From washing produce to rinsing dishes, a sink is called upon to do plenty in a kitchen. While not as technology-heavy as appliances or requiring as much thought as a layout does, it’s still an important kitchen feature. Learn how to select a kitchen sink with these tips for materials, configuration, and styles.
Kitchen sinks come in many different materials, including metal and stone. The best kitchen sink material for you depends on how much money you want to spend, your cleaning routine preferences, and what material goes best with your kitchen’s style. Here are a few common options to consider:
Stainless-steel kitchen sinks are one of the most popular options and the material continues to be improved and upgraded. The newer 16- and 18-gauge sinks are thicker and less noisy than their less-expensive predecessors. Stainless-steel sinks contain a percentage of chromium and nickel, which is indicated by numbers such as 18/10 (18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel). The metal imparts a rich glow and adds corrosion resistance. Finishes range from a mirrorlike shine to a satin luster. Stainless-steel kitchen sinks are appealing because they are affordable, durable, and easy to clean. However, they can become scratched and water spots can become an issue, and the cheaper sinks can sometimes make more noise when items are dropped in.
Cast-iron kitchen sinks are made from a sturdy material that is enamel fired on an iron form. These durable sinks lessen noise and vibration more than other materials but can be heavy for installation. An added advantage is that cast-iron sinks are available in a wide range of colors.
Composite sinks can be made of quartz, granite, or other materials mixed with an acrylic- or polyester-resin base. They usually feature speckled color, resistance to stains and scratches, and easy care. However, they can be expensive.
Vitreous china, originally made for bathrooms, is now also used for kitchen sinks. The glazed clay material is hard and nonporous with a glasslike shine, but the sink material is prone to chipping. Similar to fireclay in construction, durability, and cost, vitreous china is less porous because of the nature of the construction process. It is easier to mold double bowl sinks from vitreous china than from fireclay.
Solid surfacing, made from a polyester or acrylic base, is chosen for its stonelike appearance and easy care. Like solid surfacing countertops, it can be susceptible to heat and dings from sharp objects.
Surprisingly, kitchen sinks come in an array of options and configurations. Installation is one factor to consider as you look at different types of sinks.
Undermount kitchen sinks are installed beneath the countertop and provide a no-barrier transition from countertop to sink. They don’t collect debris and grime above the counter seal like drop-in sinks do. Installation can be a little more costly, and this type of sink works best with granite and solid surfacing because it’s important that the edge of the countertop be waterproof.
Drop-in sinks are another common sink option. As the name implies, the sink is dropped into a hole in the countertop and the lip of the sink rests on the countertop. Drop-in sinks are less expensive than undermount sinks and are easier to replace but lack the sleek profile of an undermount sink.
Apron-front, or farmhouse sinks, have secured their place as the darling of the kitchen sink world. They become a focal point feature in a kitchen, especially when installed beneath a kitchen window. Installation requires a few special considerations and you may need a specific type of base cabinet.
In addition to installation options, the basin configuration is another factor to consider in your sink purchasing decision.
Double basins are a common configuration, offering one basin for scrubbing and one for rinsing. (Or one for “I’ll get to them later” dirty dishes and one for “I need a drink of water.”) While two equal-size basins are the go-to configuration, it’s the remodeler's choice.
Single-basin sinks are a common alternative and make soaking and scrubbing large roasting pans and platters a breeze. Some kitchen sinks even come with a triple basin option. The third basin is typically smaller but can come in handy for draining pasta and rinsing produce when the other basins are otherwise occupied.
Depth is another consideration when looking at kitchen sink styles. Deeper basins are perfect for larger items, but you will end up bending more to reach into the sink. Some dual basin sinks offer variable depths—the best of both worlds.
You’ve found your perfect sink—now where do you put it? Unless you’re building new, the best place will likely be in the existing sink spot. Moving plumbing lines can be a costly kitchen remodeling project, but if the current sink location is cumbersome, relocating it may be worth every penny. Kitchen designs typically follow a triangle work core pattern: the range/prep space at one point, the refrigerator at a second, and the cleanup zone (housing the sink and dishwasher) at the third. This layout makes kitchen tasks flow more easily. If relocation is an option, consider which point would be best for your cleanup zone. Dishwasher placement also should be considered. It’s best for the dishwasher to be on one side of the sink, but you might need to get creative in small kitchens.
A corner kitchen sink is another option. This location makes efficient use of space, but the dishwasher placement can become problematic. When someone is standing at the sink, they can become cornered by an open dishwasher door. But if a corner placement offers more workspace in your kitchen, the trade-off might be worth it.
A second kitchen sink can also be a major perk. Placing a second sink in an island for quick rinses or hand-washing, or in a side bank of cabinets as part of a wet bar, adds an extra layer of functionality to your kitchen. Typically a single basin, these smaller sinks don’t take up much space but come in handy.
As you weigh kitchen sink options, browse websites and magazines that compare current models and features. Consumer Reports is an excellent source of unbiased information and recommendations. Many websites also offer reviews from other purchasers. This information can be useful but it needs to be just one factor along with personal preferences and experiences.
A kitchen sink isn’t much good without a faucet and since the two work together, it’s important to consider what faucet features are important to you as you look at kitchen sink ideas. The right kitchen sink faucet makes cooking and cleaning easier while enhancing the room with an attractive and practical fixture. Keep your preferences and habits in mind as you look at faucets. Here are some quick tips for selecting a kitchen sink faucet:
Finish: Chrome, easy-care brass, colors, and other decorative finishes are options to consider. Matching a faucet finish to other metals within the kitchen is a common practice, but don’t be afraid to mix it up.
Height: Look for styles with tall gooseneck faucets that swivel out of the way, detachable hose-type faucets, and traditional-looking faucets that appear to be set flush but pull upward for additional height. Account for such tasks as filling and cleaning tall stockpots, as well as the style, depth, and finish of the sink and surrounding hardware.
Spray: Do you prefer using a sprayer that's separate from the faucet? If not, does the sprayer fit securely into the faucet or is it heavy enough that it might droop over time?
Preferences: What faucet features are most important? For example, do you like single handles or separate hot and cold controls? Keep in mind that many sinks are sold with predrilled holes for faucets and handles, which will dictate what faucet models will work with your sink.
Comparison shop: Visit several plumbing supply stores or home centers to compare styles, installation methods, faucets, and prices.
Maintenance: Think about a sink's lifespan and maintenance. Faucets have an average lifespan of eight to 12 years with proper maintenance. Chrome faucets, most commonly used in kitchens, are the easiest to maintain.