How to Choose a Bathroom Faucet

Know your bath faucet type, then let the finish make a statement

How to Choose a Bathroom Faucet - Buying Guide

If you are replacing an old faucet or installing one in a new bathroom, you will have no trouble finding one to complement your décor. With four basic styles and an array of finishes to choose from, you will find the bath faucet that best expresses your style without sacrificing performance. 

This guide will help you understand your faucet options.

Faucet Types

Faucets are generally available in four types: single hole, centerset, widespread and wall mount. If you are replacing an old faucet, your new faucet may need to be the same type as the old one, depending on the installation setup.

The design of your sink plays a large part in determining which type of faucet you’ll install.

Single-Hole Faucets

  • Simple to install and maintain
  • Compact and easy to use
  • Often used on smaller sinks and may have an optional cover plate
  • Usually have one handle connected to the spout, though some may have separate handles for hot and cold water

Centerset Faucets

  • Ideal for smaller, predrilled or pre-existing basins
  • Combine the handles and spout on a 4-inch base unit
  • The most commonly used faucet, least expensive and easiest to install

Widespread Faucets

  • Standard spread of at least 8 inches
  • Feature hot- and cold-water valves that are separate from the spout
  • Often more expensive than other types but allow for a wide range of placement options
  • Mini-widespread faucets (minispreads) have a spread of 4 inches

For something different, consider a wall-mounted faucet. Pair one with an above-counter basin for an especially striking look. While they may be more difficult to install, wall-mounted faucets reduce clutter on the sink and make cleanup easier.


Spouts may be aerated or nonaerated. Handles come in a wide range of styles including ring-type cylinder, round, cross and lever, and may be a single unit or separate for customized hot- and cold-water control.


Aerated spouts mix air with the water and utilize a screen and restrictor to limit flow while simultaneously improving water pressure.

Nonaerated spouts do not have a screen and allow water to flow freely, causing a waterfall-like effect.


Touchless electronic handles help conserve water by shutting off automatically as soon as you are done washing your hands. The internal valve mechanism is crucial to high-quality operation, as it governs the flow of water through the spout.

Compression valves, which feature a rubber washer to stem the flow of water, are the most common type, but they tend to drip when the washers become worn. Consider choosing a ball, cartridge or ceramic-disc valve for better performance.

This chart details some of the features and a few points to consider for each type of valve.

Faucet Type Characteristics


  • Features rubber washers that stop the flow of water
  • Washers eventually wear out, but are cheap and easy to replace
  • May begin to drip over time

Ball washerless

  • Uses a ball valve
  • Durable and reliable
  • Uses a slotted metal ball to control flow
  • Must be used with a single-handle faucet

Cartridge washerless

  • Uses a cartridge valve
  • Durable and reliable
  • May be used with single- or two-handle faucets
  • Easy to repair

Ceramic disk washerless

  • Features ceramic disks that move against each other to stop the flow of water
  • Durable and reliable
  • May be used with single- or two-handle faucets
  • More expensive
  • Usually have extended warranties


Many manufacturers offer lifetime finishes that won’t tarnish over time to ensure that your faucet looks great for years. Commonly used finishes include chrome, brass, colored, gold plate, nickel, stainless steel and PVD.

  • Chrome may have a polished, brushed or matte finish and is durable and economical.
  • Brass is ideal for traditional styles, and faucets with lifetime finishes resist fading, scratches and corrosion.
  • Colored finishes may be coated with epoxy or baked-on enamel and are easy to clean.
  • High-quality gold plate won’t tarnish, though it is more expensive.
  • Nickel may be brushed or satin and is stylish, durable and easy to clean.
  • Stainless steel is stylish and won’t show water spots, though it is often more expensive.
  • PVD, or physical vapor deposition, is highly durable and resists abrasion and discoloration.

Faucet Features

Choose from features such as anti-scald protection, filtration systems and adjustable flow-rate restrictors to customize your faucet.

Anti-Scald Protection

If you have young children or elderly parents in your house, you may want to consider installing a faucet with built-in anti-scald protection so they won’t accidentally burn themselves.


Sinks with filtration systems provide high-quality drinking water, helping you save money on bottled water.

Common-Valve Setup

Some newer sinks feature common-valve architecture that fits a number of different faucet types, allowing you to remodel or upgrade your existing faucet simply by unscrewing the handle and spout from the top.

Adjustable Flow-Rate Restrictor

If you are concerned about conserving water or live in an area where your water supply is limited, an adjustable flow-rate restrictor will give you complete control over how much water you use.