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Where did the brass go?

Brass has been the standard metal most bathroom fixtures are made from for hundreds of years. This is mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t rust like steel or iron. So why is it so hard to find quality brass items now? One of the items that specifically bothers me is escutcheon plates. They are those little trim plates that go around your pipes to hide the hole in the wall. They used to be commonly made from brass and then chrome plated. Now if you go to your local hardware store, your only option will most likely be chrome plated steel. The issue with steel escutcheons is that they will inevitably rust and become an eyesore. How long this takes depends on the quality of the chrome plating and the level of moisture in the bathroom. But since the chrome plating is usually poor quality and bathrooms usually have high humidity levels, this can be a relatively short time. You might remodel a bathroom only to have your new steel escutcheons showing rust two years later. I’m not sure how most people feel about this, but it’s unacceptable to me. Especially since the only way to properly replace them is to pull the valve off the pipe.

It is still possible to find brass escutcheons if you know where to look online. Whenever you order something like this, always double check that they aren’t made of steel before you install them. This can be done easily with a magnet. Steel will stick to the magnet, brass will not. Some of the brands out there I have found are Kingston Brass, Brasstech (Newport Brass), and Wolverine Brass. Out of these, Wolverine Brass seems to be the most affordable. Wolverine Brass also has excellent solid brass quarter turn supply valves they call their “Finale Ultimate” line.

So if you find yourself remodeling or sprucing up a bathroom, try to replace all your steel escutcheons with brass and you will be able to enjoy a rust free bathroom for years to come!

-Daniel

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