A Review of Faucet Materials

Faucet comes in different designs. Before choosing the one that catches your eyes, here’s a quick review of the types of materials faucets are made of:

Brass

Brass is the traditional material used in a faucet. An alloy of copper and zinc with small amounts of other metals composes brass.

The copper in the brass faucet is said to be anti-microbial or kills germs but no one can further explain exactly how the process functions. The fact is, in the presence of copper, many fungi –mold and mildew– and most bacteria cannot live.

Brass is impervious to corrosion and has a relatively low melting point that is malleable enough to machine with small effort but tough enough to cope with the rigors of life as a faucet. It can hold of finishes like chrome plating and is reusable. Most will say that brass is a prized-type of a faucet. Today’s faucet brass is “lead-free” brass that makes use of other additives for malleability to comply with the new restrictions on lead. Using silicon is a common substitute.

Stainless Steel

An upscale material for faucets is stainless steel. Making it more difficult than brass to cast and machine, steel is harder than brass and has a higher melting point. But, which in today’s regulatory environment is a big plus has no lead content. If you opt for this material, you should always look for an indication that the steel used in the faucet is 304 grade, 18/8 or 18/10 steel. Don’t depend on “stainless” as indicated but be vigilant.

Zinc/ZAMAK

ZAMAK or ZAMAC is called for less expensive faucets which are often made of a zinc alloy. ZAMAK is a combination of aluminum, magnesium, and copper to the zinc. Weight is another indication. Compared to all brass or stainless faucets, ZAMAK faucets are considerably lighter. If you want to identify if the faucet is made of ZAMAK or brass: when you see a dull gray spout, then it’s ZAMAK. When you see a brown, green or “brassy”, then the faucet is brass.

Plastic

Plastic is not an appropriate material for faucets, the faucet bodies and spouts in particular. For a faucet, it is not durable.

But, there is at least one form of plastic that does work for faucets which is a cross-linked polyethylene, known as PEX. This has been used with good effect to replace copper water pipes for over 20 years. This material is acknowledged by all national plumbing codes as an appropriate material for water channels. Because it is a lot less expensive, easier to install, and is much less likely to burst from freezing it is better than copper.