Expert tips for choosing bathroom faucet

Every house has one. Many have several. You touch it every day. (Some people should touch it more often.) It promotes hygiene and hydration. But how many people know what is important when manufacturing and, above all, when selecting a bathroom faucet? Curious, I decided to take a closer look at these hard-working household objects and find out what we should know about them.

So I called Noah Taft. 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 started this company 20 years ago. He came from Hollywood, where he was a writer of “mostly forgettable” sitcoms, he tells me. I understand. His partner, a former college friend, was a teacher and camp manager.

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

“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.”

Marni Jameson: Where do you live and why? Is this the year of change?

Seemingly. Twenty years later, the company has grown from 25 to 250 employees 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 open discussion about the faucet:

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 indicate that 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.

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

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.

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

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 a faucet in an old bar sink. They are like living works of art. Not everyone loves them, including my wife. She likes cleanliness and shine.

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

Finishes go in and out of fashion, but chrome and satin nickel are timeless. Brass and matte black are the big things at the moment.

How important is it that your faucet's finish matches other metals in your home?

Although this is subjective, in general you want all metals in the same room to have the same finish. While some decorators like to carry this uniformity throughout the home, there's no reason why the master bathroom shouldn't be different than the kitchen.

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

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 their prices 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.

What do you wish more consumers knew?

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.

Book signing

Marni will be speaking about her new book and signing copies at the Winter Park Library on January 16th from 6 to 8 p.m. Register for this free event via the event calendar at winterparklibrary.org or click here. For more information, call 407-623-3300.

Marni Jameson is the author of seven books, including the newly released Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow: A Motivational Guide for Those Seeking Their Ideal Home Later in Life and What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want”. You can reach her at marnijameson.com.

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