A kitchen faucet is more than just an everyday item—it’s practically an "every hour" item. This means choosing the right one is crucial for avoiding potentially damaging leaks and the frustrations of ill-fitting hardware.
There are a surprising number of features and fixtures to consider when buying a kitchen faucet. "The way you work in a kitchen, the look you’re after, and your budget will ultimately determine what fixtures are best," says Keren Richter of White Arrow, a New York design studio. "Price is driven by brand and style, but also by the finish you select. Chrome is the cheapest, and specialty finishes will add to your cost."
At the lower end, a kitchen faucet costs around $150 to $300. Mid-range options, where you’ll find more style choices, start around $500 and climb to $1,000. At the top end, prices can creep toward thousands of dollars, although $1,500 is a good ballpark. Up here, you’ll find more unique designs, finishes, and customization options as well as superior quality.
Quality of Internal Components
When choosing a faucet, quality is the first thing to consider. "Why have a cute faucet that leaks?" says Delia Kenza of Delia Kenza Interiors, a Brooklyn-based interior designer. After all, water is one of the most destructive elements any fixture in your home will be subjected to.
"The internal parts are more important than the external parts; look for solid brass valves and screws," she says. "Buy from a company that you can order missing parts from: a single screw may be all you need, and if you can’t get that screw, you may have to buy a new faucet. Many plumbing parts can’t be casually picked up at a local hardware store."
All-metal fixtures have long been considered the superior choice for faucets with brass being the most durable, die-cast zinc acceptable, and chrome-plated plastic the budget option. However, newer ceramic disk valves are increasingly popular as they’re considered extremely reliable and as the cost has started to creep down.
The valve is what ensures you get water at the right rate and temperature and, there are four types: ball, disc, cartridge, or compression. Ceramic disk valves are the latest in faucet technology. Two disks control the flow, and seal when locked together. These are the most expensive, but also the most reliable. Cartridge valves are also good, with all-metal being preferable. Because it’s all one piece, if you do spring a leak, you simply need to replace the cartridge. Compression and ball valves are the cheapest, but are notoriously leaky.
Style and Function
In a faucet, style and function go hand-in-hand. "There are a few questions we ask in terms of functionality (Does the client want a separate hand spray, or a single spout with a built-in spray?), but style is paramount," says Richter. "There are bridge faucets for more farmhouse looks; long, dramatic arched faucets, which can look graceful and sleek for contemporary kitchens; and more utilitarian faucets for industrial kitchens."
With sinks often front and center in a kitchen, this is a trendsetting piece. "The silhouette, materials, and finish should all work together in concert," says Richter. "I do think choosing the right fixtures can really make or break a kitchen or bathroom design if all other decisions are on point."
The style will also dictate functionality. A high-arch spout—the most popular both in aesthetics and function—lets you easily fill and clean tall or large pots. Pair it with a matching hand spray for an elegant look, or opt for a pulldown or pull-out spray, where the spray function is built into the faucet. This is the more modern style, and in some cases more industrial-looking (such as the popular, semi-pro, pull-down faucet that’s all the rage right now).
"A pulldown model is a need-to-have for anyone who will be using their faucet to actually wash dishes," says Allison Petty, a designer with Hyphen & Co in the Hamptons. "A high-arch and single-handle model also helps with this as well." A single-handle faucet has the handle in the spout to control both hot and cold water, whereas double handles have separate controls for hot and cold.
A bridge design offers a more vintage look and incorporates the traditional two handles. It’s a classic design that sometimes comes with a modern twist and often necessitates a separate spray.
One-touch faucets are the other technological leap in the space, where you just tap it to turn on or go entirely hands-free courtesy of a built-in motion sensor (temperature is still controlled by a knob, though). "We don’t think you need touchless and consider it more of a nice-to-have rather than need-to-have," says Petty. "But we have found more and more people looking to integrate this technology, especially in homes with families where cleanliness is at the forefront of their minds."
Finish and Flair
"With finishes, the key is to not follow the trends. Buy the finish that you will love for a long time," says Kenza. "I really love materials that are matte and have a quiet elegance that will patina over time. My new jam is stainless steel."
Common finishes include brass, bronze, chrome, nickel, and stainless steel. Brass is the best but the most expensive—an entirely brass faucet will last a lifetime. "Unlacquered brass has been kicking around for a while now, and we still love it," says Richter. "Living finishes aren’t for everyone—but I like the patina and how the aged brass looks against stone countertops; it makes the shine more down-to-earth."
"Polished nickel looks great for a wide variety of homes and is probably a safe bet for resale," she says. "For those on a budget, chrome is consistently the cheapest finish." Brushed nickel is a good choice for hiding fingerprints and watermarks, whereas chrome and stainless steel are the most difficult to keep looking clean, but are also the least expensive. Look for tarnish-resistant and PVD (physical vapor deposition) finishes, which use a process to bond the finish to the faucet so it won’t scratch or corrode.
"Polished chrome is the finish we specify the most often," says Melissa Baker of Pulltab Design in New York City. "It is simple, durable, and budget-friendly. If choosing a KWC faucet, we will recommend stainless steel as an option."
Black is big in hardware, and that’s true of faucets, too. "Clients have been interested in non-traditional finishes such as bronze or powder-coated black," says Baker. "Depending on the adjacent fixtures, a black faucet can work well."
Size and Proportions
Scale is key in a kitchen: an oversize farmhouse sink, for example, needs a sturdy faucet to top it off, both for cohesion and utility. A too-small faucet won’t dispense water efficiently, and a too-large one will soak you as you clean.
Height and reach are the key measurements here. Height is measured from the sink deck to the top of the faucet, and reach is the horizontal distance from the spout to the connection with the sink—i.e. how far it "reaches" into the sink itself.
Spread is another component to consider. Centerspread measures the distance between the furthest holes required by the faucets—if you are replacing a faucet in an existing sink, you’ll want to check this carefully, along with how many holes you need to fill. If you want to replace an existing faucet with one that doesn’t need as many holes, you can find decorative escutcheons to cover the unneeded holes.
How Much Should You Spend on a Kitchen Faucet?
The short answer is as much as you can afford. Like all forms of technology, the more you can invest in quality, the longer it will last, and the better it will perform. "You want to avoid cutting costs on faucets if you can. Even if you choose to use a less expensive option, make sure you check the reviews," advises Kenza.
Inexpensive faucets use cheaper materials and deploy plastic internal mechanisms. They also have fewer choices for finishes. Higher-end faucets will generally have better design, better warranties, additional functionally, and—most crucially—will last longer. By spending more, you also get more choice and the option for customization.
Save ($150 to $500)
"An affordable brand that rarely fails on quality is Kohler," says Kenza. "I also like Vola and Hansgrohe." Well-known names, such as the aforementioned and Moen, are excellent options if you’re looking to save. Opting for lower-end ranges from reputable manufacturers is often the safest choice when sticking to a budget.
Randolph Morris, Grohe, Brizo, and Kohler Purist are Richter’s budget-friendly go-tos, but she points out that if you are after high-end options with a strict budget, there are vendors that sell used or discontinued plumbing fixtures, such as Green Demolitions, and you can find them on eBay and Craigslist, too. "There are ways to design economically if you are resourceful and spend the extra time doing your homework," says Richter. Bear in mind, however, that most manufacturer warranties are only for the first owner.
Spend ($500 to $1,000)
In the mid-range, you’ll find good features and well-made parts, just fewer choices for finishes and styles. "You can find your touchless sensors and a more easily controlled spray in the mid-range models," says Petty. "Moen is a brand that offers a lot on the feature front but also has some beautiful, more contemporary models."
"I recently started working with Bruma, based in Portugal," says Kenza. "All their faucet parts are solid brass, customization is an option, and many of the parts are finished by hand. The best part is they are a more affordable option."
Richter recommends Rejuvenation and Watermark, who white label for Rejuvenation, as well as Newport Brass, who white label for Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. KWC is Baker's favorite mid-range option. "The KWC Luna faucet costs about $500 to $700, depending on finish," she says.
Splurge ($1,500 and above)
Yes, you can actually spend six figures on a faucet, but back in the real world, a high-end tap will come in somewhere around $1,500, shooting upwards to those loftier figures if you opt for an expensive finish (gold is an option) or an elaborate structure with multiple customized features.
What you're getting here is the chance for some really unique, expressive, and special kitchen faucets. "Waterstone faucets have some really interesting traditional options that have a great look for a kitchen that has a sink that calls for something a little more special," says Petty.
"Waterworks has done some great collaborations with other design studios that we love (Gachot, Roman and Williams) and they also have complementary lighting and accessories," says Richter, who also loves Dornbracht, Lefroy Brooks, Barber Wilsons, and THG.
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