A kitchen sink consists of one or more bowls with a water tap, a drain with a sieve and practical accessories, such as a sprayer and soap dispenser. Aside from acting as a strong stand for washing hands, preparing meals and cleaning, a kitchen sink is a prominent focal point in any kitchen. From shiny stainless steel to colorful basins made from durable composite materials, kitchen sinks now come in more shapes, sizes, depths and materials than ever before. This buying guide explains the materials, configuration and mounting options available, so you can confidently choose a sink that is a perfect balance between form and function in your kitchen.
Factors to Consider
Consider these important factors when choosing your sink:
- Material - Stainless steel, cast iron, composites, granite, solid surface, cast acrylic, refractory and copper.
- Configuration - Shape, size, number of bowls, bowl orientation and number of holes (tappings).
- Mounting option - Drop-in, undermount, integral, tile-in, and wall mount sinks.
Choice of material for the sink is a decision that is both practical and aesthetic. As a prominent fixture in your kitchen, your sink should complement your decor and furnishings. At the same time, it should be able to withstand heavy usage. Therefore, look for a sturdy surface that can maintain its appearance over a long period of time.
Below are descriptions of some of the most popular sink materials to consider:
- Kitchen stainless steel sinks offer a fine balance between cost, usability, durability and easy cleaning. High-quality stainless steel sinks are made of 18 to 16 gauge or thicker steel to help prevent dents and scratches, as well as reduce noise. Look for anti-vibration foam insulation on the underside of the bowls to calm water drums. A brushed satin finish tends to hide water stains and scratches.
- Kitchen cast iron sinks are heavy and require sturdy support. They retain heat well and are normally coated with a layer of porcelain enamel, which gives them a hard, durable surface, as well as a smooth, polished surface. This allows cast iron sinks to hide water spots and stripes. While the enamel coating is very hard, it may chip and expose the underlying black iron surface if hit hard enough.
- Granite composite sinks are made of a mixture of materials, which provide a robust, low-maintenance surface. Available in a range of composite materials, colors and prices, they can withstand hot pots, although some materials are more durable than others. Composite sinks with high granite content are particularly durable.
- Solid surface sinks are enhanced with a high-strength composite backing and have no chamber to collect dirt. Their nonporous surface provides a smooth appearance, and because their color goes all the way through the material, these rimless and seamless sinks can easily be polished to remove scratches. Seamless installation of solid surface sinks with countertops requires special fabrication and installation procedures.
- Cast acrylic sinks are made of molded plastic and reinforced with fiberglass. They are an inexpensive solution in comparison to other sink materials. They provide a surface that is resistant to stains and easy to clean and maintain. Scratches can be sanded and polished out.
- Fireclay sinks are fired at a very high temperature to produce an exceptionally durable, hard and glossy, nonporous surface that does not rust, fade or discolor. Furthermore, they are resistant to chips, stains and scratches and are available in a variety of colors and sizes. These low-maintenance sinks are very resistant to bacteria when cooking.
- Copper sinks offer a unique blend of beauty and functionality. It is an extremely durable metal that does not rust or stain and requires very little maintenance. As an additional bonus, copper takes on an attractive age patina with time.
Copper sinks are handmade; therefore, each is unique. Copper sinks also have strong anti-microbial properties, capable of killing bacteria and viruses like E. coli. As a result, they make living environments safer.
Configuration options to consider include the sink size, the number of bowls, bowl orientation, and the bowl depth and number of sink holes required for your furniture and accessories.
The inside width of the sink cabinet provides a maximum target for the sink. Most base cabinets are 36" to 42" tall and 25 1/4 " to 26" wide. A typical 33" to 22" sink would fill a 36" base cabinet.
Keep the sink’s purpose in mind when choosing a sink size. For instance, if you wish to cook often and plan on using the sink for cleaning vegetables or washing dishes by hand, choose a wider sink, deep enough to accommodate large pots and pans. When replacing a sink, choose a sink that is compatible with the existing sink pipes. If the cabinet allows, you may be able to install a larger sink by extending the pipes. If you are creating a new kitchen, however, your only limitations are the location and size of the cabinet where the sink will be installed.
Number of Bowls
The number of bowls you need is best determined by the size of your kitchen and your typical activities in it. Double bowls of the same size can be an ideal solution where there are often many cooks in one kitchen. If a chef focuses on prep work, a 1-1/2 and 1-3/4 bowl design may be the best solution. For smaller kitchens, a large common bowl sink will fulfill most functions. While the most popular sinks have double bowls of similar sizes, other styles offer their own unique advantages.
- Single bowl
Single bowl sinks offer plenty of space for large-diameter dishes and oversized pots. Single-bowl designs take up less space than other bowls. They can be as wide as 33".
- Double bowl
Double bowl sinks allow for different tasks, such as washing and rinsing dishes, as well as cooking and cleaning. They can be as wide as 48".
- Triple bowl
Triple bowl sinks feature a small third bowl to use as a prep sink. They can be as wide as 60".
The most efficient washing configuration is often determined by the relationship between the sink, dishwasher and garbage disposer. The ideal dishwasher placement depends on whether you are right-handed or left-handed. The key is to be able to keep dirty service with one hand, while rinsing with the other, then placing the dishes easily in the dishwasher. The garbage disposal installed on the same side as the dishwasher within double sinks increases efficiency. When the sink consists of a large and small bowl, placing the garbage disposer on the same side as the dishwasher provides the most comfort.
Make sure the bowl depth you choose meets your requirements for function and comfort. The average bowl depth is 8 to 10 inches. If you cook with large pots and pans, for instance, a 10-inch bowl depth allows for more soaking and scrubbing and reduces water splash. Choosing the proper depth will help you avoid unnecessary fatigue and backaches.
Number of Holes
Sinks typically contain between one and five sink holes on the deck behind the bowl(s). The default for most sinks is four holes, but you can buy a sink with five or six holes, depending on the manufacturer. These holes are designed to hold accessories such as faucets, kitchen sink soap dispensers, aerosol tubing, hot filtered water and much more. Be sure to select a sink that offers enough holes to accommodate the accessories you want. If a sink has more holes than needed, you may apply decorative covers to conceal them.
Sink installation often depends on how your base cabinet is built and the material of your sink. Below are some of the most popular mounting options:
- Drop-in: This mounting type is typically used with stainless steel sinks and top mount sinks. It can be used with virtually any countertop material. During installation, a drop-in sink is inserted into a pre-cut opening. The edges of the sink rest on top of the countertop. Drop-in sinks use the same size pipes, which can be replaced without disturbing the countertop, base cabinet or plumbing.
Two styles of drop-in sink include self-rimming sinks and edged sinks. Self-rimming sinks are easy to install and work with almost any sink base cabinet. Heavy self-rimming sinks are held in place by their weight, while lighter versions are fastened with clips and screws. Edged sinks are installed in a similar manner. However, they are more recessed and the joint is covered by a metal edge.
- Undermount: This mounting style is ideal for solid surfaces, like granite. It provides a sophisticated look, and because there is no buffer between the countertop and sink, you can easily clean by simply brushing crumbs and spills into the sink. Under mounting is not recommended for laminate countertops because the edge of the sink is exposed.
- Integral: If your goal is to achieve a seamless look, an integral sink is the perfect choice. Integral sinks are made of solid surfacing materials, typically the same material as the countertop. They are flush-mounted and very easy to clean. They are a popular solution when the entire kitchen space is being renovated. Like undermount sinks, they are not recommended for use with laminate countertops.
- Tile-in: Tile-in sinks have flat edges and square corners, so they can mount evenly with a tiled surface. With a tile-in sink, there is no visible separation between the sink and base cabinet. This seamless installation makes kitchen cleaning easier.
There are numerous styles of sinks, designed for a variety of purposes and tastes. For example, stainless steel apron sinks, also known as farmhouse sinks, feature wide bases and deep basins, engineered to make cleaning large pots and pans easier. Mainly found in country-style kitchens, these sinks feature exposed fronts, dropping down in front of the sink instead of stopping at the edge. Sinks with round bowls, on the other hand, are ideally used as prep sinks in island cooking or as high-capacity secondary sinks for entertaining. Stainless steel bar sinks are also appropriate for entertaining and ideal for basements and other rooms, outside of the kitchen.
Corner sinks are a popular solution for D- or L-shaped designs. They are placed in the corner, equidistant from work. As a result, they increase efficiency. Like corner sinks, sinks with secondary drains provide extra efficiency and convenience. They are appropriate for large kitchens, as well as kitchens that house an entire staff versus a single chef.
Tools to Consider
The position of the drain can affect the amount of space available for storage under the sink. Sinks with pipes on the back of the device, for instance, provide added cabinet space underneath, allowing you to store a garbage can, cleaning supplies and more.
The depth of the sink bowls can affect space for installation of accessories, such as a garbage disposer. When the space under the sink is an issue, special needs can be met by choosing a bowl with a shallow depth on one side.
If you find yourself short on counter space, look for a sink with custom-made, fitted cutting boards. Some units are also specially designed to make it easier to drain the food without tipping the container and spilling the contents down the sink.