How to Buy a Kitchen Faucet
For many families, the kitchen is as much a gathering place as any in a home. While the cupboard knobs and floor tiles might play an integral part of the design scheme, no one thing in the kitchen sets the mood so much as the faucet. The terrific news is, not only do kitchen faucets come in a variety of style choices, the finishes can be nearly endless due to the advent of powder-coated enamel.
Whether you are replacing your old faucet, remodeling, or building a new home, the trick is to not only make sure that you find the right faucet to suit your needs but also that of your surroundings. If your mahogany cupboards are fitted with brass hardware, a stainless steel faucet isn't going to cut it; likewise, a Victorian-style kitchen is not going to suffer a very angular, modern piece.
Take time to assess your kitchen for the common denominators – get a feeling for whether your room is warm or cool, the predominant colors of your visible appliances and what sort of decorative aesthetics the room has. This is all assuming that you want to maintain unity of course – bottom line, choose what pleases you most.
Now that you have some basic ideas of what might look right in your kitchen, you can move on to the more practical aspects of what will fit... and then we'll get right back to the fashionable side of faucet selecting with a more detailed look at the finishes you can expect to find.
Unless you are drilling the countertop for a specific faucet, you probably want to keep your current installation in mind while reading this section. Please remember, if you are interested in accessories (such as side sprayers, air gaps, soap dispensers, water filtration devices, and instant hold/cold water dispensers), you will need additional holes.
- Pull Out Spray: Stylish and functional! Simply pull out the faucet head, touch the button and the water automatically switches from the usual flow to a spray. One or more holes will be needed depending on the design you choose.
- Side-Mount Sprayer: When people think of spray faucets, chances are this is the type they are picturing. Being the most common sort of sprayer, these faucets feature a separate retractable head mounted to the side. These will always require one extra hole for installation.
- Single Handle: When you're juggling things at the kitchen sink, this is one of the best faucets to have on hand! The single handle makes it easy to adjust the temperature while you hold on to a piece of fruit or a heavy pan. They are usually ADA compliant.
- Two Handle: Traditional style and total control makes the two handle faucet option a popular one. Perfect for period-style kitchens!
- Professional Culinary: These faucets make the most of the basin space they are given in a clean, elegant way. One of the best way to identify culinary faucets is by the highly-extended sprayer that they all sport.
- Cooking Pot Filler: Instead of lugging your heavy pot of water from the sink over to the stove, you could have a pot filler! Considered a “must have” for any avid cook's home, this cold water faucet is usually installed in addition to the standard kitchen faucets either behind the stove or on a countertop near it.
- Wall Mounted: No deck holes are required in the kitchen sink basin for these, because as the name implies they mount directly to the wall. Terrific for antique-style kitchens, these faucets do require that the water supply extends above the sink itself.
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A Handle on Things
Handles come in a variety of different types – round, lever, and cross are the standards, with even further variations upon these. If you prefer a more minimalistic look, you might want to consider a single-handle option, but two-handle faucets are much more user-friendly in that they allow you to customize the temperature of the water you use.
One other thing to keep in mind is that many manufacturers offer handle accent color finishes in addition to the standard hardware finish, which is not only a perfect way to draw attention to their styling but also allows a greater degree of personalization. You can read more about finishes further in the guide!
Spouts can be either aerated or nonaerated. Aerated spouts use a screen and resistor in combination with air to create limited water flow in addition to better overall pressure. Nonaerated spouts do not have that screen, and therefore water can flow more quickly and freely.
Another important factor to note is spout reach. How many bowls is your sink going to have? Water should be able to go directly from the spout into the center of the sink(s); a faucet too small for your needs could spell disaster and not allow you to clean large dishes and pans properly, and a large faucet might be a bit messy... not to mention get in the way a lot.
Finally, let's consider the height of the arches. This will vary with each faucet, so be sure to read each product page carefully while searching for your perfect new fixture. There are primarily two types of arch: standard and high. The standard arches generally run anywhere from 3 to 5 inches; these are best for everyday pots and pans. High arches start at 6 inches but average 8 to 10 inches. They are wonderful for washing large pots or oversized dishes.
Four different valve types used in the construction of faucets today. While they won't make much of a difference in your day-to-day use, some are easier to repair than others.
- Ball: These were the first type of washerless faucets. These valves use a slotted, rotating metal or plastic ball for flow regulation and have the unfortunate tendency to leak more than other faucet types. They are durable and reliable, but can be used with single-handle faucets only.
- Cartridge: Easy to repair, the cartridge valve uses rubber o-rings inside a cylindrical cartridge to control water flow. They are as long-wearing as the ball valve, but can be used in single or two-handle faucets.
- Ceramic Disk: While the most expensive option by far, this method uses two fire-hardened ceramic disks - the upper moves and the lower is fixed - that move against one another to sheer the flow of water within a cylindrical body. To offset the cost, they are maintenance-free and come with excellent warranties. They can also be used with single and two-handle faucets. These are very responsive and work well for people with arthritis!
- Compression: These feature rubber (or similar) washers to stop the flow of water, but they eventually wear out and can start to drip over time. On the flip side, washers are really cheap to replace! Some newer types actually lift the washer vertically instead of grinding it against the valve seat, so it will generally last longer.
The sheer variety of finishes available makes it very easy to find something to coordinate with your kitchen. Brass, the rust-resistant alloy, is the material most commonly used to create faucets in modern times, but that's just the basic material. Here are a few of the more popular options available:
- Brass: While it may scratch, tarnish or corrode, a clear-coat will go a long way to keeping your brass fixtures looking beautiful and easy to clean. Also offered in polished and antique sub-finishes. Believe it or not, these faucets are coated with nickel plating before another layer of brass is then applied!
- Chrome: Brushed, matte, or polished, chrome is both durable and economical as well as being gorgeous and highly versatile for many decors. Unlike brass, chrome does not need a clear coat protection to be easily maintained.
- Enamel: Powder-coated colors are applied electrostatically, then baked on. This makes for a very durable coating, and it tends to last as long as the faucet itself.
- Gold: Leaning towards the expensive side, gold will not tarnish, but being a softer material it is not as durable as some of the cheaper alternatives.
- Nickel: This easy-to-clean finish is not only durable but stylish, offered most often in satin and brushed.
- Stainless Steel: As the name implies, one of the largest draws for stainless steel is its ability to keep water spots from sticking around. On the other hand, they do tend to need special cleaning due to repeated smudging by hands. One of the more moderately priced options.