and install it yourself.
Points to Ponder
Faucets can cost anywhere from $50 to $500, or more. Be realistic, and know before you buy what quality and cost are right for you. If you must have vintage faucets, you can usually find what you like through antique stores, flea-markets, or architectural salvage outlets. Inspect old metal pieces for defects and imperfections, such as rust, corrosion, splits, or breaks. Ask for a warranty in writing, but be prepared to cut your losses if you buy "as is."
You can also buy new vintage imitations, or you may be able to find a dealer who specializes in new versions of the old, using the original cast metal forms and processing. It's pricey, but for those who insist on authenticity, it's well worth it.
Faucets come in a variety of finishes, including chrome, brass, copper, pewter, nickel, and satin. Chrome, brass, and copper finishes require frequent cleaning and polishing to maintain their shine. Colored epoxy finishes offer a nonmetallic alternative, which can come in a variety of hues. The new matte-chrome finish is also popular, giving your bath or kitchen faucet an aluminum look.
Nothing dresses up a bathroom or kitchen sink quite like the perfect faucet. And nothing is more satisfying than a do-it-yourself job well done. So, go ahead, start with that new faucet. You can do it, and your sink will be simply beautiful.