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Kitchen Faucet Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Chrome kitchen faucet over a steel sink

Kitchen faucets must be durable and stylish to meet the needs of a modern kitchen. This kitchen faucet buying guide will help you choose the right kitchen faucets for perfect functionality and style in your kitchen. You'll learn how to buy kitchen faucets based on such criteria as sink type, handle type, style, finish and construction.

Buying a Kitchen Faucet:

  1. Faucet holes and installation: If you're replacing an existing faucet, be sure to match your new sink faucet to the number of faucet holes in your kitchen sink or countertop. Single-handle kitchen faucets with an integrated handle and spout need one hole for the handle-spout piece and may require a separate hole for a sprayer. Traditional faucets, with separate hot and cold faucet handles, require three holes for the spout and both taps, with a fourth for the sprayer. If you don't have enough faucet holes to accommodate the kitchen faucet you've chosen, you need to drill more holes in your sink, your countertop or both.

  2. Kitchen faucet handles: If you're buying a new sink with your kitchen faucet, you'll be able to match the two. With an existing kitchen sink, your options may be limited when it comes to faucet handle styles.

  3. Two-handle designs are usually the least expensive and offer a classic look. The independent valves for hot and cold water give you a bit more control over water temperature, but they also require more faucet holes.

  4. Single-handle faucets are more contemporary looking. The single handle, also called a post, adjusts both the temperature and flow rate of the water.

  5. Touch-sensitive faucets: These faucets still feature single or double handles for adjusting the water temperature and flow-rate, but the water flow can be switched on or off with a single touch along the outside of the faucet spout.

  6. Kitchen faucet finishes: Faucets come in a wide array of finishes and styles. Classic chrome is always in style and works with contemporary or old-fashioned form factors. Stainless steel, enamel, bronze, brass, brushed nickel and even antique copper faucets all come in a variety of tones and polishes. The finish on your kitchen faucet is primarily a style choice, so look to your existing decor for inspiration.

  7. Faucet valves: In addition to type, style and finish of your faucets, you also will be choosing what type of valves your faucets have. Valves and valve-like mechanisms regulate the flow of water through the faucet. They also regulate temperature. There are four types of valves:

  8. Compression valves: Compression valve faucets have been around the longest and are the least expensive. They are used in separate hot and cold water handles, requiring you to tighten the handles down to close off the water flow. These valves are very durable, but the rubber or silicone washers inside the valves need to be replaced every few years.

  9. Ball valves: Ball valves are currently the most common type of valve in kitchen faucets. They are washer-less, require less maintenance and are inexpensive to replace. Ball faucets tend to leak more than other washer-less faucets, such as the cartridge or the ceramic disc type, but not often.

  10. Cartridges: Cartridge faucets operate with a movable stem cartridge that moves up and down to regulate flow. A single-handle cartridge kitchen faucet moves up and down to adjust water volume and left to right to adjust temperature. A two-handle cartridge faucet looks very similar to a compression valve faucet. Cartridge kitchen faucets have a much longer operating life than other types.

  11. Ceramic disc: Kitchen faucets with ceramic disc valves usually have a single lever over a wide cylindrical body. These faucets have a wide cartridge housing two ceramic discs that slide over each other to control water flow and mixing temperature. Hardened ceramic is a durable material, so the likelihood of a kitchen faucet with ceramic discs failing is small.

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