Kitchen sinks are not only functional, but they can be beautiful, too. If you are simply replacing a sink, the sink opening, number of holes and bowl configuration will remain the same unless you are willing to change the counter, plumbing or supports underneath. If you are selecting a sink as part of an overall kitchen remodel, you should look at the style that meets your needs, whether it be multiple bowls for preparation and cleanup, a stylized look, an under-mount or molded sink for a sleeker, more modern look, a contrasting material for visual or functional interest or a sink complete with cutting boards, strainers or built-in drainers.
Shape, Size and Bowl
Sinks come in many size and shape configurations. When shopping for a sink, there are critical measurements to be considered: the depth (front to back), the width (left-to-right) and the bowl depth, which is commonly 6, 8 or 12 inches. Bowl shapes include oval, square and circular. Sink style can also be an option. A classic farm sink is typically a deeper sink and features an exposed front apron. Deciding whether to keep or replace existing cabinets will also play a part in the available sink size.
The number of sink bowls selected depends on the intended use and available space. Prep sinks are generally smaller and shallower while cleaning sinks should hold the largest pan or bowl in the kitchen. Homeowners often select two or three bowl sinks with bowls of varying sizes and depths to accommodate a range of kitchen activities.
Surface Mount, Flush Mount and Under-Mount Sinks
A sink is installed into a countertop three ways: top-mounted, flush-mounted or under-mounted.
Top-mounted (or drop-in) sinks are dropped into a space left in the countertop. The sink rests slightly elevated above the surface of the countertop, leaving a lip. Although top-mounted sinks are fairly easy to install, the presence of the lip poses a small challenge when cleaning the counter surface. Top-mounted sinks are held in place with clamps and screws and caulked underneath the lip to ensure a watertight seal. It is also worth noting that a laminate countertop will only permit a top-mounted sink because laminate edges cannot be left exposed and prone to water damage.
Flush-mounted sinks rest level with the counter, which can create a uniform, integrated look. They are common choices for tiled counters and allow for easier countertop cleaning.
Under-mount sinks sit slightly below the surface of the counter. These are more difficult installations and are suited for solid surface or real stone countertops. Under-mounted sinks leave the edge of the countertop exposed and allow for easy cleaning of the counter.
An integral or integrated sink—one that is built as part of the countertop—is essentially flush-mounted in appearance. In this case, the sink and the countertop are one piece. Molding a sink into a metal countertop is one way to have an integral sink. Fabricating the sink from a block of natural stone or composite is also possible.
Stainless-steel is probably the most popular kitchen sink material. "It is the number-one seller," says Bill Pease, a certified kitchen designer (CKD) and president of Custom Kitchen Bath Center. "We see it used a lot with granite or Zodiaq countertops. It complements the stainless-steel appliances that a lot of kitchens have." Stainless-steel sinks vary in thickness or gauge. A lower gauge indicates a higher thickness, which translates to a more durable, but pricier, product. An 18-gauge stainless steel is a minimum recommended thickness for a stainless-steel sink.
Porcelain sinks (sometimes referred to as cast-iron) are essentially cast-iron sinks with porcelain glazes. The cast-iron adds weight, strength and durability to the product, while the glaze adds to design appeal. "Cast-iron is commonly used for aesthetic reasons," says Pease. Although pleasing to the eye, the porcelain glaze can crack or chip, and repairing it is difficult. The "farm sink" or "apron sink" look is often achieved with a porcelain sink.
Composite sinks are engineered, real-stone look-alike products that can be fabricated right into the countertop, leaving no seam. Matching the sink material to the countertop material creates a flowing, one-piece effect. "Integrating the sink with the countertop is easy when the materials match," says Glen Brody of Kitchen Solutions, Inc. Composite sinks usually contain a high percentage of granite or quartz and are scratch-resistant.
Solid surface sinks, like Corian, are the same material throughout, which means they can be buffed out easily. These sinks are nonporous and commonly made to look like natural stone.
Acrylic sinks come with distinct advantages and disadvantages. Although non-porous and scratch/stain-resistant, acrylic can develop cracks from extreme temperatures, like boiling water. Hot pans or pots can also sometimes melt the acrylic. However, acrylic tends to be lightweight and easily installed.
Other high-end sink materials include other metals like copper or zinc or natural stones like granite, which can come with a significant price tag. "We sell Pyrolav, which is volcanic rock, as an integrated sink," says Brody. "It comes from Europe, and by the time it gets here we sell it for about twice the cost of granite." As the list of countertop options grows and changes, sink options follow suit. As concrete and glass become viable countertop options, so too are sinks found composed of these materials.
Other Considerations and Trends
The number of holes must be considered when contemplating the kitchen sink. Additional holes for faucets and other features like a hot water dispenser, spray or soap dispenser may be needed.
Fun accessories like built-in cutting boards and strainers can also be worked into the sink purchase. Some of these items will necessitate additional bowls as part of the sink design.
Go to a big box building store and you might see sink "packages" that include the sink, faucets, strainers and other possible sink accessories. "Sink packages are popular, and they are sold at the low end and high end," says Brody. Ready-matched accessories ease installation and integration of a new sink.
When thinking about all the sink options, one should consider the various items and accessories that will be placed beneath the sink, within the cabinet. Instant hot water dispensers and disposals will require a certain amount of space. Sink or bowl depth should allow room for these appliances and features.
Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac