4 Types of Faucets and How to Choose One

Types of Faucets

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

A faucet is a necessary and functional part of your sink as a way to control and turn running water on and off in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or other areas. The faucet in your kitchen may look just like the one in your bathroom, but they may be very different on the inside. It helps to know a little bit about the interior of a faucet to help you choose a replacement or to deal with any repairs. There are four common types of faucets used in a home:

  • Ball
  • Disc
  • Cartridge
  • Compression

The first three (ball, disc, and cartridge) are known as "washerless faucets" since they do not use rubber or neoprene washers in the assembly. A compression faucet needs a rubber washer to control the water flow. Below, we’ll break down the ins and outs of each type of faucet and the factors you should consider if you're renovating, repairing, or simply want an upgrade.

Types of Faucets
  Basics Positive Negative 
Ball  First washerless faucet with interior slotted ball assembly controlling the flow of hot and cold water, single handle  Affordable Leaky
Disk Handle moves ceramic disks up and down to regulate flow, single handle Reliable newer technology Disks break or erode over time
Cartridge Interior cartridge moves to regulate water flow, single or double handle Fewer parts Hard water deposits may affect cartridges
Compression An interior rubber washer seals off water flow when compressed, double handle Easy to fix Leaky
  • 01 of 04

    Ball Faucet

    Person using a ball faucet

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Best for: Kitchens and bathrooms

    Ball faucets are very common in kitchen sinks and were the first type of washerless faucet. They are identifiable by their single handle that moves over a rounded ball-shaped cap right above the base of the faucet spout. The ball faucet has a single handle that controls a special plastic or metal ball inside the faucet body. This ball has chambers or slots in it, along with rubber O-rings and spring-loaded rubber seals. Depending on the ball's position, the ball/lever assembly controls the flow and mixing temperature of the water coming out of the faucet.

    Though the exterior part of the faucet itself is just as durable as other types of faucets, the inner workings may not be as durable and will need more maintenance than others. Because of the number of parts that make up this type of faucet, ball faucets tend to leak more than other washerless faucets such as the cartridge faucet or disc faucet. On the flip side, because it is an older technology, the ball faucet is one of the least expensive types of faucets.

    Pros
    • Sleek single handle

    • Most common type of faucet for kitchens

    • Affordable

    Cons
    • Tends to leak

    • Many complicated parts

    • Can be tough to pinpoint the leak

  • 02 of 04

    Disc (or Disk) Faucet

    Disk faucet

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Best for: Kitchens and bathrooms, ideal for people with grip issues

    Ceramic disc faucets are the latest development in modern faucet technology. They are identifiable by their single lever over a wide cylindrical body. The disk faucet mixes hot and cold water inside a mixing chamber called a pressure balance cartridge. Two ceramic discs at the bottom of the chamber will raise and lower to control the volume of water flow. The temperature is controlled by a side-to-side rotation of the handle. These faucets are high-quality, very reliable, and do not need to be repaired very often. However, because the faucet is newer technology and highly durable, it is also more expensive than other types of faucets.

    You will barely need to move the lever to run your water. These faucets are very sensitive to touch, making them ideal for people with arthritis or hand grip challenges.

    Pros
    • Newer and more reliable technology

    • High quality

    • Stands up to extreme temperatures

    Cons
    • Disks break/erode over time

    • Takes time to get used to the feel of the faucet

    • More expensive type of technology

  • 03 of 04

    Cartridge Faucet

    Cartridge Faucet

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Best for: Kitchens and bathrooms

    Double-handle cartridge faucets look almost indistinguishable from a compression washer faucet. However, you can tell the difference by how the handles feel when used. A compression faucet requires you to tighten down (compress) the washer to close the water flow. With a cartridge faucet, the action is smooth and consistent. With a half-turn, the handle goes from the off to the on position. The faucet turns off without added pressure being required as with a compression faucet.

    The cartridges are considered durable and easy to replace, which means this type of faucet could need less maintenance than other types. However, depending on the manufacturer and model of your sink, the cartridges may be costly to replace; some may cost over $100.

    Pros
    • Works smoothly

    • Cartridges are generally durable

    • Easy to fix

    Cons
    • Hard water deposits can block cartridges

    • Seals at the bottom of cartridges can still fail

    • Replacement cartridges for some brands can be costly

  • 04 of 04

    Compression Washer Faucet

    Compression water faucet

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Best for: Utility sinks, and usually found in older homes

    Compression washers have been around since the beginning of on-demand indoor plumbing. They are found in older homes, and updated versions are often used in utility sinks in newer homes to this day. These faucets are typically the least expensive to buy, but they are not as durable long-term as most of them are prone to leaks and maintenance. On the bright side, replacement parts are very inexpensive.

    Compression washer faucets are identifiable by their separate hot and cold water handles and their action requiring you to tighten the handles down to close off the water flow. These faucets work by using a compression stem, which is a type of glorified screw with a washer at the end of it pressing against a valve seat.

    Pros
    • Low cost

    • Fits aesthetics of older style homes

    • Easy to repair even though it's quick to wear out

    Cons
    • Prone to leaks

    • Higher maintenance than other valve types

    • Older technology

Choosing a Faucet

Faucets of all types are meant to last for years, but there are maintenance (worn protective coatings, forcing handles to move too hard) and environmental issues (hard water and the buildup of limescale) that cause them to fail sooner. There are usually clear signs you need a new faucet. The tip of the tap is rusty, the finish is dull or flaking off, the handles are leaky, and the leaks won't stop even when you attempt a repair. You can replace an entire faucet of one type with a faucet of another type. You cannot replace the assembly of a faucet, however. So if you have an older faucet with a cartridge assembly, you can replace the whole faucet with a single-handle model that has a ceramic disc assembly.

Consider your sink configuration, as well. If you want to replace a two-handle faucet with a single-handle faucet, you can do that too, just make sure the baseplate of the new single-handle faucet will adequately cover the extra holes. However, if you only have one hole, you will need to stick with a single-handle faucet.

If you are trying to decide on buying one type of faucet over another, consider these five additional factors:

  1. If you are not handy at home, consider an easy-to-fix cartridge faucet.
  2. If you have disability or arthritic issues, consider a disk faucet which is very easy to turn on and off.
  3. If you want a basic, sleek singled-handle faucet, opt for an affordable ball type faucet.
  4. If you want the longest-lasting, most updated type of faucet, choose a disk faucet, but remember it can be costly to fix, and you'll likely need a professional to repair it.
  5. If you have an older home with compression faucets and want to upgrade, consider consulting a plumber just to make sure it's a go.