Next to the toilet, a faucet is the most important fixture in your bathroom. When you are planning a bathroom remodeling project or building a new home, it pays to take a moment to consider the options before selecting a new faucet.
First and foremost, a faucet must be functional. During my years as a designer, I have found that folks tend to have strong opinions on the function of their bathroom faucet. Some people swear by a one-handled faucet, while others must have a two-handled faucet. Clearly, there is no right or wrong answer here; choose the style you like the best. Think about your current faucets, or those you have had in previous bathroom spaces, and try to remember what you liked or disliked about them. Were they hard to turn on/off? Hard to clean around the handles?
In general, one-handled faucets tend to be easier for children to use, since it is easy to find the proper water temperature. One-handled models can also be easier to clean than their two-handled counterparts, with fewer pieces to clean around. And, when you come in from the garden with muddy hands, a one-handled faucet is easier to turn on with your elbow. :)
Two-handled faucets sometimes trump one-handled versions when it comes to style. With options from levers to knobs, the handles offer options for any bathroom. For easiest operation, choose a lever-style handle; these are especially good choices if you have someone elderly in your home, if you have children or if there is someone in your home with limited use of their hands.
There are three different types of two-handled faucets. Widespread faucets (with an 8″ spread from handle to handle) feature more space between the spout and the two handles, making them easier to clean than faucets with a standard (4″) spread. Centerset faucets have both the spout and the handles mounted on a single plate. This type of faucet tends to be less expensive than the widespread version, and they make cleaning easier.
Be sure to also look at the installation requirements for the faucet. Some faucets are installed with just one hole in the countertop, while others require three holes. Still others are designed to be used off-center from the sink (such as those used for vessel sinks) or need to be installed in the wall behind the sink (which require a completely different plumbing set-up). If you are building a new home, gutting your existing bathroom or buying new countertops, you will have more freedom to choose the style you want. If you are buying only a new faucet, be sure you coordinate its installation requirements with the existing plumbing and countertop.
Also be sure to check the “reach” of the faucet; you want to make sure it will reach into your sink properly. This is especially important with wall-mounted faucets and vessel-style sinks. If you choose the wrong height or faucet reach, you may have a faucet that shoots water onto your countertop and not in the sink where it belongs!
Next, look at the style of the faucet. There are a staggering number of style options in bathroom faucets today – from the super-traditional to the ultra-modern and everything in between. Choose a faucet style that reflects the other finishes in the bathroom and in the rest of the home.
Faucets are also available in a wide range of colors and finishes. The least expensive option, and the most enduring (read: non-trendy) faucet finish is polished chrome. It works in nearly any home style, it is easy to clean and maintain and – as I mentioned – it is the least expensive route to go. However, other popular options are also readily available, including brushed nickel, wrought iron, oil-rubbed bronze and brass. Use a finish that will coordinate with the other metal finishes in the room; look at your door/cabinet hardware and lighting for clues. While the finishes don’t need to match, they should coordinate. So, stick with cool finishes (like nickel, chrome or black) or warm finishes (like brass, antique brass or bronze) in your space; don’t mix warm and cool finishes, or it will simply look mis-matched.
No matter what faucet you select, be sure to choose a good-quality faucet for best results. Look for well-known national brands such as Moen, Delta, Grohe or Kohler, as these offer high-quality at a fair price. If you buy a cheap faucet, you will have leaks or problems with the finish, and you will find yourself replacing it again in short order. Always buy the best quality that you can afford, and you will get years of service from your new fixtures.