I was shocked to learn that there are so many types of bathtub faucets—and some of these can be more expensive than the bathtub itself.
The basic bathtub faucet types are wall-mounted, floor-mounted and deck-mounted. Beyond that additional considerations include the number of pieces, the spout height, the valve material, flow rate, rust resistance, as well as the style and finish.
Though it might be tempting to grab the first bathtub faucet that fits your budget, you’d be wise to spend an extra few minutes to consider the following:
What Is the Purpose of Your Bathtub Faucet?
Are you looking to create a statement piece? Or do you just want something functional and affordable?
Bathtub Faucets as Works of Art
Floor mounted faucets are often considered works of art and are priced accordingly. A well-made floor mounted faucet is gorgeous on the outside and the inside, using high-quality aluminum coils that will make it last for 15 years. A knock-off faucet might look beautiful too, but touch the material and it won’t feel as sturdy. On the inside, you may get plastic coils that wear out in a few years.
Functional and Affordable Bathtub Faucets
If you are looking for a new tub faucet to give an updated look but don’t want to break the bank, consider a slip-on spout. These very reasonable priced pieces of hardware will fit over an existing spout that might be ancient and provide a contemporary look. Or maybe you are preparing a home for resale. You want something basic but beautiful that has universal appeal and doesn’t appeal to one specific aesthetic taste.
Major Bathtub Faucet Types
You’ll want to choose the best bathtub faucet for your space. This requires you to take into account the various options available for your particular tub type, as well as whether you’re replacing an existing bathtub faucet or starting with a new tub.
Usually, after cost, the biggest consideration is what type of bathtub faucet you want. Here are the three major types:
This type of faucet is most versatile and can work for any tub type and doesn’t depend upon the placement of the tub in the bathroom. That’s because the parts of a deck-mounted faucet are built into a mini shelf usually made of porcelain or wood. The “deck” or shelf is then affixed to the ledge of the bathtub. The beauty of a deck-mounted faucet is that if there are leaks or other problems, you don’t need to dig up the floor or the wall to get to the plumbing.
These are dramatic, statement pieces that often accompany freestanding tubs. These faucets are exposed piping that run from the floor to just above the ledge of the bathtub, and depending on quality, a floor-mounted faucet can easily cost more than a freestanding bathtub. Installing this type of faucet requires drilling a hole in the floor and making repairs can be quite complicated. Usually, these faucets are used in a large bathroom with a tub placed in the center.
A wall-mounted faucet is the most popular of the three types and is available in the widest variety at a great range of price points. Wall-mounted faucets are used when the bathtub is placed flush against the wall, such as with alcove tubs.
Installation: Holes and Spacing
When purchasing a bathtub faucet, consider how many holes you are willing to make in your bathroom walls, floor or bathtub in order to install your desired faucet. In terms of holes, faucets come in two basic varieties: 1-hole faucets and 3-hole faucets.
These have one spout and one handle that you swivel to the left for hot water and to the right for cold. This is easier for a plumber install than a 3-hole faucet and so will likely be less expensive.
If you are replacing an existing bathtub faucet, you’ll want to carefully consider what holes already exist. Matching the bathtub faucet type that you choose as the replacement to the existing holes can save you installation time and money.
With these, you’ve got a spout, plus separate hot and cold knobs. This set-up gives you more control over the precise water temperature, but a 3-hole faucet is more prone to leaks than a 1-hole faucet.
Of course, additional pieces of hardware like a handheld showerhead or a soap dispenser will add additional holes.
Bathtub Faucet Spacing
There are two types of “spreads” to consider for your bathroom faucet: centerset and widespread. The “spread” refers to the distance between the pieces of hardware.
When you are using a three-hole faucet, usually the handles and spout are placed up to four inches apart from each other. This creates the aesthetic that the three pieces of hardware function as a single unit.
A widespread bathroom faucet set-up spaces the pieces six to twelve inches apart. Often this can be used to create a modern vibe with deck-mounted hardware. It sometimes includes a spout, hot and cold water handles, as well as soap dispenser and shower wand.
Bathtub Faucet Styles
Bathtub faucets come in a variety of styles. Major faucet styles include the Roman Faucet, the Vintage Faucet and the Waterfall Faucet.
All types of bathtub faucets come in a variety of styles and finishes. You can find a vintage look for a clawfoot tub or an ultra-modern style for a contemporary freestanding. You can choose styles that blend in or ones that make a statement. Here are a few popular styles:
A Roman faucet is deck-mounted into the ledge of the bathtub. It conveys a classic elegance with an arched spout. This spout adds a look of luxury that can add to resale value.
This type of bathroom faucet replicates the look of a waterfall. The spout is typically wide to generate this natural, soothing effect. You can find waterfall faucets in both contemporary styles with sleek lines and in traditional styles with more classic lines.
Find The Bathtubber’s selection of best waterfall faucets here—we’ve picked our favorite wall-mounted, deck-mounted and freestanding waterfall tub faucets. They are high-quality and absolutely gorgeous!
These faucets look like they came straight from the Victorian era. They often come with a telephone showerhead, which has the look of a corded rotary telephone.
Bathtub Faucet Metals
Bathtub faucets come in a wide variety of metals. Each metal comes in a vast array of finishes from satin, to brushed, to hammered. Common bathtub faucet metals include brass, brushed nickel, chrome and zinc.
Can be a gorgeous finish but requires polishing on a regular basis to keep beautiful. Unlikely to rust, it comes in polished, brushed and hammered varieties.
In a comparable price-range to chrome, adding brushed nickel hardware can update a bathroom in a flash. Nickel appears in yellow or whitish hues.
One of the most popular finishes for a bathroom faucet, chrome is durable and can be used in modern and traditional designs. Chrome has cool blue tones.
This metal is cheap and not very durable. Try a different option if you can.
Some bathtub faucet metals are more resistant to rust than others. It’s the overall quality of the hardware that matters most, because a thin coating of a rust-resistant metal on the outside will not prevent a faucet from corroding on the inside. One indication of high-quality hardware is usually its heft.
Better materials are heavier. But if you’re ordering your hardware online, you may not have the option to lift multiple pieces.
Also, a plastic valve inside your faucet is likely to corrode much more quickly than a ceramic coil, but you will pay a price for the better inside parts.
Flow Rate: How Fast Will Your Bathtub Fill?
The flow rate measures how much water flows through your bathtub valve per minute. The flow rate directly correlates to how long it takes the tub to fill.
A valve with a ¾ inch opening is considered high-flow and allows you to fill a larger tub more quickly, before the water cools. A high-flow faucet might output 16 gallons per minute. Let’s say we’ve got a freestanding tub that holds 100 gallons. This will take 6.25 minutes to fill with the high-flow valve.
A faucet for a standard tub typically uses a ½ inch valve opening with a regular faucet that might output between 4 and 7 gallons per minute. Let’s say my valve outputs 6 gallons per minute and I’ve got a standard tub I want to fill with 60 gallons of water. This will take 10 minutes with a regular valve.
Spout Height and Reach
The spout height refers to the space between the rim of the tub and the opening of the faucet spout. Measure the height of the tub from the floor and then be sure that the faucet hovers 4 to 8 inches above the rim of the bathtub. If the arch is too high, the water will splash as the tub fills.
The spout reach refers to the distance the spout protrudes beyond the wall or rim of the tub. You’ll need the spout to easily clear the rim of the tub so that water doesn’t splash onto the floor, but you don’t want the spout so long that it significantly reduces the available bathing area in the tub.
Bathroom Faucet Types: Beauty Is Skin Deep
If there’s one thing to remember about choosing a bathroom faucet, it’s that beauty is skin deep. You want to be sure you are getting a quality piece on the inside as well as the out.
After you’ve ensured that, then by all means, go for something stunning that won’t blend into the wallpaper but will make you smile every time you get into the tub.
What Are the Best Ways to Conserve Water for Bathing?
While you can have a gorgeous bathtub faucet, your inner piping can include a diverter that will send used bath water to your garden. This will save the earth and save you money. Gently used bathwater is called greywater.
There are low, medium and high-tech methods to help you recycle greywater. However, if you choose to reuse bath water for your garden or laundry, you’ll need to consider the types of shampoos and soaps that you use in the tub. Interested? Read more here.
How Can You Plan for a Successful Bathroom Remodel?
Maybe you’re choosing bathtub faucets as part of a bathroom remodel. If so, reduce your stress by following our 10-Step Plan for a Successful Bathroom Remodel. This plan will help you get clear on your motivation, commit to a budget and match solutions to costs. That includes finding the perfect hardware to highlight your gorgeous, updated bathroom without breaking the bank.