Kitchen taps have long been slightly overlooked in kitchen design in favour of high-quality appliances and beautiful and rare worktops. But kitchen taps are coming into their own with amazing and useful features that can really take the time and effort out the chores of life.
If you’re wondering if there’s such a thing as a quality budget mixer tap, the answer is generally no. You get what you pay for. We trust industry leading brands like The 1810 Company, Franke, and Quooker for good reason: they are better quality and worth paying for. We were asked recently by a client “I’ve found a tap on special offer and it looks like a real bargain, is it too good to be true?” So we decided to write about this and other considerations you should have when choosing a kitchen tap. With this guide, I’m starting with the technical and moving on to the fun choices in the second half of the article. Feel free to skip ahead if, for some unfathomable reason, you don’t want to know about ceramic disk cartridges…...
Kitchen tap materials and internal components
In terms of materials, the body of a tap is generally cast in brass or stainless steel. Some manufacturers consider stainless steel an improvement over brass as it should never corrode, but many premium kitchen tap manufacturers continue to use brass as it will long outlast other components (such as rubber seals) that will eventually cause any tap to fail.
Taps generally fail because of the internal mechanisms. Watch out for cheap taps with chrome plated plastic components (at the ball joint of the lever mechanism for example). Old tap designs use a valve and gasket to seal the tap. The tap handle was rotated to put the seal under pressure and stop the water flow, which would gradually wear the valve down.
Modern taps using ceramic disc cartridges are a significant improvement, in that they are not under pressure and do not wear out. They are also easily replaceable in the unlikely event of a failure. However, it’s important to avoid some designs that use both ceramic cartridge and gaskets. Flexible hose connections that come with the tap and connect to the plumbing under the worktop can vary widely in quality. Brands like The 1810 Company, who we use a lot, have fantastic quality components, and you can tell the difference just by picking the tap up when it’s delivered – it weights a ton.
Quality and finishes
Quality in taps doesn’t come down to one or two things. Generally a lot of small corners are being cut to allow some taps to be sold relatively cheaply. A bargain tap will look and perform pretty much as well as a quality tap to begin with but it will likely fail more quickly in one or more ways. A good rule of thumb is to look at the warranty. You are looking for a long warranty from the manufacturer. For example Franke give a 5 year guarantee on mechanisms, working parts and coatings.
On finishes, it is important not to confuse what the tap is coated in with what it is made from. Both brass and stainless steel can be polished or brushed (a silky satin finish), plated in various other metals (chrome, nickel and various alloys), as well as painted using a powder coating system (usually black or white, but some manufactures are starting to create taps in vibrant painted colours).
Chrome plate is a traditional finish and widely used but it a serious environmental polluter which is a reason we tend to avoid it. Applied finishes all have the risk of being chipped, scratched or rubbed away over time but the premium brands tend to use thicker platings with better quality control systems, and so their finish is more robust. We prefer to keep it simple in our kitchen designs by choosing uncoated products such as solid stainless steel or solid brass taps. These taps come in polished, brushed or satin, just as plated finishes do, but give you decades of uninterrupted service.
Monobloc, dual lever, and low-pressure taps
In the olden days, there was a tap for hot and a tap for cold. Now we have mixer taps, which are a big step forward. Within a quarter turn of the lever you can precisely control the flow rate and temperature, and the mechanism is longer lasting as it doesn’t rely on gasket seals. The amount of effort to close the tap is minimal making them much easier to use for children and anyone with limited hand mobility (arthritic conditions etc…). A monobloc mixer is a tap with one hole in the worktop through which hot and cold feeds are fed, all the mixing takes place inside the tap body, and usually a single lever controls everything. With fewer crevices and corners, they’re also easy to keep clean. A ‘dual lever’ tap is the same as a monobloc, but with a one lever for hot and one for cold.
Some buildings and areas can have low water pressure that prevents tap mixing mechanism from working properly. You can check this by timing filling a bucket from your tap. If you collect less than 10ltrs in one minute you have low pressure. There are low pressure mixer taps available, but we find it’s often best to install a water pressure booster pump, as this will help to sort the pressure no only in your new kitchen, but also in your bathrooms, utility rooms and WCs.
This isn’t like those annoying sensor activated taps at motorway service stations. Taps like the Grohe Minta Touch works as normal, but on top of the spout there is a sensor that you can touch with a wrist or forearm to turn the tap on if you have messy hands from kneading dough or the like.
If you have a question about kitchen taps, the extra features you can spec for them, or you’d like to talk to us about a project, we’d love to hear from you. You can use the form below to email us, or call us at the workshop on 0151 709 0970.
p.s. if you’d be interested in a longer, more in-depth, read on ceramic disk cartridges, you’re as sad as than we are!! ;)
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