The British and Double Faucet Taps

This one drives me crazy. Why oh why do the British almost always insist on having separate taps for hot and cold water in their bathroom sinks? Your hands either end up burning or freezing. I’m told that you’re supposed to mix the water in the sink in order to get warm water, but very often there’s not even a stopper available. Even bathroom sinks in new buildings in the UK keep this tradition. And yet they clearly are familiar with the idea of having only one faucet, since most of their kitchen sinks that I’ve seen have only one. So why the two taps in the bathroom? Is there any possible practical reason for it?

There used to be but the advent of pressure balancing, thermostatic controls, and “non mixing” cartridges have resolved those issues.

They must just like it that way.

They are bathroom masochists. It goes along with their bizarre showers which, if present at all, are severely lacking in water pressure (an American friend described the shower as ‘mist’), often consist of a 2’ hose and sprinkler attached to the tap (so yes, you have to sit down for your mist-ening), and at other times are electric. (I know this might have more to do with old houses and less water availability than with masochism, but still.)

I welcome an alternative to the masochist theory. The two-tap question was at the forefront of my mind for the entire time I lived there (an experience that seems to be common to any North American who spends time there) and could not get a satisfactory answer.

On preview I decided to delete my civil reply and just let the usual Brit bashing of our quaint bathroom habits carry on without me.

they probably don’t throw out the old ones as fast as we do

The British bathe? :confused:

We do, but only because they’re last years colour. Only colours and style changes, never the bathroom technology. I don’t know about the US, but the fixtures and fittings on most of continental Europes bathrooms are far superior to their British equivalents.

Decent mixer taps are still quite expensive in the UK, which is a shame as they’re quite effective and reliable now. We’ve had high-spout mixer taps in the kitchen for decades now, but they invariably have separate hot/cold taps. Basic mixer taps aren’t popular because they’re less reliable, and sometimes you get a few cc of scalding hot water that’s purged out before the cold water you actually want arrives.

And with some designs getting the average water temperature you desire involves a split stream of water, one side scalding hot, one side icy cold. OK for filling a sink, not so good for rinsing hands.

For the record, I’ve got a 7kW electric shower, with a cold water feed straight from the pressurised mains. It’s OK in the summer, but getting any decent heat in the winter when the input water is icy cold means reducing the flow rate to a dribble. When the heater can burns out I shall replace it with a 10kW jobbie, but they don’t get much bigger than that. Pump-driven thermostatic power showers that draw from a hot water reserve are available in the UK, but are expensive. A shame, because they’re really effective and cheap to run.

Rather quaintly, most houses in the Uk draw their non-potable water from a big tank in the attic. This is to achieve a constant water pressure from the cold taps, even though the mains water pressure may vary considerably. This technique isn’t really required today as water supples are more reliable, and new build houses can get away without a cold water tank.

Shhhhhh… Big Box stores have BIG ears. :eek:

Orange Box may be in your future.

Oh, I don’t think they’re quaint, I hope you don’t take my bashing the wrong way.

I’ve found, upon reflection, that most of your “quaint” habits are really quite sensible, and only quaint from the point of view of gluttonous North America. For instance, things that I once questioned - followed by a sensible answer:

  • the apparent lack of things like clothes dryers, dishwashers (and lower frequency of laundry-doing) - because y’all are much more sensible in your use of electricity/water
  • habits like covering your couch with a throw - throws are way easier to clean than couches, and also make your couch last longer
  • using a washing-up bucket when doing dishes - saves water
  • impractical shower arrangements - the voluminous, powerful showers I have been trained to crave are massive devourers of water
  • small fridges (most of the fridges I saw in British homes would be considered ‘bar’ or ‘dorm’ fridges here) - saves energy, and y’all aren’t as accustomed to keeping huge quantities of groceries around

See, after all this reflection, I still can’t come up with a reason for the lack of mixer taps, except that they may be more expensive/less available. But this begs the question (I think … I’ve never been clear about how to use that turn of phrase) - we’re back to where we started - why are they more expensive/less available?

And, a question of more immediate practicality - how do you wash if there’s no stopper and no mixer tap? Just grit your teeth and bear the freezing or hotness? Is there a trick you don’t tell foreigners?

Yep. It’s just cold water - only wimps couldn’t cope with that ‘hardship’.
Some of the other ‘habits’ you list are born of necessity - small fridges because of small kitchens, small washing machines because the only place to put them is in the kitchen, and so on. American-sized fridges and everything else you mention are common enough, in houses big enough to hold them.

Can’t wait for a GQ about that exquisite fine English cuisine … :slight_smile:

Yep. Come to my climate some January morning and feel free to shave with just cold water.

One of the problems with mixer taps is with building/plumbing regulations. The loft stored, cold water header tank is a dying breed now but is the only legal way to supply mixer taps.
More often than not, the pressure differential makes this an impractica proposition.

I have ‘mixer’ taps for the kitchen, bath and washbasin, that are actually two taps ‘twinned’ with the water only ‘mixing’ Hah, where it emerges from the tap. Not a satisfactory solution, unless you run the water into the bowl (yes, I do have plugs, thankyou) otherwise you end up with one hand full of scalding hot water and the other full of freezing cold.

The theory behind this is that, should the mains water pressure fall to zero or lower, used or stored water wil not be then drawn into the main.

Huge load of bollocks but that is British building regs. A non-return valve would be so much simpler - but then - that would be too simple.

Which is why we here in North America turn the cold water on first. Call me silly, but doesn’t it make more sense to start with cold water and add enough hot water to make it “warm enough” rather than starting with hot water and adding enough cold water to make it “cool enough”?

I live in the US, and I have never had a single-handled faucet in the bathroom of any place I’ve lived.

Unless you have always lived in 100+ year old houses I doubt you have separate taps for hot and cold on your bathroom sink in the US.

You may have a two handled faucet but it’s just one faucet right?

Wow! You were so close. But you didn’t kick the ball over the goal line.

I have always had “mixer taps” in every sink that I have ever used. But I rarely derive any benefit from them. It can take a minute or so for hot water to arrive. As a true American, the waste of the water doesn’t bother me at all. But no way am I going to spend that minute! I want my fucking water… NOW! So I just turn the facet on and take whatever water happens to tumble out. I don’t find this agonizing at all. I’m just washing my hands, not taking a shower. “grit your teeth and bear the freezing”… you’re kidding … right?

If you’re shaving, you use hot water. That’s what I do, every (other) morning. Why on earth would you add cold water for this purpose? (I’m assuming a porcelain basin, which reduces the temperature of any liquid water to the point where it won’t cause injury)

You are an example of true resilience my friend.

I also want my water now AND I want it to to be either hot or piping hot on demand depending on my needs. Say I just want to wash my hands this is the ticket. If I desire some tea or Top Ramen presto

When I was growing up in South Dakota, we had bathroom sink with two faucets and had to mix the water in the sink with a stopper to hold the water in. Since it was all we knew about, it wasn’t bad at all. Now, I am used to a two faucet mixer which is common here in Colombia.