A Kohler expert explains causes and solutions.
Some people live with uncontrolled water issues at the kitchen sink while others only experience the phenomenon after replacing an old faucet. Whatever the case it’s annoying and messy! In my post on Making Sense of Kitchen Faucets, I give a logical designer’s solution — lining up the spout with the center of the drain. But that doesn’t explain why some faucets splash — or how to prevent splashing. So I turned to Joel Smith, Kohler Faucet’s director of new product engineering, who proved to be the perfect answer man. Why choose an expert from a single brand? Kohler’s Vinnata came out as the top Buyer’s Pick in two polls conducted over a five year period.
According to Smith, one cause of splashing is that “when water hits the sink, it’s displacing what’s there a split second before. It’s a little like someone jumping into a full pool – the existing water needs someplace to go.”
Water hitting something irregular in the sink is another culprit: “The strainer basket can cause splashing,” Smith explains. “Look at the rough-in for the sink and the faucet.” he says, to see where the stream will land when the faucet is installed. That can be the flat floor of the sink or the center of the drain. “The garbage disposal center is fine,” he agrees.
“It also has a lot to do with the velocity of the water,” he says. Water velocity – measured in gallons per minute – should not be underestimated. And here’s a key fact Smith shared: “2.2 gallons per minute is the federal limit for water flow, the maximum allowable from a kitchen faucet. You can retrofit a faucet to 1.5 g.p.m. a rate some manufacturers offer. The main drawback will be filling a pasta pot because the flow rate is slower.”
If you choose a faucet with a sprayer, opt for a deep sink. Sprayers add air to the water stream and speed it up. And again, “the higher velocity will tend to get more splashing,” Smith explains.
The faucet aerator also can be a factor. These plastic inserts in the spouts “pull air into the water stream – the bubbles are air mixed into the water,” Smith says. And “air makes water travel faster.” So another fix is to reduce the speed by swapping the aerator with a special-order laminar insert — a part that will provide a “laminar stream,” one without air, like your grandma’s old-fashioned kitchen faucet.
Height matters, too. In general, the taller the faucet, the greater chance of splashing particularly when you’re washing vegetables or your hands, Smith confirmed, because this usually takes place in the working space above the sink rim. This suggests a general rule of thumb when selecting a sink and faucet pair: the taller the faucet the deeper the sink. “It’s a reasonable statement,” Smith agrees. “If you have a very shallow sink you don’t want a high arching spout with a 9 to 10-inch height to it.”
But some good news: a sink grid can actually retard splashing.
So which kitchen faucet did a faucet engineer pick for his own kitchen? “I have the Kohler Simplice pull-down faucet,” he says. “I would rather have extra work space and deal with a little bit of splashing then not have the extra work space.”
Joel Smith also gave us some insider’s advice. “A pull down faucet is the most functional, definitely. That’s a candy-cane-shaped spout with a head that pulls down” for easy rinsing. “From a purely functional standpoint you can’t beat that.”