How to Choose Plumbing Fixtures

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Trends in bathrooms move toward traditional styles, with products that are easier for contractors to install.

April 05, 2000

As homes incorporate more technology for everyday living, bathrooms become a sanctum for homeowners away from electronics. Plumbing fixtures and bathroom remodels incorporate many nostalgic styles, shying away from modern looks. Instead, bathroom fixture technology has gone inside the products, creating longer-lasting, high-quality products that are easier for remodelers to install.

"There's a trend, all throughout our society...of taking the new technology and housing it in a traditional design," says Don Gamble, director of marketing for Eljer. "We'll take a fixture that looks very traditional in design, and we'll include the latest in technologies."



Retrofitting Nostalgia

As traditional looks return to popularity, it's important for remodelers to understand what qualities best exemplify this style.

Retrofitting Nostalgia

As traditional looks return to popularity, it's important for remodelers to understand what qualities best exemplify this style.

Retrofitting Nostalgia

As traditional looks return to popularity, it's important for remodelers to understand what qualities best exemplify this style.

Retrofitting Nostalgia

As traditional looks return to popularity, it's important for remodelers to understand what qualities best exemplify this style.

Retrofitting Nostalgia

As traditional looks return to popularity, it's important for remodelers to understand what qualities best exemplify this style.

Retrofitting Nostalgia

As traditional looks return to popularity, it's important for remodelers to understand what qualities best exemplify this style.

And one aspect of those technologies includes improved installation. In addition to quick-install faucet fixtures, two- and three-piece molded showers make bath remodels fast and clean without sacrificing appearance. Molded shower tiles include just enough extra texture in the groutlines to look realistic without collecting dirt, and some shower kits incorporate pre-assembled, customizable doors. Because these systems can be installed without grout, installations take less time and cost less for remodelers to install, and contractors not as specialized as plumbers can work with them easily.

The most visible design trends can be seen in sink and bathtub faucets. The traditional styles are replacing the straight lines found in bathrooms built in the '50s and '60s, with higher, more curved faucets that allow users to place their hands underneath the faucet more easily. Textured, less bright finishes are being used to coordinate with natural colors. "They're not the bright, shiny finishes," says Danette Goen, product manager for Delta. "We're seeing more nickel and textured finishes." The finishes are becoming more durable, too. Improved treatments have created durable finishes that can last for years after a bath remodel.




Unclogging Faucet Installation

Because faucets can be changed easily to update a bathroom's appearance, manufacturers are taking steps to make faucet replacement faster and easier for the remodeler. Quick-installation kits include pre-assembled parts for nearly tool-less installation of new fixtures, typically 8-in. widespread faucets.

Flexible pipelines and adjustable handles combine with snap-in valves, so that remodelers can replace a faucet spending little to no time under the sink. Typical quick-installation kits require either a single included allan wrench or a standard screwdriver for the entire replacement process.

"[These products] allow remodelers to get in and out in half to a third of the time, and get in and out of the job quickly," says Susan Broyles, director of marketing for Price Pfister. "With a shortage of trained plumbers, this allows [remodelers] to still get those types of projects done."

Metallic, textured finishes, such as those on brushed-nickel faucets and in stainless steel sinks, match well with natural and neutral colors that are being found in traditional baths. In addition, these silver metallics easily pick up the colors around them, allowing remodelers to leave existing fixtures in place, even if dramatically changing the color of the bathroom in future remodeling projects.

The interior mechanisms of those same products are becoming more durable, too. New construction stainless steel bathroom sinks are typically made from an intergauge steel with less finish. "Higher grades of sinks use a thicker steel, about 18 gauge, that have a deep-ground finish that's more durable and long-lasting," says Alan Danenberg, director of marketing services for Elkay.

Toilet technology is improving as well. Historically, consumers have shied away from 1.6-gallon toilets, but as technology improves, remodelers can incorporate these products into their bath remodels and save homeowners water. "The performance of the toilets we have now outperforms the 3-gallon toilets," says Grant Davis, senior channel manager for Sterling. "Many first-generation 1.6-gallon toilets weren't the best designs, and there was a lot of bad product available, but most manufacturers at this point, have revised their designs and have fully functional toilets." In addition to flush power, glazed, larger trapways are being found in more toilet designs.

Many bath designs also add space for future additions of ADA-compliant features. Grab bars, higher toilets, easy-to-use faucets, and pressure-balanced tubs and showers find their way into homes with elderly or aging homeowners. "We're being surprised with the number of showrooms that display these products," Davis says.

Additional upgrades include massage showers and bathtubs. "Bathrooms are becoming more important to people," says Jeff Carny, vice president of marketing for Grohe. "People are spending more time getting ready for the day and rewarding themselves with something nicer. They're upgrading."

Delta: Teapot mini-widespread bath faucet caters to designers trying to emulate a traditional look. Quick installation device allows for one-person retrofit, and faucet style can be matched with multiple handle designs. New handles feature a porcelain lever accent in a fluted shape, and six finish options are available. Custom-crafted units can match lavatory faucets with tub/shower and Roman tub units. Warranty: Limited lifetime. Supply: Distributors, retail.

Eljer: Patrician one-piece 1.6-gallon toilet includes a waterfall tank lid design and elongated rim compete with design matched toilet seat. The low-profile toilet features a large water surface area and a glazed trapway for improved performance. Available in an array of colors, the toilet is made from vitreous china. Warranty: 10 years. Supply: Distributors.

Elkay: Bathroom remodeling projects can now benefit from the popularity of stainless steel sinks. Oval shaped powder room undermount sinks complement solid-surface countertop materials and affix easily to countertop undersides. Sinks are crafted from 18-gauge stainless steel, hand-buffed for scratch-resistant finish and fully undercoated to prevent condensation and deaden sound. Warranty: One year. Supply: Distributors.

Grohe: New shower products include an anti-lime system to maintain shower performance. Relexa line includes a similar spray nozzle, keeping lime buildup localized to the cleanable tip. Products include six hand showers, four showerheads, two body sprays and accessories, all available in chrome, polished brass and white. One new shower head style, designed with a 1/2-in. threaded screw-on attachment, installs in minutes on any standard shower arm for remodeling applications. Warranty: Lifetime on mechanical parts, five years on finish. Supply: Distributors.

Kohler: Sandbar color for bath fixtures allows remodelers flexibility in bath designs that call for neutral and natural colors. Available for vitreous china, cast iron and acrylic fixtures, sandbar matches well with other natural materials such as slate, ceramic, wood and stone. Warranty: One year Supply: Distributors.

Price Pfister: Use one source to find coordinating elements for a bathroom remodel. MatchMakers bath accessories provide matching lighting fixtures, towel bars, towel rings, paper holders and robe hooks to match faucet products. Three styles, Georgetown, Savannah and Parisa, are available in solid brass and a variety of finishes. Lighting fixtures come in single-, double- or triple-light configurations. Warranty: Lifetime. Supply: Manufacturer direct.

Sterling: Progression faucets allow contractors to install bath fixtures with very little time spent under the sink. Toggle mechanism enables the faucet to be secured to the countertop from above the sink using a Phillips head screwdriver. After securing, the Phillips head is concealed with the faucet pop-up knob. Factory installed flexible supply hoses eliminate the need for additional supply lines and reduce the chance of leaks. Two finishes, chrome and brass, can be mixed and matched on the faucet for style, and the lavatory faucet is compatible with three- hole sinks. Warranty: Limited lifetime. Supply: Retail.

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