Sink Faucet Buying & Information Guide

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A Guide to Understanding Sink Faucets

They say the easiest way to fix up your bathroom is to replace the sink faucet. It makes sense. About 95 percent of bathroom visits involve the faucet -- touching it, draining from it and touching it again. While we certainly show our faucets enough attention, though, we still manage to neglect them, indifferent to their needs. But there's more to a faucet than twist and spout, and picking the right one is just the first step.

Types of Sink Faucets

  • Single-handled and dual-handled sink faucets: Single-handled sink faucets use one handle to operate water flow and water temperature. Dual-handles, on the other hand, have two handles, one controlling hot water and the other cold.
  • Compression and washerless faucets: Compression faucets, unlike their washerless counterparts, use a rubber band (called a "washer") to regular water flow through the spout.
  • Ball sink faucets: The first type of washerless faucet, the ball faucet uses a slotted metal ball to control water flow. They are only compatible with single-handle units, but are durable and reliable.
  • Cartridge sink faucets: Cartridge faucets operate on a movable stem cartridge, which moves up and down to regulate flow. Also washerless, it is less identifiable by its looks than by how it feels when you use it. It is available in single-handled and double-handled faucet models.
  • Ceramic disk sink faucets: Washerless and restricted to single-handled faucets, ceramic disk faucets house two disks, which slide over one another to regulate water flow and temperature. Also high-quality and reliable, they do not often need repair.

Important Sink Faucet Features

  • Aerated and non-aerated spouts control the feeling of water as it exits the spout. Aerated spouts mix air and water, utilizing a screen and restrictor that improve water pressure and limit water flow. Non-aerated spouts allow water to flow freely, so they don't have screens. This causes the water to have a waterfall-like feeling. If you prefer to wash quickly, aerated spouts may be ideal for you. However, aerated spouts may cause more splashing off the sink.
  • Anti-scald protection: Anti-scald devices help to regulate how hot water gets as it is running through the faucet. Prices vary, although most have the standard temperature settings: 185 degrees Fahrenheit maximum. This feature is particularly important if children or elderly often use the faucet.
  • Universal valve assembly (or common-valve setup) is a separate feature that can be helpful for DIY renovators. Universal valves fit with most faucet fixtures, making installation easier and less prone to leaks or other problems with the system.
  • Adjustable flow-rate restrictor is ideal for the water-efficient owner or for residents of areas with a limited water supply. The system gives the user complete control over the amount of water used, so you can monitor and regulate it yourself.

Sink Faucet Style

There are four main faucet styles for the bathroom sink: single-hole, center-set, widespread and wall mount. When remodeling your bathroom, you have the option of redesigning for any of these, but if you are simply replacing your old faucet, you will likely have to maintain whichever of the four models you had used previously. For smaller sinks, single-hole faucets are simple to install, while center-set faucets work well with pre-drilled or preexisting basins. Widespread faucets, on the other hand, reach at least 8 inches across and should be reserved for bigger sink areas.

A lot of people forget a simple feature about their sink: its height. While a short faucet may look nicer, it could leave you little to no space between it and the bottom of the basin to wash your hands. Therefore, if you have a wall-mounted or other small bathroom sink, you should consider tall, overarching spout options. With the higher spouts, however, it is wise to use a non-aerated spout, because the height of the water combined with the higher pressure can lead to more extraneous splashing.

When determining the finish of your sink faucet, there are many choices: chrome, brass, color, gold plate, nickel, stainless steel and PVD (physical vapor deposition) are the most common. Chrome, brass and stainless steel are the most durable options and will last much longer. However, even mediocre materials can last longer now, as many manufacturers are offering lifetime finish, which is guaranteed to last your lifetime without any serious corrosion or damages to the finish. Still, owners should consider higher-quality materials, as the inside of the spout is not coated with the stronger finish, making it more susceptible to damages.

Sink Faucet To-Do List

  1. Determine the size faucet you can use. Only after you know how much space you have can you determine what model, style and size sink you can manage to install.
  2. Invest in extremely good valves. While some things in the house are OK to skimp on, your faucet valves are not. They are responsible for water flow, temperature control and leak prevention. In order to make your sink last as long as possible, invest as much as you can afford in your valves. You won't regret it.
  3. Decide on the finish you want for your bathroom sink faucet. Durability has to do with not only the valves, but also the material and finish of your faucet. Think long and hard about whether you'd prefer a prettier color or a faucet that still runs 50 years down the road.
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for

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