Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter
Whether used for a wash basin, shower or bath, taps are essential to your bathroom. Make savings with a thermostatic mixing valve or choose style with a vintage dual handle mixer or waterfall tap. From traditional spouts to aerators, there are plenty of options out there. Read on to find the right bathroom tap for you!
- Dual handle mixer tap
- Single lever mixer tap
Replacing a bathroom tap
Whether you're installing a new bathroom, renovating an old one or you've just found yourself with a leaky faucet, it may be necessary to repair or change the taps on your wash basin, shower or bathtub. Here are a few important points to take note of:
- Double handle mixers are not very efficient or practical to use; they are mainly chosen for their vintage-style look;
- Single lever mixers are popular for wash basins and showers as they are convenient, inexpensive and efficient;
- Thermostatic mixing valves are perfect for showers as they regulate and maintain temperatures with precision (recommended for elderly people and those with reduced mobility).
You may wish to opt for a water-saving tap with an anti-scald valve to avoid the risk of burning yourself. If your tap features a plug attachment (i.e. a waste lever), check that the plug size is compatible with your drainage hole.
Low-end bathroom taps tend to feature basic designs, low-quality finishes and will often be the first taps to leak. If you want to avoid having to repair or change your tap after 2 or 3 years of use, the most important piece of advice to keep in mind is to opt for a well-known brand offering a warranty that covers at least 5 years.
Beyond that, be sure to choose the right size of spout for your wash basin and pick a tap that suits your tastes! From side to top handles and modern or traditional designs, there's a wide selection of taps to choose from. When it comes to caring for your tap, most models are chrome-plated meaning they can be cleaned using basic household cleaning products. Aged brass taps alone will require a little more love and attention.
The difference between single lever and dual handle mixer taps
Dual handle mixer taps
Dual handle mixer taps feature two handles; one draws hot water and the other cold water. To achieve the right temperature, you have to mix the hot and cold water together. The rate of cold and hot water must be adjusted with each use. The handles will usually feature blue and red indices to indicate the cold and hot taps, respectively.
The hot and cold handles of dual handle mixers come in two different types:
- Traditional tap valves cut off the water via a rubber washer mounted on the end of a compression valve. This rubber seal is subject to wear and tear and can be easily replaced. In the event of a leak, simply isolate your water supply, remove the tap cover and unscrew the tap stem. Remove the rubber washer and be sure to replace it with one of the same size;
- Ceramic tap valves offer more comfortable use as you do not have to rotate the handle through several turns; a quarter-turn should suffice. Ceramic tap valves have a longer service life but should still be replaced in case of leaks.
Single lever mixer taps
Single lever mixer taps feature just one handle which is turned from side to side to adjust the temperature of the water and from top to bottom to achieve the right flow rate. Single lever mixers are more convenient as you only require one hand to use them. They are also more efficient as you can leave the handle in place to maintain the right temperature.
Some single lever mixers feature an anti-scald valve fitted with a washer to limit the flow of hot water. This system is practical for young children and elderly people (although a thermostatic mixing valve will always be the better choice).
It is also possible to add a flow restrictor to your tap. These fittings are placed in the tap body and allow you to reduce your flow rate by around 50%. Some models are equipped with a push button that can simply be pressed to return to normal flow rate.
Waterfall mixer taps are being used for more and more whirlpool baths. For even more style, you can go for a waterfall mixer equipped with LED lights.
Thermostatic mixing valves
Thermostatic mixing valves offer real comfort as they allow you to make precise temperature adjustments to the water. Thermostatic mixing valves feature two handles:
- one handle is used for temperature adjustments;
- the other handle is used to regulate flow rate.
Thermostatic mixing valves are marked with temperatures for easy adjustments. You just need to set your valve once to enjoy the same temperature each time you use it.
Thermostatic mixing valves offer a temperature limit of 38° to avoid the risk of scalding, making them a good choice for elderly people or households with young children.
They will also cut the hot water supply if your cold water fails.
Nonetheless, thermostatic valves are not recommended if your hot water is provided by an instantaneous water heater. Thermostatic mixing valves are better suited to use with storage water heaters.
In terms of maintenance, it is advisable to run the cold water on a regular basis (by lowering the temperature to a minimum) in order to recalibrate the built-in thermostatic element.
If your temperature settings become incorrect (i.e. the temperature marked is not reflected by the water temperature) you will have to adjust the thermostatic cartridge. Beneath the valve handle is a spindle which should be turned until the right temperature is achieved (you can measure the temperature using a traditional thermometer).
Thermostatic mixing valves
Different types of bathroom taps
While bathroom taps all differ in terms of how they distribute water (i.e. single lever or dual handle tap), they also vary according to bathroom unit they are designed to serve. For example:
- wash basins and sinks;
Taps can be installed directly onto your wash basin or bath, in which case your unit will feature pre-drilled holes. They can also be installed on a countertop, wall or on a surface within your shower enclosure.
You may require one or two holes for installation, depending on the type of tap. Contemporary single lever or dual handle wash basin taps wash generally require just one hole, while those designed for baths and shower valves tend to require two.
Taps are fixed to wash basins by means of a threaded bar, nut, a C-shaped washer and a rubber washer. Next to the tap connectors is the spindle which incorporates a C-shaped washer. This washer is used to stabilise the tap and is fixed against the wash basin via a nut. Fitting a tap will usually require the use of a basin wrench.
Wash basin taps
Your taps must fit the design of your wash basin and should be set at a height that allows you to wash your hands with ease. The depth of the spout must be suited to the position of the plug hole in order to avoid splash back.
The height of the spout can vary depending on the design and style of your tap. High spouts offer more space for your hands while lower spouts provide more discretion and give you more space above the wash basin.
Wash basin taps can be equipped with infrared technology for hands-free use. As the temperature is set during installation, you simply need to move your hands underneath the spout to run the water. Infrared taps are equipped with a sensor which may be battery- or mains-operated.
Bath taps can be equipped with adiverter valve, which is used to direct water to either the bath tap or the shower head.
Bath taps are used to fill the bathtub to run a bath while the shower head is attached to a hose allowing you to take a shower.
The tap spout may produce a traditional round stream or a cascade stream; the latter option is popular for whirlpool baths.
Bath taps generally require two horizontal holes for installation which correspond to the tap connectors. As such, it is often more convenient to install wall-mounted taps.
If you are renovating and find that your pipes don't line up with your taps, you can use dog leg connectors to make your taps meet your pipes. Like most tap fittings, dog leg connectors are chrome-plated.
Shower valves are connected to shower heads through the use of a hose.
Shower valves can be fitted to the wall or a surface in your shower enclosure. They generally require two holes and can be flush with the wall or equipped with a plate for a better finish.
Dog leg connectors can be used to deal with any spacing issues between the shower unit and valve.
Bathroom taps: installation tips and accessories
A shut-off valve can be fitted between your shower head and hose when installing your shower valve. This allows for greater convenience and helps to save water.
Be sure to check that your shower valve or tap is in line with your pipes in order to avoid having to use connectors.
Your shower or bath tap connectors can be male or female and often come in a standard size. Choose a tap according to your pipework or make sure you have the right connectors.
Choosing a single lever or dual handle mixer
As for all products, bathroom taps range in quality, from low to high, based on the materials used to make them and their finish. These two factors will dictate the tap's lifespan, comfortof use and, often, the type of warranty offered.
You must also look out for the BS standards, the ap brand and the length of the warranty (usually 2, 5 or 10 years). Additionally, high-end taps will generally offer the following:
- better quality seals and tap connectors meaning fewer leaks over time;
- replacement parts (for example, valves for traditional taps and tap heads);
- better material finishes (chrome-plating or any other type of surface coating to protect tap heads and spout);
- the tap joints are also of higher quality, meaning there will be less limescale build-up. This also offers a better degree of watertightness and makes taps easier to turn (especially when it comes to dual handle mixers);
- the guarantee of no toxic materials such as lead or any other heavy metals;
- a high-quality temperature sensor for thermostatic mixing valves and the option of a flow restrictor for other mixer taps.
Bathroom tap brand guide
Type of bathroom tap
Wash basin tap
Ideal Standard, Alexis Robert
Rousseau, Ideal Standard, Jacob Delafon, Roca, Anconetti
Grohe, Axor Hansgrohe, Jacob Delafon, Porcher, Roca, Anconetti
Thermostatic mixing valves
Using an aerator
Fitted to the end of the spout, aerators are sieve-like attachments that work to add air to your water and concentrate your water into a channel to avoid splash back.
Aerators also have a filtering effect and can therefore be used when your pipes are being worked on to avoid mixing rubble with your water.
If you notice a drop in pressure coming from your tap spout after work on the pipes, start by removing your aerator as it may be partially blocked.
Easy to fit and remove, your aerator should be de-scaled on a regular basis if you live in an area with hard water or if you notice decreased water flow. Clean using a special descaling product or simply a dash of white vinegar.
The size of the sieve-like attachment will have a direct effect on your water flow rate. In order to save more water, pick an aerator able to introduce a lot of air into the stream.
Finding a tap to suit your bathroom decor
From classic and standard bathroom taps to vintage-style faucets or modern, streamlined designs there is a tap to suit every bathroom.
Be sure to match your wash basin to your shower valve to create a decorative theme and always make sure the colour of the taps match your wash basin – especially if your unit is coloured!
While the majority of bathroom taps feature are chrome-plated with a shiny or glossyfinish, you can also opt for brushed stainless steel or aged copper. Your choice of material will also influence the overall style of the tap.
Tips for choosing and maintaining your bathroom taps
Go for a single lever mixer if you want to reduce your water consumption but aren't able to install an infrared tap. Or better still, choose a thermostatic mixing valve.
Investing in a high-quality aerator will give you a larger stream for the same amount of pressure. If you don't want to end up with leaks or a loose spout, eliminate low-end taps from your selection. A constantly dripping tap will add up by the end of the year!
Select a tap with a low flow rate (average of 12 L/mn). Install a shut-off valve to your shower head.
Check out tap ranges specially designed to save water. Finally, remember that the first step towards saving water is making sure to turn off your tap properly!
Caring for your tap fittings
You aerator should be cleaned of limescale on a regular basis and the outside of your tap should be kept clean to avoid limescale build up. There is a range of household products available to keep your chrome shiny; some are also designed to fight limescale.
Washers on dual handle mixer taps can be changed in the event of leaks. Tap heads and cartridges can also be replaced. You tap connectors may also start to leak over time. While their tap connection is standard, their connection to your water unit may vary.
The tap covers on dual handle mixer taps – usually made from chrome-plate ABS – can often be changed as their colour tends to fade over time.
Blue and red indices can be bought separately if lost.
Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 198 guides
Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!