For a touch of class and luxury for your bathroom at an affordable price, you can't go wrong with some nice, well fitted metal taps and fittings. A wide range of metals are suitable for use in bathroom fittings and are available in a dizzying array of styles and finishes -- however, you have other concerns when choosing a metal besides looks. Different metals and bathroom supplies will be able to withstand different levels of wear and tear, and prices can vary wildly for more uncommon choices. You should also take the pH and salinity of your local water supply into account, as some metals will be vulnerable to their tarnishing effects. With this in mind, here are a few of the best choices for metal bathroom fittings:
A classic choice, brass is versatile, long lasting, and widely available. The subtle golden tones of brass complement a wide variety of bathroom styles, and the metal is also available in a wide variety of finishes -- polished brass adds class and charm to a traditional bathroom, while brushed 'satin' brass is a more subdued and elegant look suitable for modern styles.
In terms of price, brass can be remarkably cheap, especially if choosing a simple, classical style or finish. More modern styles can cost considerably more, and certain brass finishes, such as oil rubbed brass, can add a significant premium to the cost of your fittings.
Brass is a fairly durable metal when it comes to everyday wear and tear and is also highly resistant to corrosion and rust caused by high-salinity tap water. However, brass can quickly accumulate unsightly deposits of limescale and other mineral deposits in hard water areas and should be cleaned regularly to prevent tarnishing of the finish. Be aware that cheap brass fittings will often have steel components in areas hidden during every day use, which are much more vulnerable to corrosion.
If you're shooting for a truly distinctive look for your bathroom, you can't do much better than copper fittings. The rich, dark tones of copper are particularly striking when matched with dark, contemporary styles and look very much at home at part of Tuscan or Iberian decor. Copper fittings can be difficult to find at non-specialist bathroom supply stores.
Copper prices have been rising steadily for several years now, and copper's unique look isn't cheap to possess. A cheaper alternative is to choose copper-plated brass fittings, which retain the aesthetics of copper without attracting such a hefty price. Be aware, however, that these fittings are badly marred by scratches.
Copper is a relatively soft metal, but should still be able to withstand years of abuse without showing the signs. This is helped by copper's ability to 'heal' itself when scratched -- this is due to the dark, intricate patina that develops on the surface of copper, which quickly replaces itself when scratched. Copper fittings are also essentially immune to corrosion and tarnishing, even in areas with very high water salinity.
Stainless steel is a very common choice in modern bathrooms, but you shouldn't discount it for its ubiquity -- the huge availability of stainless steel bathroom fittings means that you can find them in every conceivable style or finish, from classic polished chrome finishes to eye-catching hammered nickel surfaces, so you're certain to find a set that perfectly matches your bathroom.
Another reason you may be attracted to stainless steel is its price, and even high-end fittings with intricate finishes can cost less than some standard brass or copper finishes. However, the very cheapest models are neither durable nor reliable, so it's worth dropping as much as your bathroom budget allows on a truly robust set of fittings.
Stainless steel's real drawback is its vulnerability to hard water, which tends to leave large limescale deposits and unsightly water spots on your fittings. Low-grade stainless steels also have a nasty tendency of holding stains caused by excessive limescale build-up, so it's important to keep stainless steel taps well cleaned and maintained. As with brass fittings, beware of hidden steel components that can quickly rust.