One important criteria for us was that there was no plastic used in either shower system nor faucet. Basically valves and cartridges would be ceramic, brass or stainless steel. In researching for this post I ran into a really good information here on what to look for and what not to purchase when it comes to faucets.
Our master bath reno changed as we originally wanted to expand the bath, but then gave up on that. During the time while we were thinking of investing much more we purchased Disegno shower system from Taps Bath that had the look that we were going with and, on sale, was the cheaper option than many other systems that I was salivating over. It looked something like this:
In the best valves, the body and other parts of the cartridge are made of brass, aluminum or stainless steel. These hold up very well to the repeated twisting forces applied when the faucet is operated and best resist the inevitable accumulation of abrasive mineral deposits. These metals are, however, relatively expensive, so it did not take long for valve makers to start experimenting with less costly materials: primarily plastics. In some ceramic disk valves the bodies and often the internal moving parts such as stems, are plastic. These do not last nearly as long. Plastic stems, which are the part of the cartridge attached to the faucet handle, are particularly prone to damage from the twisting action of the handle. Almost always, when we see a failed ceramic disk valve, the failure is usually not in the seals, as one would suspect, but in some plastic part or another.
It is the one in the middle:
When our plans changed, we decided to go with something a bit cheaper. We found Uberhaus (Design) shower systems in Rona that we thought hit some of the marks for us for a great price point. We decided to go with this:
Year and a half later we are still very happy with it.
For our second floor bathroom we also went with Rona's Uberhaus shower system - again, we thought it was great value for money.
I don't see it being sold on their website anymore. Love the look, no plastic components (inside or outside) and a great price point especially as we got both of these Rona systems on sale on top of already good price point.
For vanity faucets we went with Ikea's RÖRSKÄR, made of brass and ceramic parts. Especially as we needed two faucets for double vanity we thought that price point was just great. Year and a half later, both faucets sustained enough abuse and are holding up just fine.
For our townhouse bathroom renovation - we went with Moen from Home Depot as it is a rental and we did not want to make extensive investment.
Finally, for our basement bath - we went through our contractor and used the discount that he gets from Taps Bath getting a $500+ shower system for half the price. We ended up matching faucet as well - both Aquabrass. While I am not crazy about plastic in the hand-held part of the shower, we do not expect this shower to be used as much and that this might not be such a problem.
Final words on the subject:
Plastic has no place in a fixture meant to give many, many years of trouble-free operation. Look for all metal construction — by that we mean only brass and stainless steel. Even avoid a plastic handle. (Plastic faceted handles imitate fine crystal glass handles on very high-end faucets, but turn yellow and harbor mold). You can usually tell a good all-metal faucet by its weight. It's heavy and feels solid. If you are not sure how heavy it should feel, ask the clerk to see a hose bibb (the outside faucet your hose attaches to). These are almost always heavy, solid brass. Your faucet should be at least this heavy. Test the faucet out of the box. There are often heavy things in the box (a hose weight, for example) that are not part of the actual faucet.