The arrival on the market of bronze coloured tapware and fittings has raised questions on how it is produced and how long it will last.
When selecting any product for a project, the durability of the item is a prime consideration. Products marketed into our industry are often promoted on their visual features without any reference to other aspects which a specifier needs to regard when specifying it.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen more tapware and hardware brands supplying their product with bronze finishes. While the USA market has had bronze finishes for some time and the industry there is familiar with it and its characteristics, very little is known about it in our market.
During my recent visit to manufacturers in England, I asked about bronze finishes everywhere I went and learnt that bronze finishes are created in one of two ways.
The easiest (and therefore cheapest) method is to submerge the brass product into a special liquid which chemically reacts with the brass and creates the brown/black colouring. The term for this is 'chemically accelerated oxidation'. The longer the item is left in the liquid, the darker it becomes. The item is left in the chemical from seconds to minutes and then rinsed off to halt the process. This process is imprecise and different items will be different colours.
This is what the industry calls a 'living finish' in that it will easily polish back to the brass with use. It is also very susceptible to household cleaners which will remove the colouring. To counter this, various clear coatings are applied over the finish. These include clear lacquer and clear powder coating. This 'protection' relies upon the durability of these clear coatings in a wet environment and they are also susceptible to damage from household cleaners.
The alternative method as used by Perrin & Rowe is to electroplate the bronze finish. The brass receives an electroplated base coating of Nickel and then an electroplated Bronze coating. The technology in electroplated bronze coatings gives a consistent result for all items. This type of coating will not tarnish as it is not a 'living finish' and there is no clear coating over it which can deteriorate over time.
The premature failure of an installed product or the deterioration of a surface is a time consuming and costly issue which undermines the reputation of the specifier and the project.