Upgrades to Your Household Plumbing

The very first thing being offered as an upgrade is the plumbing fixtures.


Bathroom faucets – The standard faucet offered for a bathroom in a mid-level spec home is a single-handle lavatory faucet in chrome. Not a lot of style; function is paramount. The countertop drilling for this type of faucet has single or three holes. Three-hole 4″ center sinks or counters have drillings that are equidistant from the center with a total spread of 4″ across. The first thing offered for an upgrade would be the finish. Look into the Best info about water heater replacement.

Polished Brass, Stainless Steel, and Brushed Nickel are just a few of the finishes available. The finish selections on entry-level faucets are more limited; however, the manufacturers have recently offered more current finishes, i.e., brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze. The next upgrade would be to install a wide mini spread (4″ centers) or a widespread faucet (8″ centers).

These faucets have separate hot and cold handles and separate spouts and tend to have a full line of finishes and styles to choose from. Most faucet manufacturers now offer very high-end single-handle faucets; regardless of which upgrade you choose, those faucets should be solid brass, have PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) finishes with a lifetime guarantee, and have an upgraded cartridge, usually made of ceramic.

Toilets – The standard toilet offering is a 1.6GPF (Gallons Per Flush) round front toilet in white. (A round front toilet as, well…a round front. Its design is compact, and any man over 185lbs can’t stand them. They may never complain, but they have a small toilet seat.) The first level of upgrade would be to get a toilet with an elongated bowl.

The elongated bowl gives you a few extra inches in front. However, some bathrooms don’t have the space to accommodate the bowl, so check your dimensions. We have seen high-end homes have front-round bowls, which still boggles the mind. The following standard upgrade is becoming more and more popular: having a “comfort high” bowl. This is an ADA height bowl measuring 17″ from the floor to the rim. It’s easier on the knees, both sitting down and standing up. Toilets come in various colors; however, most china manufacturers have dramatically reduced their color offerings over the last five years.

The most popular colors are white, bisque/linen, bone/almond, gray and black. Most standard toilet seats are made of laminated wood; over time, the lamination and layers of wood separate, and the seat begin to break down. You can upgrade the seat to molded plastic to sharply increase the seat’s life. Other toilet upgrades involve the flushing mechanism. Pressure-assisted and HET(High-Efficiency Toilet)/dual flush are two upgrades.

Showers – The shower or tub/shower in the mid-level spec home is commonly a single-handle pressure-balanced valve with a chrome finish. As with the lavatory faucet, function and value are more important than style. The type of finish is the first line of upgrades; polished brass, stainless steel, and brushed nickel are a few. On most occasions, the shower faucet matches the lavatory in style and finish. Another standard upgrade would be adding a handheld shower on a holder or slide bar.

Finally, the valve could be changed to a thermostatic mixing valve (unlike a pressure balance valve that protects the user by cutting off water depending on the water pressure, a thermostatic valve protects the user from scalding by sensing the temperature of the water. If the water gets too hot, the valve slams shut.) Most thermostatic mixing valves have a separate volume control. You can also get complicated and add diverters, body sprays, and rain dome shower heads.

Steam-generating units can also be installed in a walk-in shower to enhance the shower experience. For the ultimate showering experience, Kohler manufactures a product called the DVT valve. It is the most advanced shower system readily available to the consumer; it combines steam, water, sound, light, and even the web in a wall-mounted control unit combined with a digitally controlled set of valves. It’s expensive, but it’s fantastic for the customer with no budget.

Steam Generator – A steam generator can be installed in a walk-in shower.

Tubs – Most entry-level homes get a 5ft or 6ft bathtub. They can be drop-in or fit in the tub space with a front apron. They are made in enameled steel or, better, are made in cast iron. Enameled steel tubs are lighter than their cast iron counterparts but are thinner and don’t have the same heat retention properties. We suppose getting a cast iron tub would be an upgrade, but they are offered in quite a few new homes. Enameled steel tubs are trendy in apartment buildings.

Regarding real upgrades, tub depth is one; requesting a drop-in soaker tub is another, and you can get that soaker tub with whirlpool jets. Tub color and length are upgrades to choose from, but the tubs’ construction and material are where the real upgrades begin. Steel is the cheapest and least durable; gel coat fiberglass can be made pretty cheaply and in any color but, if scratched, will show the white undercoat.

Upgrading to acrylic is the way to go when choosing a fiberglass-backed tub; the color is through the surface, so its scratches are not as apparent. Again if budget means nothing, Kohler makes several cast iron models with therapeutic jets, bubble massage jets, and jets that just the water fills with bubbles for ascetics only; these tubs can be bought with LED lighting and remote controls for added pleasure and convenience.


Kitchen Sink – Drop-in stainless steel sinks in 20 or 22-gauge are standard. They are naturally stained and corrosion resistant, but they are thin, the finishes aren’t exquisite, and if you drop something in them, they ring like a bell. They’ll offer drop-in cast iron when you start getting into the mid-level home or condo. As said before, it is challenging, natural, sound deadening, and has excellent heat retention properties.

Cast iron sinks come in a variety of shapes and colors. (You can get an enameled steel sink, it is also an entry-level sink and has the same pro and cons as the steel bathtub) Laminate counters have drop-in sinks meaning they are self-rimming. When the homeowner upgrades the type of countertops to granite or a synthetic aggregate, although you can still use a drop-in sink, most choose to buy an undermount sink. The sink is mounted underneath the counter using pre-drilled clips by the countertop supplier/installer.

Upgrading to an under-counter mount stainless steel sink is the most popular choice when the countertops are upgraded. Stainless gives you an attractive color contrast between the counter and the sink and, as said before, is highly durable. Please take note several years ago, upgrading to an under-counter mount stainless assured you of a heavy gauge sink with superior sound deadening and a lustrous finish; many have taken advantage of the sinks’ popularity by making a cheaper sink. Beware. If you have questions regarding a particular type of sink, leave the question here, and we’ll give you an honest answer.

When installing a Corian or another acrylic-based solid surface countertop, the kitchen sink can be integral, meaning it is fused to the countertop. The sink can be the same color as the counter or, more preferably, a contrasting color. Finally and somewhat recently, quite a few manufacturers have begun manufacturing quartz-based drop-in, and under-counter mount sinks. They are available in a minimal selection of colors. White, black, and granite (gray/beige) are the only ones currently available. They are highly durable; some are up to 80% quartz, and their sound deadening is on par with cast iron. Most builders call this an upgrade to cast iron when they are very similar in price and, in some cases, less money.

Kitchen Sink Faucets – The entry-level faucet is a chrome single-handle faucet without a side spray. You can request the same faucet with a side spray, and it would be an upgrade but only about $25.0t. Similarly to the lavatory faucets, you can upgrade the finish, and again, even entry-level faucets have a few popular finishes.

The first real upgrade to the faucet comes in the way of a pull-out spout. These faucets are manufactured by almost every major plumbing fixture company and are convenient. You can buy entry-level faucets with pull-out spouts or upgrade, affecting the finish, durability, and cartridge material. There are many finishes and styles for kitchen faucets, so be sure to look at the manufacturer’s website to find the right faucet for you.

Garbage Disposals – You either ask for one or don’t; if not used properly, they can be a pain for your lucky plumbing professional. As a general rule of thumb, as the price of the disposal increases, so does the horsepower rating, the quality of the housing material increases, and the sound insulation gets better.

Miscellaneous upgrades – We will list the following upgrades to the entire plumbing system.

Cast Iron Waste Piping – There will always be a debate about which material is superior, but we can confidently say that cast iron is quieter piping. However, it’s heavier and more challenging to cut, prepare and install, so we’ll call it an upgrade.

Copper Water Piping – PEX plastic tubing is code-approved in every state. However, most plumbing professionals agree that copper water pipes and fittings are superior to installation. However, the disparity in skill level needed to install a copper water distribution system is enormous. In addition, copper is expensive, and the installation labor is expensive, so we’ll call it an upgrade.

Water Softener – Depending on the hardness of the water in your area, you may want to install a water softener. Our recommendation is to have your water tested to install the correct softener. Softened water is easier on clothes, skin, and the plumbing piping in your home. The only downside to having a softener is maintaining the salt that needs to be added to the system for proper function.

Whole House Water Filter – This water filter removes the taste, odor, and sediment from the entire house water supply. How often the filter cartridge changes depends on the quality of the incoming water. If the quality of water is poor and the water has a high amount of suspended solids, the cartridge gets clogged, and the water pressure in the entire house drops off drastically. It can be inconvenient, but at least you are specific when the filter needs replacing.

Water Heater – Most average homes are installed with a 40 or 50-gallon water heater. You can upgrade to a larger storage tank or evenuseankless one. Be advised tankless heaters work superbly if installed correctly but are usually more than double the installed cost.

Hot Water Recirculation Pump – If a home has an extended footprint, the hot water may take a while to get to the farthest plumbing fixture; installing a recirculating pumpes the pumps for hot water dramatically.

Pressure Booster Pump – Depending on the water pressure in a municipality, the owners of a home with higher-than-average water demands may want to look into installing a pressure booster pump. These pumps come in two basic models, manual; you flip a switch when you need higher water pressure and variable frequency, which turns on, on demand. The latter is the more expensive, but it is a more convenient system.

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