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Looking for the perfect complement to your tub? The perfect fixture can add both style and function to your bathroom. Before you select the finishing piece, make sure that you understand the different tub faucet installation types, options, finishes, and materials.
Tub Faucet vs Bathroom Sink Faucet
Tub faucets and bathroom sink faucets are not the same! They have different water flow rates, installation types, and features like thermostatic controls and hand showers.
Also referred to as floor-mounted faucets, this type of tub filler anchors to the floor and towers up and over the rim of the bathtub. The water supply lines connect to their water source below the finished floor, and usually feature a set of shutoff valves a few inches above the floor. For this reason, underfloor access is required for most freestanding tub fillers. If your bathroom rests on a concrete slab, consult a professional to determine if a floor-mounted faucet is feasible for your application. Freestanding tub faucets do not attach to the bathtub, which means that no faucet holes are needed. This also provides flexibility when deciding where you would like the faucet to be installed.
Freestanding faucets can be found in a variety of finishes such as chrome, brushed nickel, polished brass, oil-rubbed bronze, polished nickel, and even brushed or polished stainless steel.
This type of faucet is mounted to the upper rim of the bathtub. Two faucet holes are required for installation, and the distance between the two holes may vary from tub to tub. Measure the distance from the two holes from center to center to ensure an accurate fit for the faucet. This measurement is referred to as the "center measurement." For example, if your bathtub contains faucet holes 7" on-center, you will not be able to install a faucet that is 8" on-center without modification. Although not as common, you can also install a deck mount tub filler outside of the tub on a surrounding platform. If you are planning to mount the faucet outside of the tub, make sure that you purchase a faucet that has a spout that will reach far enough into the tub to properly fill it.
Deck-mounted faucets will require water lines to connect it to its water supply. Rigid, or non-bendable, supply tubes are most common, which attach to the faucet from under the rim of the tub and connect to the water supply below the floor. For this type of application, underfloor access would be required, just like freestanding faucets require. If there is no underfloor access, flexible supply lines can be used to connect the faucet to its water supply through the bathroom wall.
Wall-mounted faucets are exactly as they sound – they mount to a bathroom wall next to the bathtub. The bathtub needs no faucet holes, as this type of faucet does not connect to the tub in any way. A wall-mount tub faucet is the best solution for a bathroom where underfloor access is not an option. Because it connects directly to the water source behind the bathroom wall and will not need exposed water lines, this faucet style is the most economical option, since the added cost for water lines is eliminated.
Couplers are used to connect the faucet to its water source behind the wall, which are usually included with the faucet. The couplers will add to the distance that the spout reaches into the tub, typically, by 2". Longer coupler lengths can be found in 4" or 6" to accommodate in situations where the bathtub is installed farther from the wall.
These faucets require faucet hole drillings on the wall of the bathtub and are typically much closer together than the holes of a deck mount faucet. The standard center-to-center measurement for a tub wall mount faucet is 3-3/8". It is still important, however, that you measure the distance between the faucet holes on your tub before making your faucet purchase. Especially on older tubs, the faucet holes can vary anywhere from 3-1/2" up to 8-3/4" on-center. These faucets usually feature a small downward spout for tub filling, or a high-rise gooseneck for a more elegant look.
Like deck-mount tub faucets, tub wall mount faucets require water lines to connect the faucet to its water source below the floor. This means that underfloor access will be needed to use the common rigid water lines. Flexible water lines can be used if the water supply comes from behind the wall rather than the floor.
Typically paired with drop-in or jacuzzi bathtubs, Roman tub faucets are meant to mount to a tub surround. This type of faucet requires three or more faucet holes for installation, one for each handle and one for the spout. Most Roman tub fillers also come with a hand shower, which would need an additional one or two holes for installation. Because of the added space needed for mounting, Roman tub faucets cannot be mounted to the rim of a bathtub. If you would like to use this type of faucet with your freestanding tub, a platform must be available next to the tub for installation to be possible.
Roman tub fillers are like bathroom sink faucet installations. Flexible braided hoses connect each faucet handle to the spout and are also used to connect the faucet to its water source. Since these faucets are installed on an enclosed tub surround, the plumbing lines will be hidden.
Many tub faucets now feature a thermostatic mixing valve rather than the traditional separate hot and cold manual mixing valves. A thermostatic mixing valve automatically maintains the water temperature setting by regulating temperature fluctuations at the water inlets and immediately adjusting the ratio of hot and cold water discharged. A thermostatic valve works like the HVAC thermostat in most homes – you set a temperature (on faucets, usually a degree in Celsius), and the water exits the spout at that temperature. Some states and locales now have anti-scalding regulations, which require a thermostatic valve. Check your local building and plumbing codes to ensure you are meeting your local requirements.
Most faucets that pair with a freestanding bathtub will feature a hand shower connected to a 4' or 5' hose. The hand shower rests in a cradle that is also attached to the faucet. The hand shower serves as an alternative to a standard overhead shower, which makes rinsing simpler due to its maneuverability. Many also find that the hand shower is useful for cleaning the tub itself, as well as a handy tool for bathing children or the family dog.
If a hand shower is not sufficient for your needs, there are also shower conversion kits that can transform a handheld shower into an overhead shower. To install a shower conversion kit, remove the handheld shower from the faucet and replace it with a riser pipe for an overhead shower. Some shower conversion kits include a two-way diverter, which would allow you to reattach the handheld shower so that you have both the handheld and overhead shower as options.