Monday, February 26, 2018


Compression faucets: Plink, plink, plink...
Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

With all the little annoyances the world has to offer, the last thing you need is a cheap, leaky faucet driving you crazy. Unfortunately, the market is now flooded with junky foreign-made products—as well as a few U.S.-made dogs—that are hardly worth taking the time to install. One simple test for quality is knowing how long a manufacturer has been around. While I can’t mention names, I can tell you this: If the brand wasn’t around ten years ago, forget it—let someone else be a guinea pig.

Another basic indicator of  faucet quality is whether it uses compression valves (rubber washers) or ceramic disc valves. Basically, there's no point in buying faucets with washers anymore, and in any case, only absolute bottom-of-the-barrel models have them. Avoid these unless you're nostalgic for the sound of dripping.

These little ceramic discs are what prevent modern faucets
from dripping. 
Also, think twice before investing in high-priced European brands. The plain fact is that European plumbing technology has been playing catch-up with the U.S. for more than a century—why pay a hefty premium for it? Domestic manufacturers such as American-Standard and Chicago Faucet were building quality faucets long before many Europeans had indoor bathrooms.
Now, a quick rundown on what’s available.

Note the awkward hand movement required to
operate this faucet. Try it before you buy it.
•  Kitchen faucets—whether standard or single-lever—can be had in chrome, brass, gold, and various painted finishes. Chrome is by far the easiest to maintain and the least likely to look dated in a few years. Numerous nifty accessories are available to go with kitchen faucets, from pull-out sprayers—very handy for rinsing bulky things—to built-in soap dispensers, which neatly do away with that gloppy soap-bar mess. Beware high-style faucets with oddball faucet handle locations—there are plenty of them—because these can be unintuitive or just plain clumsy to operate. In any event, try out any faucet for ease of use before falling in love with its appearance.

•  Lavatory faucets can be had in the same range of finishes outlined above, as well as in a bunch more proprietary finishes. However, unlike kitchen faucets, most of which are reasonably good-looking, lavatory faucets range from inoffensive to hideous. Look for the cleanest, simplest design that still suits the style of your house, and think twice about choosing high-maintenance finishes such as brass and gold.

No, this manufacturer isn't kidding.
•  Bath faucets present a regular minefield of possibilities, what with options for twin shower heads, handheld sprayers, needle baths, and other luxury options. The technical choices can also be confusing. There are two broad types of tub/shower valves—pressure-balancing and thermostatic. The intent of both is to regulate the temperature of the bath or shower water to prevent scalding, a feature now required by most building codes. Pressure-balancing valves are typically installed in mid-level work and are perfectly adequate for most tub-shower applications. Thermostatic valves are more commonly seen in showers with multiple heads. They require additional hardware, since they do not regulate flow at all, but only temperature. Typically, the thermostatic control valve is used to set the water temperature and a separate valve, called a volume control valve, regulates the volume of water going to each spray head.

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