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My oh my, it seems that everything comes in a variety of options… including the kitchen sink!

…or bathroom sink, for that matter, which is what prompted my research for selecting a faucet… and our next installment of Lingo Lessons! If you didn’t catch the first one, Lingo Lessons are periodic posts in which I impart vocabulary wisdom to the DIY blog world. If you’ve ever been at Lowe’s or Home Depot and struggled to get your point across to the rep, then these lessons are for you!

Selecting a faucet seems pretty simple at first:  see a faucet, like a faucet, buy a faucet. But, when it comes to installing that faucet, it turns out that they aren’t all created equal. If you’re installing custom countertops, you can get the faucet holes drilled to match your new purchase, but if you’re replacing an existing faucet, it has to fit the pre-drilled holes in your sink which can get a little tricky. To save yourself the aggravation (and a few trips back to the improvement store), review these little faucet differences before you go shopping.

Generally, you will see one to three pre-drilled holes where the faucet should go – either on the sink, countertop, or wall. These holes will determine the faucet type you should buy:

If you see only one hole, these faucets are known as Single Hole (pretty self-explanatory, don’cha think?). Below are some examples of this style:

If you see three holes, you will need to measure the distance between the leftmost and rightmost holes to get the appropriate faucet fixture.

A 4″ measurement means you should look for a 4″ Centerset faucet or 4″ Minispread faucet. An 8″ measurement means you should look for an 8″ Widespread faucet.

4″ Centerset faucets are compact and join the three hole openings above the sink or countertop. In other words, the spout and handles are all attached together into one unit. Centerset styles may come in two-handled or single-handled designs as you can see in the examples below.

4″ Minispread faucets are still compact like the centerset style (above), but the spout is not visibly attached to the hot and cold handles on either side, giving it the look and feel of a larger widespread model.

Like it? Find it.

If the holes in the sink or countertop measure 8″ apart, then you will need to replace the old faucet with an 8″ Widespread model. As indicated by the name, these faucets are spread apart wider than the single hole and 4″ faucet types, and are ideal when you have a larger sink area. A 4″ model could easily get lost in a large bathroom, so scale is important here. Also, when it comes to cost, widespread faucets are generally more costly than their narrower counterparts.

Like this faucet? Find it here.

Vessel filler faucets have become more popular in recent years, and are used specifically for vessel-style sinks. The spouts on vessel designs are generally taller so that it can reach over the sides of the vessel sink. Of course, this means that you will need to know the measurement of the sink to ensure proper placement of the spout. The height of the spout should clear the rim of the sink by about 3 – 5 inches, and should hang about 2-1/2 inches from the edge (to save yourself splash cleanup).

Find faucets like this here.

Wall mount faucets connect to the wall rather than to the countertop and can even work for vessel sinks. To install this faucet type, be sure that the spout extends to the center of the sink basin and that your water supply runs behind the wall instead of out in the open. If you don’t already have a wall mount setup, this faucet type is probably not your best (or cheapest) option since you’ll probably have to get professional help to reconfigure the plumbing.

Ok, have I used the words faucet and hole enough for one blog post? I hope this helps your next faucet purchase. Got any tips of your own to add? Please share!

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6 Comments

  1. Wow.. I wish I'd had all this info when I was buying my taps.. ;o)
    One slight difference in Canada [as I learned to my cost].. The taps you describe as centreset are called 'deck mount'… the 'deck' being the metal section that joins the spout and handles together.
    The wall mounted taps in your last photo would be called deck mounted too.
    Just a little snippet for your Canadian readers.
    Jo xx

  2. Thanks, Sarah! Question: I’m buying a bathroom vanity with a pre-drilled hole. The specs say “Faucet Hole Diameter: 1.5 inches.” Does this mean that the width of the faucet I buy has to be 1.5 inches exactly (or can it be less)? These seem hard to come by, as most appear to be a “standard” 1.38 inches. Help! Also, the specs for the vanity say that the “Drain Connection Diameter” is 1.5 inches. Does this mean that I have to get a 1.5 inch p-trap to replace what’s currently there? Again, wondering if (but assuming it wouldn’t) work with a smaller size, since 1.5 inches seem hard to come by in the style I’m looking for. Thank you!!

    1. To be honest, this is not a question I’ve had to ask myself! I’ve always just trusted that since I bought a standard vanity that a standard faucet would also fit, so I assume that’s also the case with your new vanity. I even asked someone who has done more plumbing than me and they can’t recall needing a 1 3/8″ p-trap either. I hope I’m not giving you wrong info but the fact that I’ve installed two faucets so far and it’s never come up before, you are probably good (but if you’re worried about it, make sure you source your faucet from a reputable place so that you can return it if needed). In both cases with my faucets, the faucet had kind of a decorative lip around the bottom that it would cover over hole placement (so I’ve only ever used the widespread vs. center-set kind of differences to make my choice). Hope the install goes smoothly!

  3. Thank you for your helpful lingo blog. I have a question. The sink I am purchasing needs an 8″ widespread faucet. I am looking at a faucet that says it has a “6 inch handle spread”. Does that mean the spread between the holes is 6 inches? Thank you.