Plumbing Your Options in Bathroom Fixtures

Today's bathroom sink and faucet choices go far beyond the options homeowners once had. Here's a look at bath fixtures to consider when planning your remodeling project.
By: Alicia Garceau


Sinks and faucets are among the last things installed when a bathroom is remodeled but that doesn't mean you can wait till the end of the renovation to make a selection. The rough plumbing that goes behind a wall is specified at the beginning of the project, and rough-plumbing placement varies depending on the sink and faucet you choose, so you'll have to make your mind up sooner than you may think.

"The difficulty with that is there are so many choices. It's kind of an overwhelming thing to have to choose first," says Suzie Williford, National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Vice President and Manager of Luxury Products at Kiva Kitchen & Bath in Houston.

Get the Bathroom You Want

To simplify the search for bathroom sinks and faucets, arrive to the first meeting with your designer or supply-house rep armed with a stylebook that contains photos of bathrooms that you have collected from magazines. This style book enables the designer to get an idea of the desired style and provide recommendations on products. Even when up against a tight budget, a designer will be able to find plumbing fixtures that replicate the desired style.

"Anybody can achieve a beautiful bathroom," Williford says. "It's just a matter of spending the time and finding the right people to put it together, so you can have the look you want at whatever price you can pay."

Take the Stress Out of Selecting Your Sink

Sinks come in a variety of styles. Drop-in sinks are the most economical; however, the lip where the sink meets the countertop can pose a cleaning challenge. Under-mount sinks, available at varying price points, are installed underneath a countertop, making them easy to clean.

Vessel sinks, which tend to be more expensive, resemble standalone bowls, and rest on the countertop to add dramatic flair to a bathroom. Integral sinks, where the sink and countertop are one piece are another choice.

Other options include freestanding pedestal sinks, which are smart solutions for small spaces, and bathroom furniture that combines a sink and vanity.

Vitreous china is the most commonly used material for bathroom lavatories because it is competitively priced, works in various decors, and is easy to maintain. A metal bowl — whether it's stainless steel, copper or another material — is a good choice for contemporary tastes, but will be more expensive and require more maintenance. Glass lavatories are usually used in high-end designs to add drama to a bathroom but can be fragile. Cultured marble, which is made from a combination of marble and polyester resin, remains a popular choice for bathrooms, but the material can scratch.

Make the Faucet the Focal Point

"Plumbing fixtures are something we talk about endlessly [with clients]," says Sara Ann Busby, NKBA President-Elect and owner of Sara Busby Designers in Elk Rapids, Mich. "You can just blow your budget right out of the ballpark with faucetry. It's almost like a piece of art. The faucet is a focal point, so people are willing to spend a lot of money on a faucet when they realize it's the feature of the bath."

Types of faucets include:

- Wide-spread faucet: This faucet has a spout with separate hot and cold water handles. They are available from 6- to 20-inch drillings and require three holes. Mini-widespread faucets are also available and have a 4-inch center.

- Two-handle centerset: The spout and both handles are combined on a single base and the valves are 4 inches apart. Each valve requires a separate hole in the sink or countertop.

- Single set: This is typically a centerset, but has a spout and a single mixing handle all in one. It requires one hole.

- Wall-mounted: This faucet pairs well with above-the-counter and freestanding basins and requires a separate wall-mount valve and drain for installation. This type makes sink-cleaning easier because you don't have to wipe down the tight space between the faucet and the backsplash.

Cross the Finish Line

Choosing a finish for fixtures depends on the style of the bathroom. For more traditional rooms, oil-rubbed-bronze is a popular choice, while polished nickel is used in both traditional and contemporary spaces. Williford also sells a good deal of satin nickel and chrome. Of these finishes, chrome is least expensive, while oil-rubbed bronze and satin nickel are around the same price.

Once you have a list of possible choices, visit a showroom to see each contender in person. And of course, review warranties before making your final selections.


Sara Ann Busby
NKBA President-Elect, 2007
Sara Busby Design
Elk Rapids, Mich.

Suzie Williford
NKBA Vice President, 2007
Manager of Luxury Products
Kiva Kitchen & Bath
Houston, Texas

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