bathroom fixtures finishes and quality

nap101March 17, 2012

I'm redoing the plumbing in my house and decided this was a good time to replace the bathroom fixtures. What are the finishes that stand up over time?

I bought my house about 20 years ago with a new bathroom, but they installed all of these cheap gold plated finishes that very quickly wore off. The cabinet and drawer pulls are disgusting, and the faucets are just ugly. Not a fan of the gold.

So how do I determine a good durable finish vs. a thin veneer when it comes to choosing fixtures? And how do I go about rating the different manufacturers of faucets to understand the quality? The prices seems to vary dramatically and I'm not understanding what to look for.

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The prices DO vary dramatically, don't they?

Ok- the stuff I have learned mid renovation: The variance in prices has a lot to do with the inner workings of the faucet itself. I have been told that the inner parts of the faucets from a place like Home Depot are often plastic and that replacement parts not be available, you'd have to replace the faucet. Contractor has been honest with me in that a faucet used only in a master bath- this may be ok. So, that's where I went. Even so, buying two 8" spread faucets (they have counter space between the handles and the spout and are more expensive)from Home Depot cost me $165 each! Plumbing supply place wanted $343 each for similar style, same brand.

But the downstairs bathroom will get heavy use by adults and 3 grandchildren, so I got a discontinued Moen 4" mini spread faucet for a discount price from a plumbing supply place for that bathroom. I paid $143 for the one smaller unit.

Also, you need to be aware (if you are looking online) that sometimes you see prices for "trim packages- Moen puts a 'T' in front of the sku #. In that case you would need a "rough in package" (extra cost) to have a working faucet.

I don't think this explains all of the price variations- it still puzzles me that the exact same faucet style and size from the exact same store can have several different price levels. This is just what I have learned over the past several weeks. Plumbing is fun......

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 6:44PM
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I'm definitely no expert, but I think the way they add the finish to the fixtures can differ, and that has an effect on the staying power of the finish. When I was purchasing things for my bathroom, I tended to stick with looking at Hansgrohe, Kohler, Grohe, and...sort of Moen. They seemed to be the most affordable that still had good quality parts and finishes, and people tended to have good things to say about them. I used to buy my stuff, because it was cheaper than my local store and much easier to shop from. My Grohe faucet only cost $100, but it works beatifully and I'm quite impressed with the quality. Someone who knows more will probably chime in, but I wanted to add my two cents. :D

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:12AM
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As far as the way they add the finish to the faucet, look for PVD - physical vapor deposited. It's a molecular bond son won't peel off. But some "living finishes" like ORB are warranteed, they will change with use/cleaning. I'm not sure about Delta's ORB (I hope it's covered, I bought all Venetian Bronze fixtures for my new master bath!), but their "Brilliance" finishes are PVD and have a limited lifetime warranty for the original purchaser. Chrome is probably the finish that holds up the best, polished brass (other than PVD) is lacquered and the lacquer wears off and it tarnishes, I don't really know much about brushed nickel and other special finishes but I'd say look for PVD and the manufacturer's warranty, avoid "living finishes" and you'll be OK.

I don't know how "limited" it is, but I had chrome in my old house and they sent me a few pieces (not that long after installation) - a cartridge for a diverter valve that melted b/c my water was too hot, and a plastic cover for faucet set-screw that was discolored. I found some finish damage on my ORB Roman tub faucet (not installed yet) right out of the box and they sent me a replacement faucet. Hooked up my handshower to the hose and shower arm just to test it out and couldn't get anything through the wand, called them to ask if I was missing something (removing a cap or something?) in installation procedure, they said if water coming through the hose it should be coming through the wand, and they are sending me a new handshower piece (NOT an inexpensive part!).

I am going to sound like a Delta rep (I don't work for them but have been a Delta faucet owner for 15+ yrs in 2 houses), but have to say that they have probably rhe best customer service, not only for bath/kitchen plumbing fixtures, but of *any* company that I have ever dealt with. Though I haven't dealt with Moen, Hansgrohe (have a HG handshower mounted on shower arm in main bath), Grohe, etc.

Back to original question - besides finish, look at the construction. Heavy is good - usually means brass, though you'll pay more. Some faucets may have plastic pieces (areators, etc.) but the fewer the better b/c they will peel/chip and discolor. Washerless is good, cartridge is better, ceramic disk is the best (longest life, lower maintenance) but you'll pay for it up front.

It's hard to take the leap of faith and buy online, but I'd say buy online for prices but read description carefully, look at return policy in case it's not what you expected. I bought all my Delta bronze fixtures online, but I know I can trust Delta to make anything right. Last house we bought (Delta again) through bath showroom. I would avoid the big-box stores since they often get a line (from same manufacturer) that looks like the high-end designs, but have lower-quality construction (plastic, washers instead of brass, ceramic) and finishes than what you'd buy from a showroom/plumbing supply.

I bought the HG handshower at HD, it's mostly plastic, but it was only $50 on clearance, it's working fine after 4+ years with at least 2 and sometimes 4 showers a day (our only full bath so far). But it's not the quality of the Delta I bought for either house, and I'm sure it's not the quality you'd get buying HG or Grohe from a plumbing supply.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:41AM
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Should have said some living finishes are NOT warranteed!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:43AM
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Like ajsmama, I recently purchased faucets, etc from a manufacturer I had good experience with before (Kohler in my case). And it is true, heavy is GOOD, lightweight is not.

For finish I went with polished chrome for 3 reasons:
1) it is easy to match, so if I get towel bars from TJ Maxx they will look the same as the Kohler faucets. ORB can be tougher to match, sometimes.
2) I'm going for a traditional/vintage look & chrome just seemed to fit that aesthetic the best
3) I've never seen a chrome faucet age poorly. I mean, you can scratch it, but the scratch is the same color as the surface so it doesn't jump out at you.

If I had to divvy up the plumbing budget so I could only afford ONE really durable faucet, I would put the money into the shower valves because those are hell to replace. A cheap sink faucet may break, but you can probably replace it yourself in a few years (after your bank account recovers from the renovation).

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Are you just replacing the faucets, or are you renovating? Good point about the shower valve, we had a Symmons (sp?) in the old house (main bath, we didn't remodel), boy that was a pain to replace!

We just gutted the master bath there, put in a Maax airpool and Delta roman tub with handshower, no shower, so I can't comment on Delta shower valves. We have some no-name spout and drain in this house (builder chose) but Delta Monitor valve/control and after 4+ years it's OK, too soon to tell, I'm sure it will be just as much of a pain to replace when/if it goes bad but who knows when that will be?

Symmons lasted only 6-7 yrs from when old house was built to when we replaced it - and I forget what we replaced it with (it failed same time we were gutting the master bath so it was interesting for a few days).

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 10:35AM
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thanks for all the feedback. This is very helpful.
I'm not renovating the bathroom, just replacing the ugly faucets since the plumbing is being upgraded to copper.

So much to think about!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 10:44AM
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