It was only a short time ago that kitchen sinks were either cast iron or stainless steel – a relatively simple choice to make. Now, a homeowner visiting a plumbing showroom will have an incredible array of materials, sizes, shapes, prices, and orientations to sort through. The options can be overwhelming, but the good news is that when you carefully evaluate the needs and wants of your particular situation, it’s easy to narrow down the choices to just a few.
The first thing to consider is the functionality you will need every day in using your kitchen. Visualize your daily patterns in performing your common kitchen chores. How do you use your sink when rinsing/washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, cleaning and preparing foods, entertaining, filling large pots, and any other job you normally do? When thinking about doing these things, you can clarify whether it would be best to have a single bowl, multiple bowls, shallow or deep bowls, or a special shape. A hot design trend right now is to use a large, multi-basin model, but that might not be right for your kitchen.
The sink size should be somewhat relative to the kitchen size. A rule of thumb is, if your kitchen is less than 150 square feet, a standard 22 X 24 inch single bowl is best. For larger kitchens, a double or triple bowl sink adds convenience and looks more proportional. Dirty dishes can be put in one basin while using the others to rinse dishes or prepare food.
Another idea for a larger kitchen might be two sinks; one main sink and a smaller bar or prep sink. Occasionally there are two cooks using a kitchen together and two full-sized sinks are desired. The depth of the sink bowls is also an important factor if large pots and pans are washed often. Eight inch depth is standard, but ten inch can be useful for the cook who feeds a crowd often and uses huge stock pots and roasters.
The width of your new sink will be limited by the width of the base cabinet underneath it, so it is good to have that measurement handy when you start shopping. Typical full size standard sink base cabinets are 33, 36, 42, and 48″ wide. Bar sink cabinets are 18, 21, and 24″. Bases that hold apron-front sinks are 33, 36, and 42″. There are also 42″ corner cabinets that can hold a 25″ sink. Sometimes cabinets can be notched to make a too-big sink fit, but with good planning you can avoid the cost and the risk of altering your cabinet.
Once size and shape have been determined, the sink material can be chosen. Kitchen sinks are manufactured in a variety of materials, with durability being a top factor to consider. Your sink should last a minimum of fifteen years, so you will want the best quality your budget will accommodate.
Stainless steel has been popular since the 1950’s and continues to be a top seller. It is sleek, contemporary, and stain-resistant. 18 gauge is the thickness that will be least prone to scratches and dents.
Enamel-on-cast-iron allows for a wide assortment of colors. In creating some kitchen decor themes, such as a vintage farmhouse look, a contemporary sink might not look appropriate. Sometimes a cast iron sink is needed to complete the look, texture, and color in such a setting. The glazed finish is glass-like and easy to clean, and durability is good, but it is possible to chip.
Solid surface sinks are rimless bowls that are seamlessly fused to the adjacent solid surface countertops, a great contemporary solution that is relatively easy to clean and repair. The color of the bowl can match the countertop or contrast to it.
Quartz composite is the newest substance available for sinks and features great durability with color all the way through the material. Color choices are typically neutrals like black, espresso brown, white, and bisque, that blend in with most color schemes. Quartz sinks are stain and scratch resistant, and have a matte finish that does not compete with patterned countertops like granite.
The third step is selecting one of three ways the sink can be mounted to the countertop. The most common is the self-rimming, or drop-in type, with the lip of the sink overlapping the surface of the countertop on all sides. It is the only option if the countertop material is a laminate. An integral sink, made of solid surfacing material, is a continuation of the countertop. The advantage of this type of mounting is the seamless design, with no rim to trap dirt or water. The last option is an under mount sink, which is rimless and joins the sink bowl to the underside of the countertop with adhesive and metal clips. This method is designed to be used with stone or solid surfacing, but does not work with laminates. Under mount and integral sinks give the look of more uninterrupted counter space.
An apron-front sink is a type of under mount sink that usually has one large bowl with an exposed front panel that extends slightly past the front surface of the base cabinet. Mostly seen in more high-end applications, apron front sinks may require custom-made cabinetry. The look can be either old-world classic, or contemporary. Apron-front sinks add uniqueness to the kitchen and are often seen paired with a bridge-type faucet and a higher-than-normal backsplash.
Once the material is chosen, it’s time to select the faucet to go with your sink and countertop. There are faucets for every taste and preference, and similar to choosing a sink, it helps to go through the process in order, starting with function (for example pull-out vs. side spray, tall gooseneck spout to handle deep pots, matching soap dispenser, etc.) then deciding on decorative style and finish. Finally, settle on any additional features such as a water purifier, hot water dispenser, or garbage disposal.
When ordering the sink and countertop you will need to specify the number of holes in the sink rim if using a drop-in sink, or in the countertop if using an integral or an under mount. The number will range from one to five depending on the number of faucet handles and accessories you choose to add. In the case of an integral or under mount sink, holes will be drilled into your countertop material and you must provide the faucet to the fabricator as a guide so the correct size and spacing of the holes can be accomplished in the workshop before the countertop pieces are brought to your home and assembled in place.
Your showroom consultant is happy to guide you through the entire process to help you consider all of the variables involved, and will provide you with all of the product information needed to help you make the best choice. You will be giving your kitchen sink years of daily use, so it pays to invest a little time to make sure you are buying wisely.