Ask the Expert: Studio H2O

Finish Findings – Consider Before You Finalize

By Jennie Wunderlich, Studio H2O Kitchen & Bath Showroom

When you are planning a remodel, building a new home or just searching for a new kitchen faucet, one of the decisions you will need to make is what finish you would like for your faucet and showering items. A hot trend right now is matte black! And it can look very sharp in a home. However, as the trend continues, we have started to get strong feedback I want to share with you, not only about matte black, but all other finishes as well.

First: Matte black is a powder-coat finish, consequently, the finish can somewhat easily chip off an item if it is knocked against something, such as the tile on a shower. Even if a handle or spout of a faucet is accidentally dropped on a countertop from a short distance, a small piece of the finish can chip off. Installers are also finding that the black paint scratches and chips off fairly easily when they are simply tightening the showerhead with a wrench. Most installers would say there are usually a few scratches remaining after they try and tighten a showerhead, but the kicker is, with matte black and all other dark finishes, those scratches seem glaring against the dark backdrop.

Second: Matte black and oil rubbed bronze do not seem to be as durable as other finishes. This is from our experience with customers calling, emailing or texting us because they are upset about their finish durability. The issues have gotten to the point where we recommend black plastic kitchen strainers instead of the metal painted ones if the customer wants black, because the plastic holds up better. The painted and dark-finished metal ones have one-year warranties from the manufacturer, and if they last that long, they usually start flaking away soon after 12 months. Remember – no manufacturer covers labor. If your strainers start to flake  – even within the warranty timeframe – the manufacturer will not cover the expense of the replacement installation. These troubles are not limited to the kitchen. Even in my bathroom, our oil rubbed bronze sink drain started flaking off within a year of installation – and we have filtered water running to that faucet.

Third: I am commonly asked which finish doesn’t show water spots? This is tricky, because water will dry on any faucet or fixture and looks different depending on the coating and color. Many manufacturers have created finishes like Delta’s “Spot-Shield Stainless” to help decrease spotting. Many customers tell us that they think stainless is best for not showing spots. However, others have come to me saying they think their stainless faucet shows spots worse than polished chrome! I think that polished finishes are easier to wipe clean of water spots, but spotting appears more visible to me on polished chrome than stainless/brushed nickel. The primary culprits of frustration from spotting we’ve heard comes back to those dark finishes: matte black and oil rubbed bronze. Because of their dark backdrop, when water dries on it, the faucet looks “chaulky,” like there’s a white film on it. This seems to happen even if the home has a water softener! Calcium build-up also appears more pronounced on dark finishes than it does against a polished chrome or brushed nickel finish.

Last But Certainly NOT Least: Any damages or corrosion to fixtures due to poor water quality, hard water or possible cleaning products are NOT covered under the manufacturer warranty. This can be frustrating for consumers, as well as for distributors, as we seek to satisfy our customers. I also want to caution you that even all-natural or organic cleaning products can damage finishes when they are not fully wiped off a product. The best thing you can do to keep your finishes lasting for years is to keep them dry. I know, you might think, this is a shower, my fixtures won’t stay dry. I know. But if water or cleaning products sit on your items, there is very good chance it will eventually start to damage the finish, and that type of damage will not be covered under warranty.  

Now, I feel like this blog post has turned into a negative nellie session of complaints against dark finishes, and that’s not how I want to finish. As I mentioned, I have an oil rubbed bronze faucet in one bathroom that besides the drain still looks nice. And I have bronze and black light fixtures throughout my house because I love those dark contrasts. I just know myself and my family and we would not do a great job of wiping down dark finishes in our bathroom to keep them looking lovely. But I’m sure that many of you fine readers will do much better about grabbing a microfiber cloth and drying off your fixtures, especially your dark ones, and they will stay beautiful for years to come!

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