Faucets 101- everything you wanted to know

There a literally hundreds of choices when it comes to kitchen and bathroom faucets. You can buy very cheap faucets for under $100 or pay as much as $1,000. The good news is that all, except the cheapest faucets, can last a lifetime and rarely leak. Take a little time and find a faucet that you like since it's going to be with you for a long time. Anatomy of a Faucet A faucet consists of three parts:
  • a valve that controls and directs the flow of water,
  • a handle, and
  • a spout that comes in various shapes
Of course you can buy faucets that deliver hot and cold water separately. These are sought of dangerous, because the water can be very hot and scald you. Today's faucets contain a mixing valve that blends the hot and cold water in the faucet well away from you. Faucet Valves There are four kinds of valves:
  • Compression,
  • Cartridge,
  • Ball, and
  • Ceramic disc.
The last three are referred to as "washerless" valves. If you are buying a modern kitchen or bathroom fixture, you'll be buying a faucet with one of these three valves. How come? Because most manufacturers are building washer less valves that are reliable and don't drip. If you are into historical kitchen and bathroom faucets, it will be much harder to find a faucet since they use compression valves. The latter leak over time and have to be replaced. This isn't difficult, but gets to be a pain. Compression valves are the oldest and least expensive valve. Turning the handle raises and lowers a stem. At the base of the stem is a rubber or plastic washer. It usually wears out over time and the faucet will leak. You'll have to replace the washers on these types of faucets and need special tools. Cartridge valves have enabled faucet manufacturers to make single handled faucets. Invented by Moen Faucets, a major fixture company, the cartridge controls water temperatures. Cartridge valves last a long time, but will have to be replaced. How long they last depends on what kinds of materials are used in the cartridge. They may be plastic, plaster and metal, or ceramic. The latter will last a long time. The ball valve is an innovation of Delta Faucet. It is also used in Peerless and Brizo faucets and works like a cartridge. Current ball valves are stainless steel and nearly indestructible. Ceramic valves are a European innovation. It's actually two slotted ceramic disks that rest against each other. One rotates to control temperature and raises and lowers to control volume of water. This valve eliminates rubber entirely. The water-tight seal is provided by the disks that are polished to near perfect flatness. Look for these on Kohler, American Standard and Price Pfister faucets as well as most European brands such as Grohe. Faucets with ceramic discs are very popular, reliable and easy to use. Faucets that use ceramic disc valves are used in mid-range and high-end styles-faucets. If repair is ever needed, the entire ceramic-disc cartridge is replaced. A faucet with a washer less ceramic disk valve cartridge will be drip free. In fact, if you see the words 'washer less" sink faucet packaging you are off to a good start. Some faucets have devices that don't even require you to touch a handle to get water. Usually found in public rest rooms, these high end models are finding their way into today's high end kitchens. Ready to purchase? Here are six things to look for in a kitchen faucet.