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.

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