It may seem a prosaic subject to some, but to others kitchen taps are like a piece of jewellery that adorns the humble sink and can make an important design statement (it can also deliver water more or less efficiently too).
The conundrum for we Brits starts with the choice of separate taps (or faucets if you are reading in the USA) or mixer units. The choice of having two kitchen taps rather than a 2-in-1 kitchen mixer tap seems rather perverse but we like tradition in this as in many things and if that’s what you like, or if you are replacing old taps in an existing unit, then fitting new individual taps is the way to go.
Whichever you choose, the main distinguishing feature when compared with bathroom taps is that they are taller for a greater reach in the larger kitchen sinks, and to be able to fill kettles, pans, bowls etc. or clean larger items. A swivelling spout is a good feature to have and is essential when you have more than one sink bowl being served by the unit.
Mixer taps include models that have twin inlets, or a profile deck that fits flush to the sink, but accommodates two supply feeds that are separate. Do however check your existing centres (the distance between the centre of each pipe) before buying a unit to replace an old supply.
On a practical note, traditional budget taps have knurled circular knobs but these may not be easy to use for the arthritic or otherwise infirm. There is an increasing trend to fit the easy-to-use lever action taps, that can be activated by the elbow or back of the hand when you are doing dirty jobs or to avoid contamination when cooking. This is an added hygiene factor.
Another trend is towards the use of ¼ turn ceramic valves (which have two smooth ceramic discs, one turning, the other fixed). These have a quick, light, positive action and they handle high pressures better than conventional taps. They will last longer than conventional rubber washers although when they do give out they are more expensive to replace. On balance they are the best type to use and they will be fitted in most middle and upper-end models. However do check your water pressure: some of these taps require as much as 1 bar minimum pressure whereas traditional taps can cope with as low as 0.1 bar. You should also be aware that a little movement has a big effect with ceramic discs, so you can’t fine-tune the flow as easily. Beware splash-backs!
The final technical note is that you should buy flexible metal tap connectors to easily fit your chosen tap to an existing supply, so long as good-condition ones do not already exist. They will not be included with the tap itself. The vast majority of taps will have ½”connectors but some Continental makers such as Hansgrohe or Grohe use 3/8” hose ends. In this case you or your plumber will need to buy 15mm (the standard kitchen water pipe size) to 3/8” couplers from your local merchant. Check also whether your chosen unit requires a balanced water supply to operate correctly, and consult your plumber if this is a problem to achieve with your current water system. Kitchen tap water must be drinking water, coming directly from the mains, and not supplied from a storage tank such you have in an indirect system.
Would you like a Swan’s Neck?
Having got the installation aspects sorted, what about the style?
Designer models include the Edge Momo with its rectangular profile, the Grohe EuroSmart which has a ‘mousseur aerator’, and modernistic straight-line styles from Franke kitchen taps in the usual chrome but also in SilkSteel finish. The same manufacturer offers bi-fold Pot Filler Taps that fit to the wall but have a reach of up to 370mm.
Traditional styles are these days mostly monoblock but a few cater for twin holes. The Park Lane Britanny offers nickel or gold finishes.
More and more people now choose to make a big impact with the large Pull-Out Spray kitchen taps. These can be coy and self-effacing, hiding their flexible tube and spray head into a conventional tap barrel: or they can be OTT, with big looped coil spring features like the Italian Tuscany unit, or Franke’s wild styling (below) – black with LED lights, anyone?
Finally, consider the new must-have items for fitted kitchens that will really make the neighbours jealous. Boiling Hot Water Taps. The Insinkerator replaces your kettle and delivers filtered water to take out chlorine and other nasties. It needs a 35mm-38mm hole, 1300W/10A electricity, some space under the sink for the 2.5 litre tank and other equipment (see below), and the services of an electrician as well as your plumber. But it is a true talking point as well as being very practical (or so you can convince yourself…).