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Choosing the best kitchen faucets for home

January 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
When you're re-doing your kitchen you can spend more than $600 just for a new faucet. But is faucet that sells that much really worth it?It's not unusual for home owners to spend thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars to re-model their kitchens.

So a few hundred dollars for a faucet may not seem like that much money.

We teamed up with Consumer Reports to test more than a dozen faucets.

Lisa De Dona says customers looking for a kitchen faucet have to decide on the finish as well as the style.

"Do they like polished chrome, brushed nickel, polished nickel, brushed chrome?" asked Lisa De Dona. "There's so many different finishes that they can choose."

Consumer Reports just tested 16 faucets, from chrome to brushed bronze. Prices ranged from $80 to $600, including a hands-free faucet that goes for nearly $500.

One test evaluates if a finish scratches.

"In our scratch test we found that the heavy-duty scouring pads didn't scratch most of the brushed finishes," said Bernie Deitrick, Consumer Reports.

But the chrome finishes did scratch. Testers also used a variety of household cleaners to see if the faucets would corrode. Chrome held up best.

Testers found faucets with a side-handle design can be harder to use. That's because you can bang your knuckles if the handle is too close to the back-splash.

Another important feature to consider is what's called "the swing."

"This one has an unlimited swing, which means it will get out of the way when you need to get a big pot into your sink," said Deitrick. "This one has limited swing, which means it may get in the way sometimes."

But beyond design and finish, Consumer Reports says all the faucets tested performed well, regardless of price.

Consumer Reports says these days all but the cheapest faucets have better valves. Most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty that covers leaks and stains.

How to choose: Best faucets

Most faucets have lifetime warranties that cover leaks and stains. Though prices range from $80 to $600, we found few performance differences among the 16 models we stained, scratched, banged, and yanked.

Better valves and tougher finishes are now common on all but the cheapest faucets. That's why we based our advice on finish, not brand, and why there are no ratings.

The exterior of some faucets are bombarded with charged metal atoms that chemically bond to the surface of the base metal in a process called physical vapor deposition, or PVD. Different metals impart different finishes, including nickel and bronze. Faucets in our best faucets review with PVD finishes resisted our best attempts at scratching them. But corrosives like drain cleaner can stain them slightly.

Chrome, another popular finish, is pretty durable but can be scratched if you rub it with a heavy-duty scouring pad. Just use common sense when cleaning your faucet and it will stay scratch- and stain-free.

We tested single-handle pull-out faucets, the fastest-growing style. They combine spray head and spout for added convenience and flexibility. But our findings are applicable to other faucets, too.

Here's what we found in our faucets review:

Bronze finishes aren't the same. Bronze offers an alternative to the shiny metal look. We tested two bronze faucets. The one without the PVD finish was the least resistant finish in our abrasion tests. The one with the PVD finish was fine.

Side handles are harder to use. Overall, single-handle faucets are easier to use. But those with a side-mounted handle aren't as easy, especially if your hands aren't clean and you're trying not to dirty the handle. There's also less clearance between this type of handle and the backsplash. So you might bang your knuckles turning on the hot water.

You'll pay $90 to $300 for a single-handle pull-out faucet in chrome or epoxy, $170 to $500 for nickel or bronze, and $130 to $400 for stainless steel. Keep these tips from our faucets review in mind when shopping:

Count holes. Most sinks come with mounting holes drilled for faucets. If you're not changing sinks, you'll need to match what you have or get a base plate to cover extra holes. The base plate, which may be included, can also be used to cover holes in your countertop if that's where your faucet will be installed. It's not a good idea to try to drill additional holes in an existing sink or countertop.

Single-handle faucets are generally the simplest to use and install. Our faucets review found that two-handle models are harder to use if your hands are full or dirty.

Consider spout styles and function. Straight-spout models are compact and often inexpensive, but you might need to move the faucet to fit a big pot under it. Gooseneck models have higher clearances, but they can cause splashing if your sink is shallow. No matter what type you pick, make sure the faucet head swings enough to reach all of the sink, especially if you have a wide or double-bowl sink. Also keep the faucet proportional; a large sink looks funny with a small faucet, and vice versa.

Think about installation and repair. Replacing a faucet and a sink at the same time is easier because the faucet can be installed in the sink or counter before the sink is put in place. Fittings that can be tightened with a screwdriver also streamline installation. Long water-supply hoses let you make connections lower in the sink cabinet, where tools are easier to use. Though most faucets are guaranteed not to leak, if yours does, the manufacturer will give you only the replacement part. It's up to you to install it.


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