Kitchen and bath remodels are always ranked first among remodeling projects that give homeowners the best return on investment when they sell. But while people typically focus on the big picture vision, paying attention to the details is just as important. Whether you’re planning to put your house on the market, making home improvements or just want to increase water efficiency in the interest of economy and/or the environment, upgrading your plumbing fixtures and fittings can deliver big benefits.
And like every other home system, plumbing is now “smart.” More on that later.
Fixtures and fittings – what’s the difference?
While the general public tends to use the phrase, “plumbing fixtures” to include toilets, tubs, sinks and faucets, the plumbing industry uses it in reference to only the first three of the four just listed. By definition, a fixture is a device for receiving water and/or waste matter that directs these substances into a sanitary drainage system. Faucets fall under the category of “fittings” – a device designed to control and guide the flow of water. Examples include faucets, shower heads, shutoff valves, shower valves and even drinking fountain spouts.
Plumbing pipes can even play a role in which type of fixture is best for the bath and kitchen. One advantage of professional installation – as opposed to taking the DIY approach – is that an experienced plumber can determine if the pipes are in sound condition before installing a fixture.
Here’s our guide to getting the most of your plumbing upgrades
Keep in mind, this post is intended for those who are not planning a major remodeling project. A major remodel gives you the opportunity to design a completely new space, with all-new fixtures and surfaces. This is for those interested in a quick (or relatively quick) “facelift.”
If you’re looking at a quick cosmetic lift that will also improve function and water efficiency, you’re likely to focus on the toilet and sink. Replacing a tub is typically done as part of a remodel. For an upgraded toilet, choose a water-efficient dual flush model with an elongated bowl. Sinks are a matter of taste and budget, with water efficiency depending upon the faucet.
Showers – The typical shower is a single-handle pressure balanced valve that has a chrome finish. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm. There are two basic types of low-flow showerheads: aerating and laminar-flow. Aerating showerheads mix air with water, forming a misty spray. Laminar-flow shower heads use high pressure to produce a strong water delivery.
The first upgrade option is to change the finish of your shower. You can opt for polished brass, stainless steel, and brushed nickel look shower that gels well with your bathroom.
The next upgrade option is to add a hand-held shower on a holder (or slide bar). You can also upgrade to body sprays and rain dome shower heads, as well as an advanced shower system, such as Kohler’s DTV Prompt digital shower system.
Upgrading a kitchen sink can provide a subtle or dramatic update, depending upon the scope of your project and budget. For a quick improvement, choose a sink that can be installed without damaging or altering the countertop. Even a basic brushed stainless sink can be a step up over a stained, chipped enamel sink in an older house. If you want to splurge, choose an upgraded faucet set with sleek, contemporary lines.
Kitchen sink – The standard kitchen sink is a 20 or 22 gauge steel drop-in. Laminate countertops in older homes will usually have a drop-in sink. When you upgrade your countertop to granite, homeowners generally opt for an under-mount sink. The most popular upgrade option is to switch to an under-counter mount stainless steel sink.
Recent upgrade comes in the form of quartz-based drop-in sinks and under-mount sinks which are available in white, black, and granite shades.
Kitchen faucets – The standard kitchen faucet is a single handle chrome faucet, without a side spray. The first upgrade can be the side spray with your existing faucet. The actual upgrade starts when you opt for a pull-out spout.
New fittings – more than just a stylish update
Styles change over time. Elements that date a home to a specific decade also include plumbing fixtures and fittings. For example, a suite of turquoise bathroom fixtures place the home in the 1960s, while bright brass faucets indicate they were probably installed in the ‘80s. With few exceptions, such time capsules are considered undesirable by today’s homebuyers – and also by homeowners who want to stay, but bring their house into the 21st century.
New fittings provide a great way to update your home’s style without the major investment in new fixtures. If your fixtures are in good condition, upgraded fittings can make a statement that elevates the entire room. Home improvement centers offer a wide array of styles, metal finishes and price points.
Depending upon your commitment to water conservation (and lower water bills), fittings can be much more than the plumbing version of jewelry. WaterSense-labeled faucets are high–performing, water–efficient fittings that will help reduce water use in your home and save money on water bills. WaterSense labeled bathroom sink faucets and accessories that use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute can reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute without sacrificing performance.
Green plumbing resource The Plumbing Info discusses five water-saving green plumbing fixtures and fittings, outlining their economic and environmental advantages.
BrainPipes – how smart is your plumbing?
One such breakthrough technology has been developed by BrainPipes. With BrainPipes, you can integrate your new or existing smart home automation solution into your household plumbing system – providing peace of mind, reducing water consumption and saving money. BrainPipes works by locating a leak and sending a text message to the homeowner. It then shuts off the main water supply to the property – which helps prevent secondary damage, such as water and mold.
BrainPipes is fitted with a monitoring system that can detect the pressure of water for every faucet and fixture that dispenses water. When the water pressure drops, an alarm goes off, setting the alert and water shut-off process into motion.
No matter how “smart” you want your plumbing, choosing the right plumber is the smartest step you can take in any type of plumbing installation.
Our master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing have been serving Central Florida homes and businesses since 1958. Whether you’re planning an update or major remodeling project, we’ll do the job right.
Contact us to learn more, or schedule an appointment.