Overview

collection of old taps with an inset of vintage green taps
Photo: Kristine Larsen
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Bathroom technology was pretty much perfected in the late 19th century. So why'd we have to mess with it? Case in point: the porcelain cross-handle faucet tap. To crank up the heat in your shower, you just turned that creamy white tap marked "HOT" or simply "H." These days, getting a satisfying steam can require an instruction manual for navigating iPod-like digital control panels and high-tech humidity regulators.

Luckily for Luddites like me, those old-timey taps were built to last and still grace the showers and sinks in many a well-preserved bathroom. If yours were replaced with something more modern, and likely less stylish, you can pick up vintage originals at a salvage yard for as little as $30 a pair. Just be sure to bring your faucet with you, or at least the valve stems, when you shop. The metal fittings that connect the taps to the faucets vary, depending on the manufacturer, and finding a good fit for yours will require some trial and error.

Most porcelain taps were white, in keeping with late-19th-century tastes for sanitary-looking bath fixtures. By the 1930s, taps came in colors, such as jadeite green (inset), to coordinate with lively hued Art Deco sinks and tubs.
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    Tools List

    • 16-foot tape measure
      Measuring tape
    • combination square
      Combination square
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • flathead screwdriver
      Screwdriver

    Shopping List

    1. Three porcelain taps and escutcheons

    2. Three dummy spindles

    3. Two shelf brackets

    4. Epoxy

    5. Barn wood for shelves