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Nickel vs. Chrome vs. Stainless for kitchen & bathroom faucets and accessories


Q. Sir:

I am outfitting two bathrooms and much prefer the nickel faucets and accessories over the chrome. I live at the beach, is this a good idea? Stainless?

Thank you,

Holly Matney
- Oxnard Shores, California

A. Hi, Holly.

Chrome plating is actually comprised of nickel plating followed by a very thin flash of chrome plating. The chrome is slightly blue compared to the slight yellow of nickel plating, and most people today, like you, prefer the somewhat warmer look of nickel to the colder look of chrome.

Although the chrome plating symbiotically contributes to corrosion resistance, making the chrome more corrosion resistant (theoretically) a good nickel plating is superior to a poor nickel plus chrome plating. Plus, the terms today probably refer more to color than the actual plating process. Realistically a consumer like you or me cannot judge the corrosion resistance of a part from the sales description and must pretty much go by the manufacturer's reputation.

So pick a reputable brand with the look you prefer, and you should be fine. Good luck!

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 27, 2008

A. Ted's right--unless you contact the manufacturer and verify the materials used, there's a very strong likelihood that the applications "nickel" or "chrome" really mean "nickel colored" or "chrome colored."

If they really are the actual metals, they are probably only plated on anyway, and the substrate could be nearly anything from copper to stainless to plastic.

For practical purposes of "living near the beach" either metal should be fine, although the best would be a solid marine stainless steel alloy or a marine bronze, with a nickel plating.

Since anything you buy (unless made to order) is most likely going to be plated, the important part is how well the plating is done; make sure you get a solid guarantee or warranty!

The thickness of the coating is important to the longevity of the equipment, as every time it gets polished it will lose some of the plating.

Charles M. Barnard
- Menomonie, Wisconsin


Q. I'm looking at getting a new kitchen faucet and was wondering what the difference was in maintenance and longevity between brushed nickel and brushed chrome finishes.

Malte Simmer
Home owner - Haiku, Hawaii


A. All decorative chrome finishes have nickel plating under them. Theoretically then, a brushed nickel finish would be nickel plating only and a brushed chrome finish would be nickel plating followed by chrome plating. And if that were actually the case, I'd say the chrome would be bluer and would stay untarnished whereas the nickel would be more yellow and would grow duller with time as it tarnished. But there is a lot of the colloquial in such terms and I'm not confident that the "brushed nickel" is not also actually chrome plated.

Go by your confidence in the brand, as there is little a consumer like you or me can really do or judge about plating quality.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 3, 2012appended

Q. I was wondering about recommendations for bathroom faucets and lighting fixtures at a shore home. How do the brushed nickel and antique bronze hold up? What would you recommend?

Donna Berns
- Cherry Hill, New Jersey

October , 2012

A. Hi Donna. I have antique bronze in the kitchen, and brushed nickel in the bathroom, and both are holding up fine. If they are high quality fixtures from a reputable manufacturer they will probably be no problem.

The antique bronze finish will have a lacquer or automotive clearcoat on it, and that's what is actually resisting the corrosion.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 28, 2012appended

Q. I am looking for long lasting bathroom accessories. Preferred metal of choice for bathroom accessories, nickel, chrome or stainless steel? Then the question to answer is polished or satin finish? Too many choices out there without real answers as to what will uphold it's finish the longest.

Leah Borenstein
- New York

December 28, 2012

A. Hello Leah.

We appended your inquiry to an ongoing thread on the subject. All of these descriptions are merely about the look of the item, not it's actual material of construction or plating. Sorry, but there really is no other answer. If you buy from a faucet manufacturer that you have reason to trust, the finish should hold up fine. I've had no problem in my shore home with any recent faucet finish, including chrome, brushed nickel, and antique bronze. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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