How to Pick the Best Bathroom Faucet Finish


A row of faucets made of different metals

 

When you’re remodeling your bathroom, the faucet may seem like a small feature. However, the right faucet—and particularly the right finish for your faucet—is the final touch that can imbue your bathroom with design. So, how do you pick the best bathroom faucet finish? 

The faucet material, color or plating, and surface finish determine the final look. Brass is the most durable material; stainless steel is also good and less costly. Gold-plated is luxurious and stylish; chrome-plated is classic. Polished is readily available and style-safe; matte doesn’t show water marks.

The selection of a bathroom faucet finish is a very personal choice. You know what you like, what you need, what your design pet peeves are, what your budget limits are, etc. However, this doesn’t mean you have to make the selection alone. This article will give you a thorough run-down of various faucet finishes, as well as the pros and cons of each.

 

Do Some Visual Research

 

a couple chooses bathtub hardware

Before you start, visit a few of your local stores that have displays and showrooms for bathroom features. Have a look at what faucets are out there and available to you to get you in the frame of mind to make your decision. 

It’s hard to really know what the various finishes look like only by searching online. However, once you know what each one looks like, then you may want to look at images online to see how different faucet finishes look with different design styles and color palettes. This will help you to have a good idea of what you like, or at least what you do not like.  

During this process, many people wonder if their bathroom faucet finish should match light fixtures and doorknobs. Read this post for in-depth designer advice on bathroom finishes. But the short answer is that your bathroom faucet finish does not need to match as long as you have a cohesive design plan in mind.

 

Considerations for Picking the Best Bathroom Faucet Finish

waterfall-faucet with vessel sink

 

There are three aspects to your faucet finish that you need to look at:

  1. The material the faucet is made from.
  2. The surface finish (e.g., matte or polished).
  3. The color and plating of the finish.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What décor style are you going for? Traditional, industrial, minimalist, luxury, etc.
  • Is your budget tight, or is there some wiggle room?
  • Suppose you are only replacing your bathroom faucet, but you are keeping your existing towel bars, door handles, etc. In that case, do you want your new faucet to match these features, or are you happy for them to be mixed? (Don’t miss this post for a primer on mixing metal finishes in the bathroom.)
  • Do fingerprints and watermarks bother you? (Discover the easiest faucet finish to keep clean.)
  • What is the color scheme for your bathroom?
  • Is your bathroom used by a lot of people every day, or do you live alone?

 

Choosing a Faucet Material: Brass

 

Polished brass faucet from Kingston Brass. See it on Amazon.

 

 

Brass is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper and zinc. Small quantities of other metals are also added to provide new or enhance existing properties. 

For example, the addition of bismuth makes the brass more malleable, and the addition of aluminum increases strength and corrosion resistance.

 

Advantages of Faucets Made from Brass

 

Faucets that are made from brass are resistant to corrosion, which is a highly advantageous property for something whose function is to channel water.  

Brass faucets are durable. Partly due to their corrosion resistance and partly due to their mechanical strength, brass faucets are capable of lasting for a long time. 

Faucets that are made from brass have anti-bacterial properties. Copper metal is capable of killing bacteria and germs on contact. There is plenty of evidence of this fact, even if the way that copper kills microorganisms is uncertain. 

Brass faucets do not have to be plated in other metals. On its own, brass is beautiful and tough. There is no need to cover it in a protective or decorative plating. 

Faucets that are made from brass metal can be plated in other metals to alter the color of the finish. Even though brass faucets do not have to be plated, if you want the durability of brass but a different color finish, brass takes plating well.

Brass faucets can have different surface finishes depending on what décor you are trying to achieve in your bathroom. This means that your faucet will look like brass, but it can be a glossy brass, an antique brass, a matte brass, etc.

 

Disadvantages of Faucets Made from Brass

 

Faucets that are made from brass are more expensive than those made from other metals or plastic.

Antique or vintage faucets that are made from brass can contain higher levels of lead. Lead was a standard metal added to faucets and other household staples in the past. Since the discovery and research into its extreme toxicity to humans, it is excluded or only used at levels that meet the current health regulations.

 

When Should You Pick a Brass Faucet?

 

You should pick a brass faucet if:

  • you are planning on staying in your current house for a long time. As the most durable faucet material, brass is an investment. You probably won’t ever have to replace your bathroom faucet again.
  • you like the antique look. Un-plated brass faucets can be finished in a number of ways, but all give you that old-timey look.
  • you’re going for an industrial style in your bathroom. Unplated, antique finish brass faucets are very much in keeping with industrial-themed décor.
  • your bathroom has high traffic going through it. If you have a large family, lots of guests in your home, you run a bed and breakfast, etc., then a brass faucet is the material for you. Not only is it durable for all the use it will get, but the anti-bacterial properties will also be a value add.

 

When Should You Not Pick a Brass Faucet?

 

You should not pick a brass faucet if you have a small budget. Brass faucets are definitely not the cheapest option, so unless you can find an affordable secondhand option that you are able to fix up, it is not the ideal material for a small budget.

You should not pick a brass faucet if you do not know when it was made. If you’re hunting for your bathroom finishes in antique and vintage stores, you should limit yourself to things like handles and towel racks. Purchasing an old brass faucet is dangerous because it can contain toxic levels of lead.

 

Choosing a Faucet Material: Steel

 

Stainless Steel UFaucet, Lead-Free, Brushed Nickel Finish. See it on Amazon.

 

Steel is an iron-based metal alloy that is strengthened with a small amount of carbon. Other elements are added to the iron and carbon in differing amounts to yield the various types of steel that are available.

Stainless steel is the best steel option for bathroom faucets. In addition to iron and carbon, stainless steel contains chromium and nickel, which provide it with more beneficial properties.  

 

Advantages of Faucets Made from Stainless Steel Metal

 

Faucets that are made from stainless steel are corrosion resistant. The chromium in stainless steel reacts so readily with oxygen that it forms a layer of chromium oxide over the steel’s surface. Chromium oxide is inert and prevents any further reaction.

Stainless steel faycets are strong. The nickel in stainless steel helps to create a strong yet malleable alloy structure. However, it is not as durable as brass. 

Faucets that are made from stainless steel do not have to be plated with other metals. As with brass, stainless steel is aesthetically pleasing and requires no assistance in terms of protection. 

Stainless steel faucets can be plated with other metals to alter the color of the finish depending on what color scheme you want in your bathroom. If you want a strong faucet, but you prefer a different color to the natural blue-grey of stainless steel, you can plate it. 

Faucets that are made from stainless steel can have different surface finishes (e.g. matte, brushed, mirrored) depending on what décor style you are trying to achieve in your bathroom.

 

Disadvantages of Faucets Made from Stainless Steel Metal

 

Even though brass faucets tend to be the priciest option, faucets made out of stainless steel are not considered to be a cheap choice

Faucets that are made out of stainless steel can easily become scratched. This means that although they can last a long time due to their strength of structure, they can start to look shabby long before they are no longer functional. 

Stainless steel faucets are difficult to mold, so there are fewer design options. They are not impossible to mold into more intricate shapes and designs, but the price of these will be higher.

 

When Should You Pick a Stainless Steel Faucet?

 

You should pick a stainless steel faucet if:

  • you have chosen an industrial or modern décor in your bathroom. Unplated, stainless steel faucets fit in very well with both of these styles but are less costly than brass.
  • your bathroom has high traffic. If your bathroom sees quite a bit of traffic, then a stainless steel faucet is an excellent choice of a durable material that won’t cost as much as brass.
  • you’re planning to buy your bathroom faucet secondhand. First, it does not have the same lead concerns as old brass faucets. Second, buying used will also make it more affordable. Finally, because a stainless steel faucet is strong and durable, it’s likely to still be in good condition. It might just be a bit scratched, but you can look into refinishing it. 

 

When Should You Not Pick a Stainless Steel Faucet?

 

You should not pick a stainless steel faucet if scratches will eventually start to bother you. One scrape of a ring or a gritty child’s hand can cause scratches. 

You should not pick a stainless steel faucet if you have a small budget. Even though they are less expensive than brass faucets, stainless steel faucets may still be out of your price range.

 

Choosing a Faucet Material: Zinc

Zinc Alloy Smart Touch Sink Faucet by Yosoo. See it on Amazon.

 

 

Zinc faucets are also metal alloys. Primarily composed of zinc, the common alloying metals include aluminum, magnesium, and copper. 

 

Advantages of Faucets Made from Zinc

 

Faucets made from zinc alloys are the most affordable metal option for a bathroom faucet. This also makes them the most common.

These faucets can be plated in other metals to alter the color of the finish, depending on what decorating scheme you are looking for in your bathroom.

Faucets from zinc alloys are also very popular because of their affordability. This means you will have many zinc faucet models from which to choose.

 

Disadvantages Of Faucets Made From Zinc Metal

 

Faucets made from zinc alloys have to be plated with other metals. The color or plating finish, while an advantage, is not optional. Zinc alloys are naturally dull and grey and look quite shabby on their own. 

Zinc faucets are not resistant to corrosion. This means over time they will wear out and have to be replaced. 

 

When Should You Pick A Zinc Faucet?

 

Pick a zinc faucet if:

  • you have a small budget. Any type of metal faucet is better than the plastic option (cheapest), so if you have a tight budget, go with a zinc faucet. 
  • you’re renovating to sell. If you’re updating your bathroom to get a better sale price, then the zinc faucet is the one for you. It’s a completely acceptable faucet material, so buyers aren’t likely to complain, and you won’t have to spend all your money on a faucet that you will not even be using. 
  • you want to plate it a different color. Even though brass and stainless steel faucets can be plated, it almost seems like a waste or a pity. Also, plating costs extra, so why add that to the price of these more expensive metals? Zinc, however, has to be plated, so it’s the better choice.

When Should You Not Pick A Zinc Faucet?

 

Don’t pick a zinc faucet if durability is your primary concern. There are not too many reasons to avoid a zinc faucet, except for concerns around durability; it’s definitely not going to last forever. Even if the finish holds up well through care, the inside that comes into contact with water will wear away. 

 

Faucet Material: Plastic

 

Chrome Plated Bathroom Faucet Over ABS Plastic. See it on Amazon.

 

 

Faucets can also be made from plastic, but it is not at all a recommended material. 

 

Advantages of Plastic Faucets

 

Plastic faucets are the absolute cheapest option

Faucets that are made out of plastic can be plated in metal to provide the outer part of the faucet with increased strength and protection. 

 

Disadvantages of Plastic Faucets

 

Faucets that are made out of plastic are most susceptible to wear and do not last long. This means that, even though they initially cost less, you’ll have to replace them sooner and more often, which can add up.

 

When Should You Pick A Plastic Faucet?

 

You should pick a plastic faucet if this is really the only option that is in your budget. 

 

When Should You Not Pick A Plastic Faucet?

 

You should not pick a plastic faucet if you can afford any other type of faucet. 

 

Selecting a Faucet Surface Finish

 

When it comes to choosing a faucet surface finish, there are advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately, it comes down to what you like the look of. 

 

Polished Metal

 

Polished nickel faucet from Kingston Brass. See it on Amazon.

 

Advantages: Polished metal gives your bathroom that clean, sleek look, which goes so well with almost every décor style. It’s classy and classic, and you can’t go wrong with a polished metal surface finish. It’s also the most common surface finish, so you’ll have many faucet options. 

 

Disadvantages: The one major drawback of a polished metal faucet surface finish is that it easily shows water marks and fingerprints, which are inevitable on a bathroom faucet. So, if this is one of your pet peeves, you’re likely to get frustrated and spend far too much of your time trying to keep your faucet looking untouched. 

 

Brushed Or Satin Metal

 

 

Brushed Nickel Finish on Waterfall Bathroom Faucet. See it on Amazon

 

A brushed metal surface finish for faucets is the matte option. In black faucets, this finish is called matte black. 

Brushed metal faucets do not have the same shine to them as polished metal. It is a less common look, and not everyone likes it. 

Advantages: One major advantage of the brushed or satin surface finish is that it does not show water marks and fingerprints. This makes them easier to maintain. 

Disadvantages: Some are put off because they think this finish will feel rough, like a nail file. However, this finish doesn’t feel that way. While it won’t have the glass-like feel of the polished metal, it still feels relatively smooth.

 

Oil-Rubbed Metal

 

Oil-Rubbed Nickel Delta Widespread Faucet. See it on Amazon.

 

Oil-rubbed finishes can be thought of as the metal version of wood staining. Oil is rubbed into the metal to give it a different, typically darker, look. 

Advantages: Oil-rubbing is an excellent way to get a dark-colored faucet without having to plate it, and it’s perfect for Tuscan-styled décor. Additionally, since this is not a high-polish finish, water marks and fingerprints will not be an issue, making it easy to maintain. 

Disadvantages: There are some drawbacks to this surface finish. It’s a bit more expensive, and there is also no standardization, so one manufacturer’s oil-rubbed brass will not look the same as another’s. This means that if you want a matching set of finishes, you’ll have to buy them all together. 

 

Faucet Finish: Physical Vapor Deposition

 

Before moving onto the color and plating options for faucets, you need to be aware of something called Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD). This refers to a stronger method of sealing the finish to the faucet. 

PVD makes faucets incredibly durable, protecting against corrosion, scratches, and even chemical cleaners. The only problem is that it does raise the price of the faucet.

 

Choosing a Faucet Color and Plating

 

As with the surface finish, color and plating come down to preference. Below, you are presented with the options and some advantages and disadvantages of each to help you make your choice. 

 

Brass

 

Brass faucet with brushed finish. See it on Amazon.

If you can’t afford a completely brass faucet, you can plate it in brass. A brass plating will imbue even zinc faucets with durability, corrosion resistance, and some anti-bacterial properties. 

There are three  surface finishes for brass:

1. Polished brass has classic gold-tone. Polished brass is relatively low maintenance, but fingerprints and water marks show easily.

2. Satin or brushed brass has the same warm gold color as polished brass, but it is matte. Satin brass is neither high-maintenance nor does it show up marks and prints. 

3. Antique brass is a duller and darker but still distinctly gold-toned matte finish. Antique brass requires some maintenance, but it does hide fingerprints and water marks.

Brass is an excellent finish in the following décor styles:

 

  • Traditional
  • Industrial (antique specifically)
  • Modern
  • Mediterranean

 

Bronze

 

Bathroom faucet by Delta with Venetian bronze finish. See it on Amazon.

 

There are two primary types of bronze faucet finishes: Oil-rubbed and satin.

Oil-rubbed bronze is popular with many people because it is an incredibly striking finish. The color can range from a rich red-brown to a deep brown-black. It’s a durable finish, and it doesn’t show marks and prints. 

However, it can be challenging to match, and it is what is referred to as a “living finish.” You may love how it looks when you buy it, but it won’t always look like that. 

Satin or Venetian bronze is also matte (no prints or marks). It is lighter than the oil-rubbed finish, and it is easier to clean.

Bronze is an excellent finish in the following décor styles:

 

  • Traditional
  • Mediterranean
  • Industrial
  • Rustic

 

Chrome

JAKARDA single handle waterfall faucet with polished chrome finish. See it on Amazon.

 

Chrome is the most traditional plating for faucets. It is the classic neutral, grey-silver color that you see everywhere. 

Polished chrome is easy to clean, but you do have to wipe it down more often to remove water marks and fingerprints. It’s widely available on a broad range of faucet shapes, and it is inexpensive.

Brushed chrome is the matte version and is therefore resistant to water marks and fingerprints. 

Chrome is an excellent finish in the following décor styles:

  • Traditional
  • Minimalist
  • Modern
  • Scandinavian
  • Mid-century

 

Copper

Akikon copper finished, single-hole brass bathroom faucet. See it on Amazon.

 

In an all-white or neutral-colored bathroom, a copper faucet immediately becomes the center of attention, bringing in a unique red tone and making your bathroom something out of the ordinary.  

It ages and heals (after being scratched, etc.), which means that the finish is ever-evolving. Additionally, plating your faucet in copper gives it anti-bacterial properties. 

However, copper can be scratched easily, and it tarnishes without maintenance. The tarnish comes out in a soft blue-green color, blending into the reds, but if you do not like this look, you’ll need to work hard to keep your copper faucet shiny. 

Copper is an excellent finish in the following décor styles:

 

  • Rustic (perfectly suited for this style)
  • Traditional
  • Tuscan
  • Industrial (as a nod to open water pipes) 

 

Matte Black

 

Delta 3-hole brass bathroom faucet with matte black finish. See it on Amazon.

 

Matte black is quite a new style of faucet finish. Matte black bathroom faucets can be striking in light-colored bathrooms, or they can be subtle against a darker feature wall. It doesn’t show fingerprints or water marks. 

Scratches are quite noticeable against the black, and your choices will be limited due to the rareness of this finish. It also makes these faucets more costly.

Matte black is an excellent finish in the following décor styles:

 

  • Industrial
  • Modern

 

Nickel

 

Moen farmhouse bathroom faucet with spot-free brushed nickel finish. See it on Amazon.

 

Nickel and chrome are the two finishes that you will see everywhere and which are often compared to each other. 

Nickel, like chrome, can be polished or brushed and is a very neutral finish. Compared to chrome, nickel finishes have a warmer tone and appear slightly darker. 

Polished nickel is not as easy to find or as inexpensive as chrome or even brushed nickel. It also shows prints and marks, but it is easy to clean.

Brushed nickel is a really popular faucet finish, so you can usually find it in a wide variety of faucet styles and for reasonable prices. It is easy to clean, doesn’t show marks or prints, and is known to be a very durable finish. 

Nickel is an excellent finish in the following décor styles:

 

  • Luxurious
  • Traditional
  • Victorian
  • Coastal

 

Choosing the Best Bathroom Faucet Finish

 

Now you know how to pick the best bathroom faucet finish for your decor and objectives.

Choosing the material that your faucet is made from is more straightforward than selecting the color, plating, and surface finish. This is because some materials are just objectively better as faucets than others. 

Sometimes, the material that your chosen faucet is made from can help you decide on color, plating, and surface finish. (For example, if you have a brass faucet, why cover it with plating?) 

Otherwise, the main things you should consider are your budget, your bathroom décor style, and if water marks and fingerprints bother you. 

Shana

Shana Burg is a bath enthusiast, content strategist, and award-winning writer. She is the founder of bathtubber.com.

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