Once you’ve selected your cabinets, appliances and countertops you’ll need to select your sink, faucet and hardware. While these kitchen features add stylish decor to your kitchen, they are also essential tools for making your kitchen function properly. Problem is the price for these items is across the board, meaning you could save thousands by going with base or cheaper models. The question is do you really save if the product sacrifices quality.
To answer this question, ThisOldHouse.com did a side-by-side comparison of a luxury and a bargain pull-down kitchen faucet. Why a faucet? Because a pull-down sprayer is the most useful and used kitchen faucet type. It’s high enough to accommodate high stock pots and to rinse off larger cookie sheets, and its style works in both traditional and contemporary kitchens. By testing a bargain and a top-of-the-line faucet, the TOH team found the following:
The expensive faucet was designed using simple, sleek lines and a hefty solid-brass spray head. The three-layer electroplated nickel finish over brass gives the faucet a warmer look than chrome, while the spray nozzle is corrosion-resistant and easily clicks into place. The pull-down component is a smooth braided-nylon hose that extends out 18 inches. The handle uses ceramic discs on the inside to ensure easy use over extended periods of time, while the leak-resistant braided steel hoses come ready for the DIYer to hook up the cold and hot water supply lines. But all this will set you back US$1,170.
The bargain faucet was priced at US$220 and was constructed of plastic with a painted chrome finish. This material choice makes the faucet less durable than its more expensive brass counterpart, but also lighter. There was no water-flow pause button (which is included with the more expensive options) and the handle is also equipped with ceramic discs on the inside. Keep in mind that the steel hoses used for the water-supply connection are not included and must be sold separately.
The good news is that on all but the cheapest faucets, you’re bound to find top-notch valves and tough, ready-to-work finishes. Also, most brand-name options come with lifetime warranties (for the original buyer) that covers defects and even fading and peeling of the faucet finish.
When choosing a faucet remember that a few key factors will impact whether or not it will work in your new kitchen remodel. For instance, how many holes does it require for proper installation? Most sinks come with pre-drilled holes and you’ll want to match your faucet to the holes that already exist in your sink. Some faucets come with a baseplate—a cover used to hide holes that aren’t required for installation purposes. Whatever you do, don’t try and drill additional holes in your sink. This could compromise your sink’s structural integrity and it could warp or bend the sink rendering it unusable.
You’ll also need to choose between single or double-handled faucets. Single-handles—one lever to turn on the water that moves back and forth for hot and cold water—are easier to handle, particularly when your hands are full or dirty.
The finish of your faucet depends on the decor you’re selecting for your kitchen and all but the cheapest faucets have tough, rugged finishes. Still, for those looking for the toughest finish on the market, consider faucets finished using the physical vapour deposition (PVD). The process bombards the faucet with charged metal atoms that bond to the surface. The process can produce a variety of metal finishes and PVD resists scratches (but can stain if drain cleaner comes in contact with it).
According to Richard Trethewey, ThisOldHouse.com’s plumbing and heating expert, “buy the best faucet you can afford—you’re going to use it every day.” He suggests making sure that the faucet comes equipped with ceramic discs on the inside and stick with a known brand name, in case you need to find replacement parts down the road.
Once you’ve sorted out what you want for a faucet, you’ll want to choose a sink. According to ConsumerReports.org, material is much more important than the manufacturer’s name, so concentrate on the material that works for your needs.
For instance, stainless steel sinks are popular as this type of sink consistently rates well on tests. Keep in mind that thicker metal sinks will cost more, but add little, if anything, to the sink. In ConsumerReport.org testing, there was absolutely no difference between 18 to 23 gauge sinks (the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel). However, sinks with sound-absorbing pads were quieter than sinks with spray coating on the bottom.
Enamel sinks recently made a comeback. These sinks can come in a range of colours and, like steel, withstand heat and scouring. However, enamel sinks are prone to chipping or cracking; even if the enamel coats a metal, such as cast iron or steel, keep in mind that even a scratch can allow the metal underneath to rust.
The standard sink is a double basin, wide, stainless steel, over-the-counter sink. It’s the most affordable option—although the price can climb depending on the manufacturer and the finish—and it works in just about any kitchen. However, for those looking to build a truly versatile kitchen, consider scrapping the double basin and select a single, large basin sink, instead. Remember, the bigger the better when it comes to sinks, but with a single basin you also need to make sure it has a flat bottom and a drain that’s towards the back (so dirty dishes don’t clog it up).
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