Freedom from repairs - this is the ideal toward which the plumbing brass industry has been striving. Designers have done their utmost to attain simplicity and efficiency in the mechanical parts of the faucet.
A leak in a faucet starts when the faucet begins to drip. Hence, faucet engineers began their task of improving the faucet with a study of what causes faucets to drip, and therefore devoted their attention particularly to an improvement and a strengthening of those parts of the faucet involved in this problem. Out of this research have come numerous improvements in faucet seats, in the composition of the material out of which faucet washers are made, in the mechanism for bringing the washer down on the seat, etc.
There is only one thing with which the faucet engineers have found themselves unable to cope - that is the abuse of the faucet by the person using it. A faucet is abused when it is not completely turned off and allowed to drip. The action of the water cuts the seat and wears crevices in it just as a tiny stream trickling through a dike will wear a hole which will assume dangerous proportions. Another common abuse of the faucet is the application of too much pressure in closing it. This, too, damages the washer and seat and has a tendency to throw the mechanism out of line.
Obviously, a faucet is only as good as the metal from which it is made. Reputable manufacturers - those who sell their products through competent and established master plumbers - understand the metallurgical problems involved in the manufacture of brass that will stand up under the daily use in the home.
Manufacturers who do not hesitate to guarantee their faucets are extremely careful about the brass mixture. In addition to a high copper content, the mixture must be such as to permit accurate machining and insure against sand holes and other similar defects which are often caused by the use of a haphazard mixture.
1 Adapted from "Some Facts about Faucets," Small Home, February, 1931.
Years ago nickel was the standard plating for faucets. Nickel, however, must be polished frequently in order to maintain its appearance. After years of polishing, nickel loses its luster and eventually all the plating is worn away and the brass shines through. The use of cheap polishing compounds, which are invariably very abrasive, hastens this wearing of the nickel. The polishing necessary to keep nickel is distasteful to the housewife.
Thus, for a number of reasons the plumbing industry as well as the housewife has hailed the use of chromium as a plating for faucets and fittings.
Chromium is distinctively the metal of this labor-saving age. It needs no daily polishing and scouring. Just an occasional wiping with a cloth is all that chromium needs to retain its luster. Chromium is hard and durable. It does not dull, corrode, or tarnish. Chromium is highly resistant to fruit and vegetable acids, gases, salt, air, and other elements which dull and discolor most other metals and finishes. When properly applied, it will give lasting service - just how long no one knows because chromium has only recently come into general use.
Chromium-plated fixtures naturally cost more than nickel-plated fittings because of the price of the plating solution and the more difficult process of application.
Unfortunately for the public, there are ways to cheapen chromium plating. A faucet may be given just a "flash" of chromium, that is, it may be left in the chromium bath for only a short time. For the average person, it will be difficult if not impossible to tell the inadequately coated piece of chromium from the thoroughly coated fitting which has been in the bath for half an hour and has been polished and buffed. Time alone will tell.....
There are various kinds of handles for faucets. A handle may be of metal and plated with any of the platings just mentioned or it may be of china or of glass.
Handles are made in a variety of styles and shapes. Everyone, of course, is familiar with the lever type of handle. This may be made of metal, china, or glass.
The most popular type of handle is the four-arm handle, which, as the name indicates, has four arms which may be used for turning. This is made in metal, china, and glass.
Some manufacturers make a three-arm handle and others make four-arm handles with metal balls at the end, and a five-arm handle.
One manufacturer has introduced a radical change in handle construction known as the handle with "finger-tip" control. Since one of the prevalent abuses of the faucet is for the user to seize the handle and turn off the water with all the strength he has in his hands, this manufacturer reasons that if a faucet has a handle which can be manipulated with the fingers only, the chances for damage to the faucet seat are greatly lessened.....
We turn now to a detailed examination of the faucets made for different types of fixtures.
Let us step into a modern kitchen with an up-to-date sink with two deep compartments for washing and rinsing dishes and a roomy drain-board.
We see on this type of sink a faucet utterly unknown to the housewives of a generation ago. It is a faucet with a swinging spout through which the housewife may draw hot water, cold water, or tempered water. The swinging spout permits her to send the water into either compartment. The compartments are eight inches deep and equipped with a clever combination stopper and strainer. At the twist of the lever, the metal stopper finds its seat and the water sent into the sink is kept in the compartment. This device makes the dishpan and dishrag obsolete because the deep compartment itself serves as a dishpan.
After the dishes have been washed, they may be rinsed with scalding hot water from a hose and spray.....In some faucets, the hose is attached to the swinging spout; while in other faucets, there is a separate connection for the hose and the water is sent through either the hose or the spout by the turning of a diverting valve.
The soap dish mounted on the faucet may be metal or of vitreous china. Here again, as in many other things, the purchaser gets exactly what he pays for. Quality faucets have either a chromium plated soap dish or a dish made of genuine twice-fire vitreous china. Inferior faucets have a china soap dish made out of second-rate clays fired at a low temperature. These dishes will eventually show stains made by the acids in the soap, or crazes, that is, hair-line cracks in the glaze.
Progressive manufacturers have spared no pains to make their best kitchen faucets the last word in efficiency and in construction. Recognizing the fact that crevices are dirt-catchers, they have so constructed their faucets that there are no inaccessible places. ....
A triple faucet is made for use in districts where a connection for drinking water is needed in addition to the customary hot and cold water connection.....
The valves for the kitchen sink faucet may be entirely concealed behind the wall.....
Most interesting, too, are the changes that have taken place in the construction and design of faucets, escutcheons, and drains for lavatories. They may be summarized as follows:
1. Beauty, distinction and symmetry of form and line, ....
2. The combination faucet which enables the user of the faucet to wash with tempered water.
3. Concealment of valves.
4. The use of the pop-up drain control methods to replace the obsolete plug and chain.
There are four advantages of the combination faucet: It enables the person using the lavatory to wash in tempered water; washing in tempered water results in a saving of hot water with consequent economy of gas or whatever fuel is used to heat the water; there is more space on the slab of the lavatory for toilet articles or other accessories; and there is less metal to clean.
Economy of space on the lavatory slab is an advantage of the combination faucet. More and more to-day the bathroom is being used as a dressing room. The number of toilet articles and accessories produced is constantly increasing. While the plumbing industry produces special dressing tables that match lavatories and while some lavatories are made with room at the side for use as a dressing table, the fact remains that most people will continue to use the conventional lavatory for resting toilet articles. When a combination faucet is used, practically the entire slab is free for use as the person may wish.
There is still another way to get even more space on the lavatory slab. This is by concealing the control valve in the wall and supplying tempered water through a china spout which is an integral part of the lavatory. When this is done, only the pop-up drain control is on the lavatory slab.
We turn now to the faucets and fittings available for bathtubs. Bathroom conditions and bathing habits differ. One arrangement of supply and waste will prove most convenient and satisfactory to some; others will prefer a different one. But all want fittings that are lasting and not likely to get out of order. A good tub deserves a good supply and a good waste. The importance of the latter is frequently overlooked by many people who build or buy houses. A cheap waste is an inefficient waste; it will drain the tub so slowly that most persons will become impatient while waiting for it to drain. The ring around the tub which results will increase the housewife's work of cleaning the tub.
The tub on legs is out-of-date and with it have gone exposed pipes for the bathtub. All the supply pipes for the modern bathtub are concealed.
In conclusion, attention should be called to improvements in the internal mechanism of the faucet. While years ago nearly all faucets were Fuller faucets, today all faucets are compression faucets. A modification of the compression faucet is very popular today. This quick compression faucet closes with from one quarter to a half turn while the compression faucet closes with one turn.
There are different ways in which this quick closing of the faucet is attained. Some manufacturers use a thread with a steep pitch. Others use a double thread. The double thread is said to have the additional advantage of making the construction of the faucet more rugged and preventing possible wabbling of bath faucets with a long stem.
The compression faucet derived its name from the fact that it shuts off the water when a composition washer is made to close on a metal seat. The washer and the seat, therefore, are the two parts of the faucet which receive the greatest amount of wear. All faucets are so constructed that the washer may be easily replaced. It has taken more ingenuity, however, to devise methods of making the seat renewable.
It is cheaper to make a faucet with an integral seat. When the seat of a cheap faucet is damaged, it is possible to trim the worn edge away with a special reseating tool, but usually this is as expensive as the purchase of a new faucet.
All better grades of faucets have some kind of a renewable seat. Various manufacturers have attained this end in different ways. Some have the seat in a barrel which easily slides out of the faucet. Others have a kind of disc seat which is readily removable.
To minimize the effect of the grinding motion which takes place when a washer is forced on the seat as the faucet is closed, some manufacturers have perfected a swivel movement in the part holding the washer. The effect of the swivel device is to allow more play in the seating action and to equalize wearing by preventing the washer from coming in contact with the seat in the same way every time it is closed.
The advantage of all these improvements will be more readily apparent when one remembers that damage to faucet seats results from failure to close the faucet with consequent dripping of water and cutting of the seat by the presence of foreign elements, such as metal, shavings, sand, etc., in the water.
The better faucets have anti-splashing devices built in the spout. There is also a difference in washers. Cheap washers give trouble in the hot-water faucet because they will swell up. When a faucet needs a new washer, it pays to buy it from a plumbing contractor because good washers will give many years of service.