Don't ruin a beautiful renovation with a poorly thought out faucet choice! Your bathroom sink faucet is the crown jewel of your vanity cabinet and is probably the most-used item in any bathroom. This is not a place to be cheap. You don't need to spend a fortune but you do need to pick a quality piece that will last.
Why is your faucet choice so important? It will dictate all the other fixtures in your space. You can either match or contrast, but you need to have a base to work with. That includes a tub filler, shower system, lights, drawer pulls, and even towel bars.
To pick the right faucet, you need to go through the same process that you would use to choose any element in your home.
Fit | Function | Flair
- Will it fit, physically, in the space? Will it fit your budget?
- Will it function well, over time?
- Will it have flair, i.e., match my style and look great?
That's it. Answer those 4 questions and you'll have the perfect faucet. Answer those questions over and over and you will have the perfect bathroom!
Need some help picking your perfect faucet? Click the button below for access to our Resource Library including the Bathroom Faucet Worksheet.
1. FIT = THE RIGHT SIZE + SHAPE, AT THE RIGHT PRICE
As with every consumer product, there are many types of faucet available on the market. It can be completely overwhelming to choose! Sometimes it's nice to be able to narrow your choices based on a factor beyond style. Size is a casein point.
A little while ago, we did a beautiful modern style bathroom for a couple that wanted medecine cabinets. We picked a modern single handle facuet in polished nickel that would have looked great in the space. After realizing the faucet was non-returnable, our client decided they wanted a style (still modern, still polished nickel) with two handles. They were worried about temperature precision with one handle. No problem, we picked an equally beautiful faucet in a modern style with two handles. It looked great in the space.
We didn't adjust the height of the medecine cabinets to fit the higher arc of the new faucets. The clearance of the medecine cabinet was perfectly designed to glide over the first, now irrelevant, faucet. Oops! We had to totally re-frame and re-drywall the space to fit the new height, costing us money and adding time to our client's project.
Learn from our mistakes! Decide on your parameters early in the selection process! Download our Sink Faucet Workbook to keep all your decisions in one place, then take it shopping with you.
If you are renovating and plan to keep the existing countertop, you will also be keeping whatever holes were used for the original faucet. If you are replacing the countertop you can start fresh and have your fabricator drill holes to fit your faucet choice.
If you are renovating or have a sink with pre-drilled holes, measure the distance between the first and last holes. If it is 4", you can choose a centerset faucet or a single hole faucet with an escutcheon plate. There are also mini-widespread faucets, although I think they usually look silly. If the distance is 8", you will need a widespread deck mounted faucet.
Pros: Won't hit your face on it when bending over to wash.
Cons: May splash when you wash your hands.
Pros: Easy to shave or water plants. Easier to clean under.
Cons: May splash, especially if when paired with a shallow sink basin. May push medecine cabinets and lights too high.
If you are installing a new countertop, wall mounting a faucet is a great way to add a 'wow' factor to your master bathroom. Keep in mind that not only are the faucets themselves usually more expensive, but the installation will cost more too. Unless it is a new build, you will need to remove the cabinet and open up the wall to install it, and possibly need to change the framing.
One advantage of a wall-mount faucet is that it keeps the counter clear, for easy cleaning and for a nice open look. They look great with a solid backsplash that matches the countertop. Decide early on if this is what you want!
Mount at the height you want - usually between 4 and 6" above the counter. Your backsplash should be higher than the faucet!
2. FUNCTION = EASE OF USE + LASTING QUALITY
This will be largely a matter of personal preference. Notice how you use your current sink. Is it so low or so high that it bothers you? Is it hard to turn the knobs on or off? Take note of whatever bothers you and be sure to choose a different style for your new faucet.
Technology is everywhere these days. Manufacturers are constantly on a quest to make our lives better and easier with the aid of electricity and internet access. Why should your sink faucet be left out of the fun?
There are many options available that are either touch free of hand touch (turn on/off without handles). These are great options if you are worried about germs, but also if you have arthritis or other ailments that make turning a handle difficult or painful.
These options all require an electric source, often a battery pack located under the sink. This takes up some space and also means that they don't work when the battery runs out. If that concerns you, choose a model with a lever in addition to the electric function. Also know that the install cost will be slightly higher.
Several companies offer faucets that either turn on in a cool position, or limit the maximum temperature or maintain a consistant temperature. These can help to keep heating costs down, but are also great if you have young children and are worried that they may burn themselves using the faucet.
Thermostatic systems are widely available for showers to keep temperatures constant, but are much harder to find in a sink or tub faucet.
In addition to spot-resist finishes that will keep your faucet clean longer, there are some faucets available with microbial finishes that kill germs. This is another great feature for homes with kids, and for anyone concerned about their health.
Think outside the box! Why not install a built-in kitchen countertop soap dispenser in the bathroom? We haven't done this one yet but it is a simple and economical way to make the master bath more luxurious. For added technology (and a much more substantial budget), you can install automatic soap dispensers just like the ones in public restrooms.
Need a simple way to make all your faucet decisions? Click below to grab your Bathroom Faucet Worksheet!
Brands matter! But even within a brand there can be variations in quality. You don't need to spend a fortune but you need to pay close attention.
Any quick online search will reveal what feels like hundreds of different faucet brands. How can you tell which is good and which isn't?? It's hard. I don't know all the brand names either. Below is a partial list of brands we are familiar with.
There are a few things to look for in any brand to know if you are buying a decent product (solid brass or stainless steel construction, washerless fittings, certain types of high quality plate finishes), but there are other things like quality of workmanship, that can't be listed on a specifications page. That is why a good warranty and reputable name are important.
You should be able to find a great basic faucet for $100 to $300. Anything below that is probably junk (unless it is on sale. Anything above that is technology, unique design, or hand finishing/ higher fees in country of origin.
- Elements of Design
- Kingston Brass
- Many others
These brands typically have a wide selection of styles and finishes at a great price. You may use them but beware - quality varies widely. We have personally had trouble installing Kingston Brass faucets because the drillings do not always line up properly. In addition, they may come with inferior zinc or plastic (ABS) parts.
- American Standard (no longer Made in the USA)
- Danze (inferior warranty)
These brands generally represent good quality but you must pay attention, as quality is inconsistant.
Recommended mid-range brands:
- Delta (Made in USA/ Canada, comprehensive warranty, excellent finish quality)
- Grohe (European design)
- Kohler (Made in USA)
- Moen (Made in USA
In general, these brands produce quality pieces that will last. We often use these brands.
Design oriented brands:
- Brizo (Delta/ assembled in USA) - transitional to modern styles.
- California Faucets (assembled in USA)- wide variety of finishes available. Excellent customer service.
- Hansgrohe/ AXOR (Imported from Germany) - modern European style.
- Pottery Barn + Rejuvenation (made in USA by Watermark)
- Restoration Hardware (assembled in USA) - good range of coordinating products including lighting.
- Newport Brass (assembled in USA)
These brands emphasize design and quality. You should feel comfortable using any of them.
- Kallista (Kohler/ made in USA) - often partner with renowned designers and architects.
- Rohl/ Perrin & Rowe (Imported from England) - very traditional to traditional styles.
- Watermark - (Made in USA) - high end industrial with a hip vibe and hand-finished surfaces.
- Waterworks - (Imported from France) - designer favorite, questionable warranty.
These brands specialize in exceptional design, at a price. If you want your faucet to make a statement, any of these will do nicely.
I spent one summer in college as a maid in Moab, Utah. Moab is an incredible place, and I recommend it to everyone to visit. Even if you don't like slickrock biking! I wore contact lenses at the time (I have since had the Lasik surgery and love it), and noticed that after I started my job my weekly lenses would deteriorate in just a few days. I mentioned this to a colleague, who said, yeah, it's the bethroom detergent. WOW. Now, I want a clean bathroom as much as anyone, but it shouldn't come at the expense of my health or my family's health.
You don't need to use harsh chemicals on your faucets. In fact, you shouldn't. They can damage many finishes and void the warranty. The most important step is to never let water dry on your faucet. This will inevitably lead to water spots. If you keep a cloth handy and make it part of your routine, you will never have ugly water spots on your faucets. Simple as that.
- Always keep a dry cotton or microfiber cloth near your sink. Use it to dry the faucet after every use.
- Install a water softener if you have hard water.
- Wear gloves (oil on fingers can leave spots, too!)
- Use warm, not hot, water.
- DO NOT USE: Scrubbing Bubbles, Bleach, Steel Wool, ammonia, or other abrasives.
Cleaning instructions :
DAILY: Use a dry cloth to wipe your faucets dry after every use.
- Clean. Rinse well with warm water and a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser. Buff dry with a cotton cloth.
- Disinfect. Vinegar works wonders. Mix 1 part cleaning strength vinegar, 3 parts water, and a few drops lemon oil in a glass spray bottle. Spray on and quickly wipe dry.
- Protect. To maintain a glossy, oiled, or brushed finish, use carnuba wax (DO NOT USE on matte finishes).
- Never use ammonia on brushed or satin metal surfaces (many cleaners, including Dawn, contain ammonia).
- Never use wax on a matte surface, such as matte black.
3. FLAIR = STYLE + IMPACT
Knowing your style can make choosing the right faucet a snap. This doesn't need to be complicated - there are actually only 4 styles that count here.
- Modern (Contemporary)
Every other style is basically an add-on to these 4 main styles. Farmhouse, Boho, Rustic, Industrial, Glam, French Country, English Manor, Scandinavian Minimalist, Preppy, you name it.
When considering hard finishes for your home, you want to pick things that will last through many design trends and even through your own style changes. Paint is easier to change than tile. Pulls are easier to change than cabinets. Light fixtures are easier to change than plumbing fixtures, because the valves in the wall can be different for different brands and even different styles within a brand.
Of course, if you are renovating to a specific historic style, by all means, choose bath fittings that match the time period. These historic styles include: Art Deco, Baroque, Colonial, Federalist, Georgian, Gothic, Mid-Century Modern, Minimalist, Rococo, Victorian.
THE 4 STYLES
Traditional: Styles based on those that have been popular for centuries. Designed to evoke the familiar and feel comfortable to use. Often have round shapes and lots of fine details.
Transitional: A mid-ground between traditional and contemporary, this style often uses sweeping lines and rounded-off squares. Designed to feel soft and organic, this style is less detailed than traditional and less stark than modern styles.
Modern/ Contemporary: ("Modern" sometimes refers to a certain time period in the early to mid 20th century, but "Contemporary" can mean anything produced today)Typified by clean lines and a lack of superfluous ornamentation. Many European brands, especially Italian ones, exemplify this style. Bright chrome or stainless finishes, or trendy finishes (currently black and gold) are used.
Eclectic: A true mix of styles including many global pieces. An eclectic faucet could be ANY faucet. This includes refurbished vintage, handcrafted, market finds, and even one of a kind art pieces.
Pick the style that goes best with your house. You always have an opportunity to add your personal touch with a statement piece - be it lighting, mirror frame, accent tile, pedestal tub, or even sink faucets. No matter what you choose, you will still want your style to be consistant through the entire house. If you hate your home's style and want to change it (I'm not talking about decor here), then you might want to consider a) selling or b) renovating the entire home.
ROUND OR SQUARE?
Pick one! Most people have a preference for round shapes or square shapes. My H.S. art teacher swore that female painters used circular compositions (see Mary Cassatt) while male painters used rectangular ones. Is it true? I don't know, but certainly squared off profiles seem more masculine in interior design.
Decide which you want to use and stick with it for all your choices - or use the opposite to create a pleasing contrast somewhere.
Brass: If you know anything about plumbing, you know that brass is a big deal. Why? It is naturally anti-microbial (due to it's high copper content) and corrosian resistant. It's soft enough to shape into faucets, yet durable enough to withstand the pressures of daily use.
A word of caution, especially for those who love antiques - it is made with lead for malleability. Until 2014 it was perfectly legal to sell a brass faucet with up to 8% lead. Any faucets you buy today that are certified lead free can only contain 0.25% lead.
Even good brands sometimes use zinc (ZAMAK) or other alloys for handles and other parts on some of their designs. Look for the works "All Brass COnstruction", or contact the manufacturer for details. Also note that internal faucets may be PEX, another type of plastic - this is actually OK and is helping to keep your drinking water safe and lead free.
Stainless Steel: Faucets can also be constructed of solid stainless steel, making this the perfect pure modern minialist finish due to its' integrity of materials. Stainless steel is more rare and more expensive than all brass construction because the material itself is harder, and therefore more difficult to work with. It has the advantage of being 100% lead free.
There are several broadly similar finishes - chrome, nickel, bronze, brass, polished or brushed. Beyond these generalities, every company will have their own specific finishes. Not all styles a company sells will come in all finishes.
Chrome finishes look the same from company to company. Beyond that, f you want all your finishes to match, buy everything from the same company. Not that you need everything to match. Like any good outfit, all the pieces must coordinate well together, but there is no need to be matchy-matchy, especially in today's mixed-metals world.
COORDINATING + CONTRASTING FINISHES
Certain finishes are less popular, or have been popular for less time, and are therefore harder to find. Gold and black finishes, especially matte ones, are gaining in popularity but still not extremely common. Several companies create their own unique finishes, such as antique silver or graphite or Italian brass. One company may sell 'burnished nickel' while another sells 'black nickel'. There is Italian Brass and English Brass and French Brass.
Choose one of 5 broad categories - chrome, nickel/stainless, brass/gold, bronze, or black. Stick within that range for 80% - 100% of your finishes.
If you can't find everything you need in the same finish, or if you simply wish to make a bold statement, choose 1 or 2 items in the same contrasting finish. Repetition will help the outsider finish to look like it belongs. For example, the faucet and lights. Or the faucet and drawer pulls. Or the tub filler and mirror frame. Everyone should be at the same party.
BRASS + STAINLESS
These are integral finishes and are a little different than chrome, nickel, brass, or black finishes. Since the faucet body and finish are the same for brass and stainless steel, these two finishes do not require coating, so there is no way the finish can ever flake off. Brass is the ultimate traditional finish and stainless is the ultimate modern finish.
This is often the least expensive finish, and the default for most companies. It was in use before nickel and bronze and is still in most older un-renovated kitchens and baths. Chrome sometimes gets a bad rap. Like subway tile, it is an inexpensive classic - leading some to think of it as cheap or boring. But don't write it off too quickly. It is easy to maintain (but not maintenance free) and looks great against bright white tiles or marble.
NICKEL + BRONZE
A silver tone that is warmer than chrome, brushed and polished nickel are popular, easy to find, finishes. They do show water spots and fingerprints, but many brands offer a spot resistant version. This is a great choice for creating a soothing spa look if you don't want too much shiny in your bathroom but still want to maintain a light palette.
Bronze, oil rubbed or venetian, is another popular finish. It has the advantage of not easily showing fingerprints or water spots. It's traditional look and can offer a nice contrast to white or cream bathrooms. It is usually more expensive than either chrome or nickel. There can be a wide variety in color between diferent brands.
BLACK + GOLD
Today's trendy finishes. If you love the black look but want something more traditional, go with an iron or dark oil rubbed bronze finish. What is the difference between gold and brass? Gold is more versatile and is available in a wider variety of shades than actual brass. Some people are still scarred from the brass trend of the '90s and won't go back - personally, I love all things gold and feel that (in moderation - no gold toilets, please!) it always works.
Click below to get your copy of the Bathroom Faucet Worksheet!
GET THE FREE WORKSHEET
Sign up to get our free printable FAUCET WORKSHEET + Bonus resource library access
You'll also get occasional emails when we have something good to share. We will never sell your email and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Best for a budget:
4" centerset chrome faucet.
Best for small children and arthritic hands:
Single handle/ single hole, high arc faucet in a spot-resist nickel finish.
Best for a timeless classic look:
Widespread low to mid arc lever handle in a chrome or brass finish.
Best for a high-end trendy modern look:
Widespread high arc cross handle faucet in a black or gold finish.
Best for a spa look:
Widespread wall mount faucet in a nickel or stainless finish.
Best practice for all choices:
All brass or stainless steel construction, a PVD finish, and ceramic disc valve from a brand that provides a lifetime warrany.