It’s easy to take a faucet for granted, unless you’re buying a new one. All too often, shoppers get hung up on design and forget that function is more important than form, leaving them with a faucet that looks pretty but disappoints with each use. Pronto’s Faucet Buying Guide will help you balance features with appearance to get a faucet that you’ll love to use for years to come.
Buy the best-quality faucet your budget will allow. Choose a washerless faucet for the best durability and reliability. Look for compression faucets that raise and lower the washer instead of grinding it into the valve seat.
Look for ceramic disk valves that resist mineral buildup and other clogging debris. If you live in an area with low water pressure, choose a faucet with an adjustable water-flow restrictor. The best valves prevent drastic shifts in temperature when going from hot to cold and back again. Choose a faucet with an antiscald guard for added safety for children.
Know your sink: a spout’s reach should come as close to the center of the basin as possible. Multiple-basin sinks will require spouts that can rotate. Single-handle faucets provide the greatest ease of use. Side sprayers make washing dishes and cleaning a snap.
Unless you’re remodeling, your new faucet needs to have the same number of fittings as the old one. One-piece faucets will require one hole for the handle and spout together; if you choose a side sprayer, a separate hole will be needed. Double-handle faucets require three holes: one for each handle and one for the spout. Don’t forget to factor installation into the total cost.
It’s worth paying more for non-tarnish coatings like PVD that won’t react to the minerals in water or your cleaning products. Make sure any special cleaning products you need for the faucet finish you choose are readily available. If you’re trying to match existing fixtures, buy them from the same manufacturer to avoid differences in color and finish.
Center-set faucets connect with a single fitting and typically have handles mounted on either side of the neck. This design requires a separate side sprayer, if desired.
The oldest and most common faucet type. Compression faucets raise and lower a stem that releases a washer from the valve seat to start and stop the flow of water.
A short piece of pipe (or pipes) attached to a faucet that connect it to your home’s plumbing. Traditional fittings must be soldered into place, while compression fittings can be attached with a wrench.
Physical Vapor Deposition, a process that bonds the finish color to a faucet. PVD helps protect a faucet from scratches, tarnishing and mineral blemishes.
A spout that rotates 180 degrees to extend into multiple-basin sinks
Washerless faucets use O-rings and balls or ceramic disks to control the valve. The absence of friction in operation makes them more durable and less prone to leaks over time.
Widespread faucets connect with three fittings, allowing the handles to be offset and placed farther away from the spout than center-set faucets.
There are two basic types of faucets: compression faucets, which use a washer and a valve seat to control flow, and washerless faucets.
Conventional compression faucets have been around the longest; they’re also the least expensive faucet type. When you turn a compression faucet, the action raises or lowers a stem. At the base of the stem, a washer opens or closes the valve and lets the water flow. Repetitive friction between the washer and the valve seat causes the washer to wear out over time, leading to drips and the need for a new washer. On the upside, washers are inexpensive and easy to replace.
Washerless faucets use a ball or ceramic disk in combination with an O-ring to seal the valve. With no washers to wear out, washerless faucets are more reliable and a better value over time.
It’s generally best to buy the highest-quality faucet your budget will allow, but if you want to keep costs down by purchasing a compression faucet, look for newer models that raise and lower the stem instead of grinding it into the valve seat.
A faucet’s valve allows you to control the flow and temperature of your water by adjusting the mix of hot and cold water, which flows to the faucet in two separate pipes. Better valves transition slowly from hot to cold. If you have small children, look for faucets that feature antiscald guards for extra safety.
Ceramic disk valves provide the best durability over time. Ceramic naturally resists debris and mineral buildup, and ceramic disk faucets require less manual force to operate, making them a good option for people with arthritis, injuries or conditions that affect the hands and arms.
The 1992 Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) established a national water efficiency standard for faucets manufactured after January 1, 1994, that limits the maximum flow rate to 2.5 GPM at a water pressure of 80 PSI. If you have low water pressure, look for a faucet that features a flow regulator which can adjust the flow rate up to 2.5 GPM.
A faucet’s spout height and shape are important considerations because, ultimately, they determine how accessible the faucet is. A low, straight-spout model may be fine for your bathroom, but it makes large pots and pans difficult to wash or fill in the kitchen. The depth of your sink in relation to the height of the spout is also important; a tall spout in a shallow sink may result in excessive splashing.
Most sinks take an 8-inch to 10-inch spout reach. If you have an oversized or multiple-basin sink, look for spout reaches between 12 and 14 inches. A faucet spout should reach as close to the center of the sink as possible. Gooseneck spouts increase range, often swivel to work with multiple-basin sinks and make filling or washing large pots and pans easy.
Single-handle faucets offer the greatest ease of use by allowing you to turn water on or off and adjust the temperature with one hand. Pull-out single-handle faucets have the spout attached to a removable spray hose. Look for a vacuum breaker on pull-out faucets to prevent backflow.
Double-handle faucets have separate handles for hot and cold water. If you’re considering a double-handle faucet, you should choose one with a side sprayer if your sink can accommodate it. Side sprayers are connected to pull-out hoses and make it easy to wash dishes or vegetables or simply clean the sink.
There’s a faucet handle design for everyone. What you choose will likely come down to preference, though it’s worth keeping in mind that lever handles are easier to operate than knobs; this is especially important for children and for people who have trouble moving their hands.
Check your sink’s deck to see how many fitting holes are there. The new faucet will need to have the same number of fittings as the old one. Single-handle faucets use one hole for the handle and spout together. A separate hole is needed if you choose a side sprayer. Double-handle faucets require three holes: one for each handle and one for the spout.
The most common design is a center-set faucet that uses three fitting holes. If your sink only has one hole, choose a single-handle faucet or a double-handled model that can connect through a single hole.
Faucets can also be installed above the counter, mounted behind the sink or fixed to the wall. Wall-mounted faucets are for sinks without fitting holes. Their one downfall is functionality, as these faucets can be hard to reach for children and people with shorter arms. Installation for wall-mounted faucets will cost more than a sink mount, something to keep in mind when you’re shopping.
Faucets are available in plastic and chrome, as well as a variety of metals that can add significantly to a faucet’s price. It may be tempting to match the finish to your décor, but before you do, consider how a finish will respond to your water’s mineral content, water spots and fingerprints.
If you have hard water, faucets with plastic parts are the most resistant to buildup and the easiest to clean. If you're looking at polished-brass and chrome fixtures, check to see if protective coatings are available. Non-tarnish coatings, called PVD (physical vapor deposition) won’t react to the minerals in either your water or your cleaning products. Find out if a finish requires special cleaning products and be sure they’re readily available so you can care for it properly.
If you are trying to match other faucets in your home, be aware that each manufacturer’s finishing process is different, and because of this, colors may slightly vary from one another. Therefore, if you want your faucets to match and you are buying more than one, be sure to buy from the same company.