Plumbing fixtures have come a long way over the years, becoming more functional and user-friendly across a wide range of lifestyles. Modern technology has reduced limitations based on old plumbing systems, making indoor and outdoor water a breeze to access and maintain. From dedicated dog-wash stations to ultra-modern wall hydrants, there are unique solutions being developed for just about every scenario. Today’s plumbers are installing new fixtures, and in different ways.
The heart of the home, the kitchen, has traditionally been at the forefront of the wave. And after more than 100 years, the innovation is still going strong. Moen recently announced their voice-activated kitchen faucet, allowing control in four different ways — manually, touch-free, voice-activated and via smartphone. “Extra assistance in the kitchen can go a long way,” says Suzy Street, product manager at Moen.
“We have seen a significant surge in touchless faucet demand,” says Jon Andrews of Ranvier Group, a representative of plumbing manufacturers. “We feel this will be the norm moving forward. The e-faucets come at a significant price bump from the traditional, but when owners and consumers request the change, the market will follow suit. The hurdle is simply getting past the tendency to ‘stay the same.’ Telling a contractor to change something he has done for decades isn’t the easiest feat to accomplish. We are starting to swing the pendulum toward innovation.”
Specialized fixtures in the kitchen and bath, such as pot-fillers and bidets, have existed for decades. They’re popular upgrades for custom builds and remodels, minimally increasing costs compared to the convenience and value they bring for homeowners. But as more seniors choose to age-in-place, the convenience turns to necessity. Imagine carrying a full pot of water across the kitchen at age 90, versus simply filling it on the stove.
And the improvements aren’t limited to just indoors. Outdoor and mixed-use plumbing fixtures are also evolving in sync with people’s needs.
Garages, studios and workshops have been transitioning to mixed-use spaces, making a sink or rinse-off station both convenient and even necessary. With limited space and an increase in time being spent at home now, more homeowners are choosing to section off part of their garage to build a mini gym, complete with dumbbells, treadmills and stationary bikes. Budding artists often opt to work from their garage or basement now, saving money on rented studio space and eliminating an unnecessary commute. Home auto shops can certainly benefit from a deep sink as well, if not a hose for spraying down the area after use. When covered in sweat and paint or grime, it makes the most sense to locate a shower just steps away, providing the ability to wash up before entering the home.
Perhaps the dog needs a wash too. We love our furry friends, but attempting to clean them off after a muddy park romp or swim can be an ordeal. While a standard outdoor garden hose can remove most of the sludge, it’s not always an option in cold or rainy conditions. Without a contained area it can be difficult to wrangle a dog into the right position and have him sit still.
One solution is to install a wash-down station in the garage. Dedicated dog-wash stations are now available on the market, offering a stainless tub and extendable spray nozzle. A common alternative is simply adding a hose bibb and floor drain to the garage area.
“We install a hydrant with a mixing valve in almost every garage we build now,” says Steve Holzknecht of RHH Construction. “It’s a huge hit with homeowners, at a low cost.”
There are solutions for every price point. For the ultimate experience, Kohler’s DTV+ showering system brings water, sound, steam and lighting together. A touch-screen interface allows every element to be controlled and customized. It can control valves remotely and can even be used outside. Today’s outdoor shower can be a whole lot more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing than in the past.
Hose bibbs and wall hydrants have also begun to catch up with updated modern plumbing fixtures. While old-fashioned brass spigots are still the norm, new categories of outdoor faucets are quickly becoming more popular among homeowners and professionals.
Aquor’s flush-mounted wall hydrants offer unique one-second hose connections, reflecting the changing needs of homeowners. Consumers are no longer limited to just dull rough brass for their outdoor fixtures — Aquor offers spigots in stylish, modern finishes such as matte black, and other manufacturers such as Prier are starting to offer more features and finishes as well, including oil-rubbed bronze.
On a contemporary build, it makes sense to move away from the designs of yesterday and start integrating fixtures that can grow and adapt with the family living inside. Modern plumbing fixtures can make life easier and more enjoyable, both indoors and out. There is no need to be stuck in the past when better is available — anticipate how your clients will be using their water and design with the future in mind.