The How/What/Why on Metal Plating!

How I saved $500Hey, friends!! I  recently had my first experience with metal plating, and I wanted to share the results and what I learned with you today. I am by no means an expert on this subject, but it's something I've been curious about since reading about it a while ago on Little Green Notebook and Amber Interiors (two blogs I LOVE if you haven't read them before). 

What IS metal plating? So first, let me explain what metal plating is. It's a technical process where they strip off the existing metal plate and re-do it in your new color/finish. It's not something you could DIY at home. Until recently I didn't even know it was an option! The process is pretty simple. First you have to find a local place that does it. (Search metal plating and call around!) In Nashville we only found one place that does it (Leonard's Plating). Then you take anything you want to re-plate in. (So, for example, I took in mostly faucets and bathroom fixtures. I bought cheap silver ones and had them re-plated in satin brass.) You choose the color of metal and finish you want. They will probably have samples for you to look at. They have all kinds of colors, even copper and rose gold. Then you get a quote. Next, you drop the piece off and pick it up when it's done.  

Why would you need to re-plate something? To me there are only two reasons why I would get metal plating done. Reason A: to save money (which is why I did all of these pieces). To save money you need to do your homework and make sure that the cost of the new item is truly less than the cost of the less expensive item plus the re-plating. Some of my pieces were more worth it than others. I'll explain more below! B: to refurbish vintage. Say you find an AMAZING vintage doorplate or door knocker or other cool find, but it's an ugly color or in poor condition. You could use metal plating to restore it! I would love to do this someday, but haven't had the occasion to yet. 

What kind of things are best to plate? In my experience so far, expensive things! The more expensive, the more you can save. It's not as worth it to do small things like drawer pulls or something like that. But on bigger things, it can be very worth it. The bath faucet and shower set for our master bathroom saved us a lot of money. The price also goes by how large it is, so it probably wouldn't be worth it to plate something larger (like a fireplace grate) because it would end up costing more than a new one. 

Personally, I would reserve metal plating for a last resort. First see if you can find what you want in the finish you want within your budget. And if you can't, then try this as a second option! 

How much does it cost? The price will vary from place to place, so I'll just share how much my things cost, but I'm sorry if it ends up being way different at your local place. (Who knows though, you may get a way better deal than I did!) For a small sink faucet it was about $125. For the biggest thing I did (the faucet for our clawfoot tub), it was $350. Recently I went back in to get a few extra plates done. For three plates  from the bathtub and the drain on the shower, it was $50. So, it really varies, but based on my experience, I feel like you get the best "deal" on the medium sized things. 

Why didn't you just spray paint it or DIY? This is an important question! There are LOTS of things in my home that are spray painted a similar finish. And that's something I am always open to. It is obviously WAY less expensive. 

When to spray paint: It's OK to spray paint things that don't get touched ever or rarely… like a light fixture or a plant stand. Even the legs of my dining room table are painted. They are rarely touched, so the paint has no problem holding up over time. 

When to metal plate: Metal plating is an option for things that need to be touched, cleaned and scrubbed. 

Metal plating One of the first things I did, as a "test", was this faucet for our laundry room. (Forgive the unfinished state of this room. It's pretty low on our priority list still….) I bought this faucet on Amazon for $35 (the exact one is no longer available). It was just an off-brand silver faucet with a shape that I liked. 

It ended up costing $125 to get it plated locally. So the total for the faucet was about $160. If you've shopped for these guys lately (there's a good shopping guide for brass faucets here), they're REAL expensive. They range from about $250 all the way up to a couple thousand dollars. So it's safe to say that this saved a good amount of money… enough for me to want to try it on more pieces.

A couple quick Pros and Cons! 

Pros—I LOVE the finish on this. It's so pretty both in photos and in person. It's very gold, but also totally matte. We saved at least $100, which I was really happy about. Every little bit counts when you're doing a lot of projects at once! The other thing that is really cool is that you can choose your shape. When you're shopping in a specific finish (like brushed gold/bronze), there are not a ton of options compared to silver. So this process opens up all of those options to you as well! 

Cons—It took over a month to get it done, even though it was only supposed to take two weeks. It's SLOW. Maybe the local place you'll find will be quicker, but the one we found is always at least two weeks to a month behind the estimate they give us, and we have to follow up in person because they don't answer their phone. So basically, it can be a lot of extra work. 

Brass shower setThe shower set! This was about $200-$250 for the pieces and the plating (sorry, I can't remember exactly on that one!), and to buy a new set, most of what I've seen starts at around $650 and goes all the way up into the thousands. Safe to say this was more than worth it! 

If I could go back in time, I would be more picky and find a cooler shape for this piece. Oh well! It's still pretty.  

Now, full disclosure—I didn't do every fixture in our whole house brass! A lot of people have asked if we did. But no, it's way too expensive, and we have three full bathrooms. So I didn't go all the way (and don't plan to in the future). I am a fan of mixed metals. I think it looks totally fine, if not better in some spaces (like a kitchen!). For this room, it seemed right to make it fully match, though, since it's the master and the bathroom we will use the most. 

Brass shower set Here's another view of the shower set.  You have to be really careful to take every little piece because they have to plate the tops of the screws as well so everything matches! 

The magic of metal plating Here's the bathtub set that I already talked about above. 

Well, that's all I have for now! My experience with metal plating is limited to these pieces. In the future I hope to try some vintage pieces as well. I hope this was helpful to anyone who loves special metal finishes and is renovating a house on a budget! 

If you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them! xx- Elsie 

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions