In the UK, water for baths and sinks is traditionally provided by separate hot and cold taps, while mainland Europe and America have long-since switched to a mixer-tap design. However, the British remain loyal to the traditional system, to such an extent that even the Savoy hotel even retains some separate hot and cold water taps because of their elegant designs. The two-tap systems are still a popular choice for many home owners today in the UK.
Traditionally, people filled bowls and baths with water that had been heated over a stove or fire. The availability of running water in many homes in the 19th century led to the design of tap that has come to be considered a classic – with cross head handles, in an upright pillar design. Later on, many British homes depended on cold water storage tanks that would be used to feed their hot water tanks. Because this tank was open to the elements, and may even have been silted up or covered in rust, the water it provided needed to be kept separate from the cold water system. For this reason it was safer to have separate hot and cold taps, since only the latter was considered safe as drinking water. However, in modern houses a boiler heats the water on demand, so mixer taps take their water directly from the mains supply.
In Britain there is no rule to say which side of the sink or bath your hot tap should be on, but it is common practice that it should be located on the left. In the US, there is in fact legislation to state that it should be positioned on the left, to prevent accidents. The system for identifying hot and cold taps also differs according to country, but traditional British taps used text rather than colour to distinguish between hot and cold.
If you would like to keep a sink, bath or basin that has room for two taps, or if you just like the traditional look and feel, you should choose the two-tap system. This can be combined with an ornate bath-shower mixer, for a luxurious appearance. These can all be fitted with the classic cross-head handles, with or without detailing and Edwardian-style ceramic inserts. The separate hot and cold taps come with the traditional screw-down valves as standard. These types of tap can be complemented with period accessories for your bathroom, and come in a variety of finishes such as chrome and gold plating. Traditional tap designs can now be fitted with aerators or flow straighteners.
Mixer taps – mono taps or monobloc taps – can be fitted with separate hot and cold taps for a hybrid of traditional elegance and modern utility. Single filler taps can also be found in a variety of styles – from Art Deco, to Victorian, Regency, and Edwardian-inspired designs. You can also choose mixer taps with the aesthetics of traditional features, such as cross-head handles and ceramic inserts, and pop-up waste rods.
It has to be said that the advantages of separate taps are mainly down to a matter of taste if your water system can support mixer taps. Even so, it may even be possible that separate taps help you to reduce your water bill with careful use. When it comes to taps and bathroom design, it is important to find a style that suits you.