Twenty or so years ago it was normal to leave the procurement of your tapware and bathroom fittings to your trusty builder or plumber. They would pick the trademens' choice and install it. Simple. There was not much to choose from and there was far less emphasis on design.
These days your home is a reflection of you. Therefore homeowners wish to select and purchase their own home-defining building fixtures rather than leave it to their builder or tradespeople. For example, a kitchen mixer is an important component of the style of your new kitchen, and it is important you select something that appeals to your taste and performs the role you want it to.
This is why it is not normal for designer fixture procurement to be 'in scope' in a builder's or plumber's contract. And your builder or plumber is not likely to be able to showcase all the world's options for you to select from, and then be interested in driving around to try and find the best price. Understandably, shopping for home fixtures such as taps is not something that the average homeowner regularly does. Today there is such a confusing range of brands, prices, and sales channels that it makes sense to ask the plumber where to buy the tap.
But do you ask a mechanic where to buy your car? Do you ask a picture hanger where to buy your art? No.
So why do so many homeowners ask plumbers and builders where to get their taps? Well, naturally the homeowner trusts their builder or plumber and seeks their advice and knowledge - but for many that is the entire extent of their research. The result is almost always a referral to the well known high street retailer, or they send you where they have their trade account for plumbing parts and pipes. Do you think seasoned property developers buy their taps from high street retailers or the same place their plumbers buy their pipes and drains? Certainly not.
So we asked a number of builders and plumbers what they really think of this question and why they all typically answer the same way. The answer is they actually do not really care where the homeowner gets their taps from or what they pay, they just want it to be compliant, to work, and be easy to install. They do not keep abreast of all the latest styles, the changing market designs, prices and specials just to give a bit of free advice. They are not incentivised to help your product searches and to ensure you shop wisely. Their responsibility is with the reliability and pricing on the building materials they use, not the designer fixtures the homeowner selects. But they are always willing to give advice on what to look for when buying a tap so that it works and can be installed where you want it - and that is what you should ask them about.
So who do I ask?
So does that mean you are on your own? If you want impartial advice and a real sense of what is available and what is fair pricing then you probably have to do it yourself. There are of course many magazines that post articles on how to pick a tap, but we all suspect the featured products are also the paying sponsors of the article. Unfortunately, tapware can have a huge range in quality and a huge range in price, and there is not always a relationship between price and quality. Further to the problem - the main qualities of a tap are what is inside it - which is not visible, and beyond the technical knowledge of most homeowners undertaking their first renovation project. The home fixture market is a bit like the wedding market - there are a number of merchants out there that are set up to take advantage of the uninformed. That is why there is such great interest in home improvement and renovation TV shows - as homeowners are trying to navigate this tricky market.
What I recommend is to ask your builder or plumber what to look for in a tap from a compliance and installation point of view - and then USE THE INTERNET. Only you know what you want - and if you don't then you should hire an interior designer who can help. You can become reliably informed about what is important to look for in tapware and what styles and prices are out there - all on the internet. If merchants are unwilling to disclose their prices then chances are you do not want to hear them anyway. A bit of googling and some phone calls will help you narrow the search and get a great price. We all know that online stores do not have the same cost structures as 'bricks and mortar' retailers - so often the best prices will be there and you might find yourself saving 50%+ of the RRP.