While building or remodeling a home there are countless decisions to be made, some more fun than others. Picking out a roof shingle for instance isn’t very glamorous, but plumbing fixtures are a different story altogether. You can equate selecting plumbing fixtures to picking out that perfect necklace or earrings to go with your outfit or better yet, a watch, which can be both functional and attractive. Plumbing fixtures can have the same effect on a room that jewelry and accessories can have on your wardrobe, they add the finishing touch that can tie everything together or bring just the right amount of sparkle.
Truth be told though, there is more to plumbing fixtures than their looks, they are hard working, permanent fixtures in a home that have lots of moving parts, plenty of code restrictions and a long list of other factors to consider when selecting them. With styles forever changing, technology forever evolving and codes always updating how can you make choices that meet your needs, follow the latest trend, and stay code compliant? We’ll help you find all of the answers you need to make all the right choices for your next project.
Step 1 – Determine your needs & budget
Whether you’re new to the remodeling game or you’re a seasoned veteran you no doubt have had past experiences that will help you to know what you like (or don’t like) about how you currently use fixtures. For instance, I’m a single handle kitchen faucet kind of homeowner -although I can’t argue that an antique cross handle faucet like the one pictured below is gorgeous, in this case, function beats out looks for me hands down.
When my hands are gooped up with a sticky mess, the last thing I want is to have to use both hands to turn on my faucet. Most likely it will be my elbow or wrist so a simple one handle lever faucet will work best or better yet, manufacturers are coming up with new innovations everyday to meet these day to day life challenges. Take the Sensate Faucet from Kohler that operates with the wave of your hand keeping germs at bay and your faucet clean.
Keeping in mind how you use your fixtures will help you to select the right ones. In a shower there are several different ways to set up and install your fixtures based on how you use them. For example, some choose to have multiple fixtures and shower heads but you can set up those heads to operate simultaneously or only one at a time depending if you are a self admitted water hog or prefer to conserve water, energy & money.
In the case of handheld shower heads, there are a few ways to mount them depending on how they will be used. Some opt to use a handshower as their main shower head or a main secondary shower head when more than one person is showering at once. Some mounts are stationary while others allow for the head to be adjusted up or down based on the height of the person showering -a real plus if you are in a household with children or people of varying heights that all share the same shower.
Budget is also a factor when making choices, if you have a fixture allowance from your builder or remodeler you can consult with the plumbing fixture sales associate to guide you towards fixtures that will stay close to or at your budget number. A variety of factors can add to costs including the product finish; Chrome finish is generally the most affordable with other more custom finishes like oil rubbed bronze, polished nickel, matte brass or certain “live” (like raw, unsealed brass or copper) finishes coming in significantly higher.
Step 2: Consult with your Pros
While making your choices you’ll want to consult with both your building and design professionals as well as a qualified and reputable plumbing fixture sales associate. These professionals will be able to guide you toward choices that factor in not just your personal style but also any conflicts or limitations based on your project’s specific circumstances and any code compliance concerns. Remember that these fixtures although they are a design element they have to be able to function properly and safely.
It is tempting in an age when anything can be sourced online for a fraction of the cost of brick & mortar stores to just price shop everything. The risk with the need to find the best deal is that sometimes the best price is NOT always the best value. Online retailers can not always verify the authenticity of their products nor do they have the same level of support or warranties to back them up.
You sometimes even have to be weary of quality of the products sourced from some big box store retailers (who will go nameless). At times these retailers will will have amazing prices on what seem to be the same product you saw at that certified plumbing fixture store your builder recommended. The unfortunate reality however is that some product manufacturers will create a “big box store” version of their products that is of lesser quality ( like plastic interior fittings vs. solid brass) just to bring their products in line with the big box store’s discount pricing structure, while leaving the model numbers and names of the products the same so you the consumer would never know the difference at first glance.
We were personally made aware of this unfortunate reality on one of our projects a few years back when we sourced a bathroom faucet from our reputable certified plumbing fixture dealer and our client opted to add one more sink & faucet and just decided to grab what seemed to be the same faucet at the local “big box store”. When both arrived on site side by side we were amazed at the first major difference; the two boxes with the same manufacturer, same product name and model number felt very different in the boxes. A full 1-2 lb weight discrepancy told us that these two faucets could not be considered equal. Although both looked identical from the outside; the one from the big box store had plastic interior parts while the other had solid brass. This difference won’t present itself right away but rather will affect the longevity of the product and could cause premature failure of the product.
The lesson here? The price though cheaper at first will, in the end, cost the homeowner more in repairs and need for replacement sooner than if a quality product was purchased in the first place. So, trust your Pros when they recommend a supplier. Not only will the products be of better quality, the support you’ll receive from the very beginning of selecting your products and throughout any future need for warranty repairs or replacement will be unmatched as well.