Consumers Guide To Bathroom Taps

Consumers Guide To Bathroom Taps

This article explains the key questions that you should consider when purchasing new taps for your bathroom. The information is​ aimed at​ consumers in​ the United Kingdom.

Question 1: Whats the tap made of​ ?

Taps can be made from a​ range of​ materials of​ varying quality and cost.

A general rule of​ thumb is​ that the heavier the tap the better the quality of​ materials used!


Plastic taps are very cheap and very low quality. They are very light and are offered in​ a​ variety of​ colours. Plastic taps cannot be recommended for bathroom use because of​ their poor performance and short expected operational life.

Standard Brass ABS/Mazac

Standard brass is​ regularly used to​ manufacture the bodies of​ mid-priced, medium quality taps.

Many tap components (such as​ handles) can be made from ABS (plastic) or​ an​ alternative material sometimes referred to​ as​ Mazac (Pot Metal). These are cheaper than using brass, and whilst the quality is​ regularly very good, brass offers a​ better finish and lasts longer.

Standard brass taps are suitable for bathroom use, with or​ without ABS or​ Mazac components.

DZR Brass

Whilst, standard brass has gained complete acceptance in​ many facets of​ the water distribution industry, in​ certain circumstances when exposed to​ particular combinations of​ pH and concentrations of​ chlorides, they can experience a​ serious form of​ corrosion known as​ dezincification.

The answer to​ this is​ a​ dezincification resistant alloy, normally referred to​ as​ DZR brass.

This is​ the Rolls Royce material for taps and the highest quality product will be made from DZR brass without any ABS or​ Mazac components

Question 2: Will the taps work with your system pressure ?

First the good news, if​ you have a​ combi-boiler or​ un-vented hot water system then you don't need to​ fret about pressure, both high pressure and low pressure taps will work well with your system.

However, if​ you have a​ traditional gravity fed system, with a​ cold water storage tank in​ the attic, and a​ hot water cylinder then you will want to​ be more cautious.

Firstly you want to​ work out how much water pressure you have:

Calculate the distance, in​ meters, from the bottom of​ the cold water storage tank, to​ the outlet of​ the tap and multiply by 0.1 to​ give you the pressure in​ bar:

e.g. 1.1 Meters x 0.1 = 0.11 bar
2.5 Meters x 0.1 = 0.25 bar

If you want a​ bath/shower mixer with a​ showering handset, then you must determine the distance from the foot of​ the cold water storage tank to​ the height at​ which the handset will be used, not the height of​ the tap, or​ the handset when it​ rests in​ the support.

You also need to​ be aware that elongated pipe work runs rapidly use up any pressure inside a​ system, so if​ your taps are a​ long way from the cold storage tank then you will want to​ lessen the calculated pressure to​ take account of​ this.

Once you have a​ good idea of​ your water pressure then you need to​ verify that whatever taps you are looking to​ buy will work at​ that pressure.

As a​ rule of​ thumb many designer taps come from Europe where the water systems have superior pressure than in​ the UK and these taps wont work if​ you have very low pressure.

Designer taps made specifically to​ work on low pressure systems are normally more expensive and the retailer will highlight the fact that the taps are suitable for low pressure systems. if​ it​ doesn't say specifically that the taps will work with low pressure then assume the worst and don't buy without asking the retailer to​ verify the pressure requirements.

Question 3: What is​ the operating mechanism of​ the tap ?

Ceramic disc and spindle refer to​ the two alternative ways that the inner mechanism of​ a​ tap can operate.

Ceramic disc technology is​ usually used on more costly taps, as​ they function better and last longer. When the lever is​ turned, two ceramic discs are parted opening the valve and allowing the water to​ pour.

The traditional spindle design is​ commonly used on inferior quality, cheaper tap designs. The tap has a​ spindle through the core, with the valve seat attached via a​ screw thread. a​ standard tap washer is​ fixed to​ the end of​ the valve seat. as​ the knob is​ turned the spindle rotates and the screw thread moves the valve seat up and down to​ adjust the flow of​ water

Ceramic Disc Taps
Drip free never change another tap washer again !
Long Life should never need to​ be replaced under regular use
Simple to​ Operate only a​ quarter turn is​ required to​ go from full on to​ off
Variety of​ styles works with modern lever designs and round handles

Draw Backs
Inferior flow rates - Unsuitable for very low pressure systems

Spindle Taps
Superior flow rates suitable for most systems, high or​ low pressure

Draw Backs
Hard to​ operate - handle has to​ be turned many times from off to​ full on
Higher maintenance - washers will need replacing often
Less choice of​ style - cannot be used with modern lever designs

There are two key things to​ consider.

1. Unless you have a​ very low pressure system or​ are looking for the lowest feasible price then it​ is​ best to​ go for ceramic disc taps.

2. When comparing tap prices always ensure that both taps use the same mechanism. They may look the same, but if​ one is​ ceramic disc and one uses a​ spindle then the cheapest tap may actually be the worst value!

Question 4: How will the taps connect to​ your system?

Mono Basin & Bidet mixers are attached to​ the water supply by connectors, sometimes referred to​ tap tails. These come in​ two types, flexible and rigid and the purchaser normally doesn't get any option within a​ range of​ taps.

Both types join directly to​ normal 15mm copper pipe work.The tap manufacturer usually decides what type of​ connectors each range of​ tap he makes will have.

Which kind is​ most suitable for you depends on where the taps are being installed and who is​ doing the installation.

Flexible Connectors

Best for DIY Installers: You don't require any plumbing skills, the bendable hose will simply trasnsform into whatever shape is​ necessary and the connection is​ made easily by tightening the compression nut with a​ wrench.

Best for small spaces with difficult access. The flexible hose allows connections in​ places that would be almost impossible to​ get into with rigid pipe work.

Rigid Connectors

Best for professional installers: The rigid connectors become part of​ the sturdy copper pipe run that connects the supply to​ the tap. The connections are made with capillary fittings, lead free solder and a​ blow torch. The end product looks neater, lasts longer and is​ much less prone to​ leaks.

Best for more open spaces with simple access. Even the most professional installer will want a​ large enough space to​ bend and fit the copper pipe run from the supply. if​ the space is​ too compact then flexible connectors may be the only viable option.

Question 5: Does the Tap meet the necessary Bylaws and/or Standards ?

British Standards

The first thing that confuses many people is​ that British Standards for taps are not quality guarantees. They just state certain things that a​ tap meeting with the standard should do. There is​ also no requirement that any product is​ tested by a​ third party to​ verify it​ actually meets the standard, so an​ assertion that a​ product meets BS5412 is​ only as​ reliable as​ the business making the claim !

The British Standards signify the minimum that a​ tap should meet to​ perform a​ particular application.

The key British Standards applied to​ taps are:

The specification for low-resistance single taps and combination tap assemblies.

The Specification for draw-off taps and stop-valves for water services

There is​ no British Standard at​ all for Ceramic Disc taps. So the very fact that somebody quotes that the tap complies with BS5412 or​ BS1010 lets you know that it​ is​ an​ inferior design spindle tap!

Water Bylaws

All products attached to​ the UK drinking water supply must be compliant to​ the UK Water Bylaws. There are independent testing and certification schemes in​ place to​ establish conformity, however these are not mandatory in​ the UK.

The expense of​ outside certification is​ high and many top brand tap manufacturers decide not to​ pay for certification. Any taps that have KIWA or​ WRAS approval have been tested for compliance and should be of​ a​ good quality, but all taps installed in​ the UK, must by law comply with the Water Bylaws.

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