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When selecting the plumbing fixtures for your home, you'll have a lot of choices to make regarding finish. The finish you choose depends on your taste and need for easy maintenance. Fixture manufacturers like American Standard offers a wide assortment of finishes such as brass, chrome, nickel, copper, pewter, and oil-rubbed bronze. Here is a list of popular finishes widely available from American Standard:
Because brass tends to be a high maintenance metal, manufacturers like American Standard have developed many techniques to protect brass finishes and make it easier on your polishing arm. One very fine protective is a two-part epoxy known as Supercoating. Supercoating is applied electrostatically and baked on to guarantee that your fixture stays bright and shiny through years of use. Another technique for protecting brass is Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) which renders polished brass tarnish-resistant, scratch-resistant, and corrosion-resistant. While these techniques help to protect the finish, if you want to keep on shining, you'll have to keep on cleaning. After using your faucet, for example, you'll need to wipe your fixture with a soft cloth to expunge water spots, soap film, and fingerprints.
As you will remember from newsreels, chrome plating for fixtures (and cars) became popular in the 1930s, and it is possibly the people's choice for fixture finishes to this day. And why not? Chrome is shiny, silvery, and tarnish-resistant. Of course, fixtures are not made of chrome but of solid brass electroplated with chrome. Like brass, however, you have to clean chrome regularly to keep it shiny.
If you have ever watched Antiques Road Show, you know that interest in old brass is at an all-time high. This phenomenon has not been lost on fixture manufacturers. They have responded with high-quality antique (distressed brass) reproductions that are less costly, easier to install than the originals, and conform to modern codes. Antiqued finishes such as weathered copper, antique copper, antique brass, antique bronze and antique pewter are chemically treated to age them. The result is a piece that looks like a family heirloom from great, great uncle Ebenezer.
Because it didn't tarnish easily, nickel was the king of finishes from the 1880s until chrome took the crown in the 1930s. In recent years, nickel has had a bit of a renaissance. You can now get a variety of nickel finishes that range from more chrome-like polished nickel to a more stainless steel-like matte nickel finish. Polished nickel has many attractive features. It offers a smooth, lustrous finish. Manufacturers like American Standard brush the nickel to create matte or satin finishes. This shows off the beauty of the nickel and produces a surface that hides scratches, fingerprints, and water spots.
Brass has been a popular finish since the nineteenth century. Maybe because the polished variety looks like gold, but who really knows? The thing about brass is that it looks great but you have to do a lot of polishing to keep it at its brightest best. You can polish your brass until your elbow falls off, but in time your unprotected brass will tarnish (develop brown spots). This is not a big deal for a lot of brass aficionados. They dig brown spots. Since brass is supposed to tarnish, some renovators prefer their brass unprotected.