Tap dance: Shopping tips for buying a tap

Make sure you’re armed with the necessary information before splashing the cash on a kitchen tap, with some expert advice from Kya deLongchamps.

Grohe (Hansgrohe) Essence Semi-Pro with Easy Dock M (magnet) and pull-out spray head. The sleek Santoprene material is far easier to clean that external spring hoses. Around €350, grohe.ie

Smooth handling, consistent flow, versatility and sheer rakish good looks — choosing a kitchen tap is a giddy moment in a kitchen build or revamp. New wet-side features gleaned from the professional chef’s culinary arsenal have revolutionised the place of the sink and water outlet. What talents are worth the extra spend? Follow our basic shopping tips to avoid a disappointing fitful spit.

Vertical play

With all those honed horizontal surfaces, many without the interruption of handles — a beautifully honed tap is part of the upstanding ‘jewellery’ of any great kitchen.

Deco, Bauhaus, commercial food prep and natural forms have all been plumbed for inspiration for starkly engineered rinsers and elegant, organic swoops. Once the tap answers the fundamental demands of hitting the centre of your sinks, meeting your water pressure (see sidebar) follow stylistic clues offered by your cabinet choices.

Stainless steel offers value and anti-bacterial smarts, and in a no-fuss monobloc or twin pillars starts at under €50. Black and white taps are increasingly popular if you want something different. Trending? The simple silver spout with discreet single lever operation is riding high — restrained, less steam-punk industry, more minimalist sculpted arc. Rinse and repeat the phrase: beautiful and useful. Prioritise a branded tap with durable, quality ceramic discs and cartridges. Designer tap — dealer speak for expensive.

Top tap tip:

Many suppliers offer the sink and a set collection of taps as a well-priced package. Haggle for the relationship that turns you on. We love Francis Pegler (UK) Iconic mixer, great value for avant garde good looks and three-click water saving cartridge operation, €199, davies.ie. Black and low? Pyramis do a stunning top operated mixer, for just €85, kitchenfittingsdirect.com. Compression valves rather than ceramic discs or cartridges signal a very cheap or traditional tap.

Boiling and filter taps

Initially regarded as a somewhat damp gimmick, independent and integrated boiling taps are now running main-stream for their practicality and genuine energy efficiency. Fill a single cup for tea with instantly filtered water at an optimum temperature, scrub out grubby pans, blanche veg’, speed pasta, and set tomato skins curling.

Touch screen-operated digital boilers are designed for adult level dexterity and action to ensure young children cannot easily use the tap — nothing is 100% childproof. Standalone units to compliment your existing mixer start at around €350. Look for CoolTouch technology that keeps the taps surface safe, digital signals for filter changes and investigate just what litres the unit will deliver at one time (2.4l-3l is about right). If you just want a cold filter tap, try the Carron Phoenix range of mixers from €370 with LED indicators, suppliers nationwide (3-6 month cartridge life) or the Clearwater range from €299, kitchenfittingsdirect.comTop tap tip: Combine your boiling tap/filter water with a fully integrated mixer unit for cold, filtered, 60° tepid and boiling water from €750. Some include chilling and carbonation if your budget allows. GROHE Blue and Red line for boiled, chilled & sparkling water, dealers and prices- grohe.ie.

InSinkErator 3 in1, €838, taps4less.ie. Pin code protection for the hot unit and full digital features can bring prices to €3,200. Ensure you have enough room for a storage tank under the counter.

Leverage

Cross-head and knob turn taps are still on offer of course, but it’s hard to argue against the wrist push operation of a lever or fin where your hands are full or greasy. Choose from double or single levers tuned to thermostatic valves that deliver a balanced flow. Finger tip control with a quality single lever tap, allows you to hold the spray head, a colander or pan while controlling the water’s flow and heat as needed.

Aesthetically, one slender prong control has a pleasing refinement that sit as period or contemporary. Choose from counter, wall or sink set mounting in a single (monobloc), two (bridge or twin taps) or a three hole mount comprising 2 pillars/knobs/levers and a separate centre spout. Work up to the lever shape choices and the silhouette and style of the entire unit. Where do you prefer the controls on that monobloc? The base or the top of the spout?Top tap tips:

For standard sinks a squared up ‘F’ shaped tap with a swivel spout and an easy to grapple top lever is an affordable classic. One piece swan neck spouts and turned style columns sit well in country kitchens. Cooke & Lewis taps stocked by dealers including B&Q offer 35mm cartridges and pull-out flexible, mono-mixers from under €95. Crosswater are another good mid-range maker. LED coloured spout lighting warns you of water temperature changes and also looks pretty.

Spout to Spray

Flexible, reinforced silicone hoses that pull through the spout housing or dramatic articulated faucets (Dornbract Pivot) allow the water supply to reach down and significantly away from its previous limits.

Keep in mind that any power outlet should be 30cm from the water flow’s final position. If you over-spec’ the tap and water pressure for a smaller sink, the splash back will prove an endless annoyance. Most low pressure water systems under 1.0 bar cannot fully enjoy the full force of a large spray head.

Secondary in-hand spray controls, especially with a variety of power, will inflate price, but can be useful for foodies regularly seeding vegetables and cleaning fish. An articulate spray hose without a retractable, pull-out rinser, can be unhooked or lean down from a spring mount for duty.

Magnet-assisted docking systems are useful for effortlessly placing these rangier, glittering beasts back in position.

Top tap tips:

With simple swivels, spring mounted and pull-out hoses, consider where the water might end up.

Where 360° operation is not needed (on an island for example) there should be a limiter for movement side to side for static taps to prevent a deluge.

Choose an in-spout or counter-mounted retractable hose without hearty springs unless you crave unrelenting modernity.

Spouting Gold?

Dekker (NL) gold taps from €999, dekkerzevenhuizen.nl

Gold kitchen taps appear regularly in glossy magazines, but are they really ‘trending’ with its application to tapware and trim in bathrooms for 2018?

Manufacturers have for some years produced boutique collections that step away from period brass cross-heads and brushed and polished chrome. The look has gained dazzled fans in European countries including Sweden and the Netherlands.

Copper and pewter finishes abound, however names such as ‘champagne’ for golden finishes, display a reluctance to fully commit to bullion brights and mixed mettalics. The choice is slim, but soft gold actually looks fantastic against toffee dark woods like walnut, black glass, stone, concrete and composite sink materials like Franke Fraganite. Team the look to a wet bar.

For full on unashamed bling try Swedish made Olif (Alveus) gold taps available to order at olif.co.uk (€500 plus). Their equally attractive pale Copper Slimline (we really are looking at degrees of colour from rose golds to brass) starts at €240. The Quooker comes in an outrageously WAG Fusion Gold with a 24 carat old finish. Really darling? (The Gold One, limited edition — POA. Both available at housekitchens.shop, formerly kitchenbox.ie).

Understanding bar pressure

To avoid the disappointment of irregular flow, it’s vital to match your tap type to your existing water pressure (bar pressure). Investigate your system.

- 1.0 bar pressure is generally understood as High Pressure, less than 1.0 bar is Low. However, manufacturers offer low pressure taps frequently as only needing as little as 0.3 bar or even 0.2. Do your research.

- If you have a traditional plumbing arrangement with a cold water tank in the attic

- (gravity fed) and a simple immersion, your pressure is likely to be low without a

- significant ‘metres of head’ — see below.

- A combi’ boiler system or hot water tank fed water system (unvented systems) delivers high (mains fed) pressure to your taps. Combi boilers have a dial showing the pressure, generally around 1-1.5 bar, ideal for low or high pressure taps.

- An approximate measurements of your bar pressure in a gravity fed system can be equated to the distance from the base of your cold water tank to the outlet (metres of head: 0.1 bar of pressure). The less the distance, the lower the pressure. 2m would be 0.2 bar.

- Aeration and spray heads can increase the sensation of pressure but not the volume of water. If you are employing a plumber, ask their advice, as they will have a pressure gauge and a good idea of any quirks in the pipe-work that may influence the rate and consistency of your flow.

- Determined on a super stream? Consider installing an additional water pump to handle your bathroom and kitchen outlets to raise the metres of head by as much as 1.8 bar. From €250 without installation.


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