In deciding which sink is best for your kitchen, consider three factors: material, installation, and configuration.
The most common kitchen sink materials all have pros and cons:
Cast iron lessens noise and vibration and holds water heat longer, but it is extremely heavy, and its enamel coating can scratch and discolor over time.
Composite materials, such as quartz or granite mixed with a resin base, are easy to care for, but they can be expensive, and their long-term durability has yet to be determined.
Fireclay is glazed surface that resists scratches and abrasions and won't rust or fade, but the material can stain.
Vitreous china is hard and nonporous with a glasslike shine, but it's hard to mold into large shapes, so options for bowl designs may be limited.
Solid-surfacing is easy to care for and available in a wide range of colors and patterns. The chief drawback is cost.
Stainless steel resists corrosion and is available in a number of finishes, but it is susceptible to scratches, and thinner grades can be noisy.
In this, the easiest and most common installation method, the rim of the sink sits on the counter and the bowl is dropped through. The biggest problem is that the edge of the raised sink traps food particles.
This is an option only with ceramic-tile countertops. The tiles go right up to the edge of the sink and there is no -- or very little -- step-down or step-up.
In this installation, the edge of the sink rests underneath the counter, creating a sleek look and allowing scraps to be brushed right into the sink without a rim getting in the way.
With an integral sink, the sink and countertop are all one piece. Integral sinks were once made only with solid-surfacing. Some manufacturers now offer them with stainless steel. Natural stone also is available but very expensive.
A single basin works well in a small kitchen or as a secondary prep sink.
The double-basin sink has long been the standard. Configurations with one large and one small bowl -- or one deep bowl and one shallow bowl -- are now common.
The three-basin sink is great -- if you have the space. Two large basins often flank one small, shallow bowl. Sink manufacturers usually offer accessories, such as colanders and cutting boards, that fit into the shallow basin.