DEAR TIM: I’m pulling my hair out looking at tub faucets. What’s complicating things is that I’m not yet settled on the exact tub to use. One Roman tub faucet I’ve seen was so elegant, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The clawfoot tub faucets are also beautiful, and that’s what’s got me on the fence. Can you help me decide what to do, and provide any tips when shopping for these distinctive faucets? Are there special installation requirements for these faucets? Rebekah K., Middleton, MA
DEAR REBEKAH: It can be mesmerizing gazing at tub faucets, especially in a showroom where the faucets are installed as they would be in your own home. It’s one thing to see a great photo of a faucet, but quite another thing to see that same faucet next to a tub. I’m sure you were projecting that faucet into your own finished bathroom with you relaxing in the tub.
As you might imagine, I’ve installed many tub shower faucets as well as just tub faucets. Many of my past customers suffered from the same paralysis that’s plaguing you. Surely you’re vexed wondering if you’ll make a mistake. It’s one thing to make an error when applying wall paint, but quite another when it comes to an expensive tub and faucet combination. A paint mistake might cost you several hours and $30 for a new can of paint. Make a mistake with a tub and faucet and you’re looking at thousands of wasted dollars.
Based upon what you’ve shared, I think you maybe are going about this selection backwards. You seem to be focused on the look of the tub faucet, when in my opinion, you should be considering the actual tub and its comfort. Maybe it’s a man thing, but in this case I absolutely want the tub to be super comfortable as the only thing the faucet does for me is fill the tub with water. But maybe you’re more interested in the overall look of your bathroom than its functionality.
Once you select the actual tub you want, that helps you whittle down the possible bathtub faucets you can use that fit and compliment that particular tub. If you’re sure you’re going to use a Roman tub or a clawfoot tub, you’re well over halfway home in your decision. You can’t install a platform tub faucet on either of these two tubs, and the traditional wall-mounted faucet just won’t work.
In my opinion, there are several very important things you have to keep in mind when you get ready to purchase one of these faucets. The first is overall quality of the faucet. Avoid the temptation to buy a discount faucet that’s just a knockoff of a high-quality name brand. Be absolutely sure the faucet will work with the tub you’ve chosen. You need to confirm the faucet spout can actually get the water into the tub. Some Roman tubs have wide ledges that the spout must pass over to get water safely into the tub basin.
The faucets for these tubs generally have exposed water supply lines and the faucets themselves are completely exposed. Traditional tub faucets are braced by the tub platform or are secured inside a wall. You must be sure you or the plumber can brace the faucet using decorative brackets to solid blocking in a nearby wall or to the tub if that’s what’s specified.
Failure to brace the faucet properly can result in a future catastrophic flood. If the faucet is not secure, over time it might disconnect from the water supply lines creating a small or massive water leak. The water supply lines and the faucet need to be rock solid.
The size of the hidden water supply lines feeding the decorative lines that rise above the floor must be large enough to satisfy the appetite of the faucet. The tubs you’re interested in usually require lots of water to fill them, and you want that water flowing into the tub quickly. Usually you’ll need 3/4-inch supply lines, both hot and cold, feeding the tub faucet. Check the written installation instructions that come with the faucet to verify all mission-critical installation guidelines.
As you search for faucets, you may discover they are called different things by different suppliers. For example, one company may call a claw foot tub faucet a leg tub faucet as these tubs sit up off the floor on tiny legs or feet. If you do gravitate towards a clawfoot tub, then be aware you may discover the faucets are called antique tub faucets as this tub style was popular well over 100 years ago.
If you plan to live in the house for some time, it might pay to purchase extra faucet cartridges when you buy the faucet. Sometimes these parts can be tough to find years later when you need them.
Be sure to follow the installation instructions with respect to flushing out the water lines before you do the final faucet connection. Debris in the water lines can clog faucet parts in seconds as you turn on the water for the first time.