AT HOME: Getting a handle on bathroom faucet selections

Every house has one. Many have several. You touch it every day. It promotes hygiene and hydration. But how many people know what goes into making and, more importantly, choosing a bathroom faucet?

Curious, I have Noah Taft on the phone. Taft is co-owner of California Faucets, a Huntington Beach, California-based company that produces high-quality artisan faucets. We explored the topic together.

I started by asking how he got into this business 20 years ago. He came from Hollywood, where he was a writer of “mostly forgettable” sitcoms, he tells me. I understand. His partner, a college friend, was a teacher and camp manager.

“So of course you would go into the faucet business,” I say.

“My partner’s father owned a plumbing business that his son was supposed to take over.” The son recruited Taft to join him. “It was actually an advantage to be outside the industry,” he said. “The industry was full of people who knew plumbing. We thought differently.”

Twenty years later, tenfold’s company has grown and sells internationally.

“So, Noah,” I begin. “When I use my bathroom sink, I’m usually either half awake because I just got up or half asleep because I’m going to bed,” I tell him. “I want a faucet that I don’t have to think about, that looks good and that doesn’t require maintenance. Is that too much?”

“Not at all,” he assured me. “Once a faucet is installed, we don’t want consumers to give it a second thought other than to appreciate how beautiful it looks.”

Here’s what else Taft had to say during our discussion:

Marni: What should consumers pay attention to when buying a bathroom faucet?

Noah: First, look at your countertop. If you’re replacing an existing faucet or your sink already has holes, make sure you have the right setup. A hole means you want a single handle faucet. Three holes means you need a large faucet with two handles. Next, you want to make sure the faucet has a ceramic cartridge. (Some are made of rubber.) This is the motor inside that keeps the faucet running smoothly. Check the product specifications or ask the seller if the faucet has this feature. Ultimately, you want a durable finish so that the product continues to look good even after years of use.

Marni: How often do faucets need to be replaced? What if it just needs a repair?

Noah: A well-made faucet, installed correctly, shouldn’t cause you any problems for 10 years or more. If there is a drip or leak at the tip of the spout, a good manufacturer should be able to send you a replacement part, often a new aerator or cartridge. If the faucet is actually cracked, you will need a new one. Most homeowners replace their faucets because they want a more modern look.

Marni: Chrome? Bronze rubbed with oil? Satin nickel? What should we know about choosing a finish?

Noah: You can’t go wrong with a chrome faucet. Chrome is popular because it is extremely durable. Its shiny, classic look only needs a little wiping for optimal reflection. Satin or brushed nickel is a nice alternative. It looks good and hides fingerprints, making it a sensible finish that’s still durable, but not quite as durable as chrome. For those who want a little more novelty, PVD (physical vapor deposition) surfaces offer a wider range of colors. PVD is a bonding process that adds color to chrome plating to enable a variety of finishes including graphite and polished brass. Oil rubbed bronze fixtures continue to be popular with those wanting a rustic or vintage look. My personal favorite is the vibrant finish. These surfaces change over time and acquire a patina like the faucet in an old bar sink. They are like living works of art.

Marni: What is the trend in faucet design and should we care?

Noah: Finishes go in and out of fashion, but chrome and satin nickel are timeless. Brass and matt black are popular at the moment.

Marni: How much should people expect to pay for a bathroom faucet and what do you get if you spend a little more?

Noah: Bathroom faucets cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or more. Our faucets start at $750.

Most faucets sold are in the lower price segment and are mass-produced using parts made of plastic and low-quality metals. This helps keep the price low. More expensive faucets are made of solid metal such as brass, often have a better design, and are handmade. A solid brass faucet does not mean that it has a brass finish. It can have any number of finishes but is made of solid brass on the inside. These faucets outlast others and allow for a wider variety of finishes, including custom blended finishes where the handle and spout finishes may vary.

Marni: What do you wish more consumers knew?

Noah: How they can better assess the quality of their purchases. Many faucets look the same from the outside, but they are not. A solid brass faucet can last a lifetime. This is not the case with those with plastic components, although both can be a sensible choice depending on your budget, the level of features in your home and how long you plan to stay.

Marni Jameson is the author of seven books, including Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow.

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