Friday, September 25, 2009

Bridge Faucets: Bridging The Gap

For those familiar with bridge faucets, their name might seem self explanatory. But for those less acquainted with this pioneering lavatory faucet, a bridge faucet is a faucet that has an elevated bridge connecting the hot handle and cold handle to a single central spout. While the bridge is the inspiration for the name, it is the single spout that initially made the bridge faucet popular.

In the early days of indoor plumbing, lavatory faucets consisted of two separate hot and cold basin taps. You could get hot water or you could get cold water but if you needed warm water, you had to cup your hands between the two taps or fill the sink bowl. The innovative bridge faucet solved the warm water dilemma. The bridge faucet could deliver both hot and cold water to a single spout where it was mixed to provide warm water.

Like basin taps, bridge faucets only require two faucet holes; one for the hot valve and one for the cold valve. Naturally, antique bathroom sinks had just two faucet holes. If the sink had a third hole, it was likely intended for a chain stay. The chain stay would anchor the lavatory drain’s rubber stopper to the sink.

The bridge faucet is also notable for its fixed centers. In simple terms, “centers” measures the distance between the hot handle and the cold handle. Basin taps could be placed at variable centers because there was no link between the taps. However, bridge faucets have a rigid bridge that limits their application to sinks that match the spread between their handles. Bridge faucets typically have 4", 8", or 12" centers.

Mixing faucets evolved from bridge faucets to modern widespread faucets. Like a bridge faucet, widespread faucets have a single spout. Rather than an elevated rigid bridge that limits the application of the faucet, widespread faucets have flexible hoses that join the valves to the spout below the sink’s surface. The flexible hoses provide adjustable centers, although 8” centers are still most common for lavatory sinks. However, the absence of the bridge required a third faucet hole in the sink to accommodate the spout.

Despite the fact that contemporary sinks have three faucet holes and that bridge faucets only occupy two of them, bridge faucets are still popular today. A sink hole cover is used to cover the middle hole in modern sinks. To recreate a period bath, a chain stay and drain with rubber stopper is another option that can be used with a bridge faucet and new sink.

While the bridge may be its most distinguishing feature and the impetus for its name, the bridge faucet did more for indoor plumbing than for which it receives credit. In retrospect, the bridge faucet could just as appropriately be named for bridging the gap between the separate basin taps of the Victorian period to the widespread lavatory faucets of today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do These Cabinet Knobs Come With A Complete Kitchen Makeover?

I recently took my seven year old daughter to the eye doctor where I got the bad news that she needed glasses. She, however, was thrilled and looked at it as an opportunity to make a fashion statement. After picking out a particularly stylish pair of glass, she excitedly asked me if the glasses came with a complete makeover.

Today’s home improvement media seems to favor a similar complete makeover mentality. In spite of the economic downturn, media’s message remains one that all projects must be comprehensive and grand in scale. Television focuses on dramatic transformations of rooms or entire houses where it seems that half of the remodeler’s effort is exerted during the demolition phase. Although great entertainment, I’d say that these shows are probably out of touch with the realities faced by so many. For these individuals, Shop 4 Classics offers a few ideas that will create a new look with out further draining your bank account.

If you are set on creating a new look for an entire room, choose to remodel your half-bathroom. Creating a new look for a half-bathroom does not require considerable investments in a new tub, tile, or tub and shower related plumbing. Stylish sink inserts paired with a new bathroom faucet makes a big difference for these small rooms without spending big bucks. A couple of coordinating bath accessories, such as a soap dish and towel bar, and a fresh coat of paint maybe all that is needed to complete a new look.

Complete kitchen remodels typically run well into the tens-of-thousands of dollars. More economical improvements include simply upgrading the cabinet hardware with new cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. If your budget allows, an investment in a high quality kitchen faucet is often money well spent.

Finally, consider looking for new uses for your existing, yet overlooked, home furnishings. For example, decorative quilts or even rugs can become focal points of large rooms by displaying them on the wall with an elegantly designed tapestry holder.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Door Stop Salute

A door stop is like a lineman on a football team; it does its job without much fanfare. The lowly door stop toils in obscurity behind the door or may be completely forgotten from remodeling projects--forgotten until a door swings open and punches a hole in a wall or nicks a piece of heirloom furniture. Today, however, the linemen of the hardware world receive some overdue recognition.

The function of a doorstop is to protect walls, furniture, appliances, or other items from being damaged by a door or door knob. Despite its rather simple purpose, there are a surprising number of door stop styles.

One of the most common types of door stops found in homes is the fixed-post baseboard door stop. The fixed-post baseboard door stop is a solid piece with a rubber tip on the end. This door stop mounts on the baseboard or on the door itself. In older homes, the doors are usually solid wood. Often, baseboard doorstops are installed on the wood door in older homes. Newer homes utilize hollow core doors. The baseboard doorstop migrated from the door to the baseboard in new homes with hollow core doors.

A hinge pin door stop installs on a hinge by removing the pin from the center of the hinge, placing the stop on the top of the hinge, and reinserting the pin through the stop and the hinge. The hinge pin door stop has two rubber bumpers; one to protect the door and another to protect the door trim. These door stops work best with lightweight doors.

As its name suggests, floor mounted door stops install on the floor instead of the door or baseboard. They are often used if there is no wall in the door's swing path but a stop is still required to protect items behind the door. Bullet door stops resemble a bumper in a pin ball machine. Rather than a rubber tip, a floor mounted bullet stop has a rubber ring around its perimeter. Cannon door stops have a rubber bumper at the end of an elbow. Dome door stops are a low profile pod-shaped door stop. Dome stops are popular in high traffic areas because they minimize the tripping hazard of a baseboard stop or other floor mounted door stops.

Wall bumpers are door stops that mount on the wall at door knob level. They are usually round with a rubber bumper in the center to cushion the door knob's impact if it hits the wall.

Hook door stops are a hybrid of other door stops. They incorporate a hook on the end of the door stop and include an eyelet that installs on the door. Hook door stops have a dual purpose. They prevent the door from swinging to far open but also can be used to prevent the door from closing. The hook and eyelet anchor the door to the doorstop.

The black sheep of the doorstop family is the kickdown door stop. A kickdown door stop does not prevent the door from opening too far but instead impedes it from closing. It is installed on the opposite side of a door. The kickdown door stop lifts up when not in use and then can be kicked down to prop the door open.

Your application will determine which style of door stop is right for your project but selecting the appropriate color or finish will depend on your decor. Select a door stop that coordinates with your door hardware or other architectural elements such as heat registers.

Door stops are inexpensive and fairly simple to install. Most doorstops simply screw into place. Check the sweep of the door to determine the best location. The rubber bumper should make contact with the door about 1" to 2" from the edges of the door. Drill a pilot hole and screw the doorstop into place. This easy upgrade is an economical way to prevent door knobs from causing expensive repairs to walls, furniture, and other objects.

This weekend, watch the linemen on your favorite football team and appreciate the work they do. After the game, pull yourself out of your recliner and give a little love to the linemen of the architectural hardware world, the modest door stop. If your door stop isn't looking so sharp or is missing completely, visit Shop 4 Classics for a great selection of quality door stops. It’s a virtual cornucopia of door stops!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Antique Reproduction Hardware True To The Past

This past weekend I visited one of Kansas City’s architectural salvage businesses. Like many, this one was housed in a building that was probably as old if not older than the items that it contained. Reclaimed art and stained glass windows hung from its ceilings. Vintage signage, fireplace mantels, and architectural carvings in wood and stone adorned every wall. Stacks of solid wood doors, both ornate and simple, filled its basement. As interesting as all of this was, I came to checkout the hardware and antique plumbing on display.

Vintage door hardware of all types filled dusty old bins. While browsing through their inventory I found Victorian doorplate sets resembling the Egg and Dart door plate set and Victorian door plate set reproductions manufactured by Nostalgic Warehouse. The variety of antique door knobs was by far the most interesting. I found the many designs fascinating. Many did, however, look familiar as they resembled the reproductions produced by Brass Accents. Lying in the bins were knobs that were likely the inspiration of reproductions knobs found on Brass Accents’ Laurel rose set and Sunburst rose set.

Antique heat registers were another interesting find. Stacks of cast iron heat registers in need of refurbishing were stacked on the floor. A number of the vintage registers resembled the Victorian style grill found on Reggio Registers’ most popular style of vent cover. I also found ornate registers resembling Classic Grills’ Victorian register and even a cast iron version of their Arts & Crafts style bronze grill.

Virtually all the hardware would need refurbishing and considerable refinishing work to return them to their past glorious appearance. Quality reproductions offer an excellent alternative to reclaiming these old pieces.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Repairing Vintage Strom Plumbing Faucets

Strom Plumbing has been supplying antique reproduction plumbing for over 30 years. The company has been around for so long that some of their reproduction faucets are now themselves considered antiques. No offense to our senior readers but one phenomenon that occurs to old things with moving parts is that they eventually begin to break down. Wear and tear over time creates a natural need for repair parts.

In a faucet, the moving parts are called valves. When the valves break down, they begin to leak and the faucet drips. Like many older faucet manufacturers, Strom Plumbing originally used compression valves in their lavatory faucets, kitchen faucets, and clawfoot tub faucets. When technology introduced the ceramic disk valve, Strom Plumbing converted to the more modern valve. They now offer ceramic disk valves exclusively but for many years Strom Plumbing gave customers the option of either valve type. The compression valve appeased restorers concerned with historical accuracy while the ceramic disk valves pleased renovators looking for the reliability of ceramic disk valves.

Strom Plumbing (also known as Sign of the Crab) versatility did create a problem, however. Repairing a Strom Plumbing faucet became more difficult because the faucet owner now needed to know if their faucet was configured with compression valves or ceramic disk valves. Although the faucets look identical, the internal valves are different and not interchangeable. Therefore, you must determine if the faucet has compression valves or ceramic disk valves in order to repair it with the correct parts.

Strom Plumbing ceramic disk valves only require a quarter turn to fully open or close the valve. This can be a hint that your faucet was likely configured with ceramic disk valves but it is no guarantee. To determine with certainty if the faucet has compression valves or ceramic disk valves, you must inspect the valve. First, turn off the water supply to the faucet. Next, uninstall the handle from the valve stem. Depending on the type of faucet, remove the packing nut or escutcheon. Finally, unscrew the valve from the faucet body and inspect it.

The valve pictured at left is an example of a Strom Plumbing compression valve. Strom Plumbing used several different types of compression valves, depending on the faucet, so your valve may not perfectly match the valve pictured. Strom Plumbing compression valves have a hard rubber washer (usually black) secured to the bottom of the stem assembly by a screw through the center of the washer. Turning the faucet handle rotates a stem at the other end of the valve which causes the rubber washer to press against a seat in the valve body to seal the valve or lifts the washer away from the seat to open it. Eventually the rubber washer wears out. Hard water and over tightening the handles are particularly damaging to the washer. Eventually, the rubber washer will wear out and the faucet will begin to drip. Repair kits that include replacement washers for Strom Plumbing compression valves are available from Shop 4 Classics. If compression valves are not maintained, it may be necessary to replace the complete stem assembly. This is more expensive than replacing the washers but is still more economical than replacing the faucet.

The valve pictured at right is a Strom Plumbing ceramic disk valve. As is the case with compression valves, there are different types of ceramic valves. Therefore, your valve may not exactly match the valve pictured but the photo should help you with identification. Ceramic disk valves rely on two-part revolving ceramic disks in a sealed brass cylinder. Turning the faucet handles rotates the valve stem causing the disk to rotate inside the cylinder. Each disk has a port in it that, when aligned with the other, will allow water to pass through the valve. The white disks are usually visible through holes in the brass cylinder. The ceramic disks have a much longer lifespan than rubber washers and are impervious to contaminants such as sand or sediment. If a ceramic disk valve leaks, it is typically because a disk has cracked. It may be a hairline crack that is undetectable to the naked eye. Unlike the washers in compression valves, you can not replace the disk. If a ceramic disk valve leaks, the entire cartridge must be replaced. Again, replacing a ceramic disk cartridge is more economical than replacing the faucet.

New Strom Plumbing kitchen faucets, lavatory faucets, tub and shower sets, and clawfoot tub faucets feature modern ceramic disk valves. The ceramic disk valves are backed by a five year manufacturer warranty; although they should provide many, many more years of satisfactory use. If repairs are required, you can be assured that Strom Plumbing will continue to support it's faucets as it has for over 30 years.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fall Fix Up with Decorative Exterior Home Hardware

Although the leaves have not yet turned countless shades of orange and red, I am finding that the first signs of Fall are all around. The sight of bright yellow school buses running their routes in the morning and the sounds of college football being played on radio mark the beginning of my favorite time of the year. With the temperatures cooling, this time of the year is a great time to tackle some of those outdoor projects that have accumulated over the hot summer. Whenever I face a daunting to do list, I find it helpful to add a few simple and enjoyable tasks that will keep me motivated while not requiring a lot of time and energy. Refreshing the look of your front porch with new hardware is a fun exercise that can make a big difference in your home’s appearance.

Hamilton Sinkler offers decorative exterior hardware in rich dark bronze patina as well as brushed nickel. Popular Hamilton Sinkler items include their Victorian inspired mail slot, six-inch house numbers, and regal lion head door knocker. If time and budget allows, Hamilton also manufactures matching solid bronze entry door hardware to complete the look.

IDH specializes in solid brass hardware offered in a wide variety of finishes including variations chrome, nickel, bronze, and copper. Popular IDH exterior hardware items include their four-inch decorative house numbers, Craftsman mechanical door bell, and their traditionally styled mail slot. If you like to fly your college team’s flag on Saturdays, IDH also offers flag pole holders in medium and large sizes.

The Craftsmen Hardware Company is a specialty manufacturer of hand crafted copper home hardware items in the Arts and Crafts tradition. Popular Craftsmen Hardware items include unique Craftsman house numbers, hammered copper style door bell button, and their Pacific style mail slot. Like Hamilton Sinkler, Craftsmen Hardware also manufactures a collection of similar styled entry Arts and Crafts door hardware sets.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Great Bathtub Race

The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…this is the Great Bathtub Race! That is how Jim McKay probably would have introduced Nome, Alaska’s annual Great Bathtub Race if he were still with us…and had ever heard of the race.

Although it never appeared on Wide World of Sports, the Great Bathtub Race has been a Labor Day tradition in Nome since the 1970’s. Kentucky has its derby. New York City has its marathon. None of these compare to Nome’s Great Bathtub Race.

The race was the brainchild of former mayor Leo Rasmussen who created the event to attract visitors to his town. The idea of the race is simple. Contestants must push or pull bathtubs on wheels from the U.S. Post Office building down Nome’s main street to the finish line in front of City Hall; which also happens to be the old finish line for Alaska’s other famous race, the Iditarod. Unlike the Iditarod, however, the trek is only about 100 yards. To make things more interesting, teams must wear funny hats and suspenders and there must be at least 10 gallons of water left in the bottom of the tub at the finish.

Motorized tubs are prohibited. This eliminates jetted clawfoot tubs from the competition but otherwise there is no restriction on the construction of the bathtub. Built-in cast iron bathtubs are legal as are acrylic leg tubs. Leo Rasmussen prefers to race a cast iron clawfoot tub; although he’s only won the race once in the Great Bathtub Race’s storied history.

The winner of the race is rewarded with a trophy and, of course, the thrill of victory. There are no losers in the Great Bathtub Race but a year of ridicule from the winning team is sure to provide agony in defeat. When the race is concluded, the tubs are exchanged for newer, more efficient models in the Cash for Clunkers program. If your bathtub is a clunker, consider a new clawfoot tub or cast iron built-in tub from Shop 4 Classics. And enjoy your Labor Day!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Selecting a Faucet to Fit That Fancy Sink

Recently helping a customer with the selection of a bathroom sink faucet brought back memories of my trip to the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show that took place several months ago. One of the most remarkable aspects of this year’s show was the amazing variety of kitchen and bathroom sinks on display. After spending an hour walking through a small section of the hundred’s of vendor exhibits, it dawned on me how far the kitchen sink had evolved from utilitarian fixture that I grew up with. Not to be out done, the lavatory sink is now often a centerpiece of bathroom design. Unfortunately, selecting an appropriate faucet has become more than a matter of selecting the right look. The faucet must accommodate the sink’s design and construction.

The number of faucet holes found in the sink should be your first consideration. Modern sinks commonly have three faucet holes, two for the handles and one for the center spout. However, early sinks only had two faucet holes. Bridge faucets or separate hot and cold basin taps with no mixing valve or center spout are used with these sinks. Single post basin faucets are typically paired with today’s popular vessel sinks.

Distance between the sink’s faucet holes must also be determined. The distance between the center of the outside left and right faucet holes is commonly referred to as the "centers" or "spread". The most common faucet options for sinks with 4" centers are centerset and mini-spread faucets. Generally, sinks with greater than 4" centers require widespread faucets. Widespread faucets typically are adjustable to fit varying centers, however, it is highly recommended to review a faucet's features to confirm that it will fit your sink's configuration before placing your order.

Finally, the sink’s thickness and required spout length needs to be considered. In addition to the number and spacing of faucet holes, the thickness of the sink or counter and the required length of the spout must be considered. Thick sink counter tops may result in troublesome faucet installation. Also, check to ensure that the faucet's spout reaches the sink's bowl.

For more information about selecting a bathroom or kitchen faucet, please see Faucet Tips.