How to Choose a Bathroom Faucet
Learn about different faucet configurations, finishes, and features to make the right choice for your bathroom.
It may seem like a simple piece of plumbing hardware, but the bathroom faucet is a functional element of the room design that family and friends will see and use quite frequently. When planning an update, it is a good idea to make sure to find the best fit for both your household aesthetics and budget. The key is to start with the basics, keep in mind the most important faucet features and options, and then get creative.
Find Your Faucet Center
Make sure to measure your faucet centers. This refers to the distance, in inches, between the pre-drilled faucet holes in the sink or vanity, from the very center of the left hole to the very center of the right hole. These center points should correspond to the center connections of the faucets to be installed there. It is also important to measure the distance between the faucet holes to the wall, and to account for any other obstructions, such as mirrors and cabinets.
When designing your bathroom update, keep in mind that the different pieces of hardware should complement each other. Keep the faucet a reasonable, proportionate size to the sink. The spout should reach to the middle of the sink basin and be high enough up from the vanity or deck that you can comfortably stand with your hands under the water flow. It’s a good idea to keep the different pieces balanced in size against each other; a tiny sink with a large, ornate faucet would not only look out of place, it would also create a splashy mess of water with every use if the sink basin is too small to accommodate the water flow.
Faucet Installation Types
The kind of faucet you choose is first and foremost dependent on the arrangement of the sink or vanity in your bathroom. Be sure to note how many installation holes are available before you make any purchases. If you find a particular faucet style that you like, but there aren’t enough holes to install it, your bathroom update project becomes a minor remodel because you’ll need a whole new sink or vanity. It’s important to know the layout of the sink and the matching faucet installation type ahead of time.
Single hole faucets are, as their name implies, installed into a single hole on the back of the sink or vanity. They most often have a single handle, lever, or knob to control the water flow and temperature, though some designs will have two separate controls. Single-hole faucets provide more precise volume and temperature control. Additionally, a single-hole faucet results in a much quicker install job than any other installation type. When you want to use a single-hole faucet on a basin with a three-hole installation layout, use an escutcheon, or a deck plate, to hide the other two holes.
- Typically available with one handle (sometimes two)
- Ideal for smaller bathrooms
- Sleek, simple design
This is a very popular installation type, the versatile design a nice fit in a bathroom of any size. With centerset faucets, the faucet spout and handles are mounted together to create a single unit. Most offer individual controls for hot and cold water to mix the perfect temperature every time.
- Two handles for easy operation
- Can be used on sinks with three holes, with 4- or 6-inch faucet centers
- Spout and handles are fixed on a base unit mounted directly on the sink
This is a reliable faucet type with the most style variety and options. The individually installed handles are not attached to the spout-mounting base, instead consisting of 3 separate pieces installed in a 3-hole basin. This allows for a larger basin with some faucets, creating a center distance of up to 16 inches wide. Widespread faucets often use unique escutcheon plates that are sized to the individual handle and spout base, rather than a one-piece escutcheon for all three faucet parts.
- Most commonly found with two handles
- Most popular installation type
- Features faucet centers from 6 to 16 inches wide
Vessel faucets offer a taller spout to accommodate the higher lip of the above-the-countertop vessel sinks. Because of the extra height, you will most likely find vessel faucets available as a single-hole faucet, and often as a lever handle.
- Single lever handle
- Fits perfectly with vessel sinks
- Provides elegant focal point
Wall Mounted Faucets
This faucet is a fashion-forward alternative to traditional sink-mounted faucets. Wall mounted faucets clear up space on the vanity or sink surround, so they can be used for freestanding vessel sinks or inset basin sinks. They require a wall mounted valve connection, which can be a more expensive project because the water supply line must be directed to sink-height along the inside of the wall. The spout should be carefully measured to be sure it fits the height and depth compared to the sink installation to prevent water ending up on the floor.
- Mounts to wall
- Creates unique bathroom centerpiece
- Can include one or two handles
Faucet Handle Types
The faucet handles help determine the character of your faucet and how they operate. The handles control the water from the hot and cold water lines to mix the water temperature in the spout before it pours into the sink.
One handle faucets offer optimal temperature and volume control. Turning the handle results in a change of temperature, while lifting or lowering it will change the water pressure.
Two-handle faucets usually provide a wider range of styles and sizes, with handles located on the left and right of each other, or of the spout, to control the hot and cold water supply individually.
The touchless faucets often provide no handle at all. The water temperature on touchless faucets is usually set at a steady temperature upon installation. The faucet runs on electronic sensors which can detect movement, so the water turns on and off when it senses a hand in front of it. Some touchless faucets are electric powered while others can be battery operated.
Similar to touchless faucets, there are no handles needed with touch-activated faucets. Rather than wave, touch-activated faucets require just a tap against the sensor to turn on or off. The temperature can either be preset, or it can be adjusted with a knob or handle as a manual control.
Faucet Handle Styles
The handle styles on the bathroom faucet should coordinate with the design of the spout and any other fixtures, such as the bath or shower faucet. Aim for consistent styles between each fixture. It’s a good idea to complement the faucet style with matching hardware for drawers and cabinets in the room, too.
- Most contemporary handle type
- Blade or wedge shapes, as well as rounded
- 90 to 120 degree turns
- Combines traditional looks with modern day ease-of-use
- Cross-shaped handles to easily grasp
- 90 to 360 degree on/off turns
- Standard rounded handle found on the most affordable bathroom faucets
- Multi-directional control for water pressure as well as temperature
- Similar shape to lever handles, rounds or wedges
- Designed to raise above the spout, usually as part of a single-hole installation
- Multi-directional control for water pressure as well as temperature
There are a wide variety of finishes to coordinate the bathroom accessories and color scheme with the faucets. Match the faucet finish colors with similar metal finishes to the lighting fixtures, and use a fresh coat of paint or rotating towel set colors to emphasize the tone and highlights of the colors.
High Quality Material
Most high-quality bathroom faucets are made of brass (solid brass or cast brass). This is the preferred material for bathroom faucet construction to ensure durability and reliability.
Ceramic Disc Cartridges
Ceramic discs are becoming standard in bathroom faucets. Ceramic discs have replaced rubber discs inside the spout for a lifetime of drip-free and leak-free performance.
Other Faucet Features
Bathroom faucets with the WaterSense label feature an eco-friendly flow rate that’s guaranteed to save water and money.
Recent legislation requires that new faucets installed by customers located in Vermont, Maryland, and California must be free of lead.
Shop all low lead
As a feature you typically see in kitchen faucets, a few bathroom faucets actually offer pullout sprays. Now you can easily clean every area of your bathroom sink.
Shop all pullout spouts
Many manufacturers have simplified installation with easy-to-install water lines.
Now when replacing your lavatory faucet, the first thing you need to figure out is what faucet type you currently have. We have a few examples of the most popular types right here.
First is your 4-inch center set, then your mini widespread, your full widespread, your single hole, and then you can always use a single hole with the optional escutcheon plate.
The most popular type by far is what is referred to as a 4-inch centerset lavatory faucet. An example is right here. What that means is from approximately the middle point of this handle to the middle point of this handle, it’s four inches. Now if you have that type, it’s going to give you a number of different faucet configurations you can replace it with.
You can obviously go with another 4” centerset faucet, or what is referred to as a mini widespread lavatory faucet. It’s going to have the same 4” on center configuration, but there’s not going to be an escutcheon plate tying the handles and the spout together.
You can also go with a single hole lavatory faucet, as long as it comes with an optional escutcheon plate to cover up those two other holes.
Now the next most popular type of lavatory faucet is what’s referred to as a widespread lavatory faucet. An example of that is right here. Now, the whole configuration is usually going to be 8-inch, center on center. So from this point in the handle, to this point in the handle, is generally going to be about 8-inches. Now depending on your application, and the faucet you currently have, it can actually range from 8 to 16 inches on center.
If you currently have a widespread lavatory faucet and you want to replace just your faucet, you have to go with just a widespread lavatory faucet.
Now the next type of popular faucet is what’s referred to as a single hole lavatory faucet. It’s pretty obvious, just one single hole in your sink or your counter top. And you’re going to have to replace it with, obviously, another single hole lavatory faucet.
Now if you do have that 4-inch centerset hole configuration, you can use a single hole faucet, as long as it comes with the optional escutcheon plate.
Now the next type of lavatory faucet is a wall mounted lavatory faucet. There’s two parts to a wall mounted lavatory faucet. There’s your trim kit and your rough-in valve. Your rough-in valve is inside the wall. Your trim kit is your handles, your spout, what you touch and feel. Now if you’re looking to replace your current wall mounted faucet, you’re most likely going to have to break into your wall and change out your rough-in valve to match your new trim kit.