Most high quality faucets are brass. They are available in several finishes ranging from powder-coated enamel to gold plated. The faucet parts can be made by machine or cast in molds. Cast processing is considered better quality. Plastic is another popular material of faucets.
When choosing the finish of your new faucet, lean towards something that is long-lasting and low maintenance that will complement your décor. There are many finishes available. Chrome plating, nickel plating, white enamel, brass, colored epoxy (glacier white, almond, biscuit and black), platinum, porcelain, bronze, stainless steel and gold or silver are some of the options available.
Chrome and brass are the most common finishes chosen because they are easy to maintain and very durable. If you choose brass keep in mind that it requires a special protective coating to prevent tarnishing. Choose epoxy finish for a bigger variety of color options. Epoxy is also very easy to clean. Today, many manufacturers use a technology called PVD (physical vapor deposition) for their faucet finishes, which makes them almost indestructible.
There are three basic faucet style types: center set, widespread, and mini-widespread. There are then a number of variations within those.
Center set would be the most common. They are available in single or two handle styles. With a single handle, both the cold and hot water feed through a single hole. In a two-handle set, the hot and cold water are separate.
Widespread faucets have spouts mounted separately for the hot and cold. They allow for a more flexible installation because the handles can be from 8 to 20 inches apart. However, this style does tend to be more expensive.
Single handled faucets can be widespread, but the handle is a separate unit in that case and not mounted on the spout. This is done at times for convenience or appearance.
Mini-widespread faucets are the same as widespread except they are 4 inches from center to center rather than 8 to 12.
Spouts come in a variety of styles from straight to gooseneck. Some are fixed, and some are swivel.
Valves control the flow of water. There are four basic types of valves: compression, cartridge, ball, and ceramic disc. Compression valves always have two controls, which operate by raising or lowering a stem. The stem has a rubber washer on the end to seal off the water flow. The problem with this type of faucet is that it's prone to leaks because the rubber washer wears out.
Cartridge units are offered on both single handle and two handle faucets and control water flow by a cartridge. These faucets are quite reliable and easy to repair. The ball faucet uses a single lever that controls a rotating slotted metal ball to regulate your water flow. This faucet is only available in single-lever styles. The best valve is a ceramic disc (actually two discs are used to regulate water flow). This valve is virtually maintenance free and usually carries a lifetime guarantee because it has a flat form and is very durable.
Look for quality
Inexpensive faucets may look as good as the expensive ones, but probably will not last as long. When plastic is used on integral parts, and they are lightweight, you should beware that the faucet is not going to last very long. The cost of a plumber later is going to be much worse than a quality faucet now. The average cost of a faucet is $75 to $200 plus.
Know your needs
Know the design of your countertop or sink before you purchase your bathroom faucet. Know if you need a single hole, a 4-inch mini-spread or center set, or an 8-inch widespread design.
For a tub and/or whirlpool, you will need to know if the installation calls for a wall or deck mount and if a hand spray will be required. The shower faucet is best discussed with the plumber or designer since there are so many options available. It is too easy to choose the wrong styles or supplies.
Making it fit
This is a very important detail to remember. Buy your faucet and sink together. Then you will know that they are compatible. The sink will need to be drilled or punched to match the faucet you choose, and not all units will work together.
Specialty sinks often require special faucets. If you have chosen a cultured marble top, you will need a longer spouted faucet due to the setback. Do not ever assume everything will fit. The salesperson's job is to assist you in these matters. Request their expertise in how the pieces work together. Also consider additional trim that some faucets may require. They may require them, but they also allow additional design options for your décor.
There are many types and styles of shower faucets, but the most common is a wall-mount faucet over the drain. When you choose a shower spray, keep in mind that a handheld spray head offers flexibility when you wash your hair or want to massage your back. The rough-in valve varies for showerheads, so you will have to choose this before the bathroom construction begins. Just because the package says universal, this is not always true. Be sure to have an adequate water supply if you want a fancy multiple showerhead sprayers.