Digital tub and shower valves are catching on fast. SHNS photo

Digital tub and shower valves are catching on fast. SHNS photo

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Ask a plumber roundup

Traditional shower valves may someday be all washed up

By Ed Del Grande

Q: We’re remodeling our master bathroom to include a new modern shower stall with all the bells and whistles. My contractor suggested that we go with one of the new type of electronic “digital” shower mixing valves, instead of the traditional manual-type valve. Can you please give me some additional information on these new electronic shower valves? — Freddy, Florida

A: Digital tub and shower valves are catching on fast. Partly because the products are becoming affordable, and a lot easier to install and operate. Also, because of all the cool things they can do to enhance the bathing experience.

For instance, you can zone off different showerheads and, with the push of a button, change the water direction. Or automatically fill your bathtub to the perfect temperature while you’re shaving. Operating controls can also be added outside the shower area, so you can actually start your shower as soon as you get out of bed, then walk right into a nice hot shower. Bright display screens can show the water temperature and how the water is being controlled.

Bottom line: The gadgetry is wonderful, but just remember that it needs electricity to operate. So in case of a power failure, have a good backup plan so you don’t end up “high and dry” in your shower!

Plans for new under-mount kitchen sink may be sunk

Q: My husband and I are in a disagreement over our kitchen sink. We recently moved into a new house with granite kitchen counters and a drop-in stainless-steel sink. We’ve been here for almost a year, and I would rather have an under-mount sink with no rim. He told me to forget about it, because we can’t change styles. Is this really true? Is it possible to change from a top-mount sink to an under-mount sink? — Linda, Rhode Island

A: I mention often that it’s usually possible to do whatever you want when it comes to home improvement, but you have to consider if the result will be worth the cost of the project. In your case, this can be an expensive venture with not a lot of payback.

You have a top-mounted kitchen sink. Basically, that’s a hole cut into the existing countertop, then you simply drop in the sink. An under-mount sink is usually installed before the counter is put into place. Then, the counter is placed on top of the sink and locks the sink into place.

However, the advantage you have with the drop-in style is that the sink can be removed fairly easily, and then you can install a new sink to the existing counter. It won’t be an under-mount sink, but you can go with a new cast-iron sink that can be any color and configuration that you like.

This can be an affordable “counter offer” that you can present to your husband!

Installing a hot water dispenser

Q: My wife loves her morning cup of tea and boils the water herself. I was thinking of getting her one of those new coffee-tea makers, but then I thought of something really special.

Can you please give me some information on those beverage faucets that deliver hot water instantly? Also, what is involved, labor wise, in having them installed? — Fred in New Mexico

A: In the plumbing world, they are known as “hot water dispensers” and they’re still a popular addition to many kitchen sinks. Boiling water for tea, or using a coffee-tea maker usually takes some time to heat the water. However, a hot water dispenser delivers the “piping hot” water instantly through a small faucet mounted on the sink.

Connected to this special faucet is a small electric water heater mounted under the kitchen sink. The water stored in this small tank is kept very hot until you need it. Hot water dispensers are great for tea and anything “instant” like soups, oatmeal and coffee. Remember, though, it is not a coffee maker.

For installation, a licensed plumber and electrician is usually needed, and the unit must be installed per local codes. As you can see, by the time you’re done with material and labor costs, this unit can end up being a “high end” accessory to your kitchen. However, if your goal is to “warm up” your wife’s heart, a hot water dispenser can really do the job.

Scripps Howard News Service

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