Which type of faucet is better, a pull-down model or a pull-out?
Of course, you’ll guess at once that there’s no answer to that question. It all depends on the model, its unique features, and – most of all – personal preference. But there are differences that can make one over the other a better choice for you.
Basic Definitions – Similarities
Both pull-out and pull-down faucets have a basic similarity.
Each will (partly) detach from the main faucet to allow you to move a spray head around for easier cleaning and filling of pots, pitchers, and other containers. I say “partly” because the head is still connected to the system by a hose. I’ll discuss that in detail later; it turns out to have important features to help you select one style over the other.
The similarities can go further.
The type of spray control might be the same, for example. Some will have a button you have to continually depress to keep the water going. Others will have a slider or toggle you can press then let go to ease the strain on your hand while you work.
They may have the same kind of attachment mechanism. For instance, many will have a magnetic ring at the base of the hand-held spray unit to keep it firmly attached to the base. That’s especially important with pull-down models but a pull-out can sag also, if not firmly held in place.
Basic Definitions – Differences
Which brings us to the differences between the two.
It may seem like a trivial matter to define the difference between a pull-down and a pull-out, and for the most part it is. As the names suggest, a pull-down angles down when you pull it loose to use the spray wand. The pull-out usually pulls out more or less straight toward you or at a slight upward angle.
But it’s not really a trivial matter because life is sometimes not so simple. Faucet designers are clever people and they like to offer variety. Faucets are sometimes made with spray wands that aren’t exactly one or the other, but something halfway in between.
Some aren’t easily classified as either type because they just operate wholly differently. The Kraus KPF-1602 is a good case in point. The company labels it a pull-out but it angles down like a pull-down.
I can only speculate why they chose that label but in doing so we’ll discover some interesting details that help show some pros and cons to guide your selection.
Features and Details
The main difference between a pull-out faucet and a pull-down faucet lies in the angle of the detachable spray wand, as stated. But we saw above that there’s sometimes more to it than that; there are borderline cases. And, of course, some faucets have an entirely separate in-sink spray wand, one that isn’t integrated with the main spigot at all.
A pull-out spray head tends to be attached to a longer hose. That’s not true of every model but as a general trend it’s accurate. The pull-down is less often intended to reach as far. If you wanted to move your spray wand sideways to fill a large pot outside the sink or to rinse off the counter, for example, a pull-out is more likely to be your preference.
The other major difference between a pull-out and a pull-down spray wand lies in how it fits in your hand. A pull-down spray head’s body tends to be shorter than the one used in a pull-out design. Different models can make that contrast much less, of course. The tough-to-categorize Kraus mentioned above is a good example. But on average, if you have larger hands you’re likely to prefer a pull-out.
Also as mentioned above, the control features of a pull-out tend to be different than a pull-down. Most pull-out models are a little more generous in their control features. That is, they offer buttons, sliders, or toggles that stay in whatever position you place them.
That frees your thumb and/or fingers for a better grip on the wand, while the water stays on, as I said. It has another aspect, though. It leads to less hand fatigue during long or frequent use. That advantage, when present, can be overcome in either type of model, however. Some designs – whether pull-out or pull-down – have a small lever on the wand.
That lets you grip the wand and keep the water flowing during use. The water stops when you ease your grip to replace the wand in the faucet. It’s not a permanent on/off button but neither do you have to exert extra force to keep the flow going during use. The best of both worlds.
It’s also a nice “safety” feature since the second you let go the water stops. That prevents accidents if you get distracted, slip, or for any reason lose control of the wand. A nice feature for those with arthritis or other limitations.
Working Space Differences
One operational difference between a pull-out and a pull-down spray wand has nothing to do with the wand itself. It just so happens that most pull-downs are integrated into a faucet that tends to have a higher arc.
That can be measured in different ways, naturally. You can measure the overall length of the pipe, of course, but typically you’re concerned only with the height of the end above the sink. On average, the higher the arc the bigger the free space below. That’s what determines how easy or hard it is to move big pots in and out.
There’s another design habit that favors a pull-down, if you want the maximum space. It’s somewhat inherent in a pull-out that they have straight (or straighter) necks. After all, a curved faucet will usually point down in the end, in order to put the water toward the sink. Anything else would be illogical. So, faucets with a highly curved neck tend to be pull-downs. As a result of that natural geometry (combined with the direction you want the water to go), a pull-out usually sits lower and offers less space.
The exceptions are interesting, though. Some pull-out models have a very steep upward angle; they are almost pull-ups! Some also have pretty long necks, even though they’re straight. Either design element can produce a lot of space beneath the end of the wand, especially when the two aspects are combined into a single design.
Another aspect of the pull-out versus pull-down design is how they direct water. Again, this is just a general trend not a universal truth but a pull-down tends to splash less. In most cases, the pull-outs provide more oomph and bigger flow. They will tackle any kind of rinse job you have and most will fill a pot much quicker.
The other operational difference in the two designs involves attachment. As mentioned above, pull-downs more often have a magnetic or other method of ensuring the spray wand doesn’t dangle from the faucet after a few months or years of use. Pull-outs, because of the angle, tend to be more secure in that respect. However, contemporary designs have pretty much solved that problem. A good pull-down will stay in place as well as a pull-out.
For most people, operating a pull-down or a pull-out is equally easy. For some, such as those with weak hands or painful conditions, a pull-down will sometimes be slightly easier (if the buttons cooperate). Pulling down instead of out lets you take advantage of gravity and a more advantageous angle. No need to twist your wrist.
On average, a pull-out will offer more pressure and a larger flow rate (though this varies from model to model). Also on average, a pull-out wand will be attached to a longer hose. Pull-outs will more often have a button, slider, or toggle that stays put, so the water stays on without having to hold anything down.
However, there are exceptions to all these, so you still need to check the features of any specific model faucet/spray wand you’re considering.
More importantly, all these aspects of a pull-out or pull-down faucet design involve issues highly influenced by personal preference. Even in the area of pressure and/or flow rate, not everyone desires the same. Some find high-pressure faucets just what they need. Others find it too difficult to avoid excess splashing.
There are even faucet designs that let you have both styles, in a way. Some offer a pull-down on the faucet and a separate in-sink spray wand on a long hose (more similar to a pull-out scenario).
So, the bottom line is: pick a pull-out or a pull-down faucet as your circumstances and taste dictate.