Bathroom Sink Basics: Materials and Styles

Tips for choosing from three basic bathroom sink styles and how the material you choose will influence the way a bathroom sink looks, how durable it will be, and how much maintenance it will require.


Before you choose a bathroom sink (often called lavatories by manufacturers), consider how the sink material will influence the way the sink looks, how durable it will be, and how much maintenance it will require.

Porcelain-enameled cast iron is extremely durable and is easy to care for, but it's heavy and needs a sturdy support system.

Stainless steel is durable and unaffected by household chemicals. It does, however, tend to collect spots from hard water and soap.

Vitreous china has a lustrous surface, is easy to clean, and is the most resistant to discoloration and corrosion. Keep in mind it can chip when struck by a heavy object.

Fiberglass-reinforced plastic can be molded into novel shapes. It doesn't hold a shine as well as other surfaces and is not as durable.

Simulated or cultured marble and other solid-surface materials are handsome, but they may chip, and abrasive cleaners may spoil the finish.

Styles of sinks fall into three categories:

Pedestal
A pedestal sink not only gives a bathroom distinctive charm, but also can make a small bathroom look larger because there isn't a wide counter around the sink or storage below the sink itself. However, that same lack of counter and storage space is the main drawback of a pedestal.

Wall-hung
These sinks have the advantage of squeezing into small spaces. Wall-hung sinks often are used in baths designed for people who use wheelchairs because they can be installed at any height and have a clear space underneath that allows for wheelchair access. One type of wall-hung sink is a console sink, which appears to be supported by two front legs. This style may incorporate storage. Keep in mind that wall-hung sinks don't conceal plumbing.

Vanity
Vanity sinks have lots of countertop space and handy storage below. Sinks can be attached to the vanity in a variety of ways. The most common type is mounted on the surface of the countertop, with a bowl that drops through it. Sinks can also be undermounted, or attached to the bottom of the countertop, for a clean, tailored look. Integral sinks are those that are part of the same piece of material as the vanity top. They offer a seamless look, but the entire piece must be replaced if any part of it is damaged.

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